Anything Is a Mountain Bike If You’re Reckless Enough

I took Bikeasaurus Rex for a walk in the woods.

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It started with a tire change. I was previously running Schwalbe Little Bens, and at 38c, they were the widest tire I had ever considered on the bike. I liked them, but I wanted more knobs. I was hooked on trail-riding, fire roads, single track, and anything I could theoretically get my road bike to tackle.

And so, the current iteration of Bikeasaurus Rex was born. In the back I’ve got a Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 700 x 35c. In the front, I’ve got a Schwalbe Smart Sam Plus in a 700 x 40c.

The logic here is that a wider, knobbier tire in the front gives me a bit more control when the road disappears. This kind of trail riding really pushes the line between mountain bike and road bike; I was flying all over the place, sliding off of larger rocks, jamming my wrists on surfaces that make the Paris-Roubaix cobbles look like fresh pavement. And still, persistently, it’s a road bike.

The 35c tire in the back is slightly narrower than my last tire. Mondials run a rough off-road tread along the sides for cornering and sand/mud, but there’s a primarily flat strip in the middle. It’s a great middling tire that edges slightly towards the ‘road’ end of the spectrum. The Smart Sam, alternatively, is pure mountain bike. This particular size is one of the “Monstercross” variety, where you mount up super wide tires on cyclocross rims. 40c is nowhere near the maximum for a Surly LHT fork, and I could comfortably bump it up to 45 if I wanted. Still, this size at a high PSI performs just fine on the road.

So, how’d they perform?

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I took the bike up to Greylock and spent a few hours traversing the Bellows Pipe Trail, a hike/ski/bike trail that runs straight to the summit after 5.5 miles. I did about 2 miles, and it was ludicrously steep at some points. I was hammering up the hill in my lowest gear; I dreamt of a triple crank.

Larger rocks sent my back wheel skidding awkwardly, which made the bike tough to control. Overall, however, I was rolling over everything under 3-4 inches high. Wet leaves and mud weren’t an issue either. Despite frequent rear tire slips and skids, my front tire never lost traction, and I never went down. The slightly taller front tire also gave me a slightly more upright riding position, perfect for off-road.

On the way down the road section of the mountain, my speedometer read 39mph. I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing much for the grip.

 

Enjoy the photos:

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The best parts of the trail were pebbly, varying from 0.5-3 inches or so. Very difficult on anything but big tires.

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Easy Sections

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Trail? Stream bed? Yes.

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Stream crossings galore! I ran into two bridges, and six or seven natural crossings.

 

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Unfortunately, there was a good 1/4 mile of portaging.

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North Adams’ Reservoir.

 

4 comments

  1. Dale

    Time to add a mountain bike to your herd! I can’t imagine you NOT doing single track trips. Get some body armor and good insurance :)

  2. 126bugeyes

    Cool! I’m getting kind of tired of MTB purists who assert that many mountain type bikes aren’t “real” mountain bikes. I’m of the mindset that if I ride it on trails, it’s a mountain bike. I’m riding an older steel framed suspension-free bike, because I’m also hauling a lot of weight. I also pull my boy on a Piccolo on trails. I can’t get too reckless, but we get there! Great photos!!!

    • mdilthey

      It’s all about the bike, and it has nothing to do with the bike. The important part is riding, enjoying yourself, and being a good example for other cyclists!

      In some areas, there are problems with cyclocross bikes shredding trails. Thin tires means more dig than a big-tired mountain bike. Out here in the northeast, there just aren’t enough cyclists on any MTB-approved trail to shred it, but it does happen a lot out west.

      So, being a good example might mean bringing the right bike for some of the more popular areas, but ultimately, there’s always a place nearby to ride and the important part is enjoying yourself. I don’t care what speed you and your boy ride; you’re riding, and that’s awesome!

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