This holiday season we’ve got a lot to be thankful for, and cyclocrossers can add plentiful tire choices, both clincher and tubular, to that long list.
For anyone who started racing cyclocross this millennium, there’s always been at least a dozen of clincher options, and cyclocross clincher and tubular choices have grown every year as our sport has grown.
That certainly hasn’t always been the case, and jump back just to the mid 90s, the beginning of the Tim Johnson and Jonathan Page eras, and there were slim pickings for clincher tire racers, if you could even find them at your local shop. Specialized had its Tricross tire (version 2), Ritchey and Tioga had a few tread options, Vittoria offered its narrow green Tigre and Mastercross, and then there was the Michelin Hi-Lite Cross tire pictured here for this late Flashback Friday piece.
The Hi-Lite Cross was a narrow, 337g 28c clincher tire based on Michelin’s popular and relatively supple but fast-wearing Hi-Lite road clincher. Michelin took the same road casing but added narrow chevrons and small, low-profile dots in attempt to convert the tire into cyclocross-worthy rubber. It preceded the famous, highly-desired green Michelin Sprint and Mud 700x30c clinchers, and typically retailed for less than $25.
The Hi-Lite Cross design attempted to use a long, single chevrons that transitioned from perpendicular blocks for driving traction, to parallel, tapered side knobs for cornering grip. Unfortunately both the dots and edge of the chevrons weren’t very tall, and offered little cornering of off-camber bite in anything loose or sloppy.
Needless to say, the tire’s narrow width, listed at 28c, but often much narrower on typical road rims, was the tire’s biggest limitation, as it offered little bump absorption and flotation over rough terrain, and made it susceptible to pinch flats.
The tires are still in demand, however, and can retail for up to $75 on eBay
With a growing number of cyclocross tubeless tire options available, and dozens of clincher and tubular models on the market, cyclocrossers now have an option for every course, condition, and budget.
Yet some will say, there was something pretty fun and simple about livin’ (with) the Hi-Lite. When tire selections were so limited, equipment choice was less of a factor in performance and we spent less time obsessing about race day setup and more time riding. That doesn’t sound all that bad, does it?