Plus tires aren’t just for mountain bikes anymore. With the success of oversized tires firmly established in the dirt, the originator of the plus tire movement is moving to road bikes as the next likely target. Yes, Road Plus is a thing, and in a lot of ways, it might be an even better application of oversized tires on smaller wheels.
Designed to fit into endurance road bikes designed around midsize 700c tires (28-35), the Byway (and its knobby-less cousin, the Horizon) claims to add comfort and versatility to drop bar bikes.
The Byway uses a dual compound, with firmer rubber in the center for speed, softer on the sides for cornering grip. The tan sidewall is a good compromise between thin and supple or thick and supportive. I like the transition from slick to file tread to slim cornering knobs.
Tubeless setup on a set of Sun Charger wheels was accomplished with a floor pump, and I stuck to 40 psi for the entire review period. At those pressures, the Byways rolled along pavement much like a wide 700c tire, but the 540 gram weight was noticeable when picking up the pace or trying to chase down a wheel. I won’t be entering any road races with these tires, but outside of that, they won’t ruin your day, even if your ride is solely on pavement.
But not riding dirt on these tires would be a crying shame. They absolutely shine in dry, loose conditions, adding a level of comfort and control that had me wishing for a dropper post to go get just a little more rad. I’ve spent some time on Horizons, and they can get pretty sketched out in loose gravel, the Byways manage to keep it all together. Those tiny cornering knobs don’t look like much to riders used to mountain bike tires, but they make a noticeable difference. Those knobs give up some corner speed to the Horizons on the road, but since most of my road riding is done getting to the dirt, I’ll take that trade-off.
They aren’t ideal in wet conditions, as the side knobs become very unpredictable in off-camber situations. That slick center doesn’t offer much traction for braking in the slime. That said, they do a lot better than expected, and being gentle with pedal, steering and braking inputs kept me upright through a lot more slop than I expected. WTB recently released the Resolute, a slightly skinnier tire with similar side knobs and actual tread in the middle of the tire, which should make it a better choice when things get sloppy.
I’m going to guess that most riders of my weight will be fine at pressures lower than 40 psi, but I was happy with the cornering and sidewall support at 40, and combined with a steel frame and fork, these tires are a magic carpet ride, even compared to the 700×38 tires I was previously using. I’ve become pretty adept at pinch flatting on dirt roads, even with pressures as high as 55 psi in 700×40 tires, so I’m very happy to have some proper tubeless tires that can handle my dirt-road antics.
I tip my hat to WTB for the design of these tires. It would have been easy to stick bigger knobs on the Horizon casing, but this minimalist approach keeps weights reasonable while keeping the positive on-road ride characteristics almost completely intact. Its only real weakness might be that it only comes in 650bx47. A few 700c sizes would probably sell like wildfire.
Make no mistake, these tires are more about pavement and dry dirt than smashing berms and shredding gnar. But there are literally dozens of tires that do that. This tire provides just enough confidence to always want to find out what is down that dirt road or gravel path or not-too-steep singletrack, while rolling well. And I’m not going to lie, that tan sidewall is hot as hell.
This review originally appeared in issue 201 of our sister publication, Dirt Rag. Are you interested in mountain biking, gravel riding, bikepacking and anything dirt related? Check out the magazine and subscribe today!Tweet Print
At Sea Otter Classic this year, Breezer was showing off a new gravel bike that will be available for 2018.
The Doppler bridges the gap between Breezer’s two current drop bar adventure bikes, the Inversion and the Radar. The Inversion is an all-road model while the Radar is more dirt oriented with 29 x 2.1 inch mountain bike tires.
The Doppler is designed for road, gravel and dirt touring and randonneuring, featuring tubeless-ready 27.5 inch wheels with stainless fenders, rack mounts and disc brakes.
There will be three different models available. The top two will be spec’d with traditional drop bars and Shimano Ultegra or Tiagra. The model pictured, called the Doppler Cafe, will feature SRAM Apex 1×11 and a 680 mm wide sweeper bar.
Pricing for the Doppler will hit under $900, while the Ultegra-equipped Doppler Team will roll out at just under $2,000 and the Doppler Pro with Tiagra 10 speed will come in at around $1250.
All models will be available this coming fall.
Keep Reading: Check out some other Breezer bikes we’ve covered here or take a look at more Sea Otter Classic 2017 content. Subscribe to our email newsletter to get quality news and stories delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!Tweet Print
See how Russ’s 700c to 650b conversation went as he takes the Salsa Vaya for a test ride. Find out how the ride quality has changed and hear his thoughts on the differences between tire sizes.
Ed. Note: The 700c to 650b conversion was not endorsed by Salsa Cycles. Experiment at your own risk.Tweet Print
In this installment of The Path Less Pedaled, Russ starts a project he’s been meaning to do for a long time—convert a 700c Salsa Vaya to a 650b. There are plenty of new bikes on the market that are meant to run a variety of different tire sizes, but what happens if you try to convert a bike that’s not explicitly designed for swapping between sizes?
Watch the video to learn the advantages of 650b vs 700c sizing, and to see if his conversion works!
Ed. Note: This conversion is not endorsed by Salsa Cycles. Experiment at your own risk.Tweet Print
Photos by Jesse Carmondy and the author
It was a pretty difficult prototype to disguise. When former professional racer Tim Johnson started ripping around on a modified Cannondale affixed with a Lefty suspension fork a few years ago it attracted quite a bit of attention. Would he race cyclocross on it? Was it even allowed? Was it just an experiment?
The concept isn’t new, of course. In the mid-1990s, RockShox debuted the Paris-Roubaix fork for road bikes and it carried its riders to the top step in the eponymous race three years in a row. While it seemed like a wave of the future, its popularity faded as quickly as it raced over the cobbles. In the early 2000s, Cannondale had a series of cyclocross bikes built with the brand’s distinctive HeadShok. The 2003 lineup saw both a HeadShok version and a disc-brake model—models that would then roll right into the history books. Lightweight carbon fiber dominated bicycle development for the next decade instead of suspension and braking technologies.
But the wheel keeps spinning and earlier this year Cannondale elicited a collective “what the…?” with the introduction of the Slate, a 650b road bike with an all-new version of the Lefty fork. While it may seem outrageous, if any brand was going to build such a bike it would be Cannondale, as the company has never shied away from some creative ideas in the course of its 35-year history.
As riders have continued to push the envelope of what is considered rideable on a “road” bike, Cannondale embraced the opportunity to create a bike that was overwhelmingly specific in its design purpose. It’s also likely to appeal to the rider who wants one bike that can do a little bit of everything and look like nothing else.
Everything about the Slate’s design began with the fork, in this case a completely new version of the Lefty chassis designed specifically for this model. Dubbed the Oliver, it has 30 mm of travel and a carbon case that keeps the weight at a reasonable 1,100 grams.
Attached to the Oliver is a 6069-alloy aluminum frame with several design cues from other Cannondale models. The seatstays and chainstays are radically shaped to allow for vertical flex, similar to the SAVE design used on other Cannondale models. There are fender eyelets at the rear dropouts, and two eyelets near where a seatstay bridge would normally be. Cannondale said it is working on a fender set designed specifically for the bike that will mount there.
While some Cannondale models use a smaller 25.4 mm seatpost for even more comfort, the Slate has a 27.2 mm post and can be outfitted with one of the few dropper posts on the market with internal cable routing available in that size.
There are three models of the Slate for 2016, and each of them ships with the Oliver fork, hydraulic brakes, Panaracer/Cannondale tires and Cannondale SI cranks. The frame is also identical on all three, with a 142×12 thru-axle and BB30 crankset. Cannondale is sticking with that design despite its less-than-stellar reputation, and mine creaked throughout my test ride.
2016 Slate lineup
Slate Force CX1, SRAM 1×11 drivetrain, SRAM Force CX1 brakes, $4,260
Slate Ultegra, Shimano 2×11 drivetrain, Shimano R685 brakes, $3,520
Slate 105, Shimano 2×11 drivetrain, Shimano R505 brakes, $2,980
While the frame and fork are designed to take the edge of the ride, Cannondale didn’t want to sacrifice performance, so its geometry falls in between that of its EVO race bikes and Synapse endurance road bikes. Because the outside circumference of the 650x42c tires is the same as a 700x23c tire, the chainstays can remain road-bike short at 405 mm. The front-center, however, is pushed out a bit compared to many road bikes for stability when traction is limited. A long reach, short chainstays, suspension fork and dropper post? Are you sure you aren’t reading Dirt Rag magazine right now?
Alright, so enough of the Powerpoint presentation, how does it ride? Well… it rides like a bike. Cannondale tuned quite a bit of low-speed compression damping into the Oliver so it operates with virtually no sag and doesn’t start bouncing around when you ride out of the saddle. If you do want to firm things up, a simple button at the top of the Oliver engages a virtual lock-out that will still open up into the travel if you hit a bump hard enough. Pressing the outer portion of the dial, which also controls rebound damping, will release the button. For idiots like me, they’ve labeled them “Press to climb” and “Press to descend.”
I was looking for the button marked “Press for larger lungs” as I joined a group of journalists and Tim Johnson for a test ride out into the Santa Monica mountains above Malibu, California. On the smooth shoulder of the Pacific Coast Highway and into the hills, the Slate feels likes just another road bike, albeit an especially comfortable one thanks to the fat tires. Made by Panaracer for Cannondale, they weigh just 300 grams each and are extremely supple at 40 to 45 psi.
From road to off-road
The SRAM Force 1x drivetrain offered more than enough gearing to get up and down the mountains, and if you spend much time on mountain bikes you’ll feel right at home with just one shifter. The hydraulic brakes are more than powerful enough to slow things down and while the hoods look a bit crazy, they are quite comfortable in your hands.
The singletrack is where I was really looking forward to pushing the Slate. If you’ve ridden a CX bike a bit off-road you know the most difficult part is holding onto the handlebars. The Oliver fork makes a huge difference in keeping the sharp shuddering to a minimum and greatly lessens the hand strength needed to keep steering. Make no mistake: this is no mountain bike, but over the long haul I know it will be much more comfortable with the suspension fork.
It felt great when moving forward but things got a bit hairy under braking or hard turning on the trail. For a bike with such an “all-purpose” attitude, the slick tires had a few of us scratching our heads. A file tread or cyclocross-type tread would be a great upgrade if you plan on riding dirty.
Someone I overheard described the Slate as an “N+3” bike for riders who want a very, very specific tool for a very specific job. On the other hand, it does seem to be an excellent choice as an all-rounder. Either way, it’s a creative venture to think so far outside the box, something Cannondale has never shied away from.
Watch for a long-term review of the Slate in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss it.