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On test: Hutchinson Fusion Series Race Ready tyres, September 9, 2005
A perfect pair
Mark Zalewski discovers Hutchinson provides some answers in his quest for durable yet capable road rubber
Personal preferences for bicycle components can range from 'I like my bar tape to be double wrapped' to 'If it's free, I'll ride it!' But for some components, brand loyalty can border on fanaticism. Items like saddles and tyres can result in some picky buyers. But when it comes to your rear end's contact point to the bike or the contact point of your bike to the road, it is not wise to mess around. But tyres need to be replaced rather more often than saddles and so finding a reasonably priced yet capable-cornering rubber tread can be quite the quest.
Enter Hutchinson with the Fusion line of racing tyres. Hutchinson boasts a heavy list of teams riding its rubber -- from Quick Step and sprinter Tom Boonen to Discovery Channel and a guy named Lance. That at least strongly implies the company knows what it's about.
Like most other tyre marques, Hutchinson's bike division just one component of a larger rubber conglomerate; Hutchinson's 'other' interests include aerospace, defense and healthcare applications. In short, the company knows rubber (yes, that application too.) Its latest offer to the cycling world is the Fusion series, designed for racing and intense training. On test here are the Silver and Long Distance models, though an extra-light Air Light model is also available.
Hutchinson calls the Fusion Comp line the highlight of the racing range and it's the tyre most used by professional racing teams. Both treads are supplemented with silica and styrene butadiene rubber which goes to reducing rolling resistance and increasing durability, while keeping the weight manageable. Hutchinson uses what it calls 4 Extrusion technology to place different rubber compounds in different areas of the tread, maximizing grip and durability.
Fusion Comp Silver
The Fusion Comp Silver is not surprisingly silver in color, and is also available in red and gold for your style needs. It tips the scales at just 190 grams and because of the lighter weight I figured that these tyres would not stand up well to the day after day training conditions on rougher roads, so I shelved the pair until I ventured out to the local race scene.
However, once turning corners in the local criteriums I was rewarded with a rather supple ride even. Most of the time the courses were well swept and dry, with many technical sections that the Silver navigated with no problem. I quickly became confident pushing the sides of the tyres to their limits in tight turns riding with a high-speed pack, and I was not let down once.
The testing became more demanding once the environment turned to more road racing conditions. I was curious to see if the grip the tyres enjoyed on dry and clean turns would hold for less-than-perfect turns riders face on the open roads. However, I was happy to find that the wet cornering with the Silver was almost as good, with only a little slipping at much higher speeds.
Unfortunately, as I suspected before the test, the biggest drawback I found was durability. After only about 600 miles of racing and some training, the tyres showed some definite wear and the cornering grip was beginning to diminish slightly. On the bright side, I had no flats with the Silver, even rolling through the average amount of glass and other road garbage. Nonetheless, these tyres belong on your race wheels, and not your everyday training hoops.
Sizes: 650 X 23, 700 X 20, 700 X 23
Fusion Long Distance
The Fusion Long Distance tyre shares many of the same attributes with its colorful cousins in terms of construction, but with a few more grams of total weight. This additional weight is where the Long Distance gets its name, with an added anti-puncture aramid layer beneath the tread that Hutchinson promises will give "an exceptional resistance to wear and punctures."
With this added layer comes a slightly harder ride, but the cornering and rolling resistance was still comparable to other high-end tyres. While I used these tyres for mostly training, I took them out for some fast training rides and a couple of criteriums, and was happy with their performance. Compared to the Silver, the attributes of cornering and comfort were about ninety percent.
Most of all, these tyres are durable, showing very few signs of wear after many miles of riding on less-than-ideal training surfaces. Only after more than 1,900km of training did I take these out on the race course, and I felt as comfortable with them as I did when I first wrapped them around my wheels.
Sizes: 700 X 23, 700 x 25
These tyres are a nice match for each other, with the Fusion Comp Long Distance giving you a perfect training tyre and the Fusion Comp Silver (or other color to match your kit) serving well as a race day tyre. Taking a look at price, the tyres are right in the middle of range with Hutchinson suggesting US$50 per tyre, but some quick research turns up 'street prices' around US$40-45. If you cannot afford to drop $180-200 for tyres, or do not have separate race and training wheels, then I suggest the Fusion Comp Long Distance for its durability combined with Hutchinson's well-known cornering and rolling reputation.
Pro: Great cornering and comfort, distance tyre lasts