Geax Warp & Hook|
Tuesday, July 06, 1999
Having been somewhat of a sci-fi nut, I'm always distracted by the new and different. Especially when it comes to technology and it's application to things that you don't expect it to be used on. In the case of Geax, while they're not exactly new (they've been around for a couple of years), they are certainly different. When I heard about them using Finite Element Analysis computer techniques, Tuned Spring Rate casings, Kevlar 3D rubber compounds, and instrumented test bikes to make a better mountain bike tire, I had to say - "Are these guys from another planet?". If they are, I like what they brought with them. And with a name like Geax (pronounced GEE-ax, but don't ask me what it means), and the trippy green sidewalled tires they make, what would you think?
The beings responsible for the designs are John Castellano and Josh Deetz. Here are two gearheads that designed such wonders as the Ibis BowTi pivotless full suspension bike, the first aluminum mountain bike fork, and the first fully-butted aluminum mountain bike. They even have the first bicycle tire slip meter. Clearly, these two think differently.
The Kevlar 3D rubber recipe is borrowed from Geax's parent company Vittoria. Geax also uses Vittoria's high-tech factory to make their treads. According to Geax, Kevlar chips in their rubber makes for a lighter tire with stiffer tread blocks and better durability. Vittoria of Italy has been well known for years in the road cycling community and a ton of races have been won on their rubber bands. As far as the instrumented test bikes, Geax measures such parameters as "Slip Factor" - the percentage of wheel velocity that is not lost due to tire slippage. And "Force Factor" - the percentage of pedaling force that is not lost due to rolling resistance. As far as I know, they are the only ones to take this sort of a scientific approach to mountain bike tires. Otherwise, they're not sayin' much. Maybe the Geax geeks are onto something.
The Tuned Spring Rate casing is Geax's way of saying the tires soak up the high-freq bumps and follow the contours of the terrain better than other designs. No retro-grouches allowed here!
But the big question is: does all of this techno-wizardry translate into real benefits on the trail? I couldn't wait to don my spacey crash lid and rocket shoes to find out.
My first impression of the front-specific Warp 215 was that I thought maybe it was underinflated by 5 to 8 p.s.i. At 53 p.s.i., and with a common lightweight butyl tube installed, it had a very supple ride quality. This is a common family trait of all the Geax's I've ridden on. Most other full knobbies at higher pressures feel too stiff and uncompliant - let alone the fact that you won't be doing any tight grooves without eating dirt. But not the Warp. It had a hold on the damp, leafy woods trails I often explore like a poodle on a house guest's leg. I was freakin'! Never did I have the sense of washing out. In fact, the harder I pushed, the more the Warp dug in.
It also rolled easy for a full sized knobby. Even with the higher than usual p.s.i., the Warp rolled over the rocks and roots very snugly. Shaking off the mud was easy, and the Warp held it's grip. But in gloppy stuff I might have wanted a skinnier width than the 2.15 size. Just to get to the bottom of all things wet 'n nasty.
After a few weeks and a lot of dry weather, most of the trails had hardened up pretty well here in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. So I took the Warp down a trail known for it's sandy bombholes. It's a local fave with the moto-X headbangers. No problemo! Floated me right through some deep stuff at the bottom of a fairly short, but fast gravity dive. This trail has some great berms that are usually packed pretty hard on the sides, with deeper sand in the troughs. I could rail them around and carve like nobody's business. Steering was quick and precise at all times. I was beginning to think crazy thoughts...
I decided to take the Warp on a little joyride, so I went off to Gore Mountain ski resort. The first trail I took down was the "Showcase". This trail is Muey Gonzo - experts only. It's steep, with those famous long, flat Adirondack rocks rearing their ugly heads out of a bumpy, loose dirt surface. Throw in some babyhead rocks and slippery grass sections for good measure.
I had a Geax Hook 200 on the back, which is intended as the Warp 215's partner in grime. With the pressures lowered to 35 p.s.i., there was better shock absorption and even more tenacious gripping power. There are just too many sections on this trail where you gotta lock 'em up and hope something bites, and fast! The Warp slowed me down without making me lose the lines I was trying to pick out. I was modulatin' and motivatin' and my controlled slides and skids were just that: controlled. I couldn't believe that here was a tire that's not intended for suicide runs, yet I cleaned the mountain in one piece. And not a pinch flat in sight.
For extreme downhill, obviously get something fatter. But for anything short of that, the Warp is an excellent choice. Freeriding and cross-country both are served well. At the same time, you're not humping a boat-anchor-weight tire when you have to climb. For a 2.15 width full knobby, 560 grams is light.
On all of the hardpack terrain I took it on, the Warp did very well. For example, going down the "Sunway" trail at Gore, (which is a hard dirt work road and again, very steep), the Warp rolled and handled quickly. I noticed just the start of some washout on a few sharp turns but it never became excessive. Just as I had found on softer trails, the Warp liked to be pushed and steered hard. Once I got used to the character of its handling, it was easy to point it where I wanted to go. I was going faster and cornering better than with any other full knobby I've used.
But remember, the Warp is not a semi-slick. It's gonna slow you down on pavement and the side knobs will fold a little in the corners on hard stuff. A few times, I felt I was going to lose it, but the Warp still gripped and didn't let me down. As long as you give it something to chew on, it'll do you right.
Printed on the sidewall are the arrows for your directional choice
* "hard" or "soft". While some may like the "soft" direction for loose or wetter conditions, I found the Warp to work its best running "hard". Cornering in medium/loose dirt and sand is exemplary, yet over hardpack you won't get so much of the squirmy handling that the Warp exhibits in its "soft" direction.
My only other caveat is that the Warp may seem to wear a bit faster than some other tires. But the slightly quicker wear is acceptable, considering that it is a predictable handler and sticks well to the trail. There always seems to be a trade-off between traction and durability in tires. That's the nature of the beast. I don't mind replacing my treads a bit sooner if it means I get superior performance.
All Geax tires are available with black sidewalls or the funky aqua-green/Kevlar or wire bead. The Kevlar-beaded Warp I ride is plenty tough for me. I've never thrown it off the rim. But if you want a different look than the rest of the plain 'ol Earthlings on the trail, the green is mean!
I think the Geax casing design does make a positive difference. I can run the tires at higher p.s.i.'s for easier rolling and still get a good grip. Low pressures provide absolutely awesome traction, and the handling doesn't get too mushy. Considering all of that, I have to say again I'm impressed that I've not had a pinch flat on a Geax at any pressure.
As far as the rest of the science, it works for me. The Geax geeks may not be from another planet after all, but their tires sure seem to be.
Who needs these: trail riders that crave control
Who doesn't: gutter bunnies and hardpack racers
Price: $29.95 Kevlar, $19.95 wire