In Review: Clement Xplor MSO 40

I’ve burnt through some gravel tires in my time. LOTS of them. Back before “gravel tire” was a thing, we rode cyclocross tires. I fell in love with the Michelin Mud, a light, fast tire with minimal tread and a decent line of gripping knobs on the side. These tires were made for doing laps around a closed course for an hour, not for riding 10-12 hours straight on rock roads. They lasted accordingly, aka not very long at all. I caused many dead Muds, but man did they roll. I, along with many of my dirt riding compatriots, needed something that would last and not break the bank.

As time meandered on, companies started introducing more durable tires that were gravel specific like the Kenda Small Block 8, and Clement’s Xplor Series. Clement caught my eye. I started of with their smaller offerings, but soon the MSO 40 was in my sights. I got a pair. It was mildly life changing. Here was a voluminous tire that wasn’t TOO heavy, rolled fast, and felt supple on the dirt roads. It performed well on pavement. I felt that it looked pretty sexy. My first pair of these adorned my Salsa Fargo for training and ultimately riding Trans Iowa 10 (TIV10), I fell in love with their performance in the racing realm, and riding 40’s on a MTB allowed for zipping through muddy B-level roads with ease, giggling to myself as others were off to the side with their various “scrapin sticks” trying to get their wheels free of their muddy bonds.  Gotta love a little extra clearance, Clarence.

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POOR BIRDY

All was well through miles and miles of riding, then the MSO’s were transferred to another bike, my Warbird. The Bird was the new kid on the block, and took over the brunt of my mileage.  I finally got a flat. A flat that thwarted a perfectly good sunny century day at mile 35. Now, I will admit that checking my tire condition before riding is not really on my list. It should be, I keep a close watch on tire inflation (which is subject for another post for another day), but don’t think about inspecting the outer casing. Noted: will change this. I didn’t just flat, the casing of my tire either split or was cut. The tread was also just chewed up, all the way around, which lead me to believe is was more the tire than some errant object in the road which made cause for this pause. I was close to a town, so I booted the tire, got it rolling, stopped for lunch, then limped another 20 miles in to Des Moines to Rasmussen Bike Shop for a replacement. I was so burnt out that I just handed them the bike and said “go for it.”  They got me back on the road and disposed of the tire accordingly.

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POOR BIRDY PT 2

I rode the new rear tire for another 500 miles or so (not in a row) before encountering any more problems. I had another flat, this time a pinch flat that you can read about here, which I quickly fixed and got home for lunch.  A few days later I was on the Gent’s Race, you can read my race report here, having fought through some difficulties in the beginning I was well on my way to finishing with my team, and BOOM flat. Fixed it. We rode another mile or so, within 2 miles of the finish, and BOOOOOM a total blowout. Upon inspection, the kevlar bead and sidewall had separated. Race Over. Good Day.

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Mark Showing me the exposed Kevlar bead, AKA POOR BIRDY PT 3

I talked over the life of these tires with a good friend and team mate, who has a very keen knowledge of gravel tires. We came up with the hypothesis that the Clement MSO is not durable or reliable enough to be pulling long miles on gravel, at least not for someone my size (read:large).  He told me other people have had similar issues with these tires, and I’m not surprised. This is the only tire since I started riding “gravel specific” tires that have done such things. I’ve gone years and thousands of miles without flats. This all leads me to…

My final thoughts on the Clement Xplor MSO 40mm: Fast, Light-ish tire that is best suited for equally light-ish riders that ride low mileage, or for shorter circuit-style lapped gravel races that won’t leave you stranded out in the middle of nowhere. I absolutely would not used these again for any type of distance or “adventuring” as they are more volatile than most other gravel tires I’ve had the chance to ride.  In fact, they kind of remind me of the good old days of ripping through tire after tire on those Michelin Muds.

Sam, CNB

PHIGG 2 Ride Recap And Taco Time

Last Sunday was the riding of the official second installment of the Pink House Invitational Gravel Grinder. For those of you unable to be bothered to scroll down, the PHIGG is a Gravel FUN-ish ride from the Pink House (my residence) in Orelia to the Cumming Tap by way of some of Mid-Iowa’s most granular roads. The ride shoots for around 50 miles, although we have maxxxed out at about 24 so far (“Bagger Rules” apply, which means make-it-up-as-you-go). At the finish line of this little dandy of a grinder everyone is treated to a meal prepared by myself and Bob of the Cumming Tap.

Back to the ride…

About 10:30 there was a knock on the door. The first riders had arrived and I was only five bites deep into my bowl of Cheerios®! Two hoods were hanging on the front porch, Brian “Squirrel” Pottorff and “Quick” Rick Blackford. The ride turned drinky immediately, and I finally got to experience the brunch delicacy “Cheerios With Pabst.” A short skip down the timeline later, Bob Moural showed his shining face (it was really hot and everything had a bit of a shine to it), completing the official ride roster. Not a bad turn out for a 100 degree gravel ride on wet roads.
The four of us embarked on what would turn out to be quite an adventure which was meant to be a ride to The Rondevouz in Adel, IA then back to the Tap (I am pondering the creation of a new sport, “Adventure Drinking,” which would be regular Adventure Racing with the addition of beer. Kind of a fast moving endurance bagger party).
We spotted a big snapping turtle unwisely crossing the hot gravel road at about mile 2 which Rick and Bob decided to bunny hop-much to Mr. Turtles chagrin. Two miles later Blackford had enough of our slow moving shenanigans and dropped to head home. Ok, he actually thought the ride started earlier and had a tight time-constraint. Thank you for coming along, Rick.
Shortly after mile 5, my legs gave out. There have been many excuses thrown out there, but it was really just poor nutrition and lack of sleep. My bad. The slowed pace allowed for Pie-Crazed Brian to hunt for wild blackberries. Close to the Booneville turnoff we ran into the wonderful Terri, Brian’s wife, who was out doing her own gravel ride (major you-go-girl props) we had a nice social for a few minutes then parted ways with Terri…for the time being. We passed the turn for Booneville and headed down “half-pipe hill” towards Old Portland Road and our goal of Adel. At the top of the next hill, right next to the rooster/lamb barn, I picked up my first flat of the day. Yes. The FIRST. Flat got changed, then I made an important decision: Fשk Adel, we are going to Booneville.
The Booneville Waveland Tap sucked us in for a good time. Jerky, a few beers with good friends, a motorcyle poker-run, and the return of Terri (how many laps did you do that afternoon?) were some highlights of our stay. One of my favorite moments is the part of the movie where I asked our bartender if I could order some potato skins just to have her say “they don’t do those til night” and walk away. I watched my chance for nutrition crash and burn! Hilarious! After giving the Tap about $70 in business we all decided it was time to head towards Cumming and the Braised Pork Tacos and Jalapeno Corn that were waiting on our arrival. We grabbed some to-go’s and hit the road. The roads were still pretty saturated, not muddy, but soft and sandy, from the last two weeks’ rains and rode slow slow slow. Brian and Bob were way off the front around the time we made the turn onto Adams, or maybe I was just way off the rear. I picked up flat #2. Such bullshit! There was no riding on the rim in these conditions and I was out of tubes, so it was time for a walk. The guys saw me walking a short while later and turned back to help. We stopped at a farmer’s house to chill in the shade (the sun was brutal) and deal with this stinking flat tire. Moments later an older gentleman rolled up on a MTB. It was the man of the house, who was out getting a in few “around the block” miles. The guys chatted with him (I have forgotten his name) as I ate a pork chop and changed the tube. A few miles down the road we came to the turnoff for 30th street (mostly gravel road that connects Adams and G14) but decided to just hop the GWT to Cumming. I think we had all had enough at this point.
Upon our arrival at the Cumming Tap it was discovered that my lovely life-partner Julie had not dropped of the food that I had prepared and was still in Des Moines. Shit. This food thing was just not working out at all today. Brian decided it was time to get home, as I did shortly after. The tacos would have to wait until Tuesday.
Despite the technical and taco problems and extreme heat the ride was a success. Rolling down the back roads with friends is a great way to spend time. Thank you to Rick, Bob, Brian, and Terri for being part of the ride.

PHIGG will not be held in July as there are already enough cycling events going on. Hope to see more of you in August for PHIGG 3. It will be my birthday party, and you might want to be there!

There are pictures, but my phone insists they don’t exist. I will post some in an update as soon as I can.

Sam