June 4, 2013

Pre-DK Chaos

Something really cool happened just before the Dirty Kanza race, so it will be its own short post instead of being in the regular race report…

In the months leading up to DK, I put the finishing touches on the adventure bike build.  One of the decisions I wrestled with the most was tire choice (size, tread pattern, manufacturer, tubeless or not).   After a ton of internet searches, blog reading, review reading, and talking to people that had ridden DK previously, I decided on Schwalbe Marathons.   Little did I know there are sub-categories of Marathons to choose from (Supreme, Mondial, Dureme, Greenguard, Mondial DD,  Dureme DD, Plus Tour, Winter), so I emailed the Schwalbe Tech help desk and told them I was looking for the perfect tire for gravel racing, and Dirty Kanza in particular.  I got an immediate reply – Marathon MondialDD

 The tread pattern on the Mondial looked great, with low wide knobs for speed and traction, and the DD (Double Defense) sounded almost flat–proof.  It’s a combination of their High Density Guard + SnakeSkin.  I’ve had their SnakeSkin on mtn bike tires and am very confident with it, so I ordered two sizes - 700 x 35 and 700 x 40.  I wasn’t sure which would fit my frame best, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a back-up pair around.
The 40’s ended up being the best fit on my bike and I liked the slightly bigger size.  I mounted them tubeless on the Stan’s wheels with Stan’s sealant.

Fast-forward four months and  ~1500 training miles with a couple of races thrown in (Cedar Cross, Tour of Hermann).  The tires had performed perfectly and I had all the confidence in the world with my choice.  
Then – BAM - A couple of days before leaving for DK, Lori and I went out to get a last easy ride on the KATY trail.  About 10 miles into the ride, my back wheel started going thump, thump, thump.  I stopped to check it out and found a huge lump in the tread.  We turned around and rode back to the Jeep before the lump could turn into a big blowout.  I wish I would have taken some pictures of the lump.  I haven’t seen anything like it before.

I stopped by my LBS and found out they don’t stock that tire, so my choices looked pretty limited.  I didn’t want to switch to a whole new tire type, and there was not enough time to order a new one.  I mounted one of the old 35s I had.  It didn’t look too bad on the wheel and I decided I could ride with it at DK.

Here's where the story gets good:

On a whim I sent an email to Schwalbe customer service.  I told them about the damaged tire and leaving for DK in two days, so I was sure there was no way they could get a 40mm Marathon to me.
I had a reply waiting for me the next morning:  

“Sorry for the delay. Where are you staying tomorrow night? I can have one tire shipped for delivery tomorrow at the hotel / house wherever you’re staying before the race… just let me know the address.”

Awesome!  I called the hotel, got the address, replied to the email, and the tire was shipped.
The box was waiting at the hotel front desk when I checked in.

It saved me from rushing around Emporia bike shops looking for a replacement (and most likely not finding one).  Instead I got to chill out and have fun with check-in, pre-race meeting, and stuffing myself carbing up at the Pizza Ranch buffet.

This has been my year for discovering how great bike industry customer service is.  First the save by Kuat racks, and now Schwalbe tires.

So when you need your next set of tires, check out Schwalbe, they really stand behind their products (btw, they ride fantastic too, no flats or any other issues on 200mi of Flint Hills gravel).

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