That being said, I've ridden these roads every which way under a variety of conditions, with four very different types of tires that fit my Black Mountain Cycles cross bike: 30 mm road slicks, 35 mm cyclocross knobbies, 38 mm light touring road tires and 43 mm 'tweener knobbies. One could make a case for each of them for the BackBone. As between these four types of tires, here's my take.
|With loads of clearance, my Black Mountain Cycles monster cross bike allows many tire options.
My go-to tire for the BackBone, and generally for this type of riding, is a 38 mm road tire, which currently is the Schwalbe Marathon Racer, a touring road tire lightest in the Marathon line. The relatively fat (for a road tire) profile and low pressure make for a comfortable ride, despite the substantial sidewalls and internal flat protection. By the way, that flat protection works. I have had only one flat in over 5,000 miles of rough roads on those tires. At 38 mm, it's also wide enough for control at speed over those surfaces, without being too sluggish, heavy or buzzy. I have not felt the need for bigger tread on any of the rough roads I ride, including the BackBone, the Almanzo Royal, the Gold Rush Mother Lode and Odin's Revenge (twice). It's the sweet spot for me.
|These Marathon Racers need to retire, but I keep putting them back on
after the planned replacement tire just doesn't do it as well.
|Schwalbe 35mm Smart Sam cyclocross tires work well enough. They're just better at cyclocross.
At the other extreme, I also tried 43 mm Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Roads, a 'tweener tire with beefy tread providing loads of traction on loose stuff. These would work on many single track trails. I've ridden the Rock 'n Roads for about 500 miles, including this year's 127 mile Omaha Jackrabbit, which featured over 25 miles of rough dirt, minimum maintenance roads. But the substantial tread is just too much for me and the road buzz is a constant reminder of the drag. More importantly, I keep getting flats on these tires, no matter where or how I ride them. Not fun. I don't plan to rely on the Rock 'n Roads for any future, significant ride, unless converted to tubeless and tested thoroughly. Even then, I question their durability. Just not for me.
|43 mm Rock 'n Roads cruised the dirt roads at the Omaha Jackrabbit.
I was amazed that I had no flats over 127 miles. That's a record for those tires.
|Schwalbe G-One. Next up. Next spring. That's a lot of knobs for me. We'll see.