By Peter Stetina
Photos courtesy Belgian Waffle Ride Photo Pool
In its infancy, gravel riding was characterized by hardpack dirt roads and long straights. A majority of racing took place in the heartland of America’s midwest on long rolling, albeit rough, roads. And the best tire for that job is my IRC Boken, with the smooth file tread center and just enough bite on the edge to keep you upright in corners.
However with the gravel boom we’ve seen events pop up in every nook and cranny of the country (or world for that matter). Gravel is shifting and just like the mountain bike before it, terrain and technology are locked in a cage match. As the industry specializes in off-road drop bars, the steeds become more capable, so us riders continue to push the limits of what they can handle in a constant cycle of one-upping each other. Enter the IRC DoubleCross.
As I signed with IRC Tire, one thing was clear: While the Boken was very fast, we needed a more robust tire to handle the chunky and loose stuff that I’d surely encounter in the seasons to come. We settled on a bit more volume and a lot more tread bite. IRC engineers were already ahead of me and a short while later a few prototype tires arrived at my doorstep.
These tires, which the masses now know as the new IRC DoubleCross, exceeded all my expectations and then some. I could climb steep loose terrain and rail single singletrack like never before. What really blew me away however was the rolling resistance. The center-tread spacing is so close together it acts like a semi-slick and I was amazed how fast I went. So much so, that, to be honest, I haven’t put my classic Bokens back on yet. As for wet, I still opt for this tire unless it’s really muddy. In real muddy conditions the center knobs are tight enough that traction isn’t spectacular, in which case I would opt for the IRC SlopChop.
As a racer though, what I really care about is puncture resistance and speed. Without the x-factor of adrenaline and unexpected obstacles at high speed that only competition provides, I can’t give my full trust to a product. I opted to use the 42s at the recent BWR Cedar City and took home the “King of the Dirt” segment prize and narrowly missed out on the overall win. This sealed the deal in my mind, performing well on rough, twisty and sandy terrain while still keeping me fast and relaxed on the pavement interludes.
Lastly, the tire is extremely long lasting, and only recently did I finally pull off my BWR DoubleCrosses, after many offseason adventures. They may not like hearing this, but it seems IRC has over delivered: A tire that I’ll choose 90% of the time despite their other offerings and one that lasts incredibly long.
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