it has, so far, been a particularly wet winter in the inner hebrides. wet enough, that really not an awful lot has been happening in the world of agriculture; at least nothing much when it comes down to growing stuff. but since all the bumpy bits are round the edges of the island, leaving much of it pretty much flat and exposed to the weather, flooded fields have been notable by their preponderance.
my morning walk on a road bordered by several fields has been made more problematical by the farms and estates occupying their time in attempting to improve the drainage of said fields. for when the weather picks up (who am i kidding?) and they all decide it would be in their best interests to grow barley for a few of the local distilleries, all will go far more swimmingly (if you'll pardon the pun) if the water is where it should be.
unfortunately this has led to a surfeit of kubota and mitsubishi excavators sitting expectantly near the gates, having covered large portions of the road with the mud traipsed from the last field they were in. and it's not just the road near the croft; though the surface between ballinaby and saligo would hardly win any awards for flatness, it now bears the added frisson of large clumps of muddy earth joining together to make a particularly slippery surface.
and then there's the road only brought out of retirement on special occasions. this may seem like something of an eccentricity, but truthfully roads such as this are generally only frequented by farm traffic and loitering herds of cattle. invariably there are other ways to reach the same destination by avoiding these tributaries, but if reviewing wheels and/or tyres, there's little to beat their crappiness. turning a negative into a positive.
clement's las cyclocross clincher tyres are specified for wet grass and hardpack. the former i have in abundance, the latter not so much at this time of year. however, the relatively flat 33mm width featuring a finely grafted nail-file tread rolls very well on both smooth and less smooth road surfaces, allowing the 'cross bike to garner a few more months of use now that the season is officially over 'till autumn. though the las (named after las vegas airport code) actually acquitted themselves rather well in light mud, the squishier stuff left both them and yours truly foundering a bit more than desirable.
however, my purpose in reviewing was mostly to investigate the appropriateness of the the tyres while wading through and over the agricultural crap that will infest more than just a few of our roadways between now and when the weather becomes more mediterranean like. it has not gone totally unnoticed that the route circumnavigating loch gorm on islay's west coast more closely resembles a track than a road. combining a reduced roads budget with a seeming inability of the roads department to effect anything other than seriously mediocre repairs, i doubt i'm the only one who has noted that a 'cross bike is a tad more practical than cambiago's finest.
though knobbly 'cross tyres offer the inestimable advantage of sounding like a land-rover with the volume turned down, the las clinchers offer far less rolling resistance and, at times, utter silence on the few patches of smooth surface left in existence. the more knobbly sections on the shoulders of the tyre, pretty much the same as clement's pdx 'cross tyre, offer the more intrepid rider the ideal traction when tipping over for fast cornering. i'm not usually given to exploring the outer reaches of traction when cornering, but such was the confidence inspired in this instance that, from a distance and through fogged lenses, i would almost have seemed competent.
there's no way that clinchers can compete with tubulars in terms of low pressures over rough ground. i did run these at 25psi, but the rocky hill climb in bridgend woods threatened to do more damage than would have been offset by any apparent improvement in grip. for sanity and peace of mind, 30psi seems a more favourable and practical minimum.
the grass bit was easy enough to accomplish. there's a 4km stretch of the stuff between uiskentiue farm and foreland road end which i adjudged the ideal route. what i hadn't counted on was their staging of muck spreading. the first part had been done several weeks ago and was thus suitably inert for perambulation without folks moving their seats further away at debbie's later in the day. what i'd not paid attention to was their having spread the second part the day previous to my excursion. though the tyres acquitted themselves admirably in the face of a mucky adversity, the flying detritus is unlikely to be patented by lynx anytime soon.
cyclocross bikes have a perceived usefulness that extends to both commuting and weekend leisure rides. though the clement tyres are undoubtedly closer to the serious end of the market at around £30 each, they'd be ideal for country roaming where the odd gravel or farm track might form part of the equation. and if tubulars are not high on your racing priorities, they are more than equal to the task of heading more quickly towards the finish line on less gooey circuits.
as recommended by the cows at west carrabus.
monday 2 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................