This is our third segment on 2013 tires. For part one, click HERE and for part 2, click HERE.
So far, we’ve covered most of the high-volume hitters in the tire world. If you’ve read our first two articles, you’ll see that we’re primarily focused on mid-to-high end tires, and those that are sold in the aftermarket (e.g. not typically sold on complete bicycles on the showroom floor).
Let’s continue to work our way through.
Veloflex is – to me – an interesting brand. Put simply, it’s tough to find much ‘real’ information on them. Where’s the tech stuff – the rolling resistance charts – the aero graphs? What new compounds are they using? Which pro triathletes do they sponsor? Oddly enough, one comment in our previous article came from someone who appeared to be furious that we hadn’t yet talked about Veloflex. How dare we?! According to this gentleman, Veloflex seemed to be the most important tire brand in the world. Sure, they may be prone to punctures, but anyone who doesn’t ride them is missing out on life, liberty, and at least some of their happiness on the bike.
I can only respond with a shoulder shrug. I’ve ridden one model of Veloflex – the 22mm Pave clincher. It was about seven or eight years ago, and ended with a flat tire after very few miles. At the time, the tires struck me as being of the type and quality I’ve now come to expect from an Italian-made cotton tire: supple, low rolling resistance, and fragile. They’re nice, but not my personal cup of tea for anything but the smoothest of roads.
That said, which models in the Veloflex line ought you have on your radar? Similar to other brands in this echelon (Vittoria, Dugast, Challenge, etc), Veloflex appears to focus their efforts on tubular products. Among those, I think that the two most popular choices for triathletes are the Carbon and Record.
The Carbon is a 23mm tire featuring a 320tpi casing and latex inner tube. It is sold as more of an ‘everyday race tire’; it has a puncture-resistant layer, and should fare better than the race-only Record.
The Record is a 700x22mm, 350tpi tire weighing an astounding 190 grams. On Al Morrison’s giant spreadsheet of tire rolling resistance figures, this tire placed fourth overall, only 0.8 watts behind the winner – a paper-thin tire meant for racing on an indoor velodrome. The Record tubular is also the only tire that Veloflex advertises as being available in 650c diameter.
On the clincher side of things, there are no 650c products. For 700c riders, my top two choices are the Corsa 23mm and Record 22mm. The Corsa is very similar to the tubular Carbon mentioned above, and is available in several colors – black, yellow, red, and blue. It has a 320tpi casing and anti-puncture belt. The clincher Record is just like its tubular cousin – 350tpi, super light, fast rolling, and meant for clean courses.
Outside of that, I don’t have much else to say about Veloflex. They strike me as being very… well - Italian (and I don’t say that with any negative connotation). Similar to someone like Campagnolo, I gather that they don’t very much care what other companies are doing. I don’t think they want to sell tires to every athlete or produce a tire for the masses. They want to continue to do what they’re doing – and do it very well.
Mavic is next on our list, and they have an almost entirely new tire line for 2013. The original Yksion Griplink and Powerlink tires – both tubular and clincher – are gone. For those not in the know, Mavic sells tires as front and rear pairs featuring unique compounds for better grip and lower rolling resistance, respectively.
For 2013, Mavic retains the Yksion name and the Griplink and Powerlink concept; it’s just that the actual products are brand new.
At the top of the heap, you’ll find the new Yksion CXR Griplink and Powerlink – both available in clincher and tubular. These tires feature what Mavic calls CX01 Technology, and are supposed to be used on their CXR60 and CXR80 wheels. We don’t know what ‘CX01’ actually means, but the name refers to their integrated rubber strips that act as an aerodynamic fairing, filling the gap between wheel and tire.
Mavic says that the Blades will eventually lose their elasticity after being installed and removed many times, so a new pair is included with each tire.
As for the tires themselves, the tubular and clincher models are different animals. They both feature the same aerodynamic tread pattern, but beyond that are very different. The tubular model is actually a ‘tubeless tubular’ (say that five times fast). It doesn’t feature an inner tube at all, but rather an air chamber that’s integrated into the tire’s casing. According to Tom Anhalt’s roller data sheet, the tubular tire is in the lower half of the rolling resistance curve – three watts behind the 21mm Zipp Tangente, but five to ten watts behind most of the mid-pack competitors. In Mavic’s defense, the aerodynamic performance of their wheel-tire-blade system is outstanding (see the wind tunnel report linked at the bottom of this page).
Whereas the tubular CXR tire has a very unique construction, the clincher is just a good ol’ clincher. It has a 127tpi casing, the CXR aero tread pattern, and can accept any type of inner tube. While listed at 23mm, my measurement on a new tire at 100psi was 22.0mm. With the addition of the CX01 Blades, the effective width ends up being about 23mm. Zack Vestal, Mavic Communications Manager, had the following to say about tire width:
“22.5mm +/-1 is given by the ETRTO norm for a 23mm tire. [At this time], the production molds are brand new. As they age, they will tend to ‘produce’ tires closer to the higher range of the width tolerances (normal production variances). After 48 hours of inflation at 8 bar, width can increase by about 0.4mm.
[We have also heard of a] perception that non-CX01 tires are narrow this year. It’s true they’re a little narrower than last year, but a big part of that is due to the tread cap being reduced and pulled off the tire sidewall.”
It appears that Mavic is using a true-to-size casing, but have strategically removed material for a more performance-oriented tire (that is, with weight in mind). This leaves us with an effective total width that is about 0.5mm less than previous tires.
Must you use Mavic’s CXR tires if you own the CXR60 or CXR80 wheels? Mavic says yes. According to them, the tires are specifically designed to deal with the abrasion from the rubber blades, and they cannot guarantee the performance or safety of any other tire. Does that mean you cannot use the Mavic tires on another wheel? Mavic leaves the door open here, saying that the tires follow all ETRTO dimensions and standards. As long as your wheel also falls within the international ETRTO specs, you’re fine. I’m personally very interested to see if the unique tread pattern can boost the aerodynamic performance of other wheels.
As we move down from the top-end Yksion CXR, there are a few more models. These are intended for wheels other than the Cosmic CXR:
1. Yksion Pro GripLink and PowerLink, in clincher and tubular (shown in the above graphic)
-23 and 25mm widths, 127tpi casing
2. Yksion Comp clincher
-23 and 25mm widths, 120tpi casing
3. Aksion clincher
-23 and 25mm widths, 60tpi casing
-Mavic’s training-intended tire
Mavic has really broadened their product range and appeal as of late. My request for them – similar to many tire manufacturers – is to have more choices. I’d like to see a wider tire option for the CXR-series wheels, and definitely something in 650c.
Hutchinson is a company with a lot of potential in triathlon. If there’s one brand that’s wholeheartedly behind road tubeless, it’s them. They even launched a new website recently. I’ve used a few of their products in the past, and generally like what they do.
The problem I have with them is that – at least in the US – it seems to be very difficult to get our hands on information. The new website looks great, but has even less to offer than the old site. Product pages have a few photos, but very little information for us to dig in to. Where are the specifications, graphs, and test protocol details? It seems that we’re left wondering; Hutchinson did not respond to information requests for this article.
While Hutchinson doesn’t only make tubeless tires, it appears that this is where their money is. There aren’t a lot of tubeless-ready racing wheels, but the crowd is growing: Fulcrum, Corima, and Easton’s latest aero offering that is set to debut this year.
There is one big question with tubeless clincher tires: Are they faster? As of today, the only rolling resistance data I have on Hutchinson tubeless tires is from Al Morrison’s most recent spreadsheet, featuring the older Fusion 2. While far from last place, the tire was squarely in the lower half of performance - close to heavier clincher choices and tires with butyl inner tubes. Since the release of the Fusion 2, Hutchinson has updated to the Fusion 3, and released the lighter weight Atom and Atom X-Light.
If Hutchinson isn’t releasing much data on tubeless, their competitors are. As we reported in Part 2 of this article, both Schwalbe and Specialized tell us that their fastest-rolling choices are their tubeless models. We do know that Schwalbe is testing their comparative clincher with a butyl tube; a switch to latex could be enough to cause the tube-laden tire to win. Specialized did not tell us what type of inner tube was used in their test.
The Hutchinson tire that has my interest is their new Sector 28. As the name suggests, this tire is a big-boy 700x28mm tire. Originally designed as a tubeless choice for their sponsored road teams to ride in the cobbled Spring classics, this could be the perfect training tire for all conditions. With such a high volume and no inner tube to pinch, you can run very low pressure for a comfortable ride. Throw in a couple ounces of latex-based sealant, and you have a winner.
Is that it? Did we miss your favorite tire company? Indeed, there are others out there. For all of the brands left, we did not discuss them for one or more of the following reasons: 1)They have no new products for 2013, 2) They did not respond to our requests for information, 3) We haven’t seen a huge amount of interest for them in our reader forum. I think that there are some great products among the ‘other’ brands, but if we don’t have anything new to write about it, well – we aren’t going to make something up.
As of today in 2013, our staff is collectively dumbstruck at how popular tires have become. More specifically, it’s the fact that consumers are now subjecting them to the same data-driven scrutiny as frames, helmets, wheels, chainrings, hydration systems, and so on. In our type-A sport, the numbers seem to matter… a lot.
The beauty and fun of the tire world, however, is that there is no perfect answer for every person, race course, and weather condition. This is also one area in which weight really matters; it clearly correlates with rolling resistance and puncture resistance. I’ll never harp on weight or mention it as frequently with any other type of product. With tires, it is a great way to have an idea of what you’re getting in to. If it’s super light, it is probably thin and probably rolls fast. And – it is probably more prone to punctures. It’s a game of risk-taking; are you going to bet on red or black for your next race?