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Las Vegas, USA, September 26-30, 2005

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Part 23 - Tires, tires, and more tires

Tire development continues on its tireless crusade for the ultimate combination of performance and durability. For 2006, more companies are combining multiple rubber compounds on both road and mountain tires. Tires clearly perform different functions when you've got them leaned way over than when they're upright, and tire manufacturers are using function-specific rubber compounds to match. In addition, I think we can just about kiss true semi-slick tires goodbye. Sure, there are still some out there, but for the most part, companies seem to have figured out how to make short-knob tires that grip much better than semi-slicks yet offer nearly comparable rolling speed.

Maxxis

The Maxxis Courchevel
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On the road side, the big news from Maxxis is their new top-level Courchevel clincher with Triple Compound Technology. As far as I am aware, this tire marks the first use of three different rubber compounds in a road tread. As you'd expect, the hardest compound is located right down the middle of the tread for good durability and low rolling resistance, and the tread shoulders transition to progressively softer compounds for cornering grip. Maxxis even found room for a Kevlar under the tread for puncture protection.

The workhorse Columbiere tire
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Maxxis concentrated on UST tubeless technology for their '06 off-road line with a new casing dubbed LUST, for Lightweight Ultimate Sidewall Technology. By incorporating a thin, rubber-covered fabric layer into the sidewall, the new LUST casing is reportedly 15% lighter than Maxxis' previous UST tires while simultaneously offering improved air retention and increased sidewall protection. This casing is incorporated into all of Maxxis' UST tires across the board, including the new CrossMark which was co-developed with input from World Champ Cristoph Sauser.

Yikes, where’d the knobs go?
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Maxxis also did some work on the two extremes of the mountain bike realm. For the XC racing set, they introduced the Maxxlite 310, a barely-there (in terms of, well, just about everything) race-only tire weighing, you guessed it, 310g for a 26 x 1.95" size. At the other end is a prototype DH tire that still doesn't even have a name yet. This 26 x 2.5" beast also uses a triple compound tread, but in a completely different manner relative to the Courchevel. In this application, Maxxis uses a firm base tread for good knob support, and then covers the center knobs in a super tacky compound for good braking. Outer knobs are covered in their "Slow Reezay" slow-rebounding rubber for more consistent cornering grip.

Michelin

Nope, it’s not exactly a new tire
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Not a whole lot is new from Bib and Co., and most of what has changed is in name only. The Pro Race, for example, is now the Pro2 Race. Okay, not so exciting. What is interesting, however, is their Pro2 Grip clincher. It's not a new tire, but it does incorporate an ultra-tacky tread compound that was originally developed for Michelin's Moto GP and Formula One programs. They allegedly offer a whopping 60% greater adhesion than their Pro2 Race tires, but they also won't make it to 2000km on the odometer before they're cooked.

Michelin has, however, developed a brand-new off-road tire called the XCR Dry2. The new design uses similar dual-compound rubber as previous tires, but in tread design optimized for low rolling resistance and good grip in dry conditions.

Schwalbe

The new Table Top
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Schwalbe is still a relative unknown in the US market, but they're certainly trying to change that image with a slew of new tires for '06.

The new Stelvio Light road clincher retained whatever the Schwalbe folks liked about last year's Stelvio and ditched everything else, leaving just 185g of race tire in a 700 x 23c casing. The slick tread is made up of their low rolling resistance Qualifier compound. Last year's Stelvio Evolution dual-compound front and rear-specific clinchers are now also available in a 25c casing width.

Three tread compounds
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For mountain bikes, multiple tread compounds are again the theme, but this time it's in the form of Schwalbe's new Nobby Nic. A super elastic base tread promises low rolling resistance while a harder compound center tread and softer outer tread offers better straight-line durability with good cornering grip. If your interest is more akin to flying than riding, you may want to take a look at the new Table Top. This is the first offering in the new Timo Pritzel series and delivers a versatile tread for street and dirt in an unusually light (for its class) package for quick acceleration.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews

  • The Maxxis Courchevel mixes three different rubber compounds in a single road tread. Hope you like orange…
  • The workhorse Columbiere tire is now finally available in a 25c casing width. Finally, there is acknowledgement that some of us live in areas with bomb craters for pavement.
  • The new CrossMark sort of combines Maxxis’ successful Larsen TT and Mimo tread designs into one tire. Developed with Christoph Sauser, the CrossMark promises super fast rolling that still drives and corners well. From previous experiences with the Larsen treads, this one looks like a winner to me.
  • The versatile Ignitor tread pattern is now available in a more useful 2.1” casing width.
  • The mud-specific Medusa is also now available in a 2.1” casing for situations when cutting down to the base dirt with a skinny mud tire is either impractical or impossible.
  • Yikes, where’d the knobs go? This tire might not have much grip, but at 310g, it’ll likely go like stink in the right conditions.
  • This DH tire is still so new that it doesn’t even have a name yet. What it does have, however, is a triple compound tread that promises outstanding braking bite with stable cornering characteristics with knobs that won’t chunk off in rough stuff.
  • Nope, it’s not exactly a new tire from Michelin, but it sure is sticky. Don’t plan on racing RAAM with it, though, unless you plan on carrying a spare set to swap out along the way. Those crazy kids competing in the upcoming Red Bull Road Rage, though, might want to check out a set…
  • Three tread compounds - one tire. An elastic base is paired with a durable center tread and grippy shoulders for low rolling resistance and good cornering grip.
  • The new Table Top is intended as a versatile tire for both urban and dirt jumping environments and is the first offering in a new Timo Pritzel line of tires from Schwalbe.
  • The capable Stelvio Evolution is now available in a 25c casing width for a little more cushion and a bigger footprint for improved cornering capability.
  • Kenda’s lone new off-road tread pattern for ’06 looks to be fast rolling and grippy. I’ll take two, please.
  • WTB showed off a new large-volume, short-knob version of their popular Weirwolf tire.
  • Watch out for tubular MTB tires in the near future. Reynolds is just about ready to release their ultralight carbon fiber MTB tubular rims, and these off-road tubulars from Tufo will likely make for a super light and fast combination.

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