Japanese tyre company IRC sent us their Aspite Pro WET tyres to test just as Winter set in. They aren’t described as Winter tyres, but they’ve done well despite the conditions. The roads near me have been covered in farm detritus, rocksalt and gravel. We’ve had mixed weather conditions from torrential rain to damp and greasy, there’s even been the odd day where the roads were mostly dry.
My Winter bike is a 4 year old Allez. With minimal tyre clearance already, and a desire to fit my Crud Roadracer MK3’s, I opted for the 24mm version of the Aspite Pro WET. There’s a 26mm version too. The tyres are nice and supple, the rubber feels soft and grippy. These are clincher tyres, not tubeless compatible. As a result, getting them on the rim for the first time was easy without using levers.
Our first outing was quite eventful, and a few of our group went down with punctures about halfway round the route. Luckily I escaped the first cull, or so I thought. After a few more miles, we turned a corner and I felt the back tyre move. It turned out I had a slow puncture in the middle of the tyre. The hole in the inner tube was so tiny, I had trouble locating it even once I was back at home.
That initial test had put me on edge a bit. I don’t like getting punctures, and as a result I tend to stick with tyres I know won’t let me down. On a positive note, the tyres had felt very comfortable. The rubber of the Aspite Pro WETs is soft and grippy, and they produce hardly any road noise. The dry roads interspersed with damp patches had given me a chance to test the grip and the RBCC compound didn’t disappoint.
Aspite Pro WET tyres use a compound called RBCC. In this rubber compound the company use an ingredient derived from rice. The outer husk of an individual rice grain is ground into a fine powder, mixed with a thermosetting resin, then superheated. Once cooled the resulting resin block is pulverised to create millions of porous, ball-shaped structures with semi-rigid fingers extending in all directions. Once mixed into a rubber compound, the spikes which extend out from the Rice Bran Ceramic Orbs, reach out and grab the road surface for increased traction. The RBCC compound is porous and this allows it to wick water from the road surface to maximise tyre-to-road contact.
On further journeys, a predictable onslaught of punctures slayed my fellow riders. However, I had no more visits from the puncture fairy. I concluded that first ride was just ‘the odds’ catching up with me. It was my first puncture for at least two years. Although puncture-free, the Aspites have gained quite a few cuts, and a chunk out of the side of the tyre. I’ve ridden around 500 miles on them now and they’ve still plenty of life in them. The grooved tread is far from being worn out, despite the abuse they’ve taken.
The mid-ride puncture did give me another chance to see how easy the Pro WETs were to take off and put on. I hadn’t needed to take them off the rim yet. I only needed to use one lever, but I’m not sure I could’ve got them off in the cold otherwise. Getting the Aspites back on the rim seemed easy enough, despite the cold outdoors conditions.
On setting off again, I realised my tyres weren’t quite right though. The aero bead is an interesting feature, and I can’t test the claim that it makes the tyres 4% more efficient at 40kmh. What I can tell you is that with a hand pump you will have problems getting the tyre to seat properly due to the lip of the aero bead. As a result, I ended up riding back to the café with a slight bump that I could feel on every revolution of the wheel. The higher pressure of the café’s track pump pushed the bead out and seated it on the first attempt.
I’m impressed by the IRC Aspite Pro WET tyres. The grip is fantastic. In addition, the supple casing and soft rubber give a fantastic ride even at higher pressures. The puncture protection is more than you’d expect from such a soft, grippy tyre. I’ve swapped the Pro WETs out now. Not because I don’t like them as a Winter tyre, but because I reckon they’ll make a brilliant UK Summer tyre. The slight niggles of taking the tyre off and remounting it won’t be a problem as long as there are no more punctures.
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