Mark V will publish, an in-depth technical review of Stan’s Valor (Pro and Team) for gravel bikes in due time. For now, I wanted to share a pic of the setup and also because I like how the natural rubber sidewall pops the paint of my brown bike.
What you’re looking at is a Road Plus tire mounted to a carbon, tubeless cross-country wheelset (27.5/650b). The WTB Horizons are 47s and run at 30-32 PSI on pavement. On dirt, drop another couple pounds of pressure to soak up the bumps and get more traction.
And, a smooth, plush ride.
My first impressions of the Valors with Horizons are yep, “Smoother is faster.” The Valors are a racing wheelset that doesn’t bobble your head. In fact, they’re engineered to compress up to 7mm, as the video below shows.
What Stan’s product engineers know is the more forward momentum your wheel and tire can maintain without deflecting off the ground and sending your energy upward and backward, the faster you move. So if you pair a carbon wheel that absorbs with a supple tire, then the bike is gonna roll right down the road. As a roadie, it doesn’t seem right that a “balloon tire” with mountain bike rims would feel faster.
But, it sure does.
The high-volume tires are deceivingly svelte and confidence inspiring with a smooth centerline and all-weather herringbone pattern. Pushed into the corners, the sidewalls are resilient and the tires don’t feel as heavy as they look (weight: 515g).
As I shared in our magazine and a Medium story last year, it’s entirely up to marketers to sell you Road Plus, gravel, adventure or whatever they’re calling the latest niche. And, up to me to share with you how it’s the most fun I’ve had on a bike in years.
Perhaps that’s because I’m back to where it all started: riding road bikes on dirt. Or that I’ve found that the best stoke comes from picking lines on a double-track, forest service road, and rolling tempo high up in the North Cascades. Where a ride is interrupted by views and wildlife instead of cars and construction in the big city.
Maybe it’s a got my mojo back narrative, or more simply, just riding for the head-clearing, exercise, and personal challenge of it. There’s no leaderboard on forest services roads for me, and very few distracted drivers, sharing their statuses on Facebook or texting.
About 25 years ago, far from where I’m riding in California, a group of hippies rode cruisers down Repack. A handful of those hippies changed the world with mountain bikes. They’re now in the employ of corporations, and working on a supply chain delivering bikes like my U.P. and Exploro to market.
Mountain is right back where it started. Why would you want to ride a road bike with mountain bike tires and discs on dirt roads? Again, ask the marketers, parse their words, and ad campaigns. Thousands of people are employed to sell this niche to you.
What I can say is, the U.P., Exploro, and bikes that’ll follow them are a mashup, like a DJ sampled three favorite songs into one, and played it loud with disco lights flashing. Spending hundreds of hours so far riding these bikes, I recommend your next bike purchase comes fitted with at a min 40c tires, running at about south of 30 PSI.
Imagine a bike that’ll conquer most terrain and weighs about what roadies race. That’s why gravel bikes are so much fun and perform so well.
70% less tire pressure is the most significant difference between mixed-surface bikes and road. The analogy extends to a riding style as well, because there’s no inhibitory pressure to do anything but enjoy it.