Win or just get it? The choice of tyres depends very much on your requirements. What should a fast race tire be able to do? What is a good compromise for everyone between rolling resistance, weight and grip? Which tire dimensions (tire width) still make sense for a Transalp?
Uli Guppenberger: "Professionals drive with treads that offer too little grip for normal drivers. Therefore I would recommend Nino Schurter's favourite tire, the Maxxis Aspen, only on the rear wheel for normal riders at the Transalp. But otherwise the demands of such a stage ride, where technical service is not available every few kilometers, are the same for all participants: To ride with tires that will get you safely through the whole stage. The trend is also for XC bikes to use wider tires. 2.20" is about the basic width, 2.25" is a very common size and XC oriented tire models up to about 2.35" make sense. The "normal" rider also has an advantage when riding tires, that last the whole Transalp - this doesn't matter for the pros, they just have the tires changed – if necessary – daily. With the modern rubber compounds from Maxxis it shouldn't be a problem to make it through the whole Transalp, but I can still remember a Transalp about 15 years ago, when many participants had already completely worn out the "test winners" tires of another brand after two days.
Along with the rubber compound the tread pattern is crucial for grip. What do you consider a good tread for a Transalp?
It now depends on the rider's skills as well as on the stage. It also influences whether the tire is mounted at the front or the rear. As the requirements on a Transalp are very different, a good tread pattern for the Transalp is a universal tread pattern, that rolls well while providing good grip. Our most successful all-round tire is the "Ikon". New and an upcoming star is the "Rekon", which is a little wider. If a rider wants a lot of grip, the "Forekaster" is also a very good choice, especially at the front.
How practical are some tyre combinations for front and rear?
Since the requirements for a front and a rear tyre differ, station wagons make perfect sense. The rear wheel carries more weight, therefore the rolling behaviour is more important, the front tire is less stressed but crucial for cornering grip, so you can choose a more open profile. From this point of view, station wagons like front "Rekon", rear "Rekon Race", front "Ikon", rear "Aspen" or "Crossmark II" or front "Forekaster" and rear "Ikon" make sense. This is an individual decision of each rider. Two identical tires give one a better defined handling, the other one chooses a station wagon, because it feels easier to roll. You can't really go wrong, except if you grossly overestimate your driving skills and want to tackle the hardest stage in the rain on semi-slicks.
The Transalp leads over rough, stony mountain paths but also roots. How do I manage to combine good puncture protection with low weight and good rolling characteristics?
Basically you should always choose tires with sidewall protection for the Transalp. At Maxxis this protection is called EXO, other brands have similar ones. Even if you don't ride tubeless, the tires that are "tubeless ready" are usually more stable than the tube-only versions of the same tires. Since high-quality XC tires do not have puncture protection plies like Enduro or DH tyres for performance reasons, there is always a certain risk of puncture depending on the rider, riding style and tire (brand) on the rough, stony mountain roads, which can be significantly reduced with Tubeless.
Tubeless or tube? Which is the better choice for you? Not only for professionals, but also for slower participants?
For a race like the BIKE Transalp it is tubeless for sure. The risk of punctures is much lower, if the bike is set up correctly and the grip is better due to the possibility to ride with slightly less air pressure. In case of a possible defect on the track the effort is of course higher with Tubeless. And you should think about or better practice how to get the sealing liquid out and install the replacement hose. If the wheels are Tubeless Ready and the tires are too, I would ride Tubeless. Maybe only for the Transalp, and then as a normal biker back on tube, if I don't want to take care of the tubeless wheels regularly.
When could a tire change be senseful? How old can be a tire for a Transalp?
It certainly makes sense to start at the Transalp with almost new tires. Almost new means, that you think about which tires you want to start this adventure with. Have the tires fitted or mounted a few days or weeks before and then get used to the driving experience. The Transalp puts extreme stress on the tires, depending on the riding style and route. Old worn out tires can really ruin the Transalp experience and therefore new tires are a good basis for the start and a building block for the success of the whole week.