All I Got For Chrismas

So look what I got for Christmas!

While I usually just ask Santa for socks and underwear, this year I figured I’d see what all the fuss was about and so I put a pair of boutique Rene Herse tires on my list. Not only that, but I also got some fancy new pedals to go with them!

These pedals are generally not in stock anywhere, but Santa was able to procure a pair from Crust Bikes mere days before they went on hiatus, so lucky me.

Anyway, both of these gifts went right onto the American M-16 as part of my ongoing project to fully optimize it as a grab-and-go all-terrain plainclothes rambler:

At this point I daresay it’s just about there, though I wouldn’t rule out one day fitting it with these:

And yes, I’d specifically want them in black to complement the hubs and brakes.

Anyway, while I was changing the tires and pedals, I also changed the saddle for a Brooks C13 I had in my vast ass-pedestal archive:

I realize that the crabon is somewhat at odds with the bicycle’s vintage sensibility, and in fact I first tried to fit it with the B17 I made with Eric “The Chamferer” Murray when I visited the Brooks factory some years back:

[“So, like, if I got lost in the woods for a few days could I eat this? And if I did would Brooks rebuild it for me under warranty?”]

Alas, owing to the particulars of that particular seatpost head (it has a very small range of adjustment) I could not get the B17 to sit at the right angle. However, it does happen to accommodate the chunky rails of the C13 perfectly, which is not the case with every seatpost. Furthermore, since I was updating a classic bicycle, I decided the C13 was a good fit after all, inasmuch as it is itself sort of an updated classic. Most importantly, it’s comfortable, so I suspect I’ll be sticking with it for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of updated classics, the MKS pedals are based on the Suntour XC II, which are one of those discontinued bicycle components that sell for stupid amounts of money–or at least people try to sell them for stupid amounts of money:

At $60-ish, the MKS updates are not only reasonably priced, but also no doubt equal in quality to the original in every way. (In fact I think MKS probably made the XC II for Suntour, though if I’m wrong I’m sure some Pedal Fred will not hesitate to correct me.) But while I can’t do a side-by-side comparison with the original, I can compare the XC III to the $20 Wellgo bear traps I was using. Basically, the shape is essentially the same:

The MKS has a shiny chrome spindle (which feels a lot smoother when you spin it with your finger, which really only matters if you spend a lot of time twiddling your pedal spindle with your fingers) and accepts an Allen key:

And the MKS has a noticeably lower profile, which is probably the only thing that makes any actual difference in terms of performance, though even that’s not something you’d be likely to notice:

Mostly I just wanted a nicer pedal Just Because.

So what about the much-vaunted Rene Herse tires? Are they everything people say they are? Do they float over gravel like a schnorrer hovering over a free buffet? Do they corner like a prize fighter at the end of a round? Do they roll like a glob of warm Vaseline down a windowpane in July?

Well, these are the Naches Pass tires in the “Standard” casing:

I told Santa to choose these over the wider Rat Trap Pass because the M-16 has very little tire clearance for a mountain bike, and I told him to choose the Standard casing because it seemed prudent given the glass- and debris-strewn streets upon which I ride. So far I’ve only got about 40 miles of pavement and non-technical dirt on them, but my impressions are as follows:

  • When handling them unmounted, the casing feels more substantial than the Gravel Kings I recently retired from my Rivendell owing to frequent punctures
  • They appear to be extremely well-made, which is pretty much always the case with stuff made by Panaracer in my experience
  • They roll very smoothly and comfortably on pavement
  • The first time I hit the dirt on them I was like, “Whoa, these are really nice tires!”

Of course it’s important to note that prior to this the M-16 was palping the far more pedestrian WTB All Terrain tire, which has a stiffer casing and weighs twice as much as the Naches Pass, so even switching to, say, a folding-bead Pasela probably would have seemed like a pretty big update in terms of ride quality. Regardless, my first impression of these tires is extremely favorable, and my personal opinion is that the M-16 is becoming a pretty nice bike:

I’ll keep you posted on how they hold up whether you like it or not.

Oh, and hey, look what just arrived in the mail mere moments ago!

Haven’t even opened it yet so I’m not sure if that’s the Standard or Extralight cover, but either way I’m looking forward to reading it, and it looks like in due course you’ll be getting a book report in addition to a tire report. The M-16 is already faster and more comfortable than it was when I got it, so perhaps this book will take it over the edge.

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