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Panaracer is offering a new tire this year specific to soft conditions. Aptly named the SC( Soft Conditions), both the tread pattern and the rubber itself are designed to grip in sand, slop and other soft conditions while maintaining the ability to hook up on rocks and hardpack when stumbled upon.
Available in an AC (all-mountain) and XC (cross-country), the former offers a larger casing with slightly taller knobs over its narrower, slightly faster-rolling lighter brother.
While we haven’t had a chance to ride these tires into the ground, the first few hot laps on our pair of SC AMs were enough to warrant a mention.
PANARACER SC AM
Sizes: 2.1 inch, 2.25 inch (tested)
First and foremost, follow IMBA’s rules of the trail and avoid riding in muddy, wet conditions that would cause trail damage. Okay, off the soap box. These tires are a great balance between a true spike-style mud tire that’s horrid in dry conditions, and a fast-rolling tire that offers no hope of staying upright when out of its designated element.
Going from slimy, wet trail to dry sections consisting of embedded rock and hardpack wasn’t an issue at all on the Panaracer SC. As for sloppy turns, I found myself literally chuckling at how well they kept traction while truly coming in hot. And they self-cleaned extremely well in everything but clay-based mud, which definitely helped with overall traction in all conditions.
On bone dry trail, these tires performed quite predictably. Nothing spectacular by any means, as the mud-friendly knobs are not the fastest of rollers. But considering the design is intended for other trail conditions, they don’t require swapping out just because the trails dry.
As a compromise to a true mud tire, the SC doesn’t dig in quite as well as something like a Maxxis Medusa. There were a couple of steep, slimy climbs where finding traction took a little effort, as well as a few deep bogs that had the SC spinning and sliding. But with the overall performance on what’s considered sloppy trail conditions in Colorado, I can’t think of a better tire to run.
Unfortunately, the SC isn’t recommended by Panaracer to be run tubeless. As usual, I threw recommendations out the window and tried to set ours up tubeless, but couldn’t get the beads to set. And without writing an entire tech piece on setting tubeless tires, I’ll simply say that it may be possible to set the SC up tubeless, but now I’m comfortable not recommending it as well.
All in all, the SC AM is a fantastic tire for exactly what Panaracer states it’s for. We obviously don’t have the resources to test in all regions, but for winter/spring riding in Colorado, I’ll forgive the non-tubeless stigma and run these until our trails dry out for the summer — or until I start getting flats again, whichever comes first.