Chalky rubbers
Hi MBR, I live in west sussex and have the south downs about five minutes ride away. I have been out of action all summer with a broken wrist and have now been given the all clear to ride again. I went out in the rain the other day and thoroughly enjoyed myself. My only concern is with the wet chalk that I ride on (I dont want to come off again and break my wrist).
This leads me to my question.
What tires do you recommend for riding in the winter on the South Downs? I have to ride on roads to get to the downs. I am not too bothered by weight of the tires as I have to lose a few pounds myself.
Would you suggest changing tire pressures? My current tires are inflated to
55psi. I weigh in at around 17st 7lbs (I am very tall though).
Thanks Mike Shelton

Wet chalk is one of the most unforgiving surfaces. Hit it wrong and you’re on the ground before you can say “predictable drift”.
For someone of your size, it may be worth considering some of the larger carcass DH/ Freeride tyres such as the Maxxis Swamp Thing or Kenda’s King of Traction. Two wide, soft compound, uber-pointy treads. The soft compound should offer a little bit of extra traction on the slick surface. The tall blocks, biting through. These will drag like a ground anchor on the road, and are designed to run at around 20-25PSI. Before purchasing it may be worth dropping your pressure to 30-35psi. If you’re hitting the rim at this pressure, then try a wider carcass. You may find that the pressure drop is all you need. If not, then if you want grip on the wet chalk, expect drag on the road I’m afraid.

Cable slap
I noticed that on the Pace full-susser featured in you November issue in the article “hottest bikes of 2007” that this bike had an additional cable guide to stop the disc brake hose from slapping of the top tube. Can you tell me where I may purchase this guide or let me know if it is a home made job. Regards
Stewart McKinven

Firstly, well spotted on the Pace guide. Unfortunately, that was a one-off piece, machined for the prototype test rigs. However for a mere £5.95 M:Part do a Top tube disc cable guide set. This comprises of adapters to run the hose with brake cable bosses, and an adhesive backed clip, with securing zip-tie. Put code number BRT0300 into the search facility to order one.

Peak treads
I ride mainly in the Peaks and have just put my Continental Verticals 2.3s back on after the summer and noticed that they didn’t grip as well as I remembered. They’re a little worn but really I have only taken the square edge off the lugs although I have a feeling that the same happened with my old Trailblasters and they became very slippy in the wet.
I have a Santa Cruz Heckler and would like a tyre for trail riding, ie. not too heavy that will really grip especially on the wet rocks and sandy mud I’m likely to encounter in the Peaks and Lakes. I think my benchmark test will be the steep cobbled climb from the gate at the bottom at Kinder Reservoir near Hayfield which I’ve only ever managed once in the dry but have seen it done when damp. Is it worth replacing with new Verticals or should I consider trying Panaracer Cinder 2.25s, the new Panaracer Rampage 2.35s, Intense CC 2.25s, Michelin All Mountain 2.2s (how did Lockey get on with them on his long-termer?) or something less of an all-rounder such as the Trailraker? I like the pinch resistance of a fatter tyre.
Any advice much appreciated.
PS Have been getting the mag since way back in 1998 and still find all the articles interesting and relevant, only thing I miss is Kitch’s mug astride a bike, are we likely to see him back on or is he still recovering from his back (if I remember rightly) op? Photo of him riding Cut Gate inspired me to search it out and ride it, all 37 miles of the loop and wasn’t disappointed!

Tyres are one of those things; some people’s pleasure is another man’s pain. To gain traction on wet rocks, you need a softish compound rubber, and sipes (thin cuts in the treads surface). Protection from rock damage comes in the form of a large carcass and corresponding air chamber. We like the Kenda Nevegal’s tread pattern and compound, but the sidewalls can be too thin for rocky area’s or brutish riders. Lockey liked his Michelin’s, saying “they come up quite large for a 2.2, the tread is good and open for muddy trails.” Panaracers are well regarded in the northern area’s of the UK, but do not fare so well in the loamy south, so may well be worth a look. Having not ridden the new Rampage tyre, we can only go by the look of the tread, and on that alone, it bears an uncanny resemblance to plenty of top end treads, and could well be a new fave.
We tested a few large volume tyres in the October ‘05 issue, most of which are still available.
Any of the tyres listed will out-perform the Continentals, in terms of outright grip. They may not roll as fast, or be slightly heavier, but if traction is your goal, then give them a try.
As for your PS, Yup, the wee one’s back is still up the creek and, while you guys might like to see more of him in the saddle, it’ll take a while before he’s able to ride.

Eight vs Nine
I’ve just read your article on shimano and sram nine speed drive systems. There was no mention of the differences between eight and nine speed, most of what I’ve read on the web points out that nine speed traps the mud easily, do you have any advice on this?
Guy Lowndes

There is no doubt, nine speed is more prone to clogging than eight. It’s one of the primary reasons neither company has tried to press 10 speed group sets on the off road market, despite the success they have enjoyed on the road. Unfortunately, only low end parts are made eight speed any more, so if you’re after long-lasting kit, then you’re out of luck. You may be able to find new old stock eight speed stuff by ringing round shops, and asking them to look in the dusty back room, or by trawling flea bay and the like. Our very own bike test editor still uses an eight speed kit on many of the test frames, and hoards the old gear like Croydon’s own Ali Barbaar.