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32mm road tire vs light gravel tire?

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

32mm road tire vs light gravel tire?

Old 08-18-21, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58
Curious then, as to what you thought about Jan Heine's article I linked above?
The one entitled "Myths Debunked: Tread Patterns DO Matter, even on the Road"? Even though its solely about paved roads, not gravel, it nonetheless confirms everything I said and refutes most of what you said. For example,
- "There is another way to increase the interlocking between tire and road: provide edges on the tire that ‘hook up’ with the road surface irregularities. Each edge provides a point where a road irregularity can hook up. The more edges you have, the better the tire hooks up."
- "The shoulders of the tires are important for cornering traction. This is where we put our ‘file’ or ‘chevron’ tread pattern for optimum grip."


Even where it says the center tread doesn't matter, that's on pavement. The center matters off road. Every climb out of the saddle going up a hill on gravel? Put down enough watts and the tire spins. Put knobs on it and it won't or will spin less. Do a braking test on gravel with slicks and knobbier and let me know how much you want to wager that the stopping distance isn't the same.
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Old 08-18-21, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by xseal
The one entitled "Myths Debunked: Tread Patterns DO Matter, even on the Road"? Even though its solely about paved roads, not gravel, it nonetheless confirms everything I said and refutes most of what you said. For example,
- "There is another way to increase the interlocking between tire and road: provide edges on the tire that ‘hook up’ with the road surface irregularities. Each edge provides a point where a road irregularity can hook up. The more edges you have, the better the tire hooks up."
- "The shoulders of the tires are important for cornering traction. This is where we put our ‘file’ or ‘chevron’ tread pattern for optimum grip."


Even where it says the center tread doesn't matter, that's on pavement. The center matters off road. Every climb out of the saddle going up a hill on gravel? Put down enough watts and the tire spins. Put knobs on it and it won't or will spin less. Do a braking test on gravel with slicks and knobbier and let me know how much you want to wager that the stopping distance isn't the same.
Ironically, anytime I'm on a hill steep enough to lose traction, or have lost my momentum to the point of spinning out. I'm faster walking up that hill. Or my gravel bike on any tire was the wrong choice for that ride. Tire choice at that point on 'my' gravel bike being irrelevant. I either need a different gravel bike, or my 29er. I almost do want another gravel bike that can run 27.5x2.2... don't push me!

Your gravel bike , might be a different story. But my gravel bike and on my rides slicks are fine.
I've rolled too many knobs on pavement. Its sketchy. More sketchy than riding 700x25 slicks on snow covered roads.

Knobs/tread do have there place. so this isn't about which is better than the other. Its more about understanding the limitations/strengths of each and picking the right one for the job.

The job being "gravel" , well that has been hashed out 1,000 times too. Not all gravel is equal.
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Old 08-19-21, 07:03 AM
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Originally Posted by xseal
The one entitled "Myths Debunked: Tread Patterns DO Matter, even on the Road"? Even though its solely about paved roads, not gravel, it nonetheless confirms everything I said and refutes most of what you said. For example,
- "There is another way to increase the interlocking between tire and road: provide edges on the tire that ‘hook up’ with the road surface irregularities. Each edge provides a point where a road irregularity can hook up. The more edges you have, the better the tire hooks up."
- "The shoulders of the tires are important for cornering traction. This is where we put our ‘file’ or ‘chevron’ tread pattern for optimum grip."


Even where it says the center tread doesn't matter, that's on pavement. The center matters off road. Every climb out of the saddle going up a hill on gravel? Put down enough watts and the tire spins. Put knobs on it and it won't or will spin less. Do a braking test on gravel with slicks and knobbier and let me know how much you want to wager that the stopping distance isn't the same.
Sorry, wrong article. My bad. I meant this one.
https://www.renehersecycles.com/why-...-gravel-tires/

Specifically, curious as to what you thought about this:

“So why do gravel racers love our {slick} tires? Because they are supple and ultra-fast. What about the “road” tread? Wouldn’t you want knobbies for riding fast on gravel?

The truth is that on gravel, knobs don’t make any difference. Without semi-firm ground to dig into, knobs can’t do anything. When you slide, it’s because gravel is sliding on gravel, not because your tires are sliding on the top layer of rocks.



Knobs are useful for:” mud and dirt (and snow). When knobs dig into the surface, you get more traction, because a knobby tire needs to displace much more material to spin. As soon as your tire leaves an imprint on the ground, knobs really help to interlock with the surface and get you more traction when it’s slippery.”

He makes a good point. If you can't see the knobs digging into the surface and leaving an imprint - the knobs aren't doing anything. And on gravel - its the gravel that is causing the sliding - knobs don't really make a difference on hard gravel. If its soft enough that the knobs can dig in - you have a better argument.
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Old 08-19-21, 07:40 AM
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My current gravel tires are GK SS, so effectively no tread when climbing. When I lose traction on a climb, I either shift my weight back a bit for a few moments or I sit. Both solve the problem right away. I dont remember riding steeper than probably 18%, so I guess if people are riding roads steeper than that with loose rock over packed rock, my solutions may not work. Cant imagine that scenario is happening frequently or for much of anyone's rides though.
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Old 08-19-21, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by xseal
On gravel you need knobs, eg, to brake. I just did the SBT gravel race in CO. Going 35mph on gravel roads that are loose on slicks would have been unsafe/unwise; eg, there would have been no way to slow down to make one of the many 90 degree turns (which probably could have been taken at 35 mph on knobby mtb tires).
Didn't Ted King win this event on 35mm Bon Jon Pass tires? I would describe this tire as a slick, though it does have some very minimal texture/tread, certainly not "knobs".
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Old 08-19-21, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la
Didn't Ted King win this event on 35mm Bon Jon Pass tires? I would describe this tire as a slick, though it does have some very minimal texture/tread, certainly not "knobs".
Yeah, last year, and De Crescenzo won the big SBT race in the women’s division this year on Herse slicks, too.
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Old 08-19-21, 08:22 AM
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I guess they all won because they couldn't brake, they had no way to slow down. So they just went fast!
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Old 08-19-21, 08:29 AM
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According to my friends who rode SBT the roads are much more hardpacked dirt than the type of chunky gravel we get in the midwest, so using a slick isn't that outlandish.

I sort of agree with Jan Heine but only to an extent because he has a bad habit of acting like his style of riding in the PNW is universally applicable and the only reason anyone could possibly have problems with his tires is because of operator error. To wit: I agree that tread isn't terribly important in gravel, especially compared to MTB, because gravel slides around and no amount of tread will change that. However, I don't think it's completely irrelevant because a little bit of grip does help and when I ride a slick on chunky gravel vs. riding something with a minimal tread I definitely slide around more. That's probably why 90% of gravel-specific tires have a file tread.
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Old 08-19-21, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Badger6
I guess they all won because they couldn't brake, they had no way to slow down. So they just went fast!
LOL

To be clear, I'm not trying to call out the other poster. I'm sure Ted King and other top finishers can ride pretty gnarly stuff on just about any tire and are probably more concerned about rolling resistance and speed than a typical gravel racer might be, but scanning through photos of the event, it seems like a lot of racers were on semi-slicks or file treads for this one. Looks like the course was pretty dry, hard and fast.
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Old 08-19-21, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by ksryder
I sort of agree with Jan Heine but only to an extent because he has a bad habit of acting like his style of riding in the PNW is universally applicable and the only reason anyone could possibly have problems with his tires is because of operator error.
+1 on that! I'd never use a slick or file tread where I am because there is often at least a little bit of mud somewhere on the route. Mud plus hill plus slick plus curve equals disaster. The last time I biked in PNW was a long time ago but I don't recall the kind of slippery mud that we get on the east coast.

I tried a bunch of tires and settled on Conti Terra Speed 35c (mount to 37.2m on my 25mm ID rims) for my mixed road/gravel rides. Their tread is remarkably silent and fast on roads. I don't do serious gravel on them but I can make it through short stretches of tough stuff. On roads I find the Conti's are great except when cornering at 30+mph when they can catch a bit. No biggie once you get used to it.
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Old 08-19-21, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by ksryder
According to my friends who rode SBT the roads are much more hardpacked dirt than the type of chunky gravel we get in the midwest, so using a slick isn't that outlandish.

I sort of agree with Jan Heine but only to an extent because he has a bad habit of acting like his style of riding in the PNW is universally applicable and the only reason anyone could possibly have problems with his tires is because of operator error. To wit: I agree that tread isn't terribly important in gravel, especially compared to MTB, because gravel slides around and no amount of tread will change that. However, I don't think it's completely irrelevant because a little bit of grip does help and when I ride a slick on chunky gravel vs. riding something with a minimal tread I definitely slide around more. That's probably why 90% of gravel-specific tires have a file tread.
The biggest difference I notice (and this may all be in my head) is that my knobby tires feel more robust and durable, and able to withstand sharp pieces of gravel better than slicks. My biggest worry about riding slicks off road is not traction, but punctures. I definitely worry about this less when I'm on a knobby tire.

This has the effect of giving me more confidence when bombing downhill or leaning into a corner, even though the difference in actual traction is likely minimal.
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Old 08-19-21, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by veloz
Before gravel tires existed, many folks used Paselas as they come in widths up to 37 (I think). Just enough tread to cover fair weather gravel and not too slow on pavement stretches. I've raced on 32's and 35's. They hold up well for gravel and off road tours too.
+1 They work just about everywhere. I rose the Trask River Trail with a dozen (some fellow forumites) 4 years ago with a 38c in front, 35 in back. I had the best tires there. Quite OK for the 25 miles of pavement to meet them and the 6 miles home after a long day. Not quite up to the loose 17% up which I had to ride standing (36-24 low) and very secure riding down the same pitches. Zero flats or other issues. (Collectively we had 20-40 flats. I was one of the very few to come through unscathed.) Biggest drawback to Paselas? Name and cost. $35 commuter tires? How can they measure up to the "good stuff"?)
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Old 08-19-21, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by dwmckee
The Rene Herse 35MM Bon Jon Pass (file tread) is an excellent tire that if fasy and comfortable on both.
This^^

Bon Jon Pass is an very fast tire that handles pavement and gravel brilliantly. I ran a set of these in the Superlight casing, and never wanted for a smaller tire on pavement, and from what the OP describes, sounds like they would handle those unpaved conditions fine as well.

I moved up to the 38mm Barlow Pass tires, as I wanted just a wee more cush and traction on the gravel. They are a tad slower than the Bon Jons, but barely.
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Old 08-19-21, 01:08 PM
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For the people in this thread running Rene Herse tires, what sealant are you using? (Assuming setup is tubeless)

I recall reading something that RH tires don't play well with certain kinds of sealant. I have been thinking of switching to either the Chinook Pass (28mm) or Stampede Pass (32mm) for road riding, as my new wheels are hookless and Conti doesn't approve GP5000's for them. I'd probably go with the Extralight casing just because I'm a bit of a weight weenie.
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Old 08-19-21, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la
For the people in this thread running Rene Herse tires, what sealant are you using? (Assuming setup is tubeless)

I recall reading something that RH tires don't play well with certain kinds of sealant. I have been thinking of switching to either the Chinook Pass (28mm) or Stampede Pass (32mm) for road riding, as my new wheels are hookless and Conti doesn't approve GP5000's for them. I'd probably go with the Extralight casing just because I'm a bit of a weight weenie.
Those two RH tires are not tubeless compatible.
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Old 08-19-21, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta
Those two RH tires are not tubeless compatible.
Well... that's dumb. The 35mm Bon Jons look cool as a gravel tire, but I don't want something that big for regular road riding.
I'll have to find something else.
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Old 08-19-21, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la
Well... that's dumb. The 35mm Bon Jons look cool as a gravel tire, but I don't want something that big for regular road riding.
I'll have to find something else.
Smaller tires need to run higher pressures, making tubeless more challenging for some tire designs. Gravel King Tires are the same way. Smaller ones are not tubeless.
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Old 08-19-21, 03:02 PM
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Ted King finished 12th, but still went 22mph, I have no idea what tires he used. Many of the pros had narrow. and less treaded tires. But the question was does tread help with traction, even in the middle. Sure it does. Not saying you don't make trade offs. I rode 40s, some people rode 45s, that seemed too wide to me. I heard some pro did the race on road tires, more dangerous the gravel (b/c of less traction) but faster on the hardpack/asphalt.

If tread didn't matter, motocross/DH bikes, etc. would be on slicks. If you don't buy that, fine, ride road tires on loose gravel, you have my best wishes, and I'll see you at the finish line.
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Old 08-19-21, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la
Well... that's dumb. The 35mm Bon Jons look cool as a gravel tire, but I don't want something that big for regular road riding.
I'll have to find something else.
If you have the right fit between tire and rim, you might be able to do "off-label" tubeless with the 28mm or 32mm. I think Jan has yet to be convinced about tubeless in "road" sizes, and until/unless customers clamor for those tires to be made officially tubeless-compatible, it won't be worth the cost to do.
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Old 08-19-21, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by xseal
Ted King finished 12th, but still went 22mph, I have no idea what tires he used.
King was the defending champ this year after winning in ‘19 on Bon Jons, as the race was not held last year.

Of that win he said, “My best results of last year was SBTGRVL, where I again went with 35 mm Bon Jons, when most of the competition was on 32-35 mm with considerable knobs. The fast-rolling tire was the perfect set of rubber for victory.”

https://www.renehersecycles.com/ted-...-gravel-tires/
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Old 08-20-21, 01:19 AM
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Originally Posted by xseal
If tread didn't matter, motocross/DH bikes, etc. would be on slicks. If you don't buy that, fine, ride road tires on loose gravel, you have my best wishes, and I'll see you at the finish line.
You will, because I'll be there to hand up a beer as you cross over...I'll already be showered and 3 down the hatch by then, because I'll ride the tire that makes the most sense for the course: speed and traction requirements balanced.

No one is saying "ride slicks on loose gravel." Compacted gravel? Dealers choice, slicks work very well and roll faster, especially faster than a full knob tire. I'm here to tell you I never put a knobbly tire on a gravel bike until last year. And I've got tens of thousands of gravel kms under me...nearly all of it on gravel roads, all of it on 32s that are as smooth as my calves. As soon as I transitioned to single tracks and more beat up paths, and tractor sluis paths...you can bet I went wider and added some knobs. Gravel is not gravel. I will die on that hill. I've said it before, and I will say it again...road is road, paved is paved (barring pavers, aka cobblestone). But Gravel is a uniquely personal thing. Where I used to live in Southern Germany it was exactly two surfaces: forest roads, smooth and well maintained, and single track, which I rarely ventured onto. Here in Belgium its much more variable, and tire choice will dictate the route ridden. Where other people are? Who knows, but I can bet the the only thing making it gravel is dirt component, some folks have big chunky bits, others crushed limestone, others straight mud....prescribing one tire for all gravel is what people who have ridden one type of gravel do. My experience is not yours, don't presume it is...when I come to your neck of the woods, I'll ask what works best until l ride it and figure it out. I'd suggest you do the same, but you can do what you want, also. The beers are cold by the way, hurry up, they're almost gone, though.
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Old 08-20-21, 02:27 AM
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"Well maintained" around here in Pennsylvania means they dump stone on the road fairly often. Although they keep trying new things, a few years back they took a grader and knocked all the compacted gravel loose. That stuff was like ice for a while. It would have been nice to have wider tires on it. I always like it when people don't understand how variable gravel/dirt can be. Where I grew up in Virginia, the dirt roads never saw any new gravel and the surface was sandy for some reason. Maybe they dumped sand in the winter, I didn't ride out on those roads much that time of year. One time I tried it in early spring and ended up to my bb in mud. But when it was dry, it was very fast to ride on. At that time, I would have been riding 25mm tubulars. Slicks, obviously.

A couple of years ago, a ride I was on went down a gravel farm road near Lancaster for about a mile. Brand new #1 gravel, it was very large. Since it was 200km on mostly asphalt, I had 32mm slicks. I was mostly worried about that stuff tearing out my sidewalls, but progress would have been a lot faster on bigger tires. There is a mountain road with that stuff on it near here. It's always miserable to climb it. I have gotten off and walked just to avoid being bounced too much and it's really hard to walk on too.
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Old 08-20-21, 02:44 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
"Well maintained" around here in Pennsylvania means they dump stone on the road fairly often.
Straight to my point! If I was riding there, I wouldn't have a clue what tire works best, nor would I presume to tell you what tire works best. Instead, I'd ask YOU for your opinion based on your experience. Gravel is not Gravel. It's different everywhere. Maybe I need to drop that in a sig line...
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Old 08-20-21, 08:19 AM
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new solution

Originally Posted by ksryder
I sort of agree with Jan Heine but only to an extent because he has a bad habit of acting like his style of riding in the PNW is universally applicable and the only reason anyone could possibly have problems with his tires is because of operator error. T
Well yeah, there's that... ;-)

Originally Posted by Badger6
I guess they all won because they couldn't brake, they had no way to slow down. So they just went fast!
That is why I ride fixed gear - so I can't slow down! LOL.
(there is some truth to that, but my fixie isn't a gravel bike)

Originally Posted by scottfsmith
+1 on that! I'd never use a slick or file tread where I am because there is often at least a little bit of mud somewhere on the route. Mud plus hill plus slick plus curve equals disaster. The last time I biked in PNW was a long time ago but I don't recall the kind of slippery mud that we get on the east coast.
I did a nice long dry ride on some 60mm Schwalbe G-One speed tires - well I had always thought that ride was dry, but never realized how many damp wet patches there were until I had the frightening experience of riding through mud on fat slicks. I'd just never noticed the wet spots before on normal tires.

Originally Posted by 79pmooney
Biggest drawback to Paselas? Name and cost. $35 commuter tires? How can they measure up to the "good stuff"?)
I know right? They don't cost enough to be "good tires" LOL.


Originally Posted by msu2001la
For the people in this thread running Rene Herse tires, what sealant are you using? (Assuming setup is tubeless)

I recall reading something that RH tires don't play well with certain kinds of sealant. I have been thinking of switching to either the Chinook Pass (28mm) or Stampede Pass (32mm) for road riding, as my new wheels are hookless and Conti doesn't approve GP5000's for them. I'd probably go with the Extralight casing just because I'm a bit of a weight weenie.
Answer (anecdotally) - Orange seal. But,

Conti has explicitly stated they are fine on hookless under 5 bar. You just can't pump them up to 100psi + on hookless. Personally, I won't go over 5 bar on anything tubeless, which means I'm 32mm or bigger for tubless. A high pressure low volume blow out is a ticket to the hospital. YMMV.

I run my 32mm conties hookless, just not at high pressure.

If tread didn't matter, motocross/DH bikes, etc. would be on slicks. If you don't buy that, fine, ride road tires on loose gravel, you have my best wishes, and I'll see you at the finish line.
LOL, that is what I do (for about 2 decades now) See ya at the finish line with Badger.
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Old 08-20-21, 11:03 AM
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It would be really nice if there was a standard naming system for all the different types of non-paved roads/paths at different levels of moisture, so we are not talking cross-purposes so often about optimal gravel tires. There are various type I - type V kind of thing but there is a lot more to it than the size of the gravel. I personally have my own little personal catalog in my head which I use to pick good tires.

I added a new data point to my catalog yesterday .. a bike path with wooden slats is faster on 37mm compared to 30mm tires. I broke my PR yesterday when I used 37mm for the first time on it, only because I was too lazy to remount for a nearly-all-pavement ride. The 37mm also pleasantly surprised me on the pavement.. I couldn't really pick out a difference from my Strava segment history data on the 30mm. I was running them at road pressures, 50/45.
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