The trails that line the flume above Auburn feature hard-packed dirt, with some occasional rock and covering of leaves. On dry days, it’s a quick surface with just enough banking in its bigger turns to allow a rider to use a bit of body English to slingshot through without touching the brakes. A wet day, like I experienced on Sunday, makes a joke of traction and considering how many sections of the flume lack fencing to separate the water flowing down from the riders going up.
In short, a slick tape of singletrack not even as wide as my shoulders with maybe a foot to the edge of the trail before a concrete bank separating we lycra-clad zealots from the brown waters headed to town. It’s not really the place to push a tire’s traction—to most sensible people. We may have established that I’m not necessarily sensible.
Prior to this experience, I’d ridden the Goodyear Connector Ultimate exactly twice, both times on the road and one of those in the wet. I wouldn’t claim that I really knew much about the tire. Here’s what I did know: Goodyear has made a push into the premium bicycle tire market. They are using high-quality rubber compounds and the Connector is available in two different versions, the Premium and the Ultimate. The premium is reported to weigh 542g, while the ultimate is reported to weigh 463g; my review tire came in at 466g. The Ultimate uses Goodyear’s stickier and lighter A/T compound.
The tire comes in a single width, 40mm, based on a 19mm inner rim width. I put them on Stan’s Avion wheels, which have an inner rim width of 21.6mm. the wider rim caused the tires to measure 42mm across. I had to true the rear wheel and even correct the dishing slightly to get the tire to pass the chainstays on Allied’s Alfa Allroad. The fact that the tubeless-ready tire is available in but one width would be cause for alarm under many circumstances. If the tire came in a 33mm width and nothing else, I’d suspect they hadn’t gotten great guidance about the gravel market, and that they might have been cheapskates for opening tooling for a single tire. However, as more and more riders buy custom gravel frames, as well as bikes like the Diverge, I see people default to the widest possible tire their bike will take. If you’re going to make a single tire, a 40 is a good way to go. I can think of a few tire companies that could benefit from a similar outlook.
Goodyear calls the casing “Tubeless Complete,” which has an especially supple edge on the bead. They claim that the tire should be able to be seated with just a floor pump. I used a chambered pump and two ounces of Squirt sealant. It was one of the simplest, smoothest setups I’ve ever experienced.
What made the Connector Ultimate intriguing is its tread design. There’s a center section that features a number of tiny knobs spaced closely together for quick rolling on asphalt. Moving away from those small knobs, and out toward the shoulder the knobs get bigger and the spacing wider for grip on looser surfaces. The knobs aren’t terribly large, but they are well spaced and are positioned in three rows. This choice—smaller knobs in three rows—gives the tire more predictable behavior as the tire rolls away from that center strip.
I did manage to push the tires hard enough to make them slide. What’s significant isn’t that I made them slide, it’s that when they did break away, the tire behaved predictably and I had little trouble maintaining control. The tire even demonstrated surprising grip on wet granite as I climbed. Early in the Tour de Placer Roubaix there were dozens of occasions when I expected the tire to lose traction in some way. At some point I simply stopped expecting the tire to slide.
Reviewing a tire after a single ride is, most of the time, premature the way eating uncooked chicken is. It’s hard, if not impossible to learn enough about a tire in even three or four rides, but every now and then you get one of those days that tests everything you know about your bike and your wardrobe. Sunday’s ride was a crucible of just that sort. The only question I can’t sufficiently answer based on my experience is how durable the tire is as regards long-term wear. The Premium goes for $60, while the Ultimate goes for $70.
The last time I was this impressed with a tire was the Panaracer Gravel King SK. I’d say this tire rolls and offers traction as good, if not better, in sloppy conditions.
Final thought: Less a connector between sections of dirt than the bike to the dirt.
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