“BUT IN MY DEFENCE I DID HAVE A VERY GOOD REASON, AND THAT REASON WAS MSC TIRES”
I had been in communication with Keith at Terra Venture for some time, with the plan to get me racing the UCI World Marathon Series on the new MSC Rock n Roller tires for the 2019 season, I’d been looking at the website and reading reviews getting further impressed and excited about these tires being my treads.
Well winter training soon flys by and it’s race prep time, but no tires as yet. Throughout the race season I tend to half use all tires, then swap them out, and over winter training I wear them pretty well to slick so at the start of the next season I get a whole new bunch of treads…so I had one remaining half descent tire from last season on the front and the back was close to slick…so slick that on steep twisty descents the back end frequently overtook the front in the corners, yes fun but no good for racing on!
Then a well-timed message from Keith said I could drive up and collect some tires from the MSC HQ in Barcelona (which is fairly handy as I also live in Catalonia and it’s only a bit over an hour away)…so the next day, the Thursday before a Sunday race, I was up early and on the road (and for me, getting up early is reserved for racing and Christmas so I think that shows how excited I was!) we arrived (boyfriend in tow) a bit after opening time and went to see the boss Marc. Such a nice guy, he explained that the much anticipated MSC ‘Rock n Roller’ was not due in for another few weeks but there were other XC tire option to tide me over. So very soon the desk was covered with tires of two different treads, the ‘Tractor’ and the ‘Roller’ in varying compounds and internal walling protection. Marc explained the benefits and trade-offs of weight to grip to puncture protection etc. Which was not only great for my understanding of the MSC tire products but also for my Spanish (riding in Spain one word I have never bothered to learn was the word for mud (dust, stones, sand and dry, yes…but not mud!) it’s ‘barro’ – easy to remember as you move mud in a barrow! #newword)
So soon a decision was taken, the totally new (Prototype) ‘MSC Roller with “Epic Shield” bead to bead sidewall protection for the back and a the lighter ‘Pro Shield” sidewall MSC Tractor for the front. I am a massive fan of front grip! That and a spare Tractor for the rear just in case the conditions required more grip. The Roller is a fast rolling tire, but marathon can be a bit unpredictable in terrain and you don’t really get to assess it beforehand – so I my opinion it’s better to go with more rather than less grip! Funnily enough it’s this cross over between the ‘Roller’ and the ‘Tractor that the ‘Rock n Roller’ is designed to fill, and in a few weeks I will be lucky enough to try these out.
With the tires to race on in the bag, Instagram photos done and a ‘MSC Mousse’ to try – ah yeah the MSC ‘Mousse’… At the moment I ride with a semi-solid foam ‘inner tube’ that protects from pinch flats and gives the ability to ride ‘flat’ if the tubeless fails to seal, thus negating the need to carry repair kit in marathon (every gram counts) you just ride (it’s a bit ‘squirrely’) to the next aid station and swap wheels, as a puncture is generally race over. But I won’t be trying the ‘Mousse’ out until after the weekends race, as one big change is enough in one go… So watch this space, I’ll let you know how they go!
Home – Tires on bike – Bike in car – Drive to Sunday’s race course for some testing. Luckily it’s fairly local and I could compare the feel of the new MSC tires to how my old tires descended two days before.
The terrain was sandy on the more open sections and deep stony dusty descents, with a few gullys and rocky sections thrown in for good measure, so I got dropped off about half way up the second big climb, started with a photo session (why not!) then ‘warmed up’ to the top, knowing the most challenging descending was off the top. The rear grip was more than sufficient on the sandy climb and rocky step up sections, then an open sandy descent to start with gave me good sensations from the front end before swinging right on to the first section of single track. Sweeping hard packed corners…good, Boulder section…scary but good (rocks hurt), dusty section (this is where my back wheel had been passing me) oh know…I’m going to stack it…pick a landing spot and slam the brakes on…oh I’ve stopped, and I’m still on…make the corner…relax…repeat (albeit with less surprise each time) onto the gully section, which I did pick a bad line on and had a really sketchy moment on, got scared, stopped and walked (FYI I’m much better at climbing that descending) – so that was testing, the race course looped back up the hill for technical climbs and many more tricky descents, but the light was fading and I didn’t want to do too much more before race day.
Friday and Saturday I had a bit of a play on my closest single track sections, as I know how I like the bike to handle, I adjusted the tyre pressures a bit from Thursday’s first ride and felt really happy and confident with the tyres, they really were living up to the hype. One more test to go…race day.
Sunday morning brought fine dry weather and I’m lining up for my first UCI World XCMS race of the year. Warm-up done on the rollers, tyre pressures set for racing and I head to the starting box. OMG they’re starting the Elite ladies mixed in with the Elite men, and as highest ranked woman I’m on the front row two riders across from Tiago Ferrira! – Well all I can say is my race didn’t really go to plan, 6th Elite was ok, but for me not a great result. Yet the tyres were FANTASTIC! – it always takes my body a few races to get back in to racing (there’s no better training than racing hard!) and I’ve started later this year than I normally would so I was just lacking a bit of punch in the leg pistons. So my best parts of the race were the descents (this has never happened before) normally a good race for me is blistering climbing and ‘getting down’ the technical sections without stacking it too badly or breaking bones!
This was all to do with the tires (and race adrenaline) I started off descending a bit nervous as I hate holding up faster descenders, but soon the feel of the tires on the terrain gave me such confidence that I rode down all rideable sections (they do like to throw in a few non-rideable ones) and not just ‘getting down’ but riding with control and confidence, passing slower riders! On the fast flatter sections even though I was suited and booted with plenty of grip the tires still felt fast and with the grip I was able to hit corners at speed. Overall I would have preferred a tiny bit more rear grip for climbing as I like to climb out of the saddle on the long climbs, but have every confidence that when the Rock n Roller is on the back I will get exactly that. I couldn’t be happier with the tires, knowing I will only grow in confidence on them. They certainly have been well thought out and both the Roller and the Tractor are spot on for what they have been designed for.