The one and only, Pistil Pete asked about this tire and after our editorial staff took a look at them on the interwebz, we decided to pull the trigger and bought a set for $49 each. We wanted to see if we might shed some light on how these babies, would do on the beach, along with some asphalt and gravel loaded touring….commuting, joy rides, and the like. The Supercells are wire bead and have (eek!) 30 tpi casings. They both weighed in at an identical 1760 grams each. That’s kind’a porky, but they’re smooth. They came shipped in plastic bags that were taped together. I carefully cut the tape, but I must have let my guard down, because when I tore open, the plastic bag, the folded wire bead tire uncoiled and whapped me right in the face in a classic bit of slapstick comedy. We like tires with spunk, so we mounted them up on a set of Fatback Umma 90mm rims. The tire mounted is 101 mm wide and as you can see in the picture (below) is about the same size as a Surly Larry mounted on the same rim.
On beach rides, I tend to run a Larry up front and an old worn Endomorph in the rear on these wheels for a few simple reasons. For one, it’s old school; and two, they provide enough float coupled with very low rolling resistance and that works really well for riding the third coast….and three self steer is meaningless on the beach and four – all three kinds of traction have a smaller role while beach riding. And finally five, I have a pile of them. Over the last few years, I’ve also had some experience with fat slicks. I’ve ridden the (4.9″ wide) Vee Apache Fat Slicks on the beach and I’ve also spent some time on (3,5″ wide) Vee Speedsters way back in the day. (Never spent any time on Black Floyds, but I’m a big fan of the Pink variety) The ride experience with those types of tires, is the reason that we’re somewhat hopeful that the (4′ wide) Supercell might be a good option for both the beach and the boulevard.
My first test of the Supercells was a night ride out on the local gravel trail. I’ve got a bit of asphalt road between home and the gravel, so I went out with the bike lit up like a christmas tree and a reflective vest over my jean jacket on a nice cool summer night with a half moon rising in the southern sky. I hadn’t paid too much attention to how much air that I had in the tires. I just gassed them up nice and hard, to get the beads set. When I measured them the next day, I had 13.5 psi in the front and 16.5 in the rear. Out on the ride – The first thing I noticed was how fast these tires rolled on pavement. The next thing I felt was self steer. Even on the gravel, I was getting a bit of auto steer.
On my next ride, I was racing some storm clouds, trying to get a local loop in on the Supercells. I decided to try 12.5 psi front and rear, because I just had time to hit up my local bandito loop, which consists of a mixed bag of gravel, dirt, asphalt and chip & seal. I live on top of hill on a freshly paved chip & seal road. Chip & Seal is sort of a cross between gravel and asphalt. At the bottom of the hill, there’s always a swath of extra gravel. The hill makes it easy to cruise into the right hand turn, at the bottom, with some speed. Right where the extra loose gravel collects. Somewhere around the apex of the turn, the self steer gave me a little swerve thrill, but we made it on down the road to where there’s an even bigger gravel two track downhill, where I regularly hit warp factor two. It was a hoot and the Supercells behaved themselves in the straight line decent. The lower tire pressure handled the chunky railroad bed gravel better than expected. Conditions were bone dry. I make mention of that, because I don’t think these things would handle wet or muddy conditions very well. After riding the loop at dirt psi, I decided to take another crack at the Supercells all pumped up to 20 psi to see if I could rid them of auto swerve. I’d say the higher tire pressure removed 95% of the self steering problem. Riding the railroad grade gravel at 20 psi was pretty harsh in spots.
The Beach Test
I decided to head up to Port Washington to see how the Supercells like the sand on the shores of Lake Michigan. The lake levels are higher than I’ve ever seen them before and there were some pretty tough sand conditions right out of the gate. I stopped and dropped air out of both the front and the rear a couple times in the first half a mile. There were some seriously soft sand conditions and because of the high water levels, I was riding out in the lake a fair amount. The lake was really calm, so I kept voting for wading in the water vs. bushwhacking the shore. There were some really nice sections, but there were also super soft spots and plenty of wading. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Supercells handled the sand, once I bled out enough air. I didn’t bring a gauge with me out on the beach (I did have a pump – just in case I bled too much air). When I got back to the car, I took a reading on both tires. (photo below)
It looks like I could have gone a couple of psi lower on the front, but I was having no issues keeping the bike going, even in a foot (or more) of water. It’s really nice when the waves aren’t crashing into the shore. I could float the bike along without having to worry about a wave bashing it into me or the many obstacles along the way. I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to score a set of Supercells to ride the beach, but I also wouldn’t shy away from heading out for a beach cruise, if that was what was on my fatty. I don’t see any improvement from the beach riding performance that I get from a double endomorph or Larry Endo combination.
I guess if I was looking for a fat gravel-asphalt fat tire, I might consider a pair of the Supercells, but for the beach, I’d vote for an ‘old school’ Larry/Endo combo before I’d mount up a set of the Supercells. Aside from all of the actual riding performance…..Who picks the names for these tires? Supercell? So like a powerful thunderstorm? I’m going to be really, really generous a give the Origin8 Supercells 3 out of 5 flaming gnomes. I think I’ll send these out to one of our beach riding experts and see what they think about the supercells. Hell, maybe we’ll send them out to Pistil Pete. He’s the one that started this little adventure!
Felices Caminos Amigos!