The In Between

It seems there is room in between.

As many tire, rim, frame, and fork manufacturers have seemed to have found out in the last year, there is much room in between.

Between the existing chainstays and seats tags of existing 29er frames? Perhaps.

What I see however, is the room in between existing tire sizes. Pacenti showed the world there was room in between mtb wheel sizes. Many balked. Surely those who did regret balking as they look back. Many of those likely did not want to miss out on the next wave which we are seeing now, the 27.5+ craze that is occurring.  It is interesting to say the least. For those of us who were interested in the Krampus and the 29+ platform that was unveiled in 2012, we saw, as we did with the introduction of 29ers and fatbikes, that there was room outside of what we had been familiar with.

It seems that the industry intends to show that there is still plenty of room in between what we have been familiar with.
Although I agree to some extent, I feel that it is not necessarily giving us much different, or even any appreciably better experiences. By delving into the areas in between what cyclists have been familiar with, it merely blurs the lines between those bicycle types/platforms/intended applications and removes the distinction that was previously assigned to the different bicycle types we have grown to love. It is very possible that the reason why most bicycle frame and part manufacturers make decisions to delve into the spaces in between is because there is little risk and it can be marketed as more versatile. It could be compared to making a bunch of different variations on the spork. People are familiar with spoons and they are familar with forks. While both are better at performing the specific,  intended application they were designed for, it’s easy to pretend that you can now do away with your spoon and fork and just have many different varieties of sporks going forward.
Many of the different types of bicycles that have come about recently are seemingly spork-like. Yes, in the backcountry, if you can only bring one utensil, you can get by with carrying just a spork. It will not be as useful at tasks where someone would normally prefer either a fork or a spoon, but it will get you by for a short time.

I love many of these spork-like bikes, because I love the backcountry or just long rides where I desire to roll over many different types of terrain and bring a bike that isn’t going to be too specifically applicable for any one of them, but will allow me to be somewhat comfortable on all of them. The “Jack of all trades, master of none” dilemma.  It’s good to have these bikes, but here is my issue with them:

The aim at the in between market provides a false sense of ingenuity and stifles true research and development in areas we have not yet explored for cycling.

I applaud Surly and others that have released new platforms outside of the familiar which other manufacturers balk at. Yes, others may try to utilize that platform 3 to 5 years later, or design something in between what was available previously and your new platform, but that is true ingenuity. Developing a new platform is not necessarily reinventing the wheel, but it is most certainly a much bigger risk than releasing something in between what is currently available.

Surly released the Extraterrestrial tire this week, a 26×2.5 touring tire. I just heard of it today.  We have had 26×2.5 DH tires for years, and we have had larger volume touring tires for years, but not anything like this to the best of my knowledge. Surly also has the 26×3.0 knard and dirt wizard tires, but they are bigger and designed for off road riding.

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What are your thoughts on it? Is it in between what has been available previously or something completely new and innovative?

2 Comments

  • Matt Bryant Posted November 16, 2015 10:22 pm

    I found your blog randomly while searching for info on the ET tires, and I must say – it’s very well done. I appreciate the effort which has clearly gone into the content and presentation. Lots of cool stuff that’s right up my alley, too. As for the ET tires, I’m very intrigued, I’m just worried the casings will be too stiff for spirited unloaded riding. If only I could split the difference with the casings of the Rat Trap Pass tires…

    • RideAlongside Posted February 3, 2016 6:35 am

      Matt, sorry for not getting back to you earlier. Somehow your comment sat buried beneath other notificstions and remained unapproved. Thanks for the kind words! I hope you’ve subscribed and continue to enjoy the content we are putting up here. I totally understand what you mean about “spirited unloaded riding” being twarted by stiff casings. It is awesome when there is a great balance of stiffness for loaded and suppleness for unloaded, but the more time I spend switching between the two, the more I realize it behooves me to focus on setups that do one thing really well. I think Surly may have loaded riding in mind for the ET. The only analogy I can muster is an automotive one unfortunately. I would want a truck for desert and mountain excursions with 4×4 and capacity/suspension to carry all the gear I forsee needing out there, but a sedan with a plush ride if I plan to do a long road trip on decent roads with just a few suitcases for staying in hotels. If I have to lean one way or the other and only choose one, I would assuredly give up comfort for capacity, reliability, and long term durability. I would choose the stiff ET, I would choose the truck.

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