Monday, June 20, 2011

Leave it to Beaver

Maxxis Beaver 29er tire - first ride. 

I was on the lookout for some 29er tires. I'd just built up my Karate Monkey and had blooded it with its first Cyclocross race and it went well - with CX tires, now I needed some MTB tires if I was to venture further afield in more comfort and control.

Given that I am not currently rich enough to have proper 29er wheels, I needed some 29er tires that would work well enough on my current wheels (Mavic open-pros road wheels). I did a bit of Googling and found that its not unheard of for people to use 29er tires on 700cc road rims, but it was advisable not to go too wide. I managed to find a cheap Kenda Karma 1.9 somewhere for the rear, so I just needed a front. A quick look online and I spied something called a Maxxis Beaver. I googled it up, and could only see two references to it at all. Everyone else was either testing prototypes from the factory or had just got them and hadn't put any real miles on them.

I clicked "buy", and 18 hours later there was fresh Beaver on my desk! A  29 x 2.00 tire designed for use in mud and challenging conditions... apparently. There is nothing about them on the Maxxis website, this was just from some PR fluff I came across. They had a nice sticky feel to them and weighed in at a scant 553 grams. How can a 29er tire be lighter than most of my 26ers? They didn't have scary thin looking sidewalls or tiny knobs. The did have the EXC specification which is supposed to offer high TPI count and lightweight "advantages".

Anyway. The day after the sunday cyclocross race I came down with a very bad case of dysentery that had me out of action for most of the week. A real shame as it was forecasted to bucket down by the weekend. I snuck out on thursday in the early dawn to see how the Beaver held up on the Danzig track, which was trying to dry out after the previous week's downpours. Danzig is a slippery muddy pig in the wet, so it was a good test. It wasn't as bad as I had seen it in the past so thought I would give Big Weta a crack as well.

The combination of the Karma on the back, and Beaver up front was was giving me very good braking. I wasn't constantly locking up like I do on my Superlight, but then again, the Superlight has powerful disc brakes, and presumably a smaller braking patch. Cornering was pretty much as expected on a bicycle in the mud. No real surprises, only me continually surprised that it takes a while to get used to no suspension on the front after 15 years of having a suspension fork!

It got a bit squirrley near the bottom of Big Weta and I had a magnetic tree experience and ended up trying to embrace the sky as I went over the bank. Thankfully there was lots of damp rotting plant matter to soften my fall. It was still a bit dark, but darker still down the bank. I hauled myself out on a Ponga frond after documenting my stupidity in Gonzo style.

I checked the tires and they were still working well enough. A fair bit of sticky mud build-up in between the wide-ish spaced knobs, but nothing that was hampering traction. If it was wetter, there would have been less mud stuck on the tires for sure. Danzig's combination of drying mud and pine needles can be pretty crappy if you get it at the wrong time on the wrong tire.

This was only my first ride on the Beaver, and given that it has pelted down non-stop since then, I will have to go out again and try it in even wetter conditions.

* No Beaver/s were harmed in this test and I paid full screaming retail for the tire. I am in no way affiated with the Beaver/Maxxis family although its true I once lived in a town which was to be called "Beaver Town" but which thankfully settled on Blenheim as a name.