By: Chris Zito
The puppeteers at Black Ribbon HQ, delivered a set of 45NRTH Dillingers to me just in time for one of the bigger dumps of the snowy season. In the past I have mostly ridden Endomorphs, well, since the time when they were THE option and gum-walled. Up until recently when I changed up to a Nate rear and Larry front, I had been quite content with the Endos. However, once I switched to this newfound combo, I discovered a considerable difference under certain conditions, mostly off-camber sandy, wet, or icy surfaces, but also in some of the softer deeper dry sand. I mention this only to use as a reference of comparison, and will refer to this as set X. Now back to the Dillingers.
So as I am mounting the Dillingers onto my Pug wheels, the shop crew at Rainbow Jersey is discussing what the manufacturers intended application for these tire is. Was it for fat-bike commuters? Winter MTB trail riders where the paths are trodden and icy, or simply enough, for ice racing? I decided to run the gambit and see for myself. BTW, I love how the bastards at Black Ribbon give me a product that you test to it’s limits, and that the result of finding or going past those limits means going DOWN! Thanks. And I’ll pass on the “breakaway” seat post test next week.
Naturally, as soon as the snow was flying and an inch or two had accumulated, it was time for the first test ride. The Commuter Test. (Another quick side bar here; the recommended pressure on the side wall of the Dillinger calls for 5-15psi, I rode them at approx. 7-9psi, in an attempt for the largest possible footprint but without getting too boggy.) My commute this day was about 6 miles. The temperature was 26(F) and snowing about an inch an hour. I was not impressed. They handled great in the fresh 2-3 inches of the bike path, but cookie dough type road conditions on the streets kept my front tire filling up, floating and surfing very much like set X would. My ideal choice for these conditions would be a track bike with 23-25c skinnys, but this is a Fat-Bike test so we will skip the “thin to win” commentary and say that the Dillinger is not the ideal tire for cinnamon oatmeal cookie dough conditions, there is nothing for them to bite into.
The next test took place the very next day, temperature 30(F), skies blue and sunny. Fellow test pilot Colin Fjord, and I met up at Klode Test labs for some romping on the beach. We were somewhat disappointed with the conditions, the snow being 4- inches (due to drifting) and “packy” (for lack of a better term) due to the temperature and sunshine. A stretch of beach that would normally take 5-7 minutes to ride, took us about 20-25 struggling minutes to cover.
Day three of testing took me back to Klode Test labs. Temerature 34(F), skies overcast. I decided to find some off camber packed down circumstances so naturally I started on the sledding hill. The ice was a packed slush kind of ice, not too hard, but by all means slick as!
On a straight decent down hill the Dillingers held well under soft front and rear braking until momentum took over and there was simply no stopping. Another line from the top right to the bottom left of the hill the studs did their job, minimal lateral slippage and good braking control. Once I hit the beach I found the conditions even more impassable than the previous test day, so I decided for another photo shoot and some placidity.
After a bit of meditation I took it up the hill and over to the local skating rink for some ice racing!! Once again that Ol’ bitch Ma Nature had other plans. The rink was more like a pond, with 2-6 inches of standing water on top of 3-4 inches of ice. Perfect! I was able to ride though the icy bottomed slurry with no problem with getting a bite and no slippage when “goosing” it a little. I am confident that set X would not have performed as well as the Dillinger in these conditions.
Day four of testing was few days later. The temperature was 22(F), the skies sunny, and we were headed back to the rink for some solid ice testing. By this time the rink had refrozen and was a bumpy craggy slick surface.
The Dillingers took me expediently across the test grounds in straight lines, but when taking turns just a bit sharper than I would consider possible on set X, I went down! After three good contusing trials I gave up and headed back to the sledding hill for some more masochism. There was less packed ice on the hill, but it was harder and slipperier than the previous test day.
Once again the straight line down gripped a bit initially but once momentum came up, stopping was not an option. The hardness of the ice also changed the side to side decent with the tires not hooking up enough to keep me from continuing to collect welts and bruises, and convincing me that I would definitely have a similar result on set X. Onward to the beach where conditions were still impassable, but parts of the foreshore had accumulated some nice ice boulder formations.
I made a few passes over the small ice/rock garden and found the Dillingers able to keep going, but, with a bunch of lateral sliding. However, not as much movement as I would expect from set X.
In the end, when I think about what my overall opinions of the Dillinger, I’m left a bit torn. They would be good for ice racing, if you’re willing to discover the point where your grip goes bye bye. If you’re a commuter that has more than a couple of miles of hard icy conditions, and a healthy bank account, get a set. You’ll enjoy them. The bottom line is that these skins are a big-ticket item and perhaps a bit of overkill, other than in specific extreme conditions and circumstances……but in those special conditions, they might just save your bacon.