What does your tire testing process look like? How long do you spend on each tire?
I guess it kind of depends on the specific tire, but generally the tire takes at least a year to go from a rough design on paper to something you can ride. We usually dial things in on the computer first to get all the dimensions and shapes as close as we can and then we make a few 3D mold samples to confirm that everything looks right. Once those samples look good, they start the actual tire mold and we wait for tires from there. Ideally, you nail that first rideable sample pretty close because those molds are costly to change once they're done. Assuming the size and dimensions of the tire are good, on the rideable samples we can then start playing with tire compounds, casings, etc. to find what works best with that specific tire.
How do you work with engineers to develop a new tire? What are some examples of feedback you might give them that they would then work with?
I like to work as close as possible and thankfully with Kenda, they're stoked to have me as involved as I want to be. Usually, there's a gap in the tire line that we feel needs filled or improved and we start from there. With our most recent prototype tire, I actually drew the knob design on paper and then sent it to one of our engineers, Tony. He then put my drawing into a 3D computer program to get exact specs, dimensions etc. Once we had that we just slowly dial things in.
My feedback is usually just trying to relate what I feel on the track to what I think needs improved. For example, I might want the tire to brake better so we'll work on potentially making the rear edge of the center knobs wider or open up the gap between the knobs so that the tire will dig in better.
When testing tires, what tire pressure do you go with? Do you test the prototype tires and competitor tires multiple times with different air pressures?
I usually try to keep pressures as consistent as possible just to compare thing's on an even scale. It can be tricky when testing competitor tires because everyone usually has a slightly different casing and compound lay-up which requires some air pressure tweaking. I really like to test the best of what other brands have to offer compared with what we have back to back. I learn a lot when doing that and ultimately if we can make a tire that we like better than everything else that's available, we've accomplished the mission.
How many prototypes do you generally ride for any given new tire?
Every tire is different, but with this latest tire, we probably tested 5 or so versions of it to find the exact design, compound, casing, layup, etc. that we liked best.
What are the most important things to look for in a tire?
For me, I just want a tire that's very consistent and predictable in a wide variety of terrains. I think knob spacing and design is very important. I can look at a tire and pretty much know exactly how it's going to ride before we ever mount them up. The casing layup and size is also really important to get right when it comes to the overall comfort and performance of the tire. For example, if you go a little too wide, narrow, stiff, or soft on the casing, you can really mess up a tire that has a great tread pattern.
Do you think there is a perfect tire or is there always a compromise?
I think you're always compromising a little bit if you're looking for one tire to "do it all". Fortunately, we have multiple tires for different tracks and terrains so I do feel like with the options, you should be able to get pretty close to having a perfect tire for certain tracks.
How many different models of tires do you have at every World Cup DH event?
Right now we're using 3 different models (Dry, Intermediate and Mud).
How many runs will you typically do on a set of tires before changing them on a World Cup weekend?
Every track is different, but I'd say on average we will use 2-3 sets per weekend. That keeps the tires very fresh and always feeling exactly the same. For practice days at home, I ride the tires a lot longer between changes.
Can you think of a race where you totally blew it on tire choice and it ruined your race?
I can't thankfully. I maybe haven't nailed it every time, but I can't think of a race where I felt I completely blew it.
What about a time when you think your tires were the difference maker for a win?
I think MSA 2017 in the rain when I ran dry tires. Not to say that I don't think I could of won on a different tire, but running those was a risk that ended up paying off.
What are your go-to tires?
Right now I'm really loving the Pinner model and new proto model we've been developing with Kenda. I'm pretty much always running those tires either front and rear or a combo of the two. They both work really well for me.