Saturday, October 26, 2013

Quick tires review

I had the opportunity to test a few different tires during the season. I mainly rode 3 different models and will describe my thoughts on each one, starting with the one I used most. All models were 29er size, of course.

Kenda small block 8 - 2.1 - DTC SCT

These tires have very small and tightly placed knobs. The profile is round and the tires is made of 2 different compounds. The center knobs are harder, more of a plastic feeling and are made for faster rolling. The side knobs are stickier to provide more traction in corners. The tire volume is not a big volume. I have'nt measured them but they are quite a bit smaller then my maxxis Ikon. The weight came in at

I loved this tire. It performs well in the dry and sligthly soft conditions. It is not made to ride in wet and loose conditions though. When used in the proper weather, the rounded profile and the side threads inspire confidence in the corners. The traction is good overall but you'll need a bit of climbing skills to keep a decent traction when stuff gets loose or a little wet. The volume might have been an issue at time though. I mostly rode them at 20,5 psi and I did hit the rim a few times when going fast down hill.

Overall, I'd say they are a good tire for most of the season when conditions allow. They are not too expensive and the SCT tires seal up tubeless very, very easily. They also seem durable and the sidewall are pretty thick and resistant.

Maxxis Ikon - 2.2 - EXC EXO

Not much to say about these popular tires. They are pretty light for their size and the volume is big. The profile is a squared one and the center threads are small to provide a good rolling resistance. I find the squared profile feels a little bit less confident in the corners then a rounded profile tire. These were my race day tires so I did not put extensive training kilometers on them. The big volume make it a very comfortable tire especially at lower pressures. I generally used 20 to 21 psi with these tires.

I found they can handle both dry and slightly wet conditions. They can even handle mud if you've got the handling skills for it. They sealed up very easily as well using stans juice on my stans crest rims. The only downsides to these tires is the price. If you buy these at the local bike shop, you'll be looking at a 95$ tire. Also, while the sidewall protection seems resistant, I have had a few sets of Ikons in the past and have found the thread punctures quite a bit.

Maxxis beaver - 2.0

Holy sticky tire batman!!! Rode these tires only once, but it was in a super muddy, slippery race with sections people were running because it was too muddy. These tires are so sticky I could stay on my bike the whole time during the race. A spectator even told me I was the only one going up the main technical climb on my bike, everybody else was running up it.

They are a mud specific tire, with a small volume, very sticky compound and agressive threads. I don't think they should be used anywhere else because the volume is so small and the rubber seems thin on the sidewall.

If you're looking for some super traction in slippery conditions, go with the beaver, awesome.

Continental race king - 2.2 - racesport

Not much to say about these tires except the volume is big and could make it a comfortable tire. I rode them at different pressures but never found them as comfortable as my Ikons. They roll super, super fast and they do have good grip when it's DRY. I could test them on wet and loose conditions and they totally suck. Traction goes out the window as soon as it is loose or wet. The rounded profile is great but the side knobs are not going far enough for me on the edge of the tire, which makes it a poor cornering tire when you like to lean the bike over in corners.

After a handleful of rides, the sidewall were already showing signs of use. They are indeed very thin. The tire seals up relatively easily with stans juice but you might need a bit more work then with other tires to get them 100% air thight.

I have decided those tires are not for me at all. My next tires should be very interesting.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Winter is coming...

Or at least, thats what the Starks would say! Winter is definitly coming. Leaves are falling off trees and they are covering the trails. The riding at this time of the year is beautiful and there is some more good rides left. 

I've been sidelined with illness for 2 weeks now. I have had time to work on my winter training and document myself a little more. Just like last year, I will jump right into a high intensity approach using somewhat of a polarized patern even though I have a lot less available time during winter because of the outdoor conditions. I thought I'd use this blog post to lay out the hows and whys of my approach, given a few people are asking me questions and are seeking advises.


How do I plan the intensity throughout the winter season? I mostly start with very high intensity micro-intervals using wide intensity targets and low total work volume. So I might do some 20 seconds or 30 seconds efforts at intensity well above FTP, averaging ~175% of FTP. The work/rest ratio is often a 1/1 or 1/2 at best and the total work volume varies from 4 minutes to 8 minutes. Some would say I do L6 anaerobic intervals but they are not. The short rests play a major role in the energetic demand of such efforts. The early efforts draw more ATP derived from the anaerobic glycolitic system whilst the subsequent efforts are produced using more and more energy derived from the aerobic glycolitic system. That way, a complete block ends up being heavily aerobic despite the relatively high power output.

After a while I will progressively introduce longer L5 efforts until I reach 2 sessions per week. I then may plan a very intensive L5 block followed by a few days of compelte rest to force adaptations from the intese block.


This is where you might ask youself: "why is he using a high intensity approach?". Basically, intensity is scaled with time available. It is mostly based around the weather conditions in my neck of the wood. Tons of snow means I can barely ride outside. If im lucky, I can find some snowshoe trails and ride them but the conditions are so unstable I can't rely on that for a reliable training plan. So my regime is mostly intensity on the trainer. Intensity because I won't be riding the trainer for 3 hours day in day out. I might do a few longer trainer rides during the winter but they are quite rare (and boring).

Why am I not using the highly regarded sweet spot approach might you ask? There are many reasons for this, some personnal, some more objective. This is a very vast topic and I will keep that under the wrap for another blog post

It is an uncommon approach. Most folks will use the sweet spot approach for many reasons. Among other, because that particular approach is often discussed on training forums and seems to be supported by highly regarded coaches from popular coaching groups. I think it is wise to diversify one's training stimuli and therefore explore new apparoches. It is also a good idea to document yourselves and not only listen to coaches out there who earn their living prescribing cookie cutter plans or training plans based off one particular training phylosophy, not to mention the softwares and other training metrics, but that's a whole other topic!

To finish off this article, here are some informations regarding why I use such high intensity efforts during winter:

The micros:

-They are specific to my racing demand on many aspects: muscle recruitment and firing patern, metabolic demand and intensity/rest racing patern.

-They are a good aerobic stimulus to keep things sharp but they should not burn someone out given the low total work volume.

-They are a form of whole body conditioning, or central nervous sytem for that matter. You smash yourself with high intensity but low work volume. It is like telling your brain: "Feel that burn eh? Well, better get used to it, cause there is plenty more to come!". Makes a good preparation for further intense block during winter.

The L5:

-It has been shown they are a good stumulus to induce skeletal muscle adaptations. Probably just as much as longer, steadier efforts. That remains debatable.

-I personnaly seems to recover better from L5 training versus sweet spot training. It might be related to glycogen depletion. L5 intensity uses more glycogen then L3 or L4 intensity for the same duration. The relationship between L5 and L3-L4 total work volume is hard to establish but I think it is safe to say you may pile on less total L5 volume during a single session then you may do with L3 or L4 intensity.

-It may push the upper boundaries of one's aerobic system, leaving more room to fill the tank afterward.