We’ve been intrigued by the Challenge Chicane ever since we saw the prototype “Wyman XS” last year, and have been impatiently waiting to get our hands on a pair. Out of the box the impressions are of a relatively narrow tread, with a unique design – the file tread centre of a Grifo XS paired with the blocky shoulder tread of a Limus.
On our test Stan’s rims the Chicanes came up at almost exactly 33mm and were a very tight fit – they needed a full 60 psi to seat properly on the rim, after which we dropped the pressure well below 30 and left it there. The tread felt tackier and softer than previous Challenge clinchers we have tried, too.
Pavement (5 out of 5): The easiest rolling cross clincher we have ever tested – just phenomenal. We enjoyed jumping in with a few packs of roadies circulating London’s Richmond Park, revelling in their annoyance in not being able to drop the interloper on the filthy cyclocross bike. The chunky side knobs somehow don’t drag, even at 25 psi, and the feel is similar to a wide section road tyre.
Hardpack and dry grass (5 out of 5): Outstandingly grippy in the corners while rolling easily in a straight line. We tried and failed to get the Chicanes to break loose in these conditions, the best we could manage was a little slip in a straight line when sprinting out of the saddle in a straight line over a looser section – we couldn’t think of another tyre that wouldn’t have done the same or worse.
Wet grass (4 out of 5): The Chicanes gripped well in the corners even when a tacky line developed, the only slight issue being the rear would occasionally slip in a straight line on the slicker sections when we were putting the power down. We didn’t feel that we were losing out to riders who were on intermediates and still were benefiting from the low rolling resistance.
Sodden grass and light mud: (3 out of 5): One of the defining features of these tyres is their ability to operate outside the normal window for file treads. Running a normal file tread in these conditions would be a non-starter but the Chicanes behaved quite well. We could really feel the tread biting as the surface changed both in a straight line and in the bends. A great performance given these tyres were definitely not designed for these conditions.
Mud (2 out of 5): We took the Chicanes into the mud with some trepidation – it’s a totally unfair test as they aren’t designed for it, but we were pleasantly surprised. They outperform lots of intermediates mainly because there is no centre tread to ball up with mud, and the chunky shoulder knobs keep biting. You wouldn’t choose Chicanes for a muddy course, but for a mainly dry course with a few short muddy sections they could be an option in a way that no other file tread we can think of would be.
Final thoughts :
It seems almost counter-intuitive that such an apparently extreme tread can operate in a relatively wide range of conditions – certainly wider than any others we have tested. The sweet, supple 300 TPI casing means the Chicanes absorb the bumps of ‘cross tracks beautifully and certainly contributes to the planted feel in the corner. We definitely felt these tyres were a must have addition to our arsenal. Now all we need is a set of tubular Chicanes to test….
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