Monday, May 21, 2012

Box-o-Goodness: Part IV

I last reported on the Clement Tires here in early April. The X'Plor USH has been ridden more and on gravel, so here will be my final take on this 440gm, 35mm wide tire. (You can read my last update on this tire here.)

Gravel Dust Over X'Plor USH
Much like the X'Plor MSO, I felt that with more riding, the USH "broke in" more and started riding in a more supple manner. This also coincided with my feelings that higher air pressures were working better than they had before when the test started. In fact, my last ride was at the highest pressure I had used yet. (60psi)

While urban riding was fantastic with this tire, I needed to find out how it would do on our exceptionally chunky gravel in Iowa this spring. Urban rides had shown a good resistance to cutting and punctures, so the rocks didn't pose an issue in my mind in regards to flatting, but rather the narrow profile and lower volume of the tire, (than I normally run on gravel), had me concerned.

For whatever reason, Iowa has used a lot of freshly laid chunky gravel all over the state on the gravel roads this spring. Normally we see very little of this, but when we do, it causes issues with any sized tires, but especially with narrower ones. This was part of the reason I held off riding these for as long as I did, hoping for some faster, less deep and chunky gravel to test on.

Ride Impressions:

On the days I rode this tire on gravel the chunk was mostly in full effect, and allowing for that, I will say the USH held its own out there. Yes- it got deflected and there was some tendency to get washy, and cut into deeper gravel, but that would be exactly what I would have expected with any 35mm tire.

When I did find more "typical" gravel road conditions, the USH was right at home. It rolls fast and feels smooth. The control on sandy, finer gravel was enhanced by the flattish profile to the crown of the tire and to some degree, the aggressively "file treaded" outer sides of this tread pattern.

I'm still not sold on the diamond shaped blocks on the outer edges of the USH, but when you do hit real dirt, these do enhance cornering. So, let's say you do a bit of minimum maintenance road that requires cornering, or probably most likely, a single track session on buff trail- Then I can see these uniquely designed side areas of the USH as being worthwhile.  For my gravel riding, they are just odd.

They don't hurt anything though, so there you go. And the center tread is smooth, so road riding isn't affected by the diamond shaped file tread, and the road riding stays quiet with low rolling resistance.

Going Where Others Fear To Tread

The Clement X'Plor USH is a good tire for urban commuting, has a nicer feel the longer you ride it, and may be just the thing for gravel riding if your gravel is hard packed, free from loose spots, and has smaller rock on the road surfaces. At least in its currently offered 35mm width.

At 440 grams, it is a very reasonable weighted tire, has decent grip on cornering on pavement, hard packed dirt, and hard gravel pack. I would be very careful about doing any leaned over, high-ish speed cornering on the USH on typical gravel though, as the USH just doesn't have the volume or width to do that sort of thing. Loose, big, chunky gravel will ping this, (or any other tire this size), all over the road and loose dirt, sand, and deeper gravel will not be friendly to this tire either. Expect the USH to cut in and want to wash out in those types of road surfaces. The tire seems reasonably tough and puncture resistant though.

 In the end, I see the X'Plor USH as a specialist tire for touring on multi-surfaced routes, or for certain areas of the country where the rural roads are more suited to the USH's strengths. For a more "all around" gravel tire, the X'Plor MSO, with its tread pattern and bigger volume, seems more suited to use as a "go to" gravel grinder tire.

NOTE: Today QBP is expecting these tires to be in stock, so ask your local bike shop to check on availability.

Note: Clement sent these tires for evaluation and review at no charge. I am not being bribed, nor paid to give my opinions and thoughts on these tires. I will strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout this evaluation.

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