More on my Extra Terrestrial experience

AUSTIN - In an effort to test out the new Surly Extra Terrestrial 26 x 2.5 tires in something other than my apartment parking lot or my 5-mile (8 km) round trip to class, I rode around Ladybird Lake on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail in downtown Austin. It’s about 10 miles (16km) of decomposed granite and other dirt, mixed with stretches of pavement with a variety of concrete surfaces and parts that hover over the lake on what they call a boardwalk (although it’s a long bridge with a concrete surface). 

 I generally take Shoal Creek Boulevard to where it meets the Shoal Creek trail at 38th Street and becomes an off-street trail through a greenway. This adds a bit of asphalt to the other mix of hard surfaces.

But this is about bike tires, let’s continue on to that: 

 My most immediate comparison to how the Troll rides with the Extra Terrestrials is to the expedition tires I ran previously, Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 26 x 2.15 Evolution. The Mondials are big (by traditional standards) and sturdy and meant to go everywhere from the smoothest pavement/tarmac/bitumen to tracks that may only loosely resemble a “road.” 

To be honest, if Schwalbe made a 2.5 version of the Mondial, I imagine I would not be the only one very happy about it. I rode the Mondials everywhere from fierce dust storms in Black Rock City to warm swamp mud and gravelly clay-loaded sticky mud in Austin. 

 Enter the Surly Extra Terrestrial 26 x 2.5. They are big and heavy, but in my unscientific arm’s length test, seemed lighter than the Mondial. The ETs were a bit tighter to mount than the Mondials, which themselves were not easy to mount. The ETs are tubeless ready as well as the rims on which I mounted the tires. The ETs are stiffer and a little heavier than Surly Dirt Wizard 2.75, but a little more pliable than the Mondials.

As one would expect from such a big increase of tire volume, the ride is smoother. The bumps are still there, the static from spider-web broken pavement and rough, unpaved surfaces is still there; it’s just muted. It’s just smooth. 

 I ran the rear tire at 2.5 bars, the front at 2. The tire’s maximum recommended inflation is something like “why would you do that?” at 4.4 bar. 

My first guess at a good pressure seemed to work out nicely so I left it there. I want to test the tires at a lower pressure like 1 bar, but not really at anything higher than 2.5. The rims have a maximum of 3 bars (is this just a DT Swiss thing?).  At 2 and 2.5 bars, the tires didn’t feel sluggish on the street; if anything, they felt pretty fast since the tire absorbs static.

On my ride I came to the where the bridge over the creek in Roy Guerrero Park was destroyed a few times over by repeated flood. The area around the demolished bridge and collapsing banks had become a construction site, but without the pile of rubble that used to be a concrete bridge. I climbed down the dusty banks as I had many times before, but unlike those other times, the debris on the creek bottom was clear the bottom was smooth - ish. It looked like a good place to see how well the ETs did on deep sand and silt. 

 Ha! Nope. I don’t think deflating to a bar or less would have helped. ETs not meant for that kind of riding, although another bike touring blogger, Getting Nowhere, did the same tire switch and was able to ride firmer beach sand. This is big fat bike territory. The silt was almost as fine as playa dust, it seemed.

But back on the hard pack trail and subsequent “actual mountain biking,” one has to do for a short stretch over rocks, partially buried logs and some mud to pass through the disc golf course, the tires excelled. While I always thought of the Mondials as legit mountain bike tires, the ETs were just better. 

They gripped better and rolled smoother, just like the Dirt Wizards, but without the clumsy feeling I had with the DW. It could also be the slippery and super sticky mud was dried, or I finally took a good line, I’m not sure. What I do know is how easy it was to ride through where I needed to push a little before.

I realized with a defeated exhale that I may need a back pack for my Great Divide ride coming up two days after I return from Burning Man (I have pictures on my website from previous years). I looked around, asked the internet questions, read reviews and looked at prices. The best option was the Osprey Talon 22 (size S/M), although Cass Gilbert (not the architect) is not a fan of back packs. 

If I could redo my shit-carrying plans, I would go with a Surly rear Nice Rack and small/front panniers in the back, instead of the Revelate Pika seat bag; hence, negating the need for a back pack. I’ve already spent more than I should have outfitting myself for my upcoming trips, so buying another $300 of gear to carry stuff is a bit much. 

My biggest issue with bags attached to me is back sweat. One giant problem with messenger bags (I was a NYC bike messenger for a year) and two-strap back packs is they seem to make clothing trap more heat and disable the ventilation. 

Messenger bags kept a permanent cloud of sweat right under my face, although they allow one to get to the bag’s contents fast.

The Talon seems to get away from some of that with the design of the back with mesh and ridged areas where the bag meets my back. It’s not perfect, but not bad either. 

Some of the more elaborate ventilation systems greatly reduce the volume of the bag, or made the bag bigger than it seems like it should be. 

The Talon also features a wonderfully nice amount of adjustability (and it comes in two sizes) and practical ways to carry your shit, like waist belt pockets and smaller organizing pockets elsewhere. It has a sturdy provision for an ice ax and a means to carry ski/trekking poles on the left shoulder strap. Just above that is a small elastic mesh pocket with a purpose that eludes me. 


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