In this first of a series of cyclocross tubular tyre articles for the 2014/2015 season, we preview the Vittoria Evo line of tubular tyres ranging from the dry weather XN file tread to the ultra nasty XM scoop mud tread.
If you followed CycleTechReview during last year’s cyclocross season, you’ll know we focused on clearing up many of the vagaries of cyclocross tyres. Our Cyclo-cross Clincher Tyre Ratings series is a good start for anyone looking to find the perfect clincher tyre for the 2014 season while the tubular vs. clincher article covered the why and how tubulars are better than clinchers for cyclocross racing.
Vittoria is not the first name that comes to mind when you think about high-volume tubular cyclocross tyres, they are more synonymous with the road racing tubular. However, the company has invested considerable time and effort over the past 5 years to grow and improve their cyclocross tyre lineup.
They now offer four tread patterns across their tubular line, all sitting on an impressive 320 TPI poly/cotton hybrid casing. How does this casing differ from a pure cotton casing? The cotton thread is spun around a polyester core and then coated in latex. This process ensures a stronger casing than a pure cotton design, without compromising the suppleness cotton is known for.
Holding them in our hands, we found the casing to be comparable in feel to our favorite casings from FMB. These casings from Vittoria are also of impressive volume; all of the tubulars range in size from a 32mm to 34mm casing width. When inflated, we noticed a significant step up in casing height and diameter compared to the Vittorias of just a couple of years ago. After inspection, we believe they will run comfortably lower than the manufacturer-recommended 35 pounds per square inch (PSI).
Vittoria uses a tread compound called ISOGrip for all CX tyres. This compound has been tested extensively in both cyclocross and mountain biking competition. According to the company ISOGrip rolls faster and grips better than other competitive rubber. Although we won’t know how the rubber performs until we glue them up, we can say the compound feels much stickier to the touch than some of Vittoria’s older cyclocross tyres.
The four tread designs Vittoria offers are diverse with a tyre for every condition. The Vittoria XN is a file tread design with a very low profile side lug design designed for hard pack, grass, and later in the season, snow. The file tread extends down the side of the tyre with a small tread lug alternating every other centimeter. The tyre looks very fast, more aggressive even than the Grifo XS, the closest design we’ve tested from another manufacturer.
Finally, Vittoria offers not one, but two mud tyres; the well-established XM and the newer XL. The XL is similar to other mud tyres on the market today, with distorted chevrons running down the centre of the tyre and very widely spaced blocks down the sidewall. This combination should allow for a reasonably low rolling resistance on the straightaways, courtesy of the centre block spacing, but also rapid cleaning across the tread due to the large gaps between tread blocks once off the tyre centre. The XL looks very promising for the late fall wet grass/slop courses of the early winter.
The XM is a tyre for the most extreme conditions. This tyre uses a paddle design, widely-spaced scoops across the top of the tyre all the way down the sidewall should ensure maximum forward grip while blade-like side knobs should ensure both a rapid cleaning and good grip. We’ll be very interested to see if the paddle design of the XM provides the same sidegrip of the XL and if the tyre offers reasonable straight line speed, as the paddles have neither a a continuous centre section nor prominent side grip knobs until a fair way down the tread.
We’ll be testing all of these tyres throughout the cyclocross season in the slop of the UK and the arid conditions of the American West. Look for our first full review of the Vittoria XN soon.
Prices range from £60.99 to £66.99 in the UK and between $90 and $120 in the USA.
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