It’s been a while since the last update – much to tell. I’m going to break it into two posts: the last bit of Texas first and then New Mexico, so far.
I had a great experience in unfortunate circumstances at Crazy Cat Cyclery in El Paso. I’d ordered replacement tires to be drop shipped to them and anticipated a quick and easy swap. I’d swung by the bike shop Monday the 1st to introduce myself and got a call Tuesday morning that the tires had arrived. I was already on my way in to town, so it only took 15 minutes or so to roll into the parking lot. I chatted with Dave, who I’d met Monday, just to confirm the plan of action. He pointed me at a couple good spots to check out: a falafel spot around the corner and San Jacinto Plaza a few blocks away downtown. Lotte and I set off for the alligator fountain in the center of the plaza and hung out for a bit… then we got a call from Dave. Seems that the tires I’d ordered were not tubeless compatible.
Tangent for non bike weenies – the traditional setup, tires with tubes inside, is being supplanted in a lot of applications by a setup using special rim tape (to seal spoke holes), rims and tires that are tubeless compatible, and a healthy potion of latex sealant sloshing around inside the tire. The main feature that makes the rim and tire tubeless ready is a very tight fit at the bead – the place where the tire latches on to the rim. WTB has a good picture of what I’m talking about here.
I was a retrogrouch regarding tubeless. Mike at Maine Bike Works suggested it when we set up the bike, but no no no I was going to run with tubes. Then I talked with Liza and Tyson about their experiences on the Baja Divide Route. The word from them was that a ride like that (still on my to-do list) would be ridiculously difficult with tubes, much much better to go tubeless. So I converted. It was a good decision – it’s impossible to know how many patches I would have put on tubes by now, but I can tell you that I accidentally ran over a couple twigs with 1″ thorns attached, gritted my teeth and pulled them off the tires. Bubbling latex, hole sealed and off I went. So I am very much a convert; Mike was right!
Back to a week ago in El Paso: I’ve had Schwalbe G-Ones on Molly Fin since the beginning. They’re got a tread that works well on pavement or dirt and plenty of volume which makes for a comfortable ride. But I’ve been doing most of my riding on pavement and I noticed that the tires were wearing quickly – especially the rear. So I decided to switch to Moto-Xs and in a fit of misplaced optimism managed to assume that any 27.5+ tire would be tubeless ready. Sadly, no. We had a couple options: Moto-Xs with tubes or stay with the G-Ones and swap front to back. I decided on the swap and Dave agreed with me. We looked for other 27.5+ alternatives that I could get shipped to the next big bike town, Tucson – no luck at all. I’m going to write Schwable an email, suggesting the Moto-Xs go tubeless, but that won’t help me this ride. I’m guesstimating that by the time I reach Tucson and fresh G-Ones, I’ll have a little over 3k miles on this set (2853 miles now) and I guess 2.5 – 3k is what I can expect going forward. It could be worse: one of the tires Dave and I looked at (and rejected as being too dirt oriented) was the Terravail Cumberland. I looked at a review of the tire later, just out of curiosity.
To illustrate tread wear, each tire was photographed (front at left and rear right) after about 300 miles on a somewhat equal amount of singletrack, gravel and pavement… 260+ miles loaded and over 40 unloaded. As shown, the grooved lines on the center tread are still intact. I would expect the tread on the Durable Cumberland 29×2.6 tires to last well over 1,000 miles. *
After a needed rest day in Van Horn, we set our sights on Sierra Blanca, the next town along I10. Once again the winds were in our favor, though, and we got to Sierra Blanca before noon. Taking a half day and setting up camp in the wind didn’t seem smart so we pedaled on. Soon after we pulled out of town, I10 started a long descent into the Rio Grande valley – between the tailwind and the slope, we flew! Lots of ditch-irrigated agriculture in the valley: alfalfa, cotton, and as we got closer to El Paso, pecan groves. The end of the day 3/31 found us in Clint, 112 miles from where we started.
April first we rode to El Paso. The ride through the south end of the city was a little hairy – a couple big roads and a lot of traffic. I got a look at the huge volume of cross-border trucking and it made the recent ‘close the border’ threats from Donny sound even crazier than they’d seemed from a distance. I did get to see a couple simultaneously jarring and heartwarming things as we rode towards downtown: a Zamboni and a mural with a Canadien!
The climb to Franklin Mtns State Park was a tough end to the day and I wasn’t the ony one who felt that way. As I was racing to set the tent up before I lost daylight altogether, Lotte was literally throwing herself at the tent door – she wanted to go to bed immediately.
Tuesday was tire day, as related above. Aside from the self-inflicted confusion, it was a good day: downtown El Paso including a historical marker for a Synagogue (where a friend was among the congregants), PCC streetcars, hanging out at Crazy Cat enjoying the company and swapping stories and finally a ride back to the Frnling mountains to find that the tent had not blown away in the day’s gusts.
The next day we rode into *drum roll* New Mexico – that’ll be in the next post!