Terrene Tires Elwood: Checkpoint #1 – by MG
Guitar Ted recently introduced the new gravel-oriented Elwood from Terrene Tires, and while he tests the 47mm wide “Tough” version on his 650B wheelset, I’ve been testing the 700x40c “Light” version for the past few weeks. We’ve had some unseasonably mild weather in October and November here in Lincoln, Nebraska, so getting miles in on the tires has been easy. And the dry conditions have given us a wide variety of road conditions, which have allowed me to quickly get a feel for the Elwood’s strengths and weaknesses.
Prior to mounting the 40c Elwood tires to my 700c American Classic Hurricane Disc wheels, the quality feel of the casing and intricate molding of the tread area impressed me. The tire is clearly the result of a great deal of thought, engineering and testing. And the 120tpi casing had a supple feel, especially in the sidewalls. I hoped this would translate into an excellent ride quality, especially when running tubeless (my preferred setup).
On looks alone, the Elwood is an impressive piece of work, but that said, the question of whether all that engineering would pay off on the gravel was a question I sought to answer. My recent reviews of the excellent WTB Riddler 45c and Arisun Gravel Plus 38c tires, as well as riding my old standbys – WTB’s 40c Nano and Bruce Gordon’s 43c Rock ‘n Road – gave me valuable perspective with which to evaluate the Elwood.
In my haste to mount the tires, I completely forgot to set them onto the scale. Fortunately, Guitar Ted weighed them before he sent them to me. On his scale, they weigh 440 and 430 grams, respectively, as he reported in his Getting Rolling post.
The 40c Elwoods were initially a tight fit on my American Classic wheelset. That said, I was able to mount both tires (without cursing) with the assistance of one tire lever. And with sealant and tubeless valve stems installed, I was able to easily bead and inflate both tires with my Silca Super Pista floor pump. To date, air retention has been excellent.
I tested the tires on my Singular Gryphon – a drop bar mountain bike with clearance for up to 2.3-inch tires. It’s the bike I recently tested the Riddler 45c tires on, and I ended up liking those tires quite a bit. And while marked at 40c, both Elwoods I tested measured at closer to 42-43c after 48 hours mounted.
This “bonus width” is only an issue for those wanting to mount the tires on a bike with a strict 40c limit, such as my Singular Kite ‘cross bike. While it can fit many tires marked 40c, including Nanos, the Surly Knard and the Clement MSO, the Elwood is too tight in the chainstays (I tried).
Otherwise, mounted on a bike with sufficient clearance, the bonus width only adds to the performance of the tire, in my opinion.
Getting rolling, the Elwood quickly impressed me with its fast rolling and smooth ride. They feel responsive, like a road tire for the dirt. The tread profile features a raised center section of smoothly-integrated micro-knobs, and I suspect it’s this feature that gives these tires their fast feel. The substantial side knobs feature a large size and distinctive shape that offer a smooth transition feel on hard surfaces.
My first ride was one I typically do with most new tires I’m testing. It’s a loop that includes everything from pavement, to crushed rock rail-trails and of course, gravel roads. As I rode out of town and transitioned onto the crushed limestone Mopac East trail, the Elwood felt confident and smooth. The bike felt responsive and fast compared to its feel with the 45c Riddlers I had been riding.
If you’ve ridden a 40c Clement MSO, the feel is in many ways similar, though as noted, the Elwood is slightly larger than the MSO in actual width. In fact, the Elwood might be even smoother than the MSO… That’s high praise indeed.
Laying my Elwood-shod Gryphon into a series of turns on the dry, loose limestone surface, I was impressed with the confidence the tires displayed… right up to the moment I found my body crashing onto the trail. It seems that, in those conditions, the Elwood is a confident cornering tire up to a point. But once a certain lean angle is achieved, traction simply goes away. When this happens, things can get dicey quickly, as I found out the hard way.
My experience has as much to do with how I ride the bike as it does with the performance of the Elwood, however. My riding style is borne out of more than 20 years riding and racing mountain bikes. As a result, I tend to push corners harder than many folks. For someone that’s less prone to extreme lean angles, or who regularly rides pavement or smooth, hard gravel roads, the Elwood presents a compelling set of performance attributes.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Elwood strengths include: easy tubeless setup; fast, confident straight line rolling performance; generous casing size and an awesome, super smooth ride quality. Wear to-date has been minimal, and weight is competitive, especially given the ride quality and rolling performance.
The primary weakness of the Elwood is the tendency to abruptly give away suddenly when cornering at the limit in loose conditions.
The Elwood’s smooth rolling performance is compelling – enough so that I started thinking about how I could keep the attributes I love about the tire, but regain the cornering confidence at the limits that I had with 45c Riddlers mounted. My search for this “best of both worlds” solution led me to swap-in a 45c Riddler on the front of my Gryphon, with an Elwood on the rear.
The hybrid Riddler/Elwood setup is one I like a lot. I can feel the decreased rolling resistance the rear-mounted Elwood provides. And when combined with the more aggressively-knobbed Riddler on the front, the bike was more confident in loose, dry corners.
That said, if I was on a ride with equal portions of pavement and gravel, I’d likely choose a dual-Elwood setup. It corners with more confidence and consistency in firmer conditions, and the fast rolling and smooth ride would work well.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the Elwood isn’t the perfect tire for every type of gravel. But for hard, compact gravel, it’s a tough tire to beat in terms of rolling performance and ride quality. For a rider who isn’t interested in pushing the limits around loose corners, it’s definitely worth a look.
For guys (and gals) like me, who grew up railing corners on a mountain bike, the Elwood is a relevant choice as well. I’m especially impressed with the performance of the Elwood on the rear when paired with a slightly more aggressive tire on the front, such as the 45c WTB Riddler I’m running today.
Either way, the Elwood is a very worthy first effort from Terrene Tires. Its performance is yet another reminder that it’s a great time for cyclists (like me) who like 40c-plus tires for their gravel adventures.
Note: The Terrene Tires Elwood models were sent to Riding Gravel by Terrene Tires for test/review at no charge. We are not being bribed, nor paid, for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.