by Clifford Lee
At Sea Otter a couple weeks ago, we learned of a few developments in the tire department from several companies regarding cyclocross. Thanks to a new licensing agreement, the Challenge Eroica will be renamed the Strada Bianca, both names referring to the race and ride around Siena in the Tuscan region of Italy that includes 70 kilometers over the famed white gravel roads. Rest assured what is now formally known as the Eroica (and once subconsciously labeled by us as Erotica), very favorably reviewed last month, will remain unchanged despite the name change. However, do recall that we had a pre-production version of the Eroica-cum-Strada Bianca without the extra red breaker belt beneath the tread. The production version of the Strada Bianca includes the belt, which increases puncture resistance, but also tire weight by 56 grams to 341 grams. The Strada Bianca will be available from Challenge dealers immediately.
Challenge, who owns their factory in Thailand, is also rumored to have a couple of new cyclocross treads in the works. Though no details were revealed, we thought hard about what would fit into Challenge’s lineup. The hybrid we saw on Helen Wyman’s bike back in January 2013 (and on Lindine’s bike at Sea Otter cyclocross) comes to mind, and perhaps something between the Fango and Limus, a true mud tire that is a bit less “knobby.” That is all speculation on our part, but if we had a say …
Regardless, we would expect that the new treads would be available in both tubular and open tubular, since all the present treads use the same excellent super poly casings; it would be an easy thing.
Vittoria introduced a new tread, the XL Pro, with a familiar looking tread pattern that we gave a preliminary report on our Sea Otter Day 1 review. Designed to fit between the all-around tread of the XG and the mud tire XM, the XL should do well in loose conditions as well as mud, and with its well spaced, sloping, square edged features, it should clear debris well. No weight was available, but it will be released as a clincher with a TNT 33mm 150 tpi nylon casing, and as a tubular with Vittoria’s excellent 320 tpi corespun poly/cotton casing.
Vittoria has done an excellent job going tubeless with its TNT casing on the XG released last fall. Rick Dyer, national sales manager for Vittoria North America, told us that for the XG (and thus for the new XL Pro as well), Vittoria removed some of the latex on the casing of the TNT for cyclocross tires since the pressures used were lower, air seepage was less of a problem and the casing would be more supple as a result. With the release of the XL Pro in September, it will be nice to see the TNT casing with another tread. Currently, the XN file tread and XM mud tread are not available with the TNT casing. We wish the TNT casing was available with a wider width as well.
Vee Rubber has had the most treads in every conceivable width for cyclocross and mountain bikes. A lot of overlap existed in the lineup and that seemed confusing to buyers, so Vee Rubber will be paring the line down a bit to offer more defined tread offerings. We obtained the Rail in a 40 cm width and a 29er 1.75” (45 cm) width for evaluation as wide tire options for those not worried about what the UCI thinks, so stay tuned for those reviews. Our previous experience with Vee Rubber tires is they seal up reasonably as tubeless, though they are not officially labelled as such. You’d better believe that we will indeed try to mount ours up tubeless during our testing!