by Andrew Yee
Sea Otter is always an interesting time for a cyclocross journalist (all three of us), as most companies are focused on road and mountain products, while a few companies are excited to showcase their new cyclocross offerings, knowing many of us are already thinking about our equipment choices for the upcoming season.
A careful eye will not only see a handful of new model year cyclocross bikes at the show, but also new cyclocross tires and brakes on some show bikes and in booths.
A Day 1 stroll through just a small portion of the Sea Otter 2013 expo revealed four new cyclocross tires coming from Italy (Vittoria), France (Hutchinson) and Japan (IRC), and helped us learn of plans for two new tires to be released this summer as well. Check back soon for more cyclocross tire news from Vee Rubber, Challenge Tires, Clement Pneumatics and Kenda.
Vittoria is launching a new cyclocross clincher named the Cross XL Pro, which has an aggressive tread that looks like it might make a good loose or muddy conditions tire, with large, really tall blocks and plenty of open space between the lugs. Width is listed at 33c, and will be available in a folding clincher, a TNT (Tubes No Tubes) model and a tubular as well. The tread has large, tall knobs, but features tight grouping of the knobs in the center to offer low rolling resistance on the pavement or in hard conditions.
Hutchinson was the first company to launch a Road Tubeless-compatible cyclocross tire, but the bead on the original Bulldog and Piranha tires did not form a tight seal with the rim, and early adopters reported burping problems. Hutchinson changed to a carbon bead, and we reported amazing burp-proof riding at low pressure when combined with Road Tubeless wheels such as the Easton EA90 XD disc wheelset reviewed in Issue 20. Unfortunately, last season the French tire maker discontinued Road Tubeless cyclocross tires, releasing the narrower Toro and Piranha 2 clinchers, and announcing plans for two cyclocross tubulars in the small knob-covered Mamba and a version of the Toro.
Fast forward a year, and Hutchinson’s tubulars are now here, and should now be available for early season stretching this summer. Stay tuned for our full test.
Perhaps more exciting for those converted to tubeless is that the company is returning to tubeless with a 34mm of the Toro and a 35mm version of the Mamba, both with black treads and a 120 tpi casing. We’re particularly excited to try the higher volume Mamba in early season races. The high volume, low pressure and small knob combination should prove to be a fast option, and the higher volume in tubeless tires is what we’ve told manufacturers makes more sense from a product demand perspective.
The company was also showing its 28mm Secteur 28 Road Tubeless tire that was originally designed for Française des Jeux cycling team for the Paris Roubaix race. The tire is now finally available to the masses, and could make for a great gravel tire option.
“Experienced” cyclists may remember IRC Tire, as the company had some of the more popular mountain bike and road tires in the Mythos and the Paperlite clinchers a while back. After a few quiet years, IRC is back, and a focus on tubeless tires, including cyclocross, is where the company sees an opportunity. The company’s first offering will be the Serac CX, offered in a 32c width and features a 120tpi casing and butyl-lined, UST certified casing and bead.
The tread looks like a little like the award-winning, versatile Specialized Captain 2Bliss cyclocross tire tread featured in Issue 20, but a bit narrower, making it UCI legal. We doubt that many potential customers will be concerned with UCI rules, and think a bit more volume may help the average racer ride faster, but the tread looks like a good do-it-all option. Price is TBD. Stay tuned as we put an early model to the test.