Tubular Test Verdict – part 2: TUFO XC2 PLUS Tubular 29″er Tires: by c_g

When it comes to opinions, tubulars will always provide plenty of grounds for polarization. Some love them, some hate them (… and most have never tried them ;)).

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I have done a long test series on the GEAX Saguaro 29″er tubulars (mounted on more or less standard alloy rimmed tubular wheels) and in 2010, so if you want to enter the HOWs and WHYs on tubulars, you may find some useful information there. No doubt tubulars take more attention to mount, are not easily changed and are basically non-repairable on the trail, but my testing has also shown that they hold some real world advantages that are hard to deny. In the case of the GEAX tires that has been the extremely low rolling resistance and smooth as can be ride feel and puts them ahead of anything out there in clincher tires (roadies may know what I am talking about).

For 2011 the Czech tubular specialist TUFO has introduced their variable conditions racing pattern XC2 PLUS in a 29″er version. For the tech intro on these tubular tires, see here.

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In brief: The TUFO tubulars are true to size 2.0” and really light ~ 550 g per tire. By their base construction, they allowed the use of the TUFO double sided gluing tape, which definitely is the simplest way to mount tubulars and (when working correctly) does away with all trouble generally associated with tubulars. With the GEAX tubs the tape wouldn’t create any reliable bond, but here, on the TUFO XC2 Plus it performed exactly as advertised and held the tires in place with no issues whatsoever. Mounting has been a thing of 10 minutes and they are instantly rideable – great stuff. The TUFO tubs are 220 TPI but feel a lot stiffer due to the vulcanizing production method. Thanks to that they hold the pressure perfectly over weeks and are near perfect in trueness.

For my first ride impressions on them see here.

Mounted on the AX-Lightness/Tune wheels wheels (see verdict on them here) they have seen a lot of use and so here are my final RIDE IMPRESSIONS:

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The TUFO XC2 Plus tubulars are racing tires, no doubt about that. ROLLING RESISTANCE of the TUFO XC2 PLUS is great. The tires smooths out trail chatter to a very high degree. Even at higher pressures it felt smoother than many tires of higher volume. It does not match the GEAX Saguaro´s ultimate smoothness, but is superior to all but the smoothest clincher tires I have ridden.

When riding the GEAX Saguaro tubulars – it was breathtaking how they simply sucked up any obstacle. But when the obstacles became too big, they would blow through their “travel” and hit the rim pretty hard – more mentally hard to take, than a real issue as it is near impossible to flat them (believe me, I have tried :)). The TUFOs provided a high level of vibration and trail chatter damping but would feel more “progressive”, giving me a more direct feedback from the ground – probably best compared to a good 2.2” clincher tire.

The XC2 Plus´ almost paddle-like arrangement of chevrons and the Silica enhanced rubber compound provides plenty of GRIP and TRACTION on a good variety of trail conditions. Much better than its racing size would suggest. This trait seems to be common with tubulars, which simply conform to the ground better, and as such make better use of the little contact they have. When things turn wet or slippery, the XC2 Plus still provided really good braking grip and propulsion traction, which gets assisted by the tires excellent self cleaning properties.

Talking about CORNERING the TUFO XC2 Plus would do very well on dry to moderate grounds and pretty good on wet grounds. The slightly oval cross section favors more aggressive lean angles when cornered hard. Luckily the XC2 plus would announce its limits in a well mannered fashion, so that the rider can react, taking it into a controlled slide or back up.

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Just like any mini knobby – wet roots and rounded rocks, were not their favorite grounds and took some caution when ridden aggressively, but lower pressures bring some benefit. There simply are too few and small side knobs to hold on to anything aggressively.

Tire pressures can be really low (I ran them as low as 1.3 bar without real problems, though they get a bit squirmy), but my “pressure sweet spot” was anywhere from 1.5 to 1.8 bar.

VERDICT: After having ridden the TUFO XC2 Plus tubulars for lots of rides in 2011, I can confirm that they are some really great performing racing tires that make good use of the tubular benefits. They provide exceptional grip and traction on various trail conditions, a smoothness and speed that is rivaled only by few clincher tires, and really good control – all relative to racing type tires of comparable size. The XC2 Plus is a bit more versatile than the GEAX Saguaro in that it tolerated soft or slippery surfaces better but it doesn´t provide the same level of suppleness and vibration damping. It is lighter though.

In sum the TUFO tubulars to me fall somewhere mid ground between a supple clincher racing tire and the unrivaled suppleness master – the GEAX tubulars.

What really impressed me was how precise the TUFO tubularss are produced and that they held the air pressure so well, plus the real world benefit of it working well with the TUFO double sided tape, which takes away most of the hassle associated with tubulars.

Just like before with the GEAX tubulars, I never managed to induce any defect or snakebite on the TUFO tubulars, despite multiple hard hits, so I can openly claim a very good reliability and puncture resistance.

RIDE ON,

c_g