Pioneertown is 140 miles east of Los Angeles. It is near 29 Palms, the USMC training grounds where Marines prepare for the world’s toughest desert conditions. The surface of the earth in this section of California is harsh, unforgiving. When people arrive from the city, the Joshua trees just laugh. You need a bottle of water and a sturdy pair of shoes just to make it across a parking lot.
On a bike, expect to get roughed up. Sleek road bikes with and skinny rubber are a rare sight. Pioneertown is knobby country. You and your bike must be able to survive sand and desert rock. Even if it has rained, the hero dirt is gone in a matter of minutes; the moisture soaked up by the desert floor.
My buddy Bob (aka Major) and I made a trip to Pioneertown for the Bike for Bender ride. As we pulled in, we saw mountain bikes hanging from just about every bike rack, except ours. We had gravel bikes.
“I don’t see a lot of ‘Cross bikes buddy,” Major Bob observed as we got dressed.
“Come on Bob, it’s a charity ride, how hard could it be?” I responded, as a full suspension mountain bike rolled by.
I pulled out from the back of my 4Runner my Fat Chance, Chris Cross. Steel, yes. Suspension, no. On my rims were WTB’s latest gravel tire: The Resolute in 42mm with the hip and attractive tan sidewalls. $67.95 a piece. I had one ride on them. That one ride had convinced me that WTB was onto something. But Pioneertown would their proving ground.
I must admit, I am bit of a WTB fanboy. I have liked or loved a number of their tires. My first, complete mountain bike came with the front-rear specific Velociraptors. They lasted the life of the Gary Fisher they came on. I have ridden the road leaning Exposure and the oversized road 650b Horizon. Both models came on test bikes. Both were fantastic. The Nano is the gravel tire by which all others are measured. I ran around on a pair for two years. It took a nail through the sidewall to finally put one out of commission. So yeah, I’ve had good times on the tires with the Wolf logo on the sidewall.
The Resolute was, by all accounts, an ambitious WTB project. The brain trust in Marin County, CA had set out to make one tire to tackle all conditions: packed, loose over hard, mud and paved surfaces, possibly in one ride. Trans Iowa was the inspiration. Not so much a gravel race but a dirt road ambition. 350 miles and 34 hours to complete. The Resolute was their answer.
The knob pattern delivers the Resolute’s versatility. Down the center is a 1-2-1 pattern, tightly spaced for straight ahead speed. The intermediate knobs have more real estate between them to better flick away mud. The outer knobs are sturdier and alternate between single and paired blocks for grip in the corners.
The SoCal conditions I mostly ride in present little opportunity for mud. Occasionally we get hero dirt. What we do have is a lot of loose over hard. And while WTB was particularly focused on making a tire that sheds mud better than its previous models, they most certainly created a tire that digs into terra firma. Whether it was steep, uphill pitches, off-camber turns or drop bar capable drop-ins, the Resolute was an ally.
Because of their size and the location of the outer “turning” nobs, I did have to focus on cornering. To rail a turn, I found myself consciously digging in the edge of this tire. After a few sessions, this became automatic.
A pleasant surprise was braking. My “go-to” climb and descent, Sullivan Ridge fire road, has lots of blind corners. Several times I came flying around corners to find another rider climbing and taking up too much trail. A handful of brake at 30 mph on the dirt can have dire consequences if tires are not into it. But the Resolutes never flinched, never skidded.
In a perfect world, tubeless would mean one thing and anything labeled as such would be compatible with another. But tubeless has become a generic term for “without tubes,” and instead what we have are several different takes on how sans tube is achieved. There’s tubeless, tubeless ready, UST and WTB’s take, TCS. The WTB, Tubeless Compatible System is essentially UST tolerances with a sidewall and bead that requires sealant to hold air. When TCS tires are paired with TCS rims, WTB says what you have is a system that mounts easily (no compressor or CO2 blast) but is lighter than UST. Officially WTB says a TCS tire (like UST) meets ETRTO-European Tire and Rim Technical Orginazation-standards.
But in the real world, we’re into mixing and matching. And a TCS tire doesn’t always play well with rims outside of the ETRTO family. That’s because some tubeless rim manufacturers slightly increase hoop diameters to help create bead lock and seal. WTB says its tubeless tires will go on any rim, it’s just a matter of how hard you will have to work. I mounted the Resolutes on a set of Carbon Roval Control 29er SL wheels with hookless beads. The Maxxis Ramblers that were removed had been installed by hand. The Resolutes required “leverage” shall we say.
When it comes rigid bikes on rough roads, tire size matters. More volume means less punishment, provided its matched with proper psi. And WTB says despite the dominance of 40mm tires, they love 42mm. They wanted more volume, but they wanted speed and that’s the number the spec that they believe satisfies both. Yeah it means the Resolutes will not fit some frames but the company say it’s fine with that.
Size can also save the day. You know those “oh hell” moments when you are sure you have just ripped a tire to shreds? I had one on the WTBs. I hit a fist size rock square and so hard, I felt stone touch carbon. Bam! And then nothing. I mean nothing as in no hiss, no sealant spray, no shreds of rubber flying up in my face. This was a direct hit that was deflected like a politician answering questions about a poor voting record. The Resolutes said to rock, “no comment.” And no pinch flat.
I read some pretty high praises for how this tire performs on hard surfaces, some calling it better than its older brother, the Nano. That it rolls better. I say “not quite, but close.” To me, the Nano’s centerline can’t be beat, let alone by a sibling. The Resolute takes more frequent convincing (pedaling) to keep it rolling on the black top. And I’m fine with that. When I look at this tire, I am not expecting a pavement killer and I could care less. In fact, all I got out of some repeated street rides was some wear on the rear, center line nobs.
I found this set to be happiest with under 40 psi. The sweet spot for me was 34 psi front and 36 psi rear. But I’m sure one could go lower considering the volume of this tire.
I could not flat the Resolutes. Best I could do was a burp. And that tubeless belch came after they had been sitting a while. The smell of ammonia was the clue. The loss of air was mitigated by a few strokes of a hand pump. The ride continued uninterrupted.
Back in Pioneertown….
I had helluva a day. I plowed through a 20 minute sand box, climbed lumpy, loose desert roads and I won’t say “ripped”, but let’s say I “rambled” through some serious rock gardens. It was a full body experience.
The Bike for Bender is on an out and back course so headed for home you knew what to expect. And I thought for sure a section coming out of a wash would call for an unclipping. But as I made the left out of the dry riverbed, I just started cranking. The path pictched up, the surface was loose and the rocks were plentiful. The Resolutes dug in. No wheel spin, no rock hit. As I flicked and inched forward, my mouth went from terse to teeth, as in smile. That was good.
The WTB Resolute is a purpose built, no compromise tire, right down to its looks. There are no color options, tan sidewalls only. And this attitude really fits WTB’s take it or leave it approach: TCS Light, 42mm, earth tones, I’ll take it.
Final Thought: Determined, Purposeful, Resolute.