On Wednesday, in an attempt to make good use of the surprisingly sunny weather, I took my gravel bike out for a first ride with the WTB Nano 40.
My recent experiment of using 650b × 47 mm tyres on my bike failed due to tyre rub on the left chain stay, yes, but it gave me a taste of what wider, higher-volume tyres with an aggressive tread could do for riding gravel and some tame singletrack. So after doing some research on 700×40c rubber, I had high hopes for the WTB NANO 40.
(I set up the tyres tubeless with Muc-Off’s No Puncture Hassle Tubeless Sealant and inflated them to 37 psi up front and 38 psi in the back referencing the handy tubeless tire pressure recommendations published by ENVE.)
For this outing I put together a 20 km route that I had ridden before, at least in parts, comprised of fire roads, some root-y singletrack, a few fast descents on what I thought was going to be either fire roads or well-worn foot paths. The bad news is that some of the paths had been shut down years ago and were very much overgrown and hard to navigate, the good news is that I was not only able to try the NANO 40 on loose, muddy, sloshy, puddle-dotted forest roads, I was also treated to a crazy fast descent on a 3 km hard pack and relatively dry gravel road.
After finishing the ride, I was left with two dominant feelings from this first experience with the NANO 40:
- What an insanely fun ride. These tyres did such a good job and provided loads of grip even in ankle-deep mud.
- You idiot. You had considered buying these almost two years ago when you replaced the Schwalbe X-One 33 mm tyres on the Canyon Inflite AL that brought you to gravel cycling in the first place but you didn’t do it because you were too chicken about trying a tubeless setup and the tread looked too aggressive.
So what did I learn?
For one that tubeless setups are the way to go for me moving forward, it seems.
Don’t get me wrong, the Donnelly X’Plor MSO 700×40c 120 TPI tube tyres I’ve ridden so far are crazy good. Having now ridden a properly supple and comparatively aggressively treaded tyre, I appreciate them even more. For a tubed tyre, they are very comfortable and robust even when ridden below the manufacturers specification of ~ 50 psi and they offer great traction within their limits.
Then there’s the realisation that once the fear of pinch flats is reduced and I embrace lower pressures, it opens up a lot more paths to ride. That said, I am going to increase the pressure in the back wheel for the next ride to 40 psi, because at 38 psi, it sometimes squirmed too much beneath me especially on faster, slightly rockier roads.
Lastly that I felt the NANO 40 provides a very good mix of a fast rolling 700c tyre and some serious grip on loose ground that the WTB Sendero 47 got me hooked on.
Oh and they look oh so nice on my bike 😏