Yesterday, the Magnolia tree was in full blossom. Today, the ground is littered with pink flower petals, brusquely strewn across the yard, the drive way, the cars, and the street. Between cloud bursts, we headed down to the river, to the Fish Market for lunch. I haven’t been in here since the place closed down and changed hands a year or two ago. Back then, it was a true fish market, with meat counters, a freezer, and a cooler to grab a six-pack of Budweiser. No one ever seemed to be there. Today the lot is nearly always packed, with overflow out onto Old 210. No more fish counters in place, it’s more of a country diner now, with Cajun music playing, quaintly beat up booths, and turquoise and chrome chairs straight out of a 50’s juke joint. Spicy fries, catfish, shrimp, frog legs, Po Boys and the like make up the menu. Comfort food if you come from the Ozarks. All that’s missing are beignets, oysters, and crawdads.
The plan had been to head out for a good long ride this morning and give my new tires a workout, to see how much of the hype about the Compass Chinook Pass tires was personally evident to me. I’d managed two shorter rides so far since mounting the tires and it was time to put things to the test.
First off, they look great – so if that is part of your Litmus Test for what makes a great tire, then read no further. They definitely fulfill my personal aesthetic. But if looks are all you’re concerned about, wait for Panaracer Paselas to go on sale for $20 per tire and get a pair of those instead. The Chinook Pass tires set me back $150 for the set, and for that kind of money it better feel like this cheap bastard is riding upon a magic carpet. As my students, who manage to perpetually corrupt the English language on a daily basis would say, “SWAG!”
Whatever. I have a different “SWAG” in mind for my personal review of this tire. “SWAG” stands for Scientific Wild Assed Guess in some of the more academic circles I travel within. And since I no longer travel with GPS or use any type of power measurement system, even “Scientific” is pushing things. Let’s just say that most of what I have to share is simply “Wild Assed Guessing.”
Since today’s ride was not to be (the excellent Cajun-style fare notwithstanding), I can only unfairly paint an incomplete picture of my first ride impressions from yesterday and Friday. I played around with air pressure, trying to discover the sweet spot. Usually I keep riding for days or weeks until the air has leeched out and I suddenly realize that I’m floating on pavement. Then I gauge the pressure and use that as a starting point for future reference. On Friday, I’d let a little air out at a time, ride for a while, and then repeat. I weigh in around 190 and I’ve got the pressure at around 80 front/90 rear at the moment. However, I think the sweet spot is going to probably be a little softer than that for me.
Riding down the road, my first thought was that there sure didn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference in the ride quality from the Marathon Plus tires I’d been running for the past two years. Had I made a $150 mistake? After all, with around 15K on the Marathons, I’d never once had a flat. (They are apparently bullet proof.) Perhaps it was wishful thinking on my part, but as I leeched air and softened the tires, the ride quality seemed to soften out as well. Still, no magic carpet ride though.
Despite what others had experienced with the similar Grand Bois tires, I didn’t feel like I was going faster either. (But then again, I was stopping and starting to change tire pressure.) The country roads and highways that I prefer have a lot of chip seal, crumbling tarmac, cracks, loose gravel, and bumps – you know: typical Missouri Department of Transportation repair. What only became apparent about twenty or thirty miles down the road occurred to me when I thought about my previous rides over those same exact hills, along that same exact route: I had more gas left in the tank than I might otherwise have. I realize this is entirely subjective. I also realize I might have been fresher on that day, or more weary on those prior outings. And ninety minutes into a ride is hardly going to net quality information about how much more energy I might have realized.
And yet, somehow, I really feel as though I had been riding with greater efficiency. Now, rain falling all around the studio, I’m left wondering how much of that is what I wanted to experience, how much I expected to experience – and how much, if anything, was actually attributable to the tires. In the weeks to come, I’ll develop a much clearer appreciation for how/if these tires meet my personal expectations. Let’s be very clear: I don’t fancy myself a racer, I don’t live vicariously through the ghosts of TDF riders past, I don’t really give a hoot what my average speed is. But if these really leave me feeling like I could ride a few miles further, to enjoy my ride more, then call me intrigued.
Or, as my students would say, “SWAG.”