Gear

Reviewed: Challenge Chicane is not your average file tread

Introduced last year, Challenge's file tread is a hybrid that enjoys extra cornering grip thanks to knobs borrowed from the Limus

You've got to lean in to make the Chicane's side knobs bite, and when you do, you're rewarded with confident cornering. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
You’ve got to lean in to make the Chicane’s side knobs bite, and when you do, you’re rewarded with confident cornering. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
With a low-profile, textured center, the Chicanes roll fast, especially on paved sections of course. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
With a low-profile, textured center, the Chicanes roll fast, especially on paved sections of course. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Though they aren't a perfect choice for every type of weather condition, the Chicanes are very versatile. And very fast. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Though they aren’t a perfect choice for every type of weather condition, the Chicanes are very versatile. And very fast. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com

I glued these Challenge Chicane tubular tires to the wrong wheelset.

In the August heat, as I looked ahead to cyclocross season, I assumed that I wouldn’t like these file tread tires enough to have them on my nicest, carbon fiber-est wheels. I was wrong.

Other file treads I’ve ridden in years past have been squirrelly. In Colorado, files are scary, especially when you’re racing on dusty, loose, even gravel-strewn tracks in the early season (or sometimes all season).

However, the Chicanes offer meaty side knobs that allow them to punch above their weight when you lean into corners.

The side knobs are actually taken directly from Challenge’s Limus mud tire. They are tall, large, and firm. And Challenge isn’t the only tire manufacturer to take this approach to building a fast tire that can hold its own in the corners. Dugast recently introduced the Pipisquallo, which pairs Pipistrello file tread with Rhino side-knobs.

Between the course tape, the Chicane delivers all the speed that you’d expect from a file tread. But when you hit the corners, the difference is immediately apparent. The tires will release a little as you initiate the turn, then the large, supportive side-knobs kick in and offer great cornering traction, so long as you commit.

In fact, at times, the Chicane seemed to corner better than full-knob tires, perhaps due to the absence of intermediate knobs, which sometimes feel squirmy on hardpack.

Like most other file treads, the Chicane was terrific on grass courses and even better on off-cambers, due to the added treads on the side. Challenge’s supple 300tpi casing on the Pro Team model I tested also contributed to the tire’s grip at low pressure, which meant that they were also confident in sand pits.

And yet, there is no such thing as a perfect all-around cyclocross tire. The Chicane has its limits. On loose steep pitches, the file tread was still … well, a file tread. When powering up climbs on loose dirt, the minimal center tread eventually lets go. Similarly, braking power is greatly reduced in those conditions.

I also came to grief on a grassy course after some sprinklers turned on for the last few laps, making the surface wet and greasy. Races can be won with smart gambles. That day, I probably would have picked a different pair of tires, if I had another chance.

If you’re looking ahead to a fast, relatively flat ‘cross race, without a cloud on the horizon, the Chicane is a great tire to have in the quiver. However, it’s probably not the only tire you should have for the weekend fun.

Price: $115
Weight: 335g per tire (claimed)
Pros: Great speed, reliable cornering grip, supple casing, far more versatile than the average file tread.
Cons: Outgunned on steep, loose hills, not a safe bet when there’s a chance of rain.