Giant’s Decker & 650B crashing cyclocross racing

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by Mark V on Jul 28, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Hi, it’s Mark V after a fairly long absence from writing on the main BH blog, though you can catch my tech writing on Bike Hugger’s new downloadable magazine (hint, hint!) . I’ve been busy wrenching on bikes during the summer rush and raiding old folks’ homes for drugs with my new pal Amanda Bynes. Byron tipped me off to Carl Decker crashing some “mid-summer’s cx race” on a 27.5” dualie. First off, anyone using the term “27.5 inch” in reference to effing old as dirt rim standard 650B will be taken out back and beaten. Eff all you industry imbeciles and your whining about how consumers cannot comprehend the name 650B; for as Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would still be the only tyre size in between old skool 26 and yesterday’s hype 29er. And if you are a consumer and you really do have trouble grasping the idea that 650B is merely a convenient recycle of a well-established industry standard, I weep for you……now get out of my face.

Schwalbe tyres 700C & 650B 02

As Byron mentioned, Giant-sponsored rider Carl Decker showed up to some Raleigh hosted “Midsummer’s Night Cyclocross Race” in Park City, Utah and took a bike swap from his Red22 Hydro-disc equipped Giant CX bike to a brand new 650B-wheeled dual-suspension Giant Anthem mtb. Now to some people this seemed like another Manuel Beastley incident. Three or four months ago during the Sea Otter Classic a video hit the interwebs showing a guy named “Manuel Beastley” racing and “dominating” several events on a “Walmart-sourced fatbike.” While not quite spreading as virally as Joey’s OK, Manuel Beastley became a legend due to the populist appeal of an underdog vs the pros and increasingly cultish fervor from fatbike advocates. And who wouldn’t find the story of a fun-lovin’ nobody literally coming out of the woods to trounce the professional riders on a bike that cost less the shoes of the elites? And the fact that he did it with a fatbike provided the incontrovertible proof that 4-5” tyres were everything the cycling mainstream ever wanted. The problem is that 1) Manuel Beastley didn’t dominate any races and 2) he doesn’t exist.

It makes me sad to think that so many people bought the hoax hook, line, and sinker. The video displays a moderate level of production value, which in and of itself tips me off that it was manufactured for effect. The editing is pure shell-game. While the voice-over talks about domination there are no podium shots, and whenever the fatbike rider is shown with other racers, they are obviously NOT professional elites. The name Manuel Beastley doesn’t show up in the results of the higher category races, which is no big surprise since he doesn’t exist. Two different professional riders adopted the Beastley persona for Sea Otter events. Adam Craig (Giant), slummin’ it up for fun now that he’s “retired from World Cup racing”, apparently rode the downhill and/or dual slalom on the fatbike, and Aaron Bradford seems to have ridden the same fatbike frame in a cyclocross race. Whether those guys actually officially competed or just crashed the events strictly for media opportunity is a little vague, but they certainly didn’t dominate, much less win. Don’t get me wrong; that shit is funny. If I was there I would have cheered on Craig from the sidelines. But I’m just disappointed that so many people fail to utilize any critical thinking after watching a video. I mean, “Manuel Beastley”? You didn’t think that was suspicious at all?

There is a different set of people who are outraged because Carl Decker’s exploit is a little different than the fatbike April’s Fool joke. Decker didn’t choose a 650B-dualie just to look good on camera for a couple laps; he actually won while racing against the current national champion, Jonathan Page. Decker is a professional (like Adam Craig, he is on the Giant factory team) who excels at all-mountain and endurance events. But rather than compete on a cyclocross bike, he switched to dualie XC mtb thereby mocking the seriousness of the event.

Really?

One must keep perspective on the event. This was the Raleigh Midsummer’s Night Cyclocross Race in Park City UT. Anyone reasonably familiar with the sport of cyclocross should recognize that no competition of any real importance could possibly occur in the summer and in Utah. The race is essentially a sideshow to Dealer Camp, an exclusive industry event that brings retail dealer staff to sample and experience upcoming product sooner and more effectively than Interbike. Page and Decker are basically there for a bit of pay and give their sponsors some media splash. Page had ample desire to win the race, but he didn’t. If Carl Decker won on a dual-suspension mtb, it is likely due to the course layout. If the quality of the race was up to international standards, the course would have likely made a dualie-mtb too cumbersome and slow to compete with real cyclocross machines. Decker was able win because he was able to ride out several sections (like upwards on stairs) that Page had to dismount and portage, but on a real European-style course Decker would have spent a lot more time running. Carrying extra weight would have had a cumulative effect on each lap. Also, UCI rules limit tyre width to 33mm, so Decker’s rig wouldn’t have been legal in a race of importance anyways. The lesson is that Decker’s 650B Giant is reasonably light and nimble to have scored a cyclocross win against real pros on that particular course, but the rules and conventions of UCI cyclocross rule out 650B from having any relevance to the top tier of the sport. If the Page wants to be upset that Decker won on an mtb, then he should blame organizers for the course design and failure to use UCI tyre-wdith regulations. If the UCI rulebook can eject Fabiana Luperini from the Giro Rosa (while the 5-time champion was in 3rd place on the GC) because her bike was 200gr under the weight minimum, I think it has enough authority to block fatty tyres (26”, 650B, or “29er”) from some dog and pony show cx race.

Schwalbe tyres 700C & 650B

Which isn’t to say that Decker’s 650B cyclocross win is meaningless, at least to me. I’ve long been fascinated with the possibilities that 650B mtb wheels/tyres might hold for dropbar bikes. A 650Bx2.25” tyre and a 700Cx33mm cyclocross tyre have very similar outer diameters, and if a bike had disc brakes and enough lateral tyre clearance then changing wheel sizes could be done in an instant. In other words, one could design a cyclocross bike that could be flipped from fully UCI-legal configuration to outlaw-width rubber for stair-riding glory. If I show up to a race with tyre rules in effect I’m set, but if organizers don’t care and the course suits it, I’ll slip the 650B’s in. Full disclosure, I’m not racing the European circuit and the rules are rather loose in my division. But who cares? I expect CX Worlds to have a certain level of professionalism and regulation to maintain a high standard of competition. Local/grassroots-level racing should be more informal, probably more unexpected, and hopefully more fun to encourage more participants. Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for Decker punking the industry-penned script for the race with a 650B dualie, would we even be talking about a Midsummer’s Night Cyclocross Race? Sure, Giant and 650B-advocates reaped the biggest rewards, but overall it appears that the race was a marketing success.

Ed note: one of Mark’s best rants and you can read more like this in our Magazine, including his take on replaceable derailer hangers in Issue 02.

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Comments: 2

The 650B is still one of the most popular tire sizes in Brazil! ;) But the quality of the tires is really lame… a friend of mine tells more about in this post from 2010, and in Portuguese. :)

http://asbicicletas.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/650b-ou-o-tamanho-de-roda-mais-popular-do-brasil/

I don’t exactly know what kind of tyres you are looking for in 650B, but I do know that from wholesale distributors located in the US, the selection of 650B is easily 2-5 times greater than it was in January.  A lot of that has to do with manufacturers en mass adopting 650B for the 2014 model year, the new tyre product hitting the market a little ahead of complete bikes.  A lot of these are mid- to high-end quality. At a glance, I’d say that the selection is heavier on all-mountain than xc types.  Schwalbe has been quick to bring in top-quality racing models though.

I snapped up a set of Schwalbe 650B x 2.1” Rocket Ron EVO as soon as they reached the distributors, and they are incredibly light and supple.  The 650B cx bike is in the midst of construction right now, so I don’t have any ride time with them yet.

The 650B demographic that doesn’t seem to be growing fast is the traditional 32-42mm road treads, which at the moment seems to be almost exclusive to Pacenti and Grand Bois brands (both manufactured by Panaracer).  Also, there seems to be nothing available in a knobby less than about 50mm wide.  Effectively that means that no useful 650B tyre exists that would be technically UCI legal for cyclocross racing, which should at least partially explain why 650B has not been a size associated with cx racing in the past. 

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