It should be pretty clear by now, that I'm more than a little into biking. I can specifically remember my first ride on a bike. It happened at Grandma's house on a bike I just received for Christmas, with no training wheels. My mom gave me a push to get me started, and I've been pedaling ever since. Since then, I've owned all sorts of bikes: downhill, cross country, dirt jump, cruiser, commuter, enduro: with one distinct category missing: road bikes. I've just never been able to get excited about throwing on Lycra and pounding out miles and miles of pavement. So when I was asked what Niner bike I would prefer for my upcoming bike fish trip, it was hard for me not to choose a mountain bike. I couldn't be happier that I went against my tendancies and selected the Niner RLT road-ish bike.
When it came time to specify what WTB tires I'd like on the new bike, I found it hard not to revert to my mountain bike past. The obvious choice was the WTB Nano 40s: the fattest and knobbiest tires that would fit in the frame. While I can't say enough good things about the tires and wheels that came on the bike, when the Road Plus system was announced, I couldn't resist. Before long, a shiny pair of Frequency i23 rims and Horizon Road Plus tires were delivered by the UPSanta.
The premise behind the Road Plus system is using a smaller diameter rim (650b) in conjunction with a fatter than normal tire (47c) to achieve a similar overall diameter (rim+tire) as the 700x30c tires the bike was designed for. The result allows you to run a fatter than normal tire in your bike giving you more traction, flotation, and comfort: win, win, win. Clear as mud?
For hubs, I opted for a Sram 900 rear and took a risk with the Shutter Precision Dynamo front hub. More on that later...
Once I was in possession of the proper-sized spokes, the lace up was straightforward. Even though I call my self a professional mechanic, the opportunity to build and tension wheels comes rarely. When that chance arises, I revel in the task. There is nothing more satisfying than starting with a fresh set of spokes, rims, and tires; lacing, tensioning, and truing up a wheel, and riding your perfectly round creation down the trail. I'm proud to admit, that this wheelset went together smoother than most: minimal stress while truing resulting in circular perfection.
"But how do they ride, Brian?"
Thank you for asking. They ride like a boss of course.
Here are some initial thoughts about the Horizons
- The first thing anyone notices about the Horizons is their appearance. The tan gum wall stands out in a way that I love, both classic and modern at the same time. On top of killer looks, the sidewalls are supple which bend, flex, and conform to the road surface adding to the soft ride already achieved by lower air pressures.
- Second noticed is the width. Dyed in the wool roadies will scoff at the size of these puppies. Let them scoff. The added width of the Horizons provide a noticeably softer, more comfortable ride. I've been running around 35-45 psi for commuting and mixed surface road rides. Fear no pothole.
- Surprisingly good off road traction. I was a little dubious at first about the off-road capabilities of the subtle herringbone tread pattern, but have been impressed by how well they do in gravel and dirt. While you'll never have as much high speed cornering confidence with the Horizons as something like the Nano 40s, I'm totally happy with their grip and float through both loose and packed gravel/dirt.
- On road rollability: Fast and smooth.
- Tubeless compatibility. I've said it before: WTB tires are the easiest to set up tubeless. No drama, so swearing, no trouble seating the bead. A floor pump was all I needed. No flats to date.
Ideal uses for the Road Plus system
- Mixed surface road rides
- Gravel grinders
- Insulting roadies by pacing them while using fat tires (no Lycra required)
My typical pre-work ride/commute with the Horizons:
- 2 miles of pavement through city roads
- 5 miles of "Wyoming Cobbles" (see picture below)
- 6 miles of abandoned gravel/two track
- 8 miles of highway and city roads to work by 10:00
I love the way the Horizons transition between all different types of road surfaces without missing a beat. They eat up cobbles, devours gravel, all while keeping up with traffic on the stretch of pavement back home. Gravel traction is more than adequate for dedicated grinder rides and offer flotation when the going gets loose. Don't be put off by the apparent lack of tread for gravel riding. Trust me. Additionally, I feel no added resistance on paved surfaces. For more info and frame fit inquires, check out the WTB Road Plus page.
Long Term Update
After a year over 2,000 miles on these tires, I can't say enough good things about these tires. I ran the Horizons on my winter BikeFishing trip from Canada to Mexico. The added volume floated over occasional loose dirt/gravel, provided a comfortable squish over debris, and the TCS (tubeless compatible system) lived up to its name, never going flat! That's right, I pedaled from Canada to Mexico without ever installing a tube. WTB Horizon for the win!