by Molly Hurford
When Spencer Paxson rolled over to Continental with his Kona road bike yesterday, he wasn’t looking for slicks, he was looking for a tire that would turn his road bike into a cyclocross racing machine, and he found that in the new Continental CycloX King that we broke the news about one year ago at Sea Otter 2012. The tire is now here and offers the company’s proprietary BlackChili technology, which purportedly offers “26% less rolling resistance, a 30 % higher friction value (grip) and a 5 % increase in mileage.” It’s available as in clincher and tubular forms, and the nylon clincher tire has 180 threads per inch (using Continentals counting method of adding up all three plies, or 60tpi using standard counting).
According to Continental, the tire boasts a “quiet running, fast and at the same time extremely gripping profile.” Its RaceSport version is just 32c and 320g, as the company says, “Elite racers who still choose clinchers can rejoice that it will easily meet UCI standards, especially when compared with some of Continental’s beefier cyclocross offerings.”
Is that a market worth targeting? Do elite racers still race clinchers? In the US, we know of a handful racing tubeless clinchers, but it seems everyone else is on tubulars (although we expect the number of racers running tubeless to increase). Companies like Hutchinson, IRC, Specialized and Continental have all released new clincher tires in the last two years at narrow widths to meet UCI regulations, but we think they’re actually missing the fact that the majority of their clincher tire customers will not race UCI events and will actually benefit from higher volume clincher tires due to less pinch flats and lower rolling resistance. We realize tread molds are expensive, but believe clinchers should be offered on higher volume casings than their tubular versions.
If you agree, not all is lost, as Continental is offering plenty of wider options, just not with the RaceSport 180tpi casing or Black Chili rubber. The company offers a 35c wire bead version and a foldable or reflective sidewall 42c version.
Continental also has a new Mountain King cyclocross mud tire, which we did not see at the show. It also should be available in the RaceSport 180tpi casing and BlackChili rubber and will weigh 320g.
And how did Paxson do in the race last night with the CycloX King? He took sixth place after a minor mechanical, and while he was in the group well behind the leaders, when the Continental rep told me that Spencer would have most definitely won had he avoided the mechanical, I just smiled and nodded.
More info: www.conti-online.com