Kona’s Helen Wyman is one of the best known women racing ’cross today, on either side of the Atlantic. With a whole host of wins on US soil, as well as some solid finishes in Europe, she’ll be a force to be reckoned with at Worlds next weekend and at Cincinnati for Kings CX in just a few days. So when she wanted to talk with us a bit about her project in conjunction with her sponsor, Challenge Tires, we were dying to hear what they came up with when they put their heads together.

Wyman and Challenge worked together on the Limus XS 3.

Wyman and Challenge worked together on the Limus XS 3.

As a brand ambassador for Challenge Tires, I have a great opportunity to work with a progressive company.  In a Skype call to the head of Challenge earlier this season, I requested a special tread to be made.  There seemed to be a big advantage possible by creating a hybrid of treads between the Limus and the Grifo XS.

I didn’t initially see this being used too often, maybe five or six times in the season, but when the conditions were right, I felt it would be unbeatable.  But now having used them they are far more versatile that I initially thought and I’ve used them a lot throughout the season.  I rode them in the European Championships in fast conditions with slick corners, and most recently in the final round of the World Cup in Hoogerheide this weekend.

A look at the tread on the Limus XS 4

A look at the tread on the Limus XS 4

Challenge took on the task of creating a tread for me and not long after the initial call, a pair of custom made team edition tubulars arrived for me.  They are made using the new cotton casing in 33mm and provide me with a very supple ride. I’ve ridden most of the tubular available on the market, and these are as supple as any others as well as providing a long lasting sidewall. The new 33mm width casing was already proving me with great corning and the feeling of a better ride at very low pressure.  For races like Koppenberg this year I was riding at 1.1 Bar (about 16 PSI) in the front, and 1.2 in the back, so being confident with the tubular is very important.

Half Limus, half Grifo, all grip: Limus XS 5

Half Limus, half Grifo, all grip: Limus XS 5

With the ultra aggressive sidewall on the Limus, cornering is easy, you can really lean the bike over.  If you feel it slip, you just lean more.  With other tubulars, riders tend to straighten out when they feel their tires slip, so these give you a good advantage when you need to push it.  Combined with the reduced resistance on the straights from the white Grifo XS tread it feels like I have everything I need from the tire.

The first time I used them was in the World Cup in Tabor; they felt great and I rode to third place. They were perfect on the uphill drags and gave me confidence in the downhill corners. Then I used them in the European Championships and I’m sure they help me win that title. They were fantastic on all areas of the course and give you the best opportunity to get traction in important corners as well as have the ideal tire for sprinting at the end of a race.

Challenge are very committed to bringing the best tubulars possible to the market and I’m lucky to part of the testing pool of riders that are looking to develop these products further. Challenge have always offered varied treats and great longevity and puncture resistance. The Team Edition versions have pushed things to a new level of performance end products.  It’s an exciting company to be working alongside at the moment.