Ted King: Gravel Racing on Rene Herse Tires

They call Ted King the ‘King of Gravel’: Winner of both the Dirty Kanza and Grinduro in 2018, he’s the man to beat. With ‘gravel’ being the fastest-growing segment of the bicycle market, even professional teams are lining up to challenge Ted. So what does a champion do when others come after him? Ride hard and work on his equipment to ensure he has the speediest bike in the peloton. He’s also made the move to Vermont to have some of North American’s finest gravel at his doorstep.

That is how the Ted King-Rene Herse relationship came about. Ted had ridden Rene Herse/Compass tires in the past on his own road bikes, including a 700-mile self-supported trip down the California coast, and he was curious how they’d work on gravel. We sent him a few sets of tires for testing and after riding both our dual-purpose knobbies and our all-road tires in Vermont’s tough winter, he was impressed.

He loved the Steilacoom knobbies:

“On pavement, they’re incredibly smooth. There is no noticeable chatter; no abrupt transitions from mid-turn to righting the bike and pedaling straight. Segue offroad, I had all the confidence in the world when ripping gravel. The tread pattern is awesome  it’s really cool how deceptively simple the Steilacoom tread is, yet how well the tires work.”

Ted told me about the incredible James Bay Descent he and three friends were planning: A 700 km ride in northern Ontario on fatbikes in the middle of winter. It’s wonderful that even at his level, gravel riding is still about having fun on the bike first and foremost.

For a trip this remote, where even a simple saddle sore can cause real problems, I suggested he try a Gilles Berthoud saddle. His response was typical of a racer: “Changing saddles (much like changing tubeless tires) is not my favorite activity, so I will do it ASAP and report back.”

In the event, he liked the saddle so much that he got the same saddles for the entire team. During the return from their incredible ride (above), Ted wrote: “I wanted to send a note on behalf of the entire team saying that our butts are far more sore in these plush car seats than on the 40+ hours of riding. The Berthoud saddles were incredible and the entire team loved them.” And Ted asked to keep the saddle for his gravel racing rig.

Fast forward to last weekend and the first big gravel race of the season. Ted finished a close second – above he’s crossing the finish line one second behind winner Payson McElveen after they set a new course record.

Ted chose to race on our 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass tires. He texted afterward: “Everyone said that you’d need knobby tires, but the tires were perfect, because it was so dry. The Snoqualmies were amazing!” He also was very happy with the Gilles Berthoud saddle – he’s planning to keep it on his bike.

We are excited to work with a racer of Ted’s caliber. His input into tire development is extremely valuable to us. It’s great that our tires have been working so well for him, and we’ll see where our collaboration will lead us in the future.

Photo credits: Ansel Dickey (Photo 1), Ted King (Photos 2, 3, 4, 6), Land Run 100 (Photo 5).

About Jan Heine

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Rene Herse Cycles, that turns our research into the high-performance components we need for our adventures.
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10 Responses to Ted King: Gravel Racing on Rene Herse Tires

  1. Jamie says:

    Interesting that Ted King is running supple Rene Herse tires and a cushy Berthoud saddle on a super-stiff Cannondale frame. I wonder how much faster Mr. King could be, Jan, if you could convince him of the virtues of a springy, “planing” Kaisei steel frame?

    • Jan Heine says:

      The Cannondale is made from carbon and ultralight, so it may plane very well, especially since Ted is very tall and strong. Some of the best carbon frames feel remarkably similar to a superlight steel frame – the 3T Exploro LTD we took to Mexico is a good example.

      • Jan Koegel says:

        I ride the super x for myselve and have to say it is „super-stiff“ as the frame is not that light as the road frames. Especially the front end with the (disc) fork is harsh like glass.
        The winning concept of the bike is the asymmetric rear end with plenty of tire clearance and identical spoke angles witch result in a robust wheel.

  2. Very proud to say Ted hails (originally) from my local roads in NH! Makes me feel like a stronger rider when I realize that 🙂 Ted is an awesome force in cycling. I’ve been running Compass/Herse tires for years on the terrible, frostbitten pavement and rocky dirt roads of New Hampshire – with speed and comfort. I love the Rat Trap Pass Extra-lights. I passed many riders fixing flats during the Raid Rockingham gravel event in June last year. I flew over the rocky sections without worry. My new Berthourd Aravis (Ti rails) saddle is breaking in nicely, and is making an already great ride that much better. Nothing has changed cycling for me more than the Compass/Herse tires.

  3. Dylan Jackowiak says:

    Wait, I thought you needed a light saddle with minimum padding and weight to go fast?
    Always nice to see a Cannondale with a more-or-less horizontal top tube as well. Apparently the new System Six frames also have a more traditional triangle look, as well as rocking the 90s Cannondale font (at least on Education First’s bikes). Cue the usual scoffing from the same people who ride with +17 degree slammed stems and scoff at flat stems with a spacer or two.

  4. Ed says:

    I’ve had the same experience with the Steilacooms. It’s amazing how good they hook up in the dirt but are still fun on swooping high speed descents.

  5. Andy Norris says:

    Did Ted use Snoqualmie Pass Extra Light or Standard for Land Run? Love my Switchbacks!

    • Jan Heine says:

      He ran Standards. He’s got enough power to give up a few watts for extra cut protection, eapecially since you can’t always avoid big rocks when riding in a peloton.

  6. Graham Milner says:

    Which model saddle did Ted and the team ride on their epic trip?

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