Words by Max Burgess
We started the ride in the area around the Slovakian village of Osturňa by the border of Poland. A beautiful valley with only three ways to get into it, each being more stunning than the next. The valley lies at the base of the Tatra Mountains and they form the backdrop for the day's riding.
The elevation increases as you leave the village and head towards the mountains, as you climb higher the temperature drops and the snow increases.
The tire of choice for the unpredictable road conditions of this trip was WTB's all-season Resolute which is a 650b x 42mm with a fair bit of tread on it. To start the ride, I had 38psi in them; which, for me, is an optimal pressure for the pavement and smooth gravel conditions heading out of the village. With the sun high in the sky as we ascended the temperatures were warm and the roads mostly clear. But then...
6km into the ride my friends pedal came out of the crank as he stood up to put more power into his stroke. He hadn’t tightened it properly and it threaded the outer part of the crank arm. Luckily I had the IAK Venti tool with me for the first time which has an 8mm key. After using the flat head driver to clean the thread as much as possible, I slowly got the pedal back in and tightened it up. Otherwise the ride would have been finished!
With that minor setback out of the way, we continued heading towards the mountains and looming changes in temperature and terrain they were sure to bring.
"About an hour into the ascent, we were riding along the Slovakian and Polish border when the temperature began to drop. Not long after, the dry pavement and smooth gravel disappeared beneath a sheet of ice and snow. This is where TATTICO Bluetooth became a game changer."
Effectively riding through the snow and ice ahead, then down the descent safely would require more grip; and that meant putting more tread in contact with the road surface. My initial thought was that a decrease of 5psi would be enough so I opened the valve, and released air here and there for a few seconds. To check my work, I then threaded TATTICO Bluetooth's chuck onto the valve and opened the iGauge app on my phone to see how much I had actually taken out. After a few moments the phone gauge connected with the pressure sensor in the pump and the reading was 27psi; meaning I had actually released 11psi instead of 5.
"What's another 6psi?", I remembered thinking. Cold, tired and anxious to get moving again, I decided to leave the pressure at 27psi for the time being and continue on.
Not long after, we began the descent. The sun had already dipped behind the mountain peaks and with it the temperature went south. Add the wind to it and the descent became a hyperthermic experience with plenty of ice. In these conditions, our descent speeds were much slower than normal yet I still felt uneasy on the bike. The handling was dull and after a particular sketchy moment, I decided I'd see if a bit more pressure back in the tyres would help. I ended up with 31psi in the front tyre and 33psi in the rear to account for the additional weight at the back.
We still proceeded with caution down the rest of the descent (it was still snow and ice after all) but looking back, it's amazing what a few psi will do for the handling of the bike, and therefore your confidence. For me, this experience really highlights what makes gravel and mixed-terrain riding so much fun. The changing road conditions and elements really force you to be in touch with how the bike is responding, to feel what it's doing, then adjust accordingly to maintain balance and control. With the tyres being the only contact point with the road (ideally anyway), having the ability to make accurate pressure adjustments as the conditions change adds another dimension to this style of riding; and I'm looking forward to using this tool with some of my other tyres on other surfaces this Spring.
TATTICO Bluetooth Mini-Pump
Our most tactical and versatile mini-pump with a gauge that's accurate to 0.5psi. How? There's a Bluetooth pressure sensor in the base of the pump that transmits your tire pressure data to an app called iGauge in real time. Why? Because accuracy and durability matter. Physical gauges on mini-pumps are prone to breaking and often will not register accurate pressure at altitude. The pressure sensor in TATTICO Bluetooth is housed in a sealed shock-resistant compartment in the base of the pump. Not only is it durable but this design and technology give you a mini-pump that's as accurate as our floor pumps.