Donnelly Cycling expands 650b range of gravel tires

Donnelly, formerly known as Clement, is rolling out its 650b range. Building off its popular X’PLOR series, Donnelly has begun releasing several sizes and treads to accommodate the growing demand for the alternative gravel wheel size.

The X’PLOR Strada USH is a 650b x 42 available in a 60 tpi wire and folding bead; and tubeless ready. The Strada USH is both an adventure and all-commuter tread, a combination of the road Strada LGG and the X’PLOR series commuter and gravel tire, the USH. The Strada USH combines a fast rolling center track and scaled up herringbone tread for traction in the turns. The 650b x 42 tubeless ready retails for $67.00 and is equivalent to a 700c x 23 in diameter. Donnelly also offers this tire in a 650b x 50 size.

Donnelly X'PLOR Strada USH 650bx50

Donnelly X’PLOR Strada USH 650bx50

The X’PLOR MSO 650b x 36 is also available now, and in the pipeline and soon to follow is its big brother the X’PLOR MSO 650b x 50, a tire that is equivalent to a 700c x 32 tire in diameter. Both of these models retail for $67.00 and both are tubeless ready.

According to Donnelly, “The X’PLOR MSO tread is a serious adventure tire that was designed from the ground-up for multiple conditions and is a distinct Donnelly tread pattern of both polygonal and hexagonal shapes, smooth-rolling center knobs and aggressive shoulder lugs for cornering control. The soft rubber compound for extra grip and shock absorption combined with the tightly packed center knobs and aggressive shoulder lugs provides great traction and durability.

Though the X’PLOR MSO has been a go-to tire for hardcore endurance gravel racers it is also the perfect tread over pavement. Riders opting to use their 27.5 mountain bike for commuting or urban riding sessions may well find this to be the perfect companion for getting from A to B with a bit more speed, style and finesse.”

“With the growth of the gravel category comes an increased need for additional sizes for both our OE customers and for the aftermarket,” said Donn Kellogg. “We’ve developed this 650b range in reaction to the market’s demand for more universal platforms. Several brands have created models where one can use a 700c wheel for faster, less aggressive road riding, where a 650b wheel and larger volume tire can be used for exploring off the beaten path.”

Donnelly XPLOR MSO 650bx42

Donnelly X’PLOR MSO 650bx42

Also in stock is a 650b x 33 MXP, a tread that was originally developed specifically for cyclocross but is also ready and able to tackle loose dirt, sand and moderate mud, hard pack and pavement – just the conditions you might find cruising out of town to a spring adventure ride.

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Donnelly MXP 650bx33

Find out more at https://www.donnellycycling.com.

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Frostbike ’18: Surly launches Midnight Special steel road bike

Surly has been coming out with a lot of new stuff lately, from the Pack Rat front-loader touring bike to the redesigned Pugsley fat bike. Here at Frostbike in Minneapolis, the brand launched yet another brand new bike, the Midnight Special.

The folks at Surly describe the Midnight Special as a bike that can ride “all roads, all day.” It was born out of the ashes of the Pacer, the only true road bike that was ever in the Surly lineup, and retains a lot of the same base design but adds a few features that make it more versatile and modernized. For instance, the Midnight Special features almost the same geometry and steel tubing as the Pacer did, but is 12 mm thru-axle, has flat mount brakes and a 44 mm head tube for compatibility with modern components. It also includes mounts for front and rear racks as well as three water bottles on the inner triangle.

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The Midnight Special is different from a lot of other road bikes in that it comes spec’d with 650b x 47 “road plus” rims and tires, which soak up the chatter of rough roads and increase the contact patch, meaning more traction. But never fear, it’ll also fit up to a 700 x 42 (or up to a 60 mm or 2.2 inch wide 650b tire).

According to Surly, the Midnight Special is ideal for someone who wants to go out and “live on their bike” all day, or for multiple days at a time, riding mostly paved roads but connecting routes with gravel, doubletrack and some smooth dirt.

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It comes in a range of sizes from 40 cm up to 64 cm. Full geometry chart:

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Full parts kit:

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Complete bikes retail for $1799 with the frame at $625. The Midnight Special is available from dealers around the country as of today. More info can be found on the Surly blog.

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Review: WTB Byway 650bx47 tires

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.

Price: $68

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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! 

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