31 December 2007

bikefix Exclusive Review: Geax Saguaro 29x2.2 tire

Tires, as the primary [ideally only] contact point between the rider and the trail have the ability to change the ride of a mountain bike like little else. On road bikes, things aren't nearly as dramatic, but given mountain bikes' wide range of terrain, riding styles and the nearly infinite number of possible knob, rubber and casing configurations, there are loads of options. Of course where you ride, and how, will largely determine which tires work for you and which don't.

Here in the (largely) dry high desert of New Mexico, our local trails are largely loose-over-hard, with a healthy helping of sand. When it rains, traction largely tends to improve. With gravel and sand coating our hard packed trails, it's not so much if a tire will break loose in cornering, but when. Tires that don't break loose readily are good. Tires that break loose predictably and consistently are great. After cutting a fast and light Specialized Fast Trak, I took a racer's suggestion and picked up a Geax Saguaro. Costing only $37 for the 640g folding bead 29x2.20, it was an easy sell. Heck, it's even become one of a 29er-specific website's Top 10 Favorite 29er Products of 2007.

My first experience with the Saguaro was on a practice lap of Tucson's 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo course. Mounted on my (admittedly narrow) rim, the 2.2 width seemed a bit optimistic- it seems more like a generous 2.0, and nowhere as large as some of the fatter 29er tires that have become available over the past year. On the front wheel (paired with a WTB ExiWolf), the Saguaro was clearly fast but suffered excessive understeer, plowing towards the outside of corners- making things interesting and the bike a bit difficult to control. Knowing that the ExiWolf worked well as a front tire, I headed back to camp and swapped things around: much better. It turns out that a tire that causes understeer on the front of the bike can be great for creating oversteer on the rear.

And that's where it's stayed. Nearly 11 months later, the Saguaro is still on my single speed. Plenty of forward traction, even for a single speed, and very predictable handling. While it breaks loose earlier than some tires, it's far more predictable than other 29er tires I've used, such as the Maxxis Ignitor, Schwalbe Little Albert or Hutchinson Python. It's as fast or nearly as fast as the Fast Trak and Python while being sturdier than the first and much more communicative than the second. As an added bonus, this 11 month old tire, with hundreds of (maybe even a thousand) miles on it looks almost new. That's right- no wear to speak of. We've used tires that look worse after two or three rides. No cuts, either, despite our sharp rocks and my sometimes awful line choices. Unfortunately, it's currently Geax's only 29er tire, so anyone looking for a bit more grip or cushion will have to look elsewhere. Shame, too, as the Arrojo looks promising.



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