Veloflex Master Tyre
Veloflex Master tyre review
Italian style and speed.
Posted 3 October 2012
Words by Jordan Gibbons
These last few months I’ve been riding Veloflex Master tyres; mostly because I thought they’d look quite snazzy on my Colnago but also because I’d heard good things about them from a friend. They’re a lightweight road racing clincher tyre but before we get into the tyre, let’s get into the brand.
Many people won’t know Veloflex as a name and few that do, will know them well. Veloflex is a small scale Italian operation built from the remains of Vittoria after that firm shifted production to Taiwan a few years ago. In fact, the staff at Veloflex have so much experience and talent, gained from their years of tyre manufacture at Vittoria before Veloflex existed, that a large number of the ProTour riders use Veloflex tyres albeit rebranded by their sponsors (Fabian Cancellara is a known proponent of their Carbon tubular). The company is very soon to hit the big time now that a certain Mr Wiggins just powered onto the podium with a very subtle white Veloflex painted on his sidewalls…
The Master is actually one of the heavier tyres in their ‘open tubular’ range. Veloflex refer to their clinchers as ‘open’ tubulars because they have the same sidewall and tread as their tubular compatriots but, instead of being sewn together and a layer of base tape added, the sidewall is terminated with a very fine layer of Kevlar. The tyre only comes in 700x23c and 700x20c sizes and weighs 195g in 23mm guise – compared to my reference tyre (Continental GP4000S at 205g) that’s a weight saving of 10g per tyre. Not much, you think? Well no, but that’s not the only reason to buy these tyres (although we’ll come to that later).
Where does this weight saving come from I hear you ask? Well two places actually – the first is the puncture protection belt; or lack of one for that matter.
The Masters have no real puncture protection belt to speak of and you can really see and feel that when handling the tyre. The central area bears a very thin file tread and sits totally flat when not inflated – not the constant curve of a puncture belt that most tyres look like.
And the second place? The sidewall, naturally. The Masters have a very lightweight unprotected cotton sidewall that is a part of a good 320tpi casing. This sidewall design (and lack of Kevlar puncture belt) makes for an incredibly supple tyre and there lies crux of it. The tyres are so supple in fact that I run the front and rear at 10psi higher than I would run the GP4000s and suffer no loss in comfort.
So, what do Veloflex do differently that makes their tyres so supple? Well, most manufacturers attach the tread (made of a synthetic rubber) by a vulcanization process – so it’s attached by a combination of pressure and heat and it’s this process (along with the addition of sulphur amongst other things) that turns rubber into the tough black stuff we all love. The natural rubber of the Veloflex tread is glued by hand to the casing so it’s not subjected to these forces and thus remains in a much more natural (and rubberier) state.
As well as being supple, the Master is also a fabulously grippy tyre and inspires real cornering confidence on less than excellent road surfaces where the general suppleness of the tyre really irons out the bumps, whilst keeping as much of the tread in contact with the road surface as possible.
It’s because of this sidewall that a good bit of care has to be taken the first few times you fit the tyre. Mine were a tight fit on my rims (Mavic OpenPro) and Veloflex sternly warn you against the use of any mounting tools in case you damage the delicate sidewall and bead. In my case a good dash of talcum powder kept the inner tube happy and pinch-free.
So, how are they holding up? Very well, actually. My riding takes me through London, Surrey, Kent and Essex and they have held up very well to everything the roads have been able to throw at them. I must confess that I recently got caught out riding home in a prolonged and heavy downpour and suffered a double puncture (one front, one rear). Two pieces of flint had slipped straight in and taken the tubes with them. The tyres are fine though, with no big holes to get in a twist over. I’d be tempted to save them for nice weather though, for this very reason – that and the fact that it’s a shame to dirty up that lovely sidewall. That said, it can be cleaned fairly easily.
All this talk of a lack of puncture protection and advice on care probably has you twitching nervously, but a note to put your mind at ease: Team Sky used Veloflex Roubaix tubulars at this year’s Paris-Roubaix and was the only team not to suffer a single puncture. How about that, eh?
So, if you’re a fairly lightweight rider and find most mainstream tyres too stiff (or you’re searching for that extra bit of comfort), take a miss on your usual summer tyres and give these a try – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Veloflex also do the otherwise identical Corsa for those of you who don’t fancy the skinwall look.
Veloflex Master £35