Oh Man! There are few things I love more in the world than new tires. New tires have the ability to transform your bike nearly instantaneously more so than almost any other component. As much as your bicycle's frame and wheels, tires directly impact your bicycle's performance, durability, comfort, and safety. But unlike your bicycle's frame or wheels replacing tires is relatively inexpensive and quick. In short no other component has the same impact per dollar ratio. This should make sense if you think about it, when riding your bicycle in the conventional manner your tires are the only thing touching the ground.
I am constantly searching for the next best thing in the world o' tires. Like most people I want my tires to do everything well all the while being lightweight, durable, and inexpensive to replace. But In the real world we must make compromises right? So...generally speaking you can pick two out of the three and if you want your tires durable and light you got to pay the piper.
Most of the riding I do now a days involves commuting from the shop to my home and around town doing errands. I spend a lot of time riding on pavement but I love the ability to take my commuter bike off road and mix it up a little. I was looking for a tire that would roll well on pavement but allow me reasonable traction off road should I feel inclined to take a detour through the park on my way home. Luckily the burgeoning adventure/gravel racing scene has spurred the development of incredibly versatile tires designed to roll better on road and hardpack and have more puncture protection than cyclocross racing tires all the while offering greater off road grip and durability than traditional road tires. Clement tires has been at the front of this trend releasing some very cool gravel specific tires. They have bestowed these tires with the X'plor moniker. I was immediately attracted to the USH 700X35 offering. Looking at the tire I really liked the combination of the smooth center tread with the spike shoulder knobs as well as the 35mm width (the widest tire I can fit under my fenders). I decided to give them a shot and have been commuting and riding on them for the past two months.
So...how do they stack up? I decided on the less expensive 60 tpi (thread per inch) $50 per tire msrp compared to the 120 tpi ($80) offering. In general tires with lower thread counts are less supple, heavier, but more durable than higher thread count offering. I figured because I was unsure of how I would like the tread pattern I should go with the less expensive option. The 60 tpi 700X35 tires came in weighing 440grams. I was unable to find a weight for the 120tpi version.
I have a few hundred miles of on and off road riding on the X'plor USH tires and I have to say I am quite please with their performance. On the road they roll well and extra volume compared to the 32mm standard takes the edge off of road irregularities. The 440 gram heft can definitely be felt when accelerating and climbing and sets this tire apart from racier offerings in the cyclocross and road segments. That said the higher TPI USH tire should be lighter and feel faster. The pointy nobs do squirm a little under hard cornering on pavement but this is to be expected. Happily I can report no flats and good wear characteristics from the short time riding this tire.
Perhaps the most surprising and rewarding aspect of this tire has been it's off road performance. I was originally a little skeptical that then USH would be able to supply driving traction in messy conditions. I felt that the continuous center tread would leave me wanting for more aggressive tread pattern when things got muddy and wet. During a recent post snow double track ride in some of our city parks I found the tires to offer surprising grip even in the tough snowy/icy conditions. I was able to keep up with friend riding more aggressive cyclocross race tires and felt a definite advantage when we got onto the road.
The Clement X'Plor USH does offer excellent versatility which is exactly what I was looking for. I am very interested in trying the 120tpi version to see how much lighter and more supple the tire is compared to its cheaper little brother. I plan to continue riding this tire throughout the winter. Keep a look out for a longer term review when I put more miles on em.