Thursday, 17 November 2011
FMB Super Mud review
This Autumn saw the arrival of the much heralded FMB Super Mud tubular. For several seasons now, I had been gathering my own and others Dugast Rhino treads (as well as some carefully preserved green Michelin mud treads) and sending them away to Francois at FMB for recasing.
The rationale behind this was that although Francois makes the best (yes, better than Dugast) cross tubs available on the planet, his SSC, Fango and Grippo XL treads were great, but not according to conventional wisdom, as great as the imperious Rhino mud tread.
Much excitement then when US cross legend Molly Cameron sent me over the summer, a top-secret spy shot from Francois of the new FMB tread - destined as a Rhino-killer.
Molly confirmed what I had been hoping - that Francois had upped his game and met the Rhino hegemony head on. In the shot, the tread looked like a direct Rhino copy, with extra hooks on simply to avoid copyright type issues.
In the flesh, the tread is something different altogether. First impressions when the box arrived, to be eagerly ripped open, was of a quite different tread in many respects. Yes, the familiar arrows are there, but tipped with an extra barb at the bottom, they take on a different aspect. More importantly, they are much finer than on a Rhino - thinner and smaller and slightly shorter in height.
The attention to detail in construction is where the FMBs shine over Dugast - this year Francois has been adding an extra layer of material onto which the base tape is sown. This thickens and protects the most vulnerable part of a cross tub, the base tape/rim interface. This is where most tubs rot out, Dugast sometimes in only a season or so, even when Aquasealed. Not only does Francois factory proof his tubs with a substance that lasts longer than Aquaseal anyway, but this double layer near the basetape extends their durability by at least a season, meaning you may be able to get 3 seasons use with normal care and attention. It is for this reason alone, as well as the stronger materials used generally that I firmly believe FMBs are the best artisan cross tubs in the world, beating offerings from Dugast with ease.
The other significant difference is in the orientation of the side knobs. This is where I believe Francois has really done his homework. And possibly, if I may flatter myself slightly, as a result of the legion of green Michelin Mud treads I had been sending his way for conversion. As any green Mich Mud user knows, their grip is spectacular - as good or better than a Rhino. And they will also know from experience that much of this superior grip is down to the mud shedding abilities of the green tread against the Rhino which has a tendency to ball up. Balled up tires = ballsed up cornering as no matter how grippy at first, the treads begin to loose their awesome bite.
This has certainly been borne out by my own unscientific testing of both types in training and racing - Rhinos are superb in wet, greasy and sloppy conditions. But they loose their edge when things get stickier......
So how has Francois adapted a successful formula to his own ends and to what effect?
Well, he has clearly studied the green treads I kept sending him in the post - green treads have a concentration of knobbles toward the outer edge keeping the mid flanks of the tub a little clearer and allowing not only the predictable grip in cornering but also allowing the tread to shed mud as it things thicken up. Looking at a Super Mud in profile, that same double row of knobs close to the very edge of the tread is present, and the gaps are slightly bigger than on a Rhino tread. Using smaller, finer knobs is a also a winner - it allows equally competent grip but aids that all important shedding process.
Grip in wet slop is every bit good as a Rhino, and arguably as good as a green Michelin FMB conversion. But if things stick up a bit, then that awesome grip remains as it does with a green FMB, whilst the Rhino begins to struggle and slide away.......
This incredible grip combined with the construction and durability advantages outlined above make the Super Mud an absolute winner, and indeed what I had hoped for - a Rhino killer.
There are other great mud tubulars out there - think Specialised Terra or Challenge Limus - but if you are looking for the ultimate handmade quality and performance that you previously thought was only available with a Dugast Rhino, then I think you may have found your choice.
FMBs are hard to come by in the UK but cross promoter, importer and general gruff Derby man John Holmes can set you up - call him on 07946 461972 to see what he can do.