I love the fact that I’m running big Paselas on the LHT. I was convinced to go this route after reading a fair amount about how the wider 650B tires were improving the rides of converted bikes, and then seeing Bone’s Trek with the Paselas on it. They have great traction, hold up well, and they are oh so comfortable on pavement.
But there have been a few times where I got myself into situations where I felt the Paselas were overtaxed. There were some stretches on the Stony Creek Trail where washed out areas had been filled in with coarse stone; there are a few spots on the Lebanon Valley RT where tree roots make up the surface; and there have been some really muddy pieces on the Heritage RT in the spring where I felt that I should have had a mountain bike with knobbies rather than a touring bike.
I’ve toyed with the concept of an Adventure Tourer, even putting knobbies on the X bike for a spell. My thoughts have ranged from picking up a used LHT frame, to a Salsa Fargo, to a Soma Saga; and most recently dreaming about a Bombadill. So I think it was only a matter of time before I figured out that I pretty much had the components I needed to cobble together a set of wheels and tires that could probably handle the rougher stuff and still fit on the LHT.
Behold! These are the original Alex wheels that came with the bike, along with the Kenda 42c knobbies that I used to have on the X bike. The rear fits right into the 135mm spacing, and my fender clearance is at least 1/2″ – not the best, but enough to let a good portion of mud through. Clearance is tightest around the chainstays at the bottom bracket, but nothing to get excited about.
All it took was for me to use up my reserve supply of tubes, and pick up another cassette for the X bike, since that one (11×34) matches what I already have on the LHT. So now I can swap out the “road” wheelset for the “trail” wheelset in about three minutes. Since these rims all have the same outside diameter, I don’t have to make any changes for brake clearance. And if I absolutely had to have the stronger wheelset, along with dynamo lighting (like if I were to do a multi-day tour on the Great Allegheny Passage), it takes about 10 minutes to change the tires…without tools.
It certainly isn’t going to handle like a full suspension Kona, but between the tires and the stump pulling gears, it does have a Billy Goat feel to it. and it’s pretty knarly for an LHT to boot.