Kenda Happy Medium 700×40 Review

Here’s the specs from the company site: http://bicycle.kendatire.com/en-us/find-a-tire/bicycle/cyclocross-gravel/happy-medium-pro/

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These tires are great, the fastest rolling knobby tread tire I’ve used. I plan to do all my flatland gravel racing on these next year.

On road they are obviously slower than a smooth tread tire but they feel fast and are fun to ride. When I did my first shakedown ride I figured it would be like when I rode Small Block 8s or WTB Nanos – fun on dirt but really boring on the road. Not with these tires, I ended up riding for an extra hour and then just riding the bike for the next two weeks. They didn’t have that saggy/boggy feeling a lot of dirt tires have.

Also got me back into monster cross. I’d ride around on the road for an hour in the morning til the trails opened, hit the singletrack for an hour and then go home really satisfied with a fun ride. The tires seemed to handle the rocky, rooty Sope Creek trails just fine. I ran them around 35 psi with tubes for a 200 pound rider/bike weight and had no problem riding hard and fast. Of course, being a steel cyclocross bike the ride was interesting to say the least and overall much slower than an MTB but still very fun.

I also raced two gravel events on the tires. They handled the dry, dusty conditions fine. Rolled fast, cornered well and seemed to be on par with the other riders. I did note that the microknobs on the rear were showing some wear after about 200 road miles+100 gravel miles but I would suspect traction in the dry would not decrease much if they disappear completely. Wet conditions may be another issue but I’ll update if we ever get any rain.

The tires with tubes were ever so slightly undersized on the stock HED Tomcat 25mm width rims. Front and rear were both 39.5 after about 300 miles. So expect them to be a little narrower on narrower rims and maybe up to stated width when run tubeless.

So, overall really good tires I think.

Best Practices for Front Loading High Trail Bikes

  1. Load should be as far back as possible. Ideally behind the front hub, even an inch makes a big difference.
  2. Load should be as low as possible. My front rack is only about 20mm above the front tire and actually touches the front fender.
  3. Ride the bike. A lot of the “poor handling” mythos comes from lack of time on a bike. I’ve found that high trail front loads don’t handle poorly, they just handle different. The more you ride, the more natural it seems and the better the bike feels.

I’m not currently set up for or interested in front panniers but I think I’ll try them out once it gets warmer. May add another wrinkle but we’ll see.

Most front racks are pushed too far forward by the fork crown support. I’ve been looking at rack and setups and it’s obvious that with most racks mounted as recommended there’s no way not to have your load in front of the hub.

Here’s a good set-up. Even though it’s low-trail (high fork rake) the rack is as far back as possible, it’s too high but there does not appear to be any adjust-ability as this is most likely a rack designed for 700c being used on a 650b bike.

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Here’s a poor set-up. Rack is too high and too far forward due to poor fork crown attachment design and overall poor rack choice.

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Here’s my bike, it’s nice and low and far back. I can get most of what I carry behind the hub so handling is close to neutral.

Cycling black holes #1 – West of Marietta

The more you ride in the Atlanta metro area the more it becomes obvious there are huge swaths of roadway that are not conducive to cycling. The roads in these areas are high traffic, narrow and featureless. There’s almost no reason to ride there for pleasure and they don’t usually connect to any other areas well, if at all. Parts of Johns Creek and Roswell are like this as well as around Stone Mountain. I’m going to try to document most of these areas as I inevitably forget how much they suck and end up riding in/through them accidentally.

Last night was such a night. This area doesn’t have a name but it’s South of Kennesaw, East of Dallas, North of Powder Springs and West of Marietta.

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This area seems like it would be fun to ride but it sucks.I wasn’t paying attention and got stuck riding around here for a large portion of my ride. Just dark, misty and heavy traffic. Not that fun. There’s nothing to look at, traffic is heavy and very fast and the roads are narrow, winding and often with significant elevation changes. And the people are weird, some high school kid called me a nigger last night as I was leaving from a navigation stop. What the fuck?

A better choice is to ride all the way to Dallas on the Silver Comet and then hop off and do some gravel. Or hop off at Powder Springs and ride around there. Or even just take the Stilesboro bike lane all the way West until it turns into Cedarcrest, stay on that til it hits Harmony Grove Church and then come down into Dallas that way.

Front loads and high trail

Link to trail info for Diamondback Haanjo Comp

So I’ve got two rides on my bike now that it’s set-up with a front rack. First ride was front rack + saddle bag load so 2 pounds for the rack(?), 2 pounds on the front rack and 3 pounds in the rear. Steering felt a little heavy and bike was slower to respond but seemed to like the weight and pedaling felt easier and less spinny than previously. Essentially the additional weight made it feel more like a 700c bike than a 650b bike as far as pedaling was concerned.

Second ride I ditched the saddle bag and moved everything up front. 2 pounds for the rack and 3 pounds for the load. Steering feel increased a bit and responsiveness decreased a bit as well. Although really it’s sorta like the responsiveness changed instead of decreased. The bike wants to flop when turning so it requires a lot of body english and counter-steer but it can be made to respond like before, it’s just harder. I also noticed there is a lot of wheel flop during steep seated climbing. The bike wants to wander all over and when I’m really tired it takes more energy to keep tracking straight. However, this is offset by how much better the standing climbing is, which is cool because I am a great stander and a poor sitter.

What really blew me away was how much better the bike felt pedaling in all positions without the saddle bag. Who knew this would be so much of change? It seemed to plane for me in a way that it was not doing before, although I’ve only got one ride this way so it may just be bullshit. I’ll find out I guess.

Bike food v. real food 

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Now that I’m more budget conscious I’ve been thinking about food. It’s always just kind of assumed that bike food is a luxury item and the costs are significantly above what one would pay for “real food.”

This came up recently in a slowtwitch thread:

I really don’t think triathlon is expensive if you choose to be cheap. I’ve been on 6 hour riders eating my peanut butter sandwiches and water and person beside me is eating $20 worth of gels (10-12 gels) and pre bottled Gatorade ($2 per bottle). That ride cost me around $1.

Thread here, it’s not a great read since triathletes are pretty disconnected from reality and most of the posters on slowtwitch are pretty rich so it’s more like 2-steps than 1-step.

The actual comment is pretty stupid, $1 worth of food for a 6 hour ride? Probably not. The sentiment remains; gels, “pre-bottled” gatorade – specialty bike food is seen as expensive. It’s smart and frugal to make your own food and bring it with.

But, is it frugal? is it smart? And if so, how smart? How frugal?

I made a table with the cost per serving and per calorie for all the sports candy I just purchased compared to real food items that I have seen suggested for consumption during rides.

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So the poster above rode for 6 hours eating PB&J? Using the cheapest available items from Walmart and not factoring in any cost associated with travel, prep time and so forth. He must have only eaten 1 sandwich of 380 calories. Seems a little low for a 6 hour ride?

My point is that bike food, like most food, will trend towards the lowest market price. And really for what it is I think it’s a great deal. I can buy small packets of food that will fuel me at a high level of physical exertion for several hours. They remain edible for weeks, are unaffected by temperature and are packaged in containers that can be jostled/dropped/squeezed without failure. I can order these delivered to my house for around $0.50 per 100 calories or a half-cent a calorie. This seems like a pretty good deal.

I’m not coming to this blind. I’ve done the DIY powerbars, the rice cakes in their stupid wax paper/foil wrapper, baked potatoes in plastic bags with salt and PB&J getting smushed in my pocket. “Real food” sucks for cycling – it takes time to go buy, time to prepare, is heavy and does not last more than one ride. I can carry a powerbar in my pocket on a six hour ride in 95 degree weather, sweat all over the wrapper and if I don’t eat it, it’s still good tomorrow or next month.

So no, I do not think real food is a smart choice for cycling. It’s also not especially frugal as travel, prep and wastage add up.

You want to save money? Supplement your regular bike food with gatorade/powerade powder. It’s extremely cheap and essentially the same nutrition as eating a gel. I like to put gatorade as my first edible so I always eat it first and do not waste it as it does not really keep after a day or so. After that I’ll go to the more expensive bars or gels or something. This is $0.17 per 100 calories and is probably the best price for a convenient bike food. You can even carry the powder and mix later during your ride if you don’t want to commit to mixing right away if you’re worried it will go unused.

I love this bike now

Added a front rack to my Haanjo Comp today. Perfect day for it too. 67 and warm when I left and 47 with rain by the time I got back.

Made it super easy to carry all the clothes I needed and extra tube. I’m going to figure out a better solution than a hip-pack in a ziploc bag but for right now it’s still awesome. Handling is a little different – bike wants to turn instead of lean but it’s not too bad and certainly not as bad as I would have thought after reading all the Bicycle Quarterly stuff about low and high trail and front loading.

Today was just another one of those days where I feel like I can just pedal forever. Such a good feeling,  always forgot how much easier and more fun it is to ride when I’m skinny instead of chubby. Like my legs always have the same strength no matter my overall weight.

I can’t wait to ride some more and see how it works with different load outs. Rack is a Sunlite QR-Tec that mounts 100% to the quick-release. It has a anchor point for the brake caliper hole but I just cut that off and ziptied the back of the rack to the front fender stabilizer.