Words and photos: Emily Walley and Justin Steiner
Gravel and adventure riding are all the rage right now and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. As a result, tire manufacturers continue to bring new products to market in order to meet the diverse needs of these disciplines.
In early April, Maxxis invited us to Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way near Ellijay, Georgia, in order to sample some of the new tires it has launched within the last year across the road, adventure and mountain bike lines.
For all that Mulberry Gap offers for mountain biking, the area’s mixed-surface riding shouldn’t be overlooked. Bikepackers frequently stay over at the Get-A-Way on their travels and, after riding and driving Ellijay’s winding roads, we can certainly see the appeal. The surrounding gravel roads have minimal traffic, rolling hills flanked with farmland, some big climbs and noteworthy views.
While mountain biking was a big focus of the Maxxis Summit weekend, the company also shared its newest gravel adventure tire options, the Rambler and the Re-Fuse. We rode the Pivot Cycles Vault with the Rambler in the front and Re-Fuse in the rear.
Aptly named, the Rambler is Maxxis’ first gravel-specific tire. It’s currently available in 700 x 40c. Both the 60 tpi casing with SilkShield bead-to-bead protection and the 120 tpi model with EXO sidewall protection offer tubeless-ready construction. Weights check in at 420 grams for the 60 tpi casing and 375 grams for the 120 tpi version. Both casing options will retail for $64. Word is that a 38c version of this tire is in the works for bikes that don’t have quite enough clearance for the 40c version.
The Rambler’s closely-spaced center knobs roll and grip well in dry gravel conditions. We rode the 120 tpi casing and on the front of the Vault and found it to be very supple compared to the 60 tpi Re-Fuse on the back.
All told, the Rambler looks to be a good option for light and fast adventure as well as gravel racing. Just pick the model that offers the protection needed for your use and terrain and roll happily.
Maxxis has offered the Re-Fuse in traditional road sizes (23, 25, and 28 mm widths) for some time now, but has expanded the popular tire into more adventurous sizes. For 2016 the Re-Fuse will be available in 700 x 32c, 700 x 40c and the “new” 27.5 x 2.0 inch road plus sizes, which is really just the old 650b standard. What’s old is new again.
Like the road sizes, the 60 tpi casing utilizes MaxShield technology, which is the SilkWorm bead-to-bead protection teamed with a Kevlar composite layer under the tread area for the ultimate protection. Unlike the road sizes, all three of these tires are tubeless ready.
Weights are 610 grams for the 27.5 x 2.0 inch model ($50), 390 grams for the 32c version ($64) and 520 grams for the 40c Re-Fuse ($64).
On the rear end of the Vault the Re-Fuse felt sturdy. Certainly much stiffer than the 120 tpi Rambler on the front. Though it wasn’t as supple, this extra stoutness was confidence inspiring bombing down dirt roads with chunky gravel at high speeds not having to worry about flatting.
Traction was great on hard-packed dirt, but, as expected, the diamond-shaped file tread doesn’t have a lot of bite on loose surfaces.
Maxxis describes the Re-Fuse as a training tire, but it would also serve you well as all-around road tire.
Late fall along the Oregon coast is freezing cold, wet, windy, rainy and generally unpleasant. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Instead, a group of friends and I were greeted by bluebird skies and t-shirt temperatures in the afternoons when we arrived at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. It was the second consecutive Thanksgiving weekend we set out to explore just a fraction of the 30,000 acres of rolling sand that stretches nearly 40 miles from Florence to Coos Bay.
While the dune buggies, sandrails and other off-highway vehicles draw most of the visitor traffic to this portion of the state, fat bikes are popping up as a legitimate draw, especially in the off season. A few bike shops along the coast rent bikes and we saw a handful on the backs of cars headed up and down the coast. Word is getting out.
The condition of the sand can vary with wind, precipitation and season, but we had perhaps the best traction yet. (Well, perhaps not when airborne.) The new Maxxis Minion FBF and FBR 4.8 tires on my Salsa Mukluk certainly helped in the floatation department too. We also ventured out onto the beach where we found some Japanese tsunami debris, the half-eaten remains of a seal and a lot of driftwood to practice riding skinnies. This part of the coast doesn’t get many visitors so it has a much more wild feel than the touristy spots.
We’re already planning our next adventure so stay duned!
If you go
How to get there: The most popular starting point is near Lakeside, Oregon, about 3.5 hours from Portland or 2 hours from Eugene. See a map of the area.
Where to stay: We rented yurts at Tugman State Park. They sleep three to five people, have electricity and heaters and some are pet-friendly.
Where to ride: I recommend starting on the John Dellenbeck Dunes Trail, departing from the Eel Creek Campground, which is basically across the street from Tugman State Park.
Click on the magnifying glass to see full-size photos.