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Gravel Gear

Reviewed: Hutchinson Toro CX tires handle the pressure

The French tire maker successfully borrows from the mountain bike experience with its cyclocross offering

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Hutchinson is not concerned with traditional cyclocross tire design. The company is so unconcerned, in fact, that the Toro CX tread pattern is a copy of its identically named mountain bike tire. But that might be a good thing.

To many, cyclocross is religion. And a bit like the Bible’s Chronicles, a true zealot can tell you how the original Clement Grifo of the 1960s begat the Dugast Typhoon and Challenge Grifo, which begat the Clement MXP, all with the traditional chevron/arrow tread pattern.

Perhaps it’s good for a company like Hutchinson to inject fresh ideas into a world sometimes stifled by years of hallowed tradition. Can the Toro better more classic offerings?

The details

We tested the tubeless Protect’Air Max clincher and tubular versions of the Toro CX. They share the same blocky, low-profile tread pattern and modestly-sized casing, measuring 32mm wide, true to the 32mm label.

The tires seem undersized in a marketplace that has settled on 33mm for all but the most esoteric conditions. Alongside more girthy offerings from Clement or Specialized, the Toros look narrow.

Although Hutchinson claims that the Toro is a mud tire, we feel its shallow knobs make it more analogous to intermediate tires, like the Clement MXP or the Specialized Tracer.

The tubular Toro is slightly lighter than the Tracer, at 410 grams per tire, compared to 420g. As for the clinchers, Hutchinson saves 45g over the 2Bliss Ready Tracer, weighing 320g.

At $119 per tubular, the Toro is not quite as expensive as a $130 Clement MXP, but it is $19 more than a Tracer. It’s not a budget tire, but Hutchinson can be credited for avoiding the astronomical prices fetched by more exotic offerings. The tubeless clincher is more expensive relative to its competition at $89 per tire.

The ride

I rolled out with trepidation, having spent most of this season on fatter cyclocross tires. Would Colorado’s rough, loose terrain be too much for tires that paradoxically combined throwback width with modern tread?

Happily, the soft rubber compound and firm, short knobs provide confident and predictable cornering. Hutchinson bills this as a tire that’s suited for loose or muddy terrain, and they’re half right. Certainly, the knobs aren’t tall enough to compete with dedicated mud tires, but the tire’s flat knobs are reliable when things get loose. Gravelly, dry conditions — often the bane of ’cross racers — are less frightening than usual, and grass, puddles and even a bit of fresh snowfall are also no problem.

Under pressure

A wizened cyclocross veteran once opined that tire pressure is more important than tread pattern. That may be true, and the best way to take advantage of low pressure is with tubulars or tubeless.

The tubular Toros glue up with little hassle and run fairly true on the wheel. The 190 tpi casing isn’t particularly supple, but we chalk that up to the narrower width. Tire pressures in the mid-20psi range were fine for racing but not very cushy.

Tubeless clinchers have yet to catch on in ’cross, but the Toro is one of the best yet. We converted a set of standard wheels with Stan’s rim strips and Orange Seal sealant and were pleased with the setup’s reliability. It’s inadvisable to risk super low pressures as the tires squirm on berms and rollers, but tubeless is clearly superior to an equivalent tube/tire clincher setup. On a particularly spirited trip down a local rocky trail (usually best on a mountain bike) we hit the rim repeatedly with no loss of pressure. Try that with tubes.

Tubeless ’cross tires are less of a tubular facsimile and more of a way to avoid pinch flats, save a little weight, and run slightly lower pressure (psi in the 30s) for compliance and traction. For the best performance, tubulars are still required.

True to the trail

We probably can’t convince you to try the Toros if you’re baptized in the Dugastian faith, with a Typhoon shrine in your workshop.

However, those who find their faith on singletrack might be more open to concepts like mountain bike-style tread pattern and tubeless tires. Unfortunately, the Toro is held back a bit by its narrow casing and expensive pricing for the clincher option.

Pros: Great tread pattern, grippy rubber. Tubeless option is easily set-up, and it is reliable. Reasonably priced tubular.
Cons: Too narrow for rough courses, clincher version is expensive.
The Bottom Line: The Hutchinson Toro CX is (nearly) a great setup for mountain bikers who don’t like tubes and want a consistent all-rounder. Just know that you won’t get the same compliant ride offered by a wider 33c tire.