It was early morning in the middle of March—a month after my own birthday, and a day after Surely’s own first one. The sky was painted in thick, moody haze; I was riding across southern Bandung’s vast ricefield, and the road seemed to lead nowhere but empty white space. Yet, I knew exactly where I was going.
Here’s a little known fact: few bike upgrades—if any—comes close to the value of great tires. That ultralight aero wheelset your fellow cyclists have been raving about? Will perhaps improve 2-3% of total performance. That overpriced, oversized ceramic derailleur pulley? Good luck ekeing more than 1% of performance gain out of it. A pair of supple performance rubbers, on the other hand, is a potential game-changing gem; it can easily gain as much as 5% of performance increase compared to stiff, touring model—equal to the performance gain of dropping 7 kg off the bike. Supple tires, especially the wider ones, also improve comfort in a way carbon handlebar and/or seatpost can never match.
Tires, therefore, should occupy the top of bike upgrade/improvement list.
If you can only have one bike, how would you build it?
Against widespread adoption of N+1 principle among cyclists, I have long been a believer of “one bike to rule them all” approach. For me, it made much more sense. On a multi-terrain cycling adventure, changing bikes to suit specific terrain condition isn’t an option; not even changing wheelsets. Combining long stretch of paved road, long climbs, rocky gravel road, steep twisty descents, even singletracks, such adventure demands one bike capable to tackle them all. Granted, such a bike will not excel at any particular task; it will, however, do well on almost any challenge a cycling adventure throw at it.