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I realize this thread pops up every year in one form or another, but here goes. I just took the plunge and bought my first set of tubular wheels (Major Tom rims; Ultegra hubs). Now, of course, I have to figure out what to put on them.

I am in Colorado, where in an average year 75%-80% of our races are dry, although the the wet ones are more likely to fall late in the year (i.e., the more important ones, at least to me).  80%+ of our courses are dirt, usually hard pack with varying amounts of kitty litter on top.  

My initial thinking is to put a file tread on back and an all-rounder on front.  On the occasional sloppy day, I can swap the rear for a mud clincher.  My thinking is that the lower rolling resistance of the file tread will provide more benefit in the back, and in the mud that's also where I'll most need the reliable traction of tall knobs to keep me moving forward. 

Before I spend and glue, I would love some input.  If you have any thoughts on this as a general approach, and/or on specific tires, I'd appreciate hearing it.


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File treads are great till they aren't. The risk involved in running them is rarely outweighed by the speed gained.

If you want to run a similar set up I'd run a Clement PDX up front and then either same in rear or a Griffo.  Maybe the MXP read if the mismatch bothers you although I've heard nothing about that tire yet.

You're right, you want the more treaded tire up front but you want more than you are currently thinking about in the rear.

Also, are goat heads an issue there? My boss in in ABQ so I'm more sensitive to that but I don't know how common they are in your area.

Thanks, Chris.  I've been using PDX clinchers as all-rounders the past two years, and am biased towards using Clement tubulars (well, except maybe for the price).  Would you use the set up above for everything, or still switch out to a rear mud clincher on soupy or snowy days?

Are there any file-tread fans willing to add their $.02?

Goatheads are a problem on several of our courses, although its gotten better over the past several years, because of better locations and layouts.  I've also found that a well-Stans'ed tube will withstand a goat head or two, and expect the same is true with tubulars.

I agree with Chris on the file tread. An all around tread like the Clement MXP, Challenge Grifo, or Vittoria XG is your best bet on the back. You'll appreciate the traction the tread gives you in the "kitty litter" as you put it. For that matter, those treads will work well up front too.

Thanks, C-Note.  Between the two of you, and the glowing review I found on, I'm leaning MXP.


Good luck with that. You've gotten some good advice that I tend to agree with. I'll add to it by saying definitely consider your bike handling skills, distaste for crashing or slipping out. While a file tread may be faster on pavement and hardpack without kitty litter, it's not necessarily faster on loose surfaces when you need traction or bumpy surfaces (when pressure makes way bigger of a difference). If I had to choose one set of treads for the whole season, I'd probably go aggressive, knowing I'll often have the best chance of running corners faster, staying upright, maintaining traction and also have a longer-lasting tread! I actually like the Fango and PDX as front tires for universal conditions. See Cyclocross Magazine's  slew of tire reviews in the print/digital mags too. 

Also, Clement and Tufo offer the ability to better seal with sealant, so if you have goat heads, you can add some sealant and avoid punctures more than with the other tires that actually have latex or butyl innertubes. The trade off is a bit of suppleness though, especially when compared to high tpi casing tires like Dugast, FMB, and Challenge Team Edition tires. Not having an inner tube also means it's harder to pinch the tire too, but tubulars are pretty hard to pinch.

Lastly definitely consider your budget - expect to go through a few tires during the season, so if you can only afford $220 or so for the season's tires, I'd recommend getting four more affordable tires rather than two and blow your budget. You'll even want to train on them a bit, and towing another tire with you is insurance for getting home (a super cheap road tubular also works!).

Good luck!

Thanks, Andrew.  I'd venture that by cat 4 standards my bike handling has looked pretty good; I'll find out this fall how it holds up in cat 3.  And I guess I need to add except for wet off cambers, which I tend to flail on a bit.  I don't mind some rear wheel drift, but don't cope so well with the front starting to go.

Who knows, maybe I'll go MXP rear and PDX front, and bring a rear mud clincher to races, just in case.  If anyone's got a new or lightly used MXP or PDX lying around they'd like to sell, drop me a line . . . 


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