October 09, 2011

Challenge Grifo and Fango Cross Tire Review

This fall I have been racing with Challenge tires. Last year, we were post-race socializing with one of the local racers who was having a very good season. He said that his Challenge tires were giving him at least 5 positions in a race compared to his previous tires. I was using the Tufo Flexus Primus tires and thought they were pretty decent, although I had never tried the Challenge tires. Now, being a curious fellow...perhaps make that a fellow who was curious...I thought I should give them a try. Everyone knows I could use 5 positions in any cross race I have ever raced. At least 5. Eight or nine would be almost optimal.

Well, how do they perform? I have to admit that the Challenge tires are clearly superior to the Tufo tires. I definitely get better grip and seldom slide out. Even if I slide a bit, it seems easy to bring the bike back back under control and continue merrily on my way. In one race known for its steep technical off-camber turns, I was using the Fango in back and was regularly sliding on one 180 corner where the ground was torn up. But the slides were controlled which is unusual for me. I have only slid out once this year, which is unprecedented for me. I have had some very good races on the Challenge tires although my power meter says I earned them. I do find that the tires simply seem to roll faster than the Tufos at the same tire pressure - noticeably faster. They are a bit narrower which helps in the thick grass we have on some courses. I'm sure the Dugasts are a notch better again, but the price/durabilty ratio seems to be unfavourable from all accounts. Price definitely is an issue for the Dugasts.

In terms of Fango vs Grifo, I find the Grifo works well for all the courses to date, except the very technical one mentioned above where I put on the Fango in back. Of course we haven't yet had to race on frozen ground with the top layer thawing out slightly or on snow/slush. When that happens, I will put on the Fangos front and back as I expect the extra rubber on the sides will be very helpful.

Now there is no doubt that the Tufos are durable tires but they don't provide the traction the Challenges do. They slide on grass where the Challenges grab and I can make it up dead grass slopes first try with the Challenges that I could not with multiple tries with the Tufos. The Tufos are definitey not as supple which everyone tells us is the wholly grail for traction. But I think the lugs are also a bit too close together so they don't dig as well in the grass. They are great training tires as they last a long time, but they won't be my race tires again for our courses which are mostly grass - not rocks, etc. By the way, I have bottomed out on the Challenge tires on a number of occasions with no pinch flats. Although our courses are mostly grass, we have lots of roots and various types of concrete, wood and asphalt lips we hit. I normally run them at about 28-32 lbs depending on tree roots etc. and I weigh 155 lbs. I have a couple of hundred km on them, mostly racing and riding to/from races. I haven't had any issues with the tread separating from the casing as some have noted. They are dirtier looking after a bit of use if that is a problem for you. It's not for me.

So I've learned my lesson. I won't pronounce these the best cross tires ever. But they are the best cross tires I have tried and are pretty reasonably priced. They are my "go to" tires now. Do I get 5 positions out of them? Maybe I do.

Rear tire on the left - only a tiny amount of wear
November 12, 2011 Update - another season over.... Definitely my best season and I ain't getting any younger. I think the tires are partly responsible for that. They roll faster and grip better than the Tufos, no doubt about that. Crash rate was almost non-existent this year. And I had no issues with tire construction at all - no tread separation that others have complained about. Three tires got the call up - two grifos and one fango. The fango only got to race once, the grifos did the other 10. The back grifo has only minor cosmetic wear. The front is good as new. There was also about 4-5 hours training on the grifos.

The verdict - my tufo tires are only trainers now. Good tires for bombing around and they wear like iron, but not up to the "Challenges" of racing. The Challenge tires aren't used for much training as they wear faster (until I wear out my Tufos). That's why they grip so well. No training that includes pavement for these babies. They are my racing tires from now on. And they are cheaper than the tufos.


LiamHallam said...

I love the Grifo's although I only use the Grifo Pro Cyclocross Tire which I find is ok. I'm stepping up to the more supple Grifo for next year as making the move over to tubs too.

Do you find traction an issue in muddy turns on the Grifo? I know lots of riders who feel it is an issue- maybe i'm not going fast enough!

BikeHabit said...

Actually, the city won't let us race if its wet. So this isn't an issue for me. But I expect muddy conditions would warrant a more aggressive tread.