Vittoria Put Everything It Knows Into the Corsa Pro

I have a guess about bicycle tire makers, which I'll explain as I write about Vittoria's new and landmark launch of its Corsa Pro and Pro Control tires.

My guess relies on an assumption – maybe valid – that there are two kinds of bike tire companies: those that make only bike tires, and the bike tire divisions of huge tire brands. On the one hand you’ve got Veloflex, Vittoria, Schwalbe, and while some of these brands sell in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year (I believe Schwalbe sells more than $300 million a year, and Vittoria perhaps north of $70 million), some are smaller but very high-end. Then you’ve got Maxxis, Continental, Pirelli, and others and taking Maxxis as one example, the parent company (Cheng Shin Rubber) sells upwards of $4 billion annually. Michelin, Goodyear, Pirelli and Continental are all bigger yet. They're big because they make auto, airplane, truck, tractor, and every kind of tire. And bicycle tires.

If you watch an auto race, “compound” appears to me to be the prevailing narrative. Too soft or too hard, the wrong compound loses you the race. Does this focus on compound translate to bike tires? I think so. What I hear about with Continental is less about ride quality and more about the compound which, for that brand, is famously Black Chili and that’s not just a bike tire compound, but a car tire compound.

I attended a Schwalbe tire launch in Italy in 2019 and the buzz word that Schwalbe wanted you to remember about its Pro One line was Souplesse, French for suppleness. Bike tire companies are not simply interested in the speed of a compound. Generations of cycling experience have taught them that there is speed in how a tire rides, and that speed is not easily captured on a drum testing rig. It is my guess (or at least my impression) that tire companies think compound is the killer app, while bike tire companies focus not only on the contact patch, but the sidewalls. All of it. The contact patch is important to bike tire makers; it is not an afterthought; it’s just not the only thought.

I’m sure what I’m writing is a huge oversimplification and wildly unfair to certain tire brands, but when I participate in these launches, and ride the tires, this has been my takeaway. Now to this Vittoria launch.

What we have here are cotton tires getting pushed into a modern world of tubeless and, if not exactly vulcanization, then a process that renders cotton sidewalls air impermeable. In the old days of cotton and silk casings there were latex tubes inside of tubular tires and – regrettably – you will never know or experience what those tires rode like (assuming you weren't racing in the 1970s). Vittoria purchased the Dugast tire brand and that august tire maker – along with FMB and Veloflex – are among the last to make these tires from a bygone age.

But Vittoria is perhaps making a kind of tire now with the Corsa Pro that mates roundness, flat protection (if sealant is installed), low rolling resistance, aerodynamics and that kind of half-century-ago ride quality into a modern tire. Schwalbe’s 2019 launch was landmark because it was the first high quality tire to adopt the ETRTO’s hookless rim standard. This launch today is landmark because Vittoria now, finally, has thrown the kitchen sink at tubeless. While last year’s launch of the Vittoria N.EXT was important, that is not the performance tire that the Corsa Pro is. (Also launched today is the cotton casing Corsa Pro Control, which is a high performance tire that you’ll want if you are – like me – extremely puncture-averse.)

The typical tire uses nylon fibers and, because these fibers are bigger the thread count is lower. Typical for a high-quality nylon racing tire is 120 to 150 threads per inch. The gold standard for a cotton tire is 320tpi and that’s what we’ve got here.

Weights are 275g up to 320g depending on width, from 26mm to 32mm in 2mm increments (they also make a 24mm size but we don’t care about that). Tires are hookless compatible at 28mm and up. (We do care about that.)

What you see here are images of the tires I’m riding – inside and outside the tire – and a pic of the bead just above. That bead is not entirely smooth to the touch and perhaps it’s my wheels of choice, perhaps it’s user error, but what I find with this tire – and this is my one mild dislike – is it swallows a bit of sealant just to get a bead seal. Mind, this is a “tubeless ready” tire and that means sealant is necessary. With some tires sealant is needed because of a permeable sidewall (this tire does not have a permeable sidewall, which is surprising and welcome for a cotton tire). In this case, and for this tire on this wheel – beyond instant puncture sealing while riding – sealant is necessary to prevent leakdown where you see it here.

But no worries. It might look less than perfect but everything sealed as it should. Just, if you’re used to putting (say) 50ml of sealant in a road tire I might err on the side of 60ml in this tire to normalize for the sealant used after initial sealing.

I found these tires pretty easy to mount, hands-only is possible for sure, one tire lever if you just don’t want to strain at all. No problem inflating the tire. Compressor not needed; valve core removal to inflate not needed. Easy Peasy.

These tires are both 95 Euros and US$99 and are shipping now. Here's more about this tire from Vittoria.

While the Corsa Control Pro is the “classics” tire I question whether that tire is used in the pro ranks. In the images I’ve seen, including this one of a Jumbo Visma bike, if a tire is ridden in a 28mm size or larger (this one is 28mm), and because of the time of the year, I’ll wager this is a spring classics use case and what I see here is Corsa Pro. I believe this is your and my race tire in an IRONMAN (if we’re racing a Vittoria) and the Corsa Control is my tire when I’m way off in the boonies, on questionable asphalt, and out of cell phone range. (Which is my idea of a spring classic.)

(PHOTO at bottom courtesy Vittoria.)