Tufo Heron Wheels & XC 5 29″er Tubulars: by c_g – First Impressions

OK, winter has taken a short break here in Germany and in this brief period we were able to get in a few good rides with the TUFO tubular set consisting of the Heron 29″er Carbon-wheels and the XC5 All conditions/ training tyres. For the specs of either and the intro article – simply go here.

In the short period, without a closed snow/ice cover, conditions have been soaking wet – the ground being saturated with water (much like sticky gum ),plenty of wet, (read slippery roots), and only occasionally firm ground. For that reason I won´t say tooo much about the wheels themselves, waiting for better testing grounds, but at a claimed 1400gm for the wheels and 600gm per tubular tire, they sure felt fast and quick to accelerate. But I do want to let you know how the XC5 tubular tires did in these extreme conditions and also how they compared to the seemingly similar WTB Moto 29″er which have been ridden just before under similar conditions (verdict here). As hinted, the appearance between the TUFO XC5 and the WTB Moto is somewhat similar, but by ride characteristics there sure are differences. While the Moto is a downsized Trail tire by character, the XC5 showed more XC genes in their behavior. Starting with their roll-ability, over to the traction and cornering limits, …. but let me take you through step by step.

On those rare sections with firm grounds and on the access roads the XC5 did surprise with an extraordinarily smooth ride – much more than the aggressive and open tread would make you think. This is something we have seen in every tubular tire so far, that the specific construction enables the casing to flex more freely, so that small vibrations and trail ripple are virtually being absorbed. There was one section of forestry road that has just been paved with fist size angular rocks and while I was expecting a really bumpy ride, the tubulars gave me such a smooth ride, that I stopped twice to check for low pressure. Amazing how they took away those small shocks that the Stereo´s suspension was too slow to react to.

In the case of the XC5 I found that the 2.0 casing required slightly higher pressures than the similarly sized WTB Moto with its more robust casing only – so I found my personal sweet spot about 0.25 bar (3.5 psi) higher than similar sized tires. This slight raise in riding pressure took away very little of the XC5´s smoothness, but kept away rim strikes much better than before. Not that rim strikes with tubular tires are that big of a deal. They are much less likely to lead to tire or rim defects than clinchers, so you can get away with lower pressures, but I personally just don´t like that „twang“ sound and so try to avoid it if at all possible.

In terms of traction and grip the XC5 also was particular. On the deep grounds and slippery mud that dominated the first period of this test I could discern that, despite the looks, this was not the XC5´s favorite terrain. Self cleaning for my earthy to sandy grounds has been excellent, but still I found myself paying more attention to stay in control than I did with the WTB Motos. Sections where I have simply gone wild with the Motos under similar conditions definitely required a more controlled pedal stroke and braking touch than before. This was more apparent on off camber situations and corners than it was in pure climbing or descending situations.

Interestingly this changed instantly when the ground permitted the XC5 to grip onto something. Be it the rare firm grounds or wet roots and rocks – all of a sudden the XC5´s grip seemed endless and I could attack anything – giving a truly superior trail tire feel. My personal explanation again lies in the supple casing and flex characteristics, that does very little to benefit in deep, soft grounds, but works miracles when there is something to cling to. Additionally the very round casing and non raised side knobs do dig in too little into deep grounds to be effective there.

Though brief, my experiences with the TUFO XC5 have been very intense, and somewhat special (speaking of the soggy trail conditions then). I see how the TUFO XC5 tubulars definitely extend the range of existing tubular 29″er MTB tires, which to this point have been exclusively dry condition tires, into more varied and wet conditions – and that in itself is something worth mentioning and commenting on positively. Still it needs to be noted that the XC5 is not so much a wet weather performer or even more a mud specialist (there are better tires like the MAXXIS Beaver, CONTINENTAL Mountain King II or WTB Moto out there, … though not as tubulars), but – as far as the very limited experiences allow us to say this – seems to be more a very smooth rolling and fast XC tire for more moderately wet conditions. Since winter took claim of my region once again, it has been time to swap back to my current winter combo of the AMERICAN CLASSIC Race tubeless 29″er wheels (first impressions here) and the winter specialist tire SCHWALBE Ice Spiker Pro. But winter can´t last forever and so more favorable testing grounds for the TUFO combo are just days or at worst a few weeks away.

Stay tuned not to miss my update on how the TUFO XC5 will do under the less extreme springtime conditions.