29 x 2.35
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An aggressive trail/enduro tire takes on a more nuanced handling feel thanks to its aggressive but less blocky side knobs and progressive siping. Vittoria’s Martello is a heavy but fast tire enduro racers and trail riders will love.
Basics: 29 x 2.35; graphene 2.0; progressive siping on knobs
Pros: Fast rolling, excellent cornering grip in a variety of conditions including loose, rocky, and hardpack
Cons: Heavy; not a super wide profile for a 2.35-inch tire
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The Martello Graphene 2.0 tire looks like it could be the bouncer at the rubber club. That’s because it started its life as a DH tire. It has evolved to its current form — an aggressive trail/enduro tire — over the course of a few years, during which time riders themselves have evolved as well. Take a look at a modern XC race course and you’ll see what I mean: It’s far more technical, and in turn, trail riding and enduro riding has gotten more aggressive as well.
So the Martello has anticipated that trend nicely. The chunky knobs with lots of siping indicate this tire is made to hold tight at high speeds, in any conditions. They’re soft, too, so they no doubt bite right in. I tested the 29 x 2.35-inch tire with Vittoria’s Graphene 2.0, both in the front and the rear, and it has rapidly become my favorite tire.
Not long ago Vittoria launched its line of Graphene 2.0 tires, and the bike world largely reacted with a collective, “say what?” As in, what exactly is graphene? And what makes graphene 2.0 any better or different? Do I need it in my tires?
You can read all about it right here, but this is the gist of it: Graphene is an allotrope (a different physical form) of carbon, and it basically fills in the gaps within the tire’s compound to create a stronger tire. Graphene 2.0 improves upon Vittoria’s initial Graphene compounds by pinpointing exactly where the graphene needs to be within the different materials in the compound, thereby improving rolling resistance, grip, and durability.
Beyond those quantifiers, I was curious how the Martellos handle cornering duties, both with and without Vittoria’s Airliner inside. In that sense, I was looking for a supportive sidewall that doesn’t collapse when pushed hard into corners. Generally, this can be accomplished by beefing up the sidewall, thereby adding weight to the tire.
And indeed the Martello is pretty heavy at 1,154 grams per tire. (UPDATE: Vittoria offers a trail version of this tire that weighs 960 grams.) With that weight popping up on the scales, I had hoped these tires would be rough-and-tumble durable. That is indeed the case. At low tire pressures, even over sharp rocks and other unkind terrain, the tires remained undamaged. The sidewalls provide plenty of support while cornering, which means the side knobs can really dig in, especially in dusty conditions common here in Colorado.
The siping on the knobs helps with that, too, allowing the knobs to bite and grab. That said, if you’re expecting the big, blocky knobs similar to that on popular Maxxis tires, the Martello doesn’t have them. You can really feel the transition from the center knobs to the side knobs on Maxxis’s wildly popular Minion tire, but less so here. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either: This creates a very consistent feel as the tire leans over, so the Martellos are very predictable in that sense.
My local trails largely demand a fast-rolling rear tire mated to a grippy, aggressive front tire. The Martello fits the bill nicely for the front tire requirements, and while I tested it in both the front and rear, I like it better up front. That is, until the late summer, when the trails get dusty and I need as much bite I can get, at the expense of low rolling resistance. The Martellos have proven ideal in these conditions. In fact, for as knobby as they appear, the tires roll pretty darn fast. By the end of the summer I was convinced this tire would be just fine as a year-round rear tire, too. Of course, we rarely get loamy or muddy conditions here, so that choice really comes down to the terrain you ride.
The only time I really craved those big blocky side knobs that the Martellos lack was a lift-service day at Winter Park. This terrain pushes the limits of a trail/enduro tire, so let that contextualize this critique. But at extremely high speeds, there were times in hard cornering situations where I leaned the bike over and expected that blocky support. The Martellos finesse from the center tread to the side treads more subtly, so I was taken by surprise on early runs. I was used to it by the end of the day, but it did take some adjusting.
The only concern I had was premature wear, since the compound does seem to be quite soft. But after half a summer of miles on them, the tread is only slightly worn, far less so than I had expected for a tire that feels so soft. I’m willing to bet I could still get plenty of life out of these tires over the winter and even into next spring.
Ultimately, the Martello has become my tire of choice for trail riding here on the front range of Colorado. While I can’t speak for its performance in mud and loamy conditions, I can tell you that it excels in loose, dusty conditions and rolls faster than the tread profile will have you believe. They’re currently mounted to my everyday bike and I have no intention of taking them off anytime soon.