TUFO XC2 PLUS tubular 29″er tires: First Impressions: by c_g
Recently you have seen the first part of this ride report covering the AX-LIGHTNESS/TUNE tubular 29er wheels (here), now comes the one on the corresponding tires – the new for 2012 TUFO XC2 tubulars. For the specifications and tech intro on the Tufo tubulars, see here.
Having been through a whole review series on tubulars last year (here) I initially rode the AX-Lightness/Tune wheels with my well beloved GEAX Saguaro 29″er tubulars (despite some difficulties in gluing them) and the ride was taking the tubular ride experience onto a whole new level of awesome. Then the TUFO 29″er TUBLUARS came my way and the prospect of riding an all new set of tires plus shaving yet another 300 g off in rotational mass was simply too tempting and so I took them on for testing.
All of you know that tubular tires and rims are meant to work together and are connected semi-permanently – so I will briefly take you through the installation process that is particular to the TUFO double sided gluing tape, that comes with the tires:
The Tufo tubulars can be glued the good old way (messy and time consuming but generally stronger and more versatile) but since Tufo provides a specific double sided gluing tape with the tires I went this way first. The taping way is very fast, clean and simple but it does not work with every tire/rim combination. You simply peel off the protective tape on one side and fix it to the rim (leaving the tires side still covered). Then you put on the tire, inflate and adjust for a balanced and wobble free rotation (best checked on a stand) and lastly peel the tire facing cover tape off between the tire and rim (that is if you have considered to have a small end sticking out at the end ). After you’ve done it once or twice, it becomes a thing of 5 minutes and you are set to go … no delay in waiting for the glue to cure. The TUFO tubulars have a rather tight fit on the rims (installation requires some hand strength but is not really difficult) and a flat canvas base which indeed created an adequate bond between tubular and rim.
Some aspects I already covered in my intro are noteworthy a second time:
- The near perfect trueness – by the vulcanizing manufacturing process and the years of experience with tubular tires the TUFO tubs are extremely even and true. The GEAX tubs are 100% handmade and sewn which often gives them some slight variations in size and trueness (which are generally not detectable while riding).
- The TUFO tubs hold the pressure – even after weeks of use. This does not really matter for a pure set of racing tires but for me riding them more often this has been very positive, not having to check the pressure every ride.
- The TUFOs despite their 220 TPI casing feel a lot stiffer than I had thought. A big part of this is that it does not carry a separate tube but a butyl liner vulcanized to the casing – the outside rubber really only plays a small part in this.
OK, so much for the technicalities … but most important of all – the …
After having ridden the GEAX Saguaro Tubulars intensively over the last year, the Tufo tubulars turned out to be a different character altogether.
First the tread and compound. The XC 2Plus with its almost paddle-like arrangement of chevrons has killer grip. I was truly astonished about the massive grip these XC size tires have on almost anything but very soft soil or mud. Part of this is the tread pattern but a big part may also be the TUFO specific Silica enhanced compound which really works great (seems to wear quickly though). I had expected a good amount of traction and braking grip but for sure not to such a high level. Like the wheels, the TUFO tires have seen a huge variety of trail conditions (from super soft/wet to bone dry) and the XC2 did very well on almost everything: Only true “mud fest” conditions would overwhelm this tire. The same counts for the treads self cleaning properties, that so far have been very good for a XC tread as well. Parallel to the Tufos, I have been running the MAXXIS Ikons, and they are no match by far.
Cornering is where the tread had raised my doubts (by appearance) and yes, the TUFO XC2 is not the most confident ride in corners but it is pretty good still. On hard surfaces and anything the tread could grip into or hold onto it performed far better than the size and looks would suggest. Only on slippery surfaces or loose over hard pack conditions would it let go a bit too early – but even then in a controlled manner. I think here the tread pattern is greatly supported by the flexibility and suppleness typical for tubulars.
On road there is a very tiny hint of vibrations but anywhere else I found the TUFO XC2 to be silky smooth and as fast as one can hope for.
Where I found the Tufo to be very different than the GEAX tubulars was the damping characteristics – the very thing that leaves everyone amazed on board the GEAX tubulars. While the GEAX is the smoothest runner imaginable, making use of its full height for smoothing out the trail and being super lively – the TUFO felt a lot more damped, more like a very supple clincher tire. It still rides a exceptionally smooth and it suspends me from the ground like it were at least 2.2 but it is not the same sensation I had come to know from the GEAX tubulars. But this characteristic is not necessarily a disadvantage. With the GEAX tubulars I occasionally found myself pushing too hard hitting the rims violently over rough terrain (with no defects even when done on purpose – which is what tubulars are plain awesome for in race applications, but it leaves a sour taste with me emotionally banging my wheels like this). The TUFO in contrast have a more progressive feel to them, letting you know/feel more of how much it was indented by obstacles and announcing its limits more clearly – all at the price of sacrificing the ultimate suppleness of course.
For now I´d say the TUFO tubs are some really great performing racing tires that provide exceptional speed and control in a good variety of trail conditions – the Saguaro tubulars didn’t tolerate soft or slippery surfaces all that well. By ride sensation the TUFO tubulars are somewhere mid ground between a very supple clincher racing tire and the unrivaled suppleness master – the GEAX tubs.
Not sure how my verdict on these tires will look like in a few months but I am eager to find out as I gaining more and more confidence on these tires. I sure am having lots of fun on them.