There's been some pretty great releases of new larger volume tires recently. Vee Rubber listed a whole slew of tires (too many in too short of a window) that are supposed to be coming down the pike in the 40 to 50mm width range. However, I have my doubts that they will actually bring all the tires they list on their website to market. Hopefully, I'm wrong, but the guy they hired to perform this task and market the brand has left after a short stint.
One company that does seem to be stepping up to the plate and hitting home runs is Clément Tires. One of the key aspects to a successful new product introduction is a steady growth plan. Introduce a few great products to start and then make successful product introductions as follow ups. Clément did that with the introduction of some great 'cross racing tires. They followed that up with a super riding road clincher, the Strada LGG. Their newest tire to become available is the X'Plor MSO tire in size 40.
The X'Plor MSO (MSO is the airport designation for Missoula, MT, home base for Adventure Cycling) is the most recent release. It's only available in a 40 size and in a 60tpi or 120tpi version. The 60tpi version was received first (120tpi tires are on the way), so the 60tpi is what I'll offer as my first ride impressions.
The X'Plor MSO tire is pretty darn close in design to my favorite (now discontinued) cross tire, the WTB Interwolf 38. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to give the MSO tires a go. Before I got out to the trails, the first couple of rides were commuting on them. Now, I don't have a huge commute (one mile each way), but the commute has a short, fast descent with a sharp left hander at the bottom. One of those corners that people usually brake heavily on, but I have it pretty dialed and can hit it at full speed. The Clément MSO handled the hard, asphalt corner with great confidence. But, this wasn't dirt.
So, one morning last week, I got ready to ride my favorite loop. The Inverness Ridge loop is a good test of a cross tire. If it works well on this loop, it'll likely work well anywhere. I started out with about 45-50 psi and the tires were nice and fast on the road. Once the trail turned to dirt (of the slippery decomposed granite type), the higher pressure was evident as the tire started loosing traction when I rose out of the saddle. I stopped and released some air with 3 or 4 taps on the presta valve. The change was immediately apparent as the tires hooked up much better. I did stop once more to see what a few more taps on the valve to release a bit more air would do and it was even better.
When the trail turned down, I noticed a similar skating on the front end that I experienced with the Vee12 tires. Releasing a bit of pressure up front, eased that feeling. With some air out of the front and rear, I was curious how they would handle descending the steep paved section back to town. No problems there. In the end, I think I ended up with about 36 psi up front and 38psi in back. And that's what I set the tires to on subsequent rides.
What did I think? They were damn fun tires. Pretty optimal for my riding style and where I ride. I took them on the Inverness Ridge loop several times and a Bolinas Ridge out and back once. These are the kind of tires that you want to keep on your bike until they are worn out and then put on a fresh set. Definitely going to clear off a space on my tire wall to keep a supply of these tires in the shop.
WTB Interwolf on the left, Clement X'Plor MSO on the right.
After several rides, still looking good.
The clearance of the MSO 40 in my cross frame.
Hard to see here, but this is a steep, marbly descent with twists and turns and water bars.
And again, the loose, steep climb.
(What's playing: Credence Clearwater Revival I Put A Spell On You)