When Is A Semi-Slick Too Damn Quick?!
Let It Roll
Pumping along in perfect super-hero trail conditions with tacky wet dirt and bone dry roots got me thinking that my full-on DH tire out-back is a overkill this season. I'm not looking to give up my serious-sidewalls or my CushCore inserts, but a little faster rolling speed would be perfect right now. Heck, since they'd be up out of the way, maybe I could keep my mean super sticky side knobs just for sh*ts and giggles.
In fact, it wasn't that long ago that I was riding aggressive de-knobbed tires twelve months of the year with an e13 LG1 semi-slick on my full suspension bike and a 2.6" Specialized Slaughter tire on my single speed. And it wasn't just me. A couple-or-few years ago half the riders I knew were running a semi-slick out back on their bike whether it be full suspension or a hardtail. There are all sorts of situations where a crazy fast-rolling tire with massive cornering knobs makes a ridiculous amount of sense. Even when they aren't the best choice for traction there's no arguing that a semi-slick tire in the rear is super-funtastic.
After a brief rocket up in popularity, it seems that semi-slick tires are back out of fashion so instead of looking forward to further development I'm looking through the dregs of their Atlantean heyday. There's still the Specialized Slaughter, when they have inventory, the Minion SS in 2.5 WT, which thankfully has MaxxGrip rubber, and the 2.35" e13 LG1r S/S. But there haven't been new options introduced for two years.
Specifically, I would love to see some almost-Plus (2.6") and Plus (2.8"-3.0") options with real sidewalls so I can have my cushion and fast-rolling too. With the vacuumous loss of popularity, I guess I can also give up on my dream tires, a 29x3.0" Bontrager SE2 with SE5 side knobs and a 29x3.0" WTB Ranger in Tough Casing/Fast Rolling with a set of mean, sticky, Vigilante knobs to port and starboard?
Ignoring loose climbs and descents, a good semi-slick is often a very capable choice in many situations beyond hard pack. In some of the 'wet coast' snow conditions we get I actually found that the 2.35" e13 LG1r S/S climbed better than full-throated knobbies or big-ass fat rubber. They aren't the best choice in thick mud until everyone else's tires are clogged up in which case the traction is no better but at least they don't tend to build up as much material.
Crossing green roots is a definite weakness but on the greasiest rock features I do okay until the trail gets steep. In those situations I tend to be a bit panicked even with the slowest rolling mega-tacky DH rubber.
I have friends riding Shore-XC who swear by a Maxxis Ikon, Bontrager XR2/SE2, or Schwable Racing Ralph as a rear tire but when I bring up adding some real side lugs they're non-committal. "Why not just run a more aggressive trail tire?"
I have friends on BALD DH rubber with semi-functioning side knobs who manage to somehow use their wizardry to brake down the greenest and meanest woodwork the Shore has to offer. Surely they agree with my love of semi-slick rubber? "Why would I buy a tire that's already worn out?"
Which brings me around to the real question. Am I the only one who still loves semi-slick tires? Fast-rolling XC rubber isn't what I'm looking for and as good as the SE2 is in the big size with a decent sidewall, I'd still choose to ride it with bigass side knobs if that was an option. What happened to all the folks buying Rock Razors, Slaughters, LG1r S/S, and Minion S/S tires? Does it turn out that a full-knobby doesn't roll that much slower in exchange for all the bonus traction? Wouldn't these tires be awesome in a 27+ and 29+ format with real sidewalls?
If you were fully on the semi-slick bandwagon and jumped off, (I hope you're okay) what turned you away?