The rear tyre of my Boardman FS Pro mountain bike was worn out, with virtually no tread in the middle. It might seem as if this wouldn’t matter so much in dry, summer conditions but it does. In north west England we can get mud after summer rain. Also you need grip at any time of year for steep climbing on all kinds of surfaces. I’d noticed the rear end feeling uneasy as I leaned into corners, still on the central portion of the tyre, so it was time for something new.
I’d read a tyre review in a magazine, MBR, but looking on line it was clear that stock levels after the Covid crisis remain low. Bikes have been selling like crazy and with many brands you’ll find yourself on a waiting list. Plenty of people are reviving older bikes so the situation with spares like tyres is no better. The best thing about this for me is that I expect many riders to lose interest subsequently so I’m hoping there’ll be plenty of second hand bargains in the future.
I found a Vittoria Mota 27.5″ X 2.35″ tyre on Ebay at a good price and read some reviews. It was praised for grip but also for puncture resistance. I still use inner tubes so pinch punctures when I hit a rock are a worry but the Mota was said to have tough sidewalls to help resist this. It arrived and the first thing I noticed when I unpacked it was the weight. It really is a significant hunk of rubber, way heavier than the Continental Trail King which it was replacing. The treads are big squarish blocks with 2 or 3 grooves or sipes in them. The worry with big tread blocks is that they may not dig in to a loose surface as well as smaller, sharper blocks so I was anxious to find out.
The tyre had been a tight fit, probably because it was expected to be used tubeless, and I inflated it to 27psi as I had done with the Continental. Tubeless I could use a lower pressure with the hope that I’d get more grip but 27 seems about right with a tube. I decided to try the tyre at Birkacre because it has plenty of fairly smooth and flat corners where you can reach the limit of adhesion. I’d be able to compare it to the Continental which is still fitted to the front wheel. The first test once I left the tarmac was a steep, rocky step up. I approached it a little off balance but powered through and the tyre coped well with no hint of wheel spin. Later on a diagonal fallen tree trunk the tyre skipped over easily and I was on my way to Birkacre.
I tried a 3 corner downhill combination, which I’ve ridden for 30 years! I rode around the short loop several times and found the rear to be gripping very well. The surface is hard packed with some loose, fine gravel on top. The front end was definitely reaching the limit first but this is not the end of the matter. I tried to lean on the handlebars more with body weight to increase front end grip but I came away with the conclusion that the Mota outperformed the Trail King by a good margin. It also feels very sure footed under power so I imagine that it will climb very well on a loose and steep ascent.
I used a series of berms nearby for several downhill runs and here I made sure that I pushed my weight away from the bike as I turned around the bankings to improve grip. Again the tyre was right on the money. After my first test I conclude that it will do the job well, even in mud where the Continental Trail King was often a little out of it’s depth. I’ll have to see if the extra weight is a disadvantage on really steep climbs but so far it’s looking good. I’ll have to think hard about whether it would suit use as a front tyre.