Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Specialized shows new cyclocross tubs

pic by James Huang for bikeradar (click pic for orig article)
So just hours after I posted yesterday's moan about how I didn't feel confident on my Vittoria XM tubs, I discovered that Specialized are in the early stages of producing their own cyclocross tubulars over on bikeradar.com and cyclingdirt. Trust me, this is brilliant news for amateur cyclocross racers.
It would seem that manufacturers are finally getting annoyed with having to buy their sponsored riders £500 worth of new tubulars every year from just one manufacturer — Dugast. The quality of those Dugasts might be good, but a company like Specialized wouldn't have taken kindly to Dugast's old-world delivery times, pricing and the fact that the tubs come unfinished — you have to seal the sidewalls yourself, and even then, you can only expect to get one season from a pair of Rhinos before the sidewalls rot. How hard can building tubulars be? If a one man show in Holland can dominate the market with a very idiosyncratic product, surely a company with Specialized's design, feedback and financial clout can surely do a better job?
So Specialized entering the market is good for me, and probably you too if you're in any way ambitious on the cross course. The main reason Dugast has cemented its position at the head of the market is the tread pattern of the Rhino — it's aggressive 3mm deep central tread digs in providing traction both for driving forward and for not sliding out sideways. Its one problem is that it clogs. Looking at the Terra tub above, it's very much inspired by the Rhino, but with a more open tread pattern to better shed mud. The 33mm thing is practically irrelevant: yeah, that's as wide as you're allowed to go by UCI rules, but such is the variability in tubs that Specialized has had to err on the side of caution and make these slightly narrower than 33mm to ensure they all squeeze into the commissaire's calipers.
pic by James Huang for bikeradar (click pic for orig article)
The second tread is called the Tracer and is based on the Renegade MTB tyre. I'm yet to try the MTB version of this tyre, but Burry Stander and Christophe Sauser have been racing it all season in mixed conditions, so the tread pattern itself is likely to be pretty good. My only thinking is that you can't lean a cross bike over the way you can an MTB, so that shallow tread might be limited to dryer conditions. We'll see. There's also a file tread design, but I'm not that interested in them — check out the video below for more info on them.
The Terra is undoubtedly the tread that will be most exciting to UK riders who for a long time have had a choice of Rhino's or, err, nothing (and thanks to the extortionate cost and lack of availability of Rhinos, very often chose nothing). What's also exciting is that Specialized is entering the sport in such a serious way — choice is always a good thing, and up till now we haven't had any. With any luck, it is the start of a trend, with more big companies coming into the market in the near future. Cross is on the up, and a great way of keeping your brand in the public eye during the winter months, especially now the sport is growing so quickly at a grassroots level (the people who actually buy this stuff). Personally, I don't think Specialized will be the last to challenge the dominance of the european tubular industry — exciting times all round.

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chrisD said...

that Terra, looks very good indeed. come on newshound get us an exclusive ;-)

Dave Haygarth said...

No mention at all about TPI or sidewall materials which is probably the biggest factor, given that "other treads are available" out there. There's a gap in the market for (truly) sustainable sidewalls and readily available stocks.

Do they bunny hop well then, Todd?

Andy Waterman said...

There is mention of it on the bikeradar article - it's 260tpi which is the same as Dugast I think.

andytrailfettler said...

Been well chuffed with my Tufo Flexus Primus's - have worked well in most conditions. Not as supple as Dugasts but can be run very low and have been nice and durable.

Think i'm going to get some of the Flexus Cubus's for the stickier races coming up.

Liking the look of the Terra though.