A couple of weeks back, I got an email from Jan at René Herse saying they had just finished their latest tire, the Orondo Grade, a 31c high-pressure tubeless road slick, and that he was sending me a few sets to test. I don't remember my exact response, but the excitement was palpable.
Although I'm technically a 'professional off-road racer', I still spend countless hours training on the road. Don't tell the trail, but the bulk of my training is done aboard my road bike, which allows me to cover more ground, hit specific power targets more effectively, and enjoy the beautiful roads of Marin County. So when Jan informed me of this new tire, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.
When the box landed on my doorstep, I tore the package open and fired up my air compressor. I wasted no time getting the tires mounted, ensuring I would be ready to test them the next day.
My first ride with the new Orondo Grade tires was on the iconic Roasters Ride out of Fairfax. It's our local fast drop ride, and the tires performed wonderfully. The roads were still damp after some recent rain, but they held firm in the corners as we blazed through them at race speed. The next day was yet another great opportunity to test them. A few of my pro-off-road racing colleagues from Canada were riding the length of California and invited Skyler Taylor and me to tag along for riding company, which Jim Merithew kindly offered to document for us. We were blessed with a beautiful day and a steady tailwind. And thanks to that tailwind, the strong company, and the smooth ride of the tires, we managed a 34kph average for the 180km from Gualala to Mill Valley.
After a week of intense intervals and some recovery days, it was time for the Orondo Grade's ultimate test, the Coast Ride with Tony Little & Co., riding from Mill Valley to Los Angeles over four days. While I won't dive into the whole story of the trip in this post, I want to highlight how wonderfully the tires performed throughout the nearly 800km ride, in a word: incredible.
I opted for the Endurance casing version of the Orondo Grade for this initial testing. We encountered a steady stream of tire-shredding road debris on the trip and the occasional rowdy dirt sector. We also encountered numerous sections of road that were more pothole than tarmac. Needless to say, the tires performed great, almost exclusively without issue. The only puncture I had the entire trip was a result of me not paying attention while sitting towards the back of the group and nailing a super deep pothole at high speed. I hit the lip of the pothole so hard I thought I had damaged the rim, only to have the Orange Seal immediately plug the small hole. Otherwise, the tires performed without issue all the way down the coast.
The other thing I noticed was how comfortable I was on my bike on this trip. This was my 3rd Coast Ride, and on the first two editions, I had severe neck/back/knee pain by the end. This time, I ended the trip feeling much fresher and with far fewer aches and pains, likely partially due to the higher volume and lower pressures I could with the tubeless setup.
After logging well over a thousand kilometers on these new tires ahead of the launch, I'm massively impressed and chomping at the bit to log many more thousands of kilometers on them this year!"