Written by Alan Starrett Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:00
Well, cross is on for real now and new products for this season keep on coming. Clement was a big player in the cross tire market way back when and in fact was the original owner/creator of what is now the legendary Grifo tread. Clement got out of the tire business a while back and Challenge took over where they left off. Well, Clement is back and naturally they are back in cross.
You can thank Don Kellogg of Donnelly Sports for the resurrection of Clement as a brand. Don most recently was working with Challenge and was instrumental in developing the first new tread design for Challenge since they started making cross tires, the wet conditions Fango. Don had a desire to push cross tire development more so he struck out on his own.
With his decades of experience in the bike industry and his love of cyclocross he knows how to do it right. He licensed the Clement name to revive the history of the brand and developed two new tire designs under the Clement name. He got them in production just in time for cross season.
The first tire to hit the pipeline is the Clement Crusade PDX, a race level clincher designed to excel in the wetest of conditions. You may have seen some spy photos of it at various internet outlets since last fall. I even had the chance to see a pre-production prototype back in February. Although the proto was narrower than what the production was going to end up being I could see where Don was going with the tire.
Don was kind enough to send a set the full production tires recently to touch, feel and ride for myself. Although due in part to an unusually dry late summer here in New England I haven't had the opportunity to give them a proper wet weather test yet, I did have the chance to get some first impressions of them after a few hours of riding.
I was fairly impressed with the "out of the box" experience. The header card has a cool graphic design harkening back to the glory days of Clement and even though it will probably hit the trash when you remove the tire it looks pretty classy.
In the hand the tires feel pretty darn light and supple for a clincher. They weighed in at 320g on my scale and was consistant between the two tires. Listed width is 34mm and by my calipers I measured just over 33mm at 35psi on a Bontrager Race X-Lite wheel. Width will obviously vary by pressure and the rim it is mounted on so it is conceivable that the tire could still fall within the new 33mm UCI limit depending on your setup. It also depends on who is doing the measuring and with what tool. Of course this only applies to folks racing in a UCI Elite race. For the rest of us that race under the guidlines of the USCF it doesn't matter.
The tread compound is pretty soft and grippy. The tread pattern is wide open and has some aggressive side knobs that give the impression right away that these tires will function well in the wet conditions for which they were designed. The name in fact pays homage to the wet racing in the Pacific Northwest. Crusade for the legendary Cross Crusade Series held in and around Portland, Oregon and PDX, the designation for the Portland International Airport.
I mounted up the set with some latex tubes to make the most out of the 120tpi casing. The initial feel on the bike was surprising. I found them to roll a lot quicker than I expected given the aggressiveness of the tread. The arrangement of the tread down the center of the tire seems to create a fast rolling patch in straight line riding despite the soft tread. They were also more supple than I expected. Typically I find clinchers fairly stiff but the combination of the relatively high tpi casing and the latex tubes yielded a noticeably softer feel than most traditional clinchers. Granted, I ran them at 32-35 psi which is way lower than the recommended minimum of 45 psi posted on the sidewall. I can't imagine running any cross tire at 45 psi in a race but I am assuming there is some sort of liability thing resultant of our litigious society that makes it necessary to post a minimum pressure that high. Whatever the reason, I took responsibility for any negative outcome and ran the pressure where I thought it felt good.
The dry grass and gravel I tested them on didn't yield any significant impression one way or the other in regards to traction other than that there was plenty and I didn't feel negatively impacted with rolling resistance. When I tried to push its limits of off camber traction on grass though they really put a smile on my face. I ran these babies straight across a 45-50 degree slope on my practice course and they didn't slip a bit. In fact I could hold a dead straight line across the slope and I could turn up or down it at will. That fact alone made me really anxious to try these when the weather turns south.
Obviously I need to get some more time on them before I do a full product test report but my initial impressions would lead me to believe that if you run clinchers you should give this tire is a serious look for wet conditions and you may be suprised that you like it enough to run it all the time. Big Al
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