Reports from the weekend and past few days are in, and the choice of bicycle seems to be consistent.
At the end of the day, this is a gravel road race and cyclocross bikes should still have an advantage, even if the mud takes shape (or loses it) throughout the morning of racing. A number of riders went out over the weekend on cross bikes, and reported that the thin layer of mud on top of a rather hard base holds up well. Even with rain in the forecast today and possibly again before the race, there shouldn’t be enough to turn the roads into the bog some are calling for.
The patches of ice and snow shouldn’t be enough to dictate a wider tire, and certainly wouldn’t be enough to require studs. If you’ve got one, a cyclocross bike with 35mm tires might be the perfect answer in present conditions. A tire with a bit more tread, but somewhat open, will be great, like a Kenda Slant Six, or maybe a Continental X King.
For those looking at a wider footprint, the 120tip version of the Surly Knard is a great option as well. The 41mm tire has low-profile tread that clears mud well, offers little rolling resistance, and is a tire that comes in handy year round. The 120tpi version is much lighter than the 27tpi version, and can be setup tubeless if you’re into that sort of thing.
For the mountain bikers, check your rim width to see if putting on a 41-45mm tire is a good idea. Last fall, a number of riders on 29ers rode 35 and even 33mm tires at Lowell 50 with no issues, but definitely make sure you can give it a solid test ride before you whip those out.
The Specialized Renegade in a 1.9 was a big hit last year, and while it’s tempting to look for more tread in muddy conditions, it’s still a pretty solid option. There’s no cornering, tight singletrack or technical downhills to test your grip; you’ll always be over the tire. Clearing the mud might be just as important, and those paved sections will be a lot less work.
Some other solid options are the Continental Race King, which comes in a very handy 2.2. The tire is outstanding on gravel and firmer dirt, and clears mud exceptionally well. It also has a slightly more open tread than a Kenda Small Block 8, which clears mud that much better while offering a similar rolling resistance.
The rain and even snow over tonight will decide how much mud will play a role in Saturday’s race, so check the race’s Facebook for photos. A special thanks to Gus Hemingway for his work in spreading road conditions over the past months. It’s been a huge help to those several hours away.