Posted by Alder Martz on 25th Sep 2019

The Best Cyclocross Tires For Every Situation

Tire choice is paramount and nowhere is this fact more self-evident than when riding and racing offroad. Pairing the right tire and the right width with the right pressure for the right conditions is an art form. While this optimum combination takes some time and tinkering to achieve, here is our review for the best cyclocross tires.

There are a lot of variables in cyclocross. It's held in all sorts of conditions. There are different rim types that use different kinds of tires. In order to wade through all this, the tires have been put into three tire type categories; tubular, clincher, and tubeless clincher as well as three condition categories; all-round, wet, and dry. Tire widths have been held at the UCI standard of 33/32mm but might be available in wider options.

All Rounder - for those who don't want to change tires with each new weather report.

Tubular - Challenge Grifo

The Grifo is a tried and true all-round tubular. It's tread consists of low profile, fast rolling knobs that are spaced out enough to shed mud. The addition of side knobs on the edge of the tire continues to provide grip when laying into a corner. The Grifo's soft casing and high TPI (threads per inch) eliminates the jolting feeling of the tire rolling underneath you when running lower pressure. Bonus: also available in clinchers so you can use the same tires in racing as well as training. 

ClincherVittoria Terreno Mix

Similar to the Grifo, the Terreno Mix starts with very tight, directional knobs in the center of the tread. This reduces rolling resistance on hard packed surfaces and straight lines. As you move further toward the edge, the tread changes into different shaped nubs and dots that are spaced further apart, to encourage mud shedding. A lowering in tire pressure, softer ground, or rolling to one side or the other brings this tread into play and immediately ups the level of grip. 

TubelessSchwable X-One Allroad

Although the X-Ones feature the least impressive looking tread, this certainly does not take away from the tire's performance. The X-One features two sets of roundish knobs. The first set runs down the center, are smaller and closer together (sensing a pattern here?). The second group consist of larger, different shaped, more spaced out, and aggressive knobs along the side. While the tire is prone to holding onto some dirt (especially the Carolina clay we have around here) along the center, the side knobs quickly shed any muck, maintaining the tire's grip and cornering abilities.

Wet/Mud - for the days that require a post-race bike and rider hose down.

TubularDonnelly Clement PDX

The PDX, like the cyclocross courses of Portland, revels in mud. It's tooth-like tread bites into the slop, finding grip in the slippery-est of conditions. Unlike traditional cotton tubulars, the PDX uses synthetic sidewalls and a tubeless system, making it more durable and capable of being repaired with sealant. The tread features a variety of irregularly shaped, very tall knobs, designed to find traction whenever you need it. They are widely spaced for mud shedding, except the centerline, which is aligned for faster rolling. Due to the PDX's use of synthetic sidewalls, riders will find themselves needing to lower their tire pressure more than usual to fully maximize the grip the tires offer.

ClincherChallenge Limus

When Mathieu Van der Poel and Sven Nys choose Limus tires for muddy european races, you know this is a tire that performs from the starting gun to the finish line. Large, deep, puzzle piece tread provide maximum grip for maximum confidence in the slippery moments. Challenge's 320 TPI casing and flat resistant PPS layer only add to the comfort and confidence over rough sections. While the abundance of nubs give plenty of bite, the lack of spacing (compared to other tires) does make the Limus hold on to super sticky mud. If that's not an issue, they are available in tubulars and tubeless as well.

Tubeless - Donnelly Clement BOS

Riders from Boston will always claim they have the muddiest, hardest, nastiest races. Perhaps that is why Clement named its even more aggressive mud tire after the city. Instead of the PDX's closely aligned centerline of tread, the BOS turned them sideways, creating a tire that digs in like a tractor pull at the end of its run. Buttressed side knobs complete a tire whose sole purpose is to grab on to the ungrabbable. Also available in tubular.

Dry/Sand - hot or cold, dry courses can benefit from specific tires

TubularChallenge Dune

Undoubtedly a tire made for fast, dry conditions, the Challenge Dune's tread is a diamond shaped pattern, popular with gravel tires. However, Challenge placed aggressive knobs along the far edges of the tread that will bite into any corners, should you venture that far over. This simple, yet effective balance, and smooth transition between low rolling resistance and grip gives the Dune an edge over many other fast rolling tires.

ClincherDonnelly Clement LAS

Similar to the Dune, the Clement LAS use a diamond shaped pattern to tackle dry and sandy conditions. The knobs on the side of the tire are the same design as the mud loving PDX, guaranteeing the tires will find plenty of grip when leant over. The 120 TPI casing is astoundingly supple, conforming to the ground and finding traction at a much higher PSI than other clinchers. 

Tubeless - Terreno Dry

Lower profile tread and larger blocks on the side is a common profile for dry cyclocross tires. Vittoria took it a step further with the Terreno Dry, adding a unique, angled fish-scale tread that rolls fast but bites in when loaded under braking and cornering pressure. The tire grips everything from loose gravel to sand to dirt and grass.

Finally, keep in mind that tires do not come in sets and can be mixed and matched to give the rider even more control over the feel of the bike. At times, it can feel like too much! If in doubt, choose an all-rounder and experiment with different tire pressures in all kinds of conditions. Practice makes perfect and nothing can match some skills drills in a field. As if you need another excuse to get out and ride!