By Zack Vestal
I’ve probably spent less than 10 hours riding tubular tires. I’m not ashamed to admit that I come from a mostly mountain bike background. I’ve never wanted to bother with gluing tubular tires, despite the significant benefits in lighter weight and supple ride quality.
The few times that I have taken the time and care to glue tubulars, the sensation has always been as promised: fast, light, and smooth. But rather than learning to install them more efficiently and easily, I’ve kept looking for a clincher setup that mimics the ride of tubies. My experience with the Hutchinson Fusion 2 road tubeless tires was very positive, and I think that road tubeless will be the ideal progression for the future. But road tubeless is limited to clincher rims with an approved bead hook — and few of those are on the market.
The next best solution? Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX II tires, set up with Michelin Air Comp latex tubes. After riding this setup for almost four weeks, I think I have found clincher tire and tube nirvana — possibly the best-riding clincher tire-tube combo I’ve ever experienced.
Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX clincher tires are “open tubulars” — essentially, the thin, supple casing of a tubular without the inner tube sewn up inside, with base tape covering the stitches. Instead, the edges of the casing wrap around a Kevlar clincher bead. In fact, the Vittoria Web site descriptions of the Open Corsa Evo CX clincher and the Corsa Evo CX tubular are identical.
The Open Corsa EVO CX is built on a 320-threads-per-inch (tpi) Corespun polycotton casing. Thinner, more resilient thread permits the high tpi and eliminates the need for added Kevlar. The tires are hand built and include Vittoria’s Kevlar Si02 3D Compound with added silica for reduced rolling resistance and improved grip on wet roads. So-called PRB 2.0 puncture-resistant belting is layered in underneath the tread to help prevent flats and keep weight down.
The result is a 210-gram clincher tire with file tread and an extremely thin, supple casing wrapped onto a Kevlar bead, with a maximum pressure rating of 145 PSI.
Installing the tire (and the Michelin latex tube) goes just like any other clincher install — no issues or comments to report. I did use talcum powder to help keep the latex tube moving freely in the tire, but tire talc helps any clincher tire and tube install more easily and ride better.
Note that latex tubes are more porous than butyl tubes and will leak down overnight by up to 10-15 PSI.
This tire-tube combination feels absolutely phenomenal, period. I would go as far as to say it’s the best clincher tire and tube I have ever ridden. I can’t say I rode the Flagstaff climb in the 15-tooth cog instead of the 17, but the sensation of free, easy, added speed was undeniable. Not only was the ride incredibly smooth and supple, the rolling resistance seemed lower as well.
Cornering grip was also exceptional. I felt like I could rail corners as fast as I cared to, without worry. However, I did not have the chance to test this tire in the rain, so I can’t speak for grip on wet roads.
Durability is as expected for a 210-gram tire — after about 10 hours of riding, the file tread on the center contact patch of the back tire was visibly worn, but not entirely gone. More impressive to me is the lack of cuts or nicks in the tread. My riding included about 1.5 miles of uphill dirt road and a mile of dirt singletrack (part of a misguided “shortcut” back to the office after a lunch ride). Granted, I rode these segments gingerly, knowing I was on a very thin tire, but I’m pleasantly surprised at how well they held up.
A tire this expensive and lightweight should probably be reserved for races and special occasions. The supple ride and the sensation of speed are unbeatable in a clincher tire-tube combo. Latex tubes are harder to track down, but worth the effort to maximize the tubular-like nature of Open Corsa CX’s.
On the other hand, a great tire and tube can transform an everyday clincher wheelset into something special — and I think it’s worth the indulgence.