Looking for a new gravel tire option? Or perhaps an ideal early-season, high-volume cyclocross tire? Hutchinson’s Touareg is worth a look, and we’ve got a long-term review for you today.
In the middle of 2020, Hutchinson introduced a new gravel tire to its lineup. Named after a nomadic tribe from the Sahara, the French tire company’s Touareg (not to be confused by the German vehicle with the same name) joins the Override as the dedicated gravel offerings next to the cyclocross clincher lineup of Toro, Piranha 2, and Black Mamba. We put a lot of miles on the Touareg during the past pandemic year.
Hutchinson has been in the tubeless bicycle tire game longer than others with a hand in the development of the UST standard along with Mavic in 1999. Hutchinson also had the first tubeless road tire, developed with Shimano in 2006. Aside from tubeless conversions in the late 2000s, Hutchinson had the first tubeless-ready tires, the carbon bead Bulldog and Piranha in 2011.
The made-in-France Touareg comes in popular modern gravel sizes 700C X 40 and 45, and 650B X 47. We received the 700C X 40 and 650B X 47. The 700C X 40 weighs 507 grams, about 3% heavier than the advertised 490 gram claimed weight. The 650B X 47 version is 585 grams, matching the claimed weight. There is a black or tan sidewall choice without a noted weight difference.
Handling the tire, it’s hard to say the casing has a different hand or feel than other tires. The 127 tpi casing wall thickness is nominally the same as other gravel tires. Our 700C review samples are ‘black’ sidewall. They have a sidewall color which is a dark coffee brown, but still reveals a woven pattern of the Hutchinson bead to bead protection fabric they call Hardskin. It looks similar to the casing of a Continental Gartorskin or 4 Season road tire. Our 650B samples are the tan version with the same Hardskin casing weave quite visible.
The 700C X 40 has a 100mm bead-to-bead measurement. Mounting on a tubeless rim with a 24mm internal width and hookless sidewalls was easy, and the tire was seated using a standard floor pump. The tire held air without the addition of sealant, but small bubbles from the soapy solution I used to aid mounting and leak detection revealed an incomplete seal. The deal was sealed with a couple of ounces of sealant. The mounted tire has a casing width of 41mm and a knob width of 41.2mm. The 650B X 47 version is 126mm bead to bead. That yields a nearly 48mm tread width when the tire is mounted on a 24mm internal width hookless rim, such as on the Hunt 650B Adventure wheel.
The even knob height of 1.5mm gives the inflated tire a round profile. The most peripheral row of knobs stands 2mm high. The fairly even and tightly spaced knob pattern is similar to a Donnelley MSO, or a Schwalbe G-One with square knobs. In that fashion, it reminds me of the Kenda Small Block 8. That’s a standard pattern for performance in dry conditions with gravel or hard-packed dirt, sand or dry grass.
The 650B version is essentially a 27.5″ x 1.9″ XC mountain bike tire that might have been popular 15 years ago on a 26″ platform, like the Hutchinson Python or Kenda Small Block 8.
Initial test rides in the dry mid-summer California climate presented hard dusty trails with buried rocks, gravel fire roads, and dry grass. The center row of knobs is tightly in line, with the two adjacent rows close by, making pavement sections buzz-free. The two straight rows of further spaced intermediate knobs contact the ground even without a lean. These small knobs are also 1.5 mm tall. With a hard lean on pavement, I did not feel any squirm, thanks to the low height and relatively close spacing in straight rows. A tire that wide offers a lot of rubber on the pavement even with a knobby tread, giving a load of cornering confidence. Off the pavement, the engagement of the intermediate knobs adds a good level of traction in the dry conditions described. The furthest outer row of knobs is quite peripheral on the round profile and would require an extreme lean angle to engage. That said, on a camber or in a rut they provide some traction and security as well as some sidewall durability when scraping up against rocks. In those circumstances, I was glad they were there.
I weigh 155 pounds and experimented with pressure for a smooth ride, good traction and secure cornering. I settled on 24-25 psi rear and 22-23 psi front. Along coastal regions here, the soil is sandy but precipitation can pack the sand and create some mild mud. There are also some creek crossings with wet banks. The center knob section packs easily but clears once back on dry terrain, but keep in mind, this is not a mud tire. On a lush, fog-shrouded trail strewn with roots and water pooled along the trail, the knob spacing varies enough across the wide tire to provide some level of confidence over the slipperiness. I did go down on a wet rooted section, but I don’t think even a cyclocross wet conditions or mud tire would save me. Lower pressure might have.
In an area famously called the “birthplace of mountain biking”, north of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County of Northern California, the soil is dry and dusty and there are several trail sections with fist-sized rocks both uphill and down. There is a reasonable likelihood for a rock strike to cut the sidewall, so I thought it a good test of abrasion resistance of Hutchinson’s Hardskin. However, the tread wraps far down the casing with the large side knobs far along the edge disallowed any sidewall abrasion. With over a thousand miles of mixed terrain riding on the Touareg, the center knobs have rounded slightly but have not worn smooth. For my type of riding, I’d guess it would be at least another 1500 miles before requiring replacement.
With the durability shown so far, you might think ride quality will suffer. Tires of this size and weight have won major gravel events this year, though the Touareg itself has not. The 700C X 40 version rides a fine line between durability and performance. I find it rides the line well; it climbs and handles well over widely mixed terrain. The Touareg is sluggish in a road sprint as you might expect for a 500-gram tire, but to get to the finishing sprint you have to make the entire ride through whatever terrain is on course. The Touareg does not have the smooth center tread of the Specialized Pathfinder, so is slower on pavement, but offers better traction on slippery off-pavement sections and loose climbs. If you have long mixed terrain rides in mostly dry conditions, the Hutchinson Touareg is a solid recommendation.
Hutchinson Touareg Gravel Tire Specs:
MSRP: $65 (USD) all versions
Casing: 127 tpi, black or tan sidewall
700C x 40, 507 grams, 100mm bead to bead width
700C x 45, 550 grams (advertised weight), black only
650B x 47, 585 grams, 126mm bead to bead width
More info: hutchinsontires.com