I ride road and MTB, but want to add a cyclocross bike and do long distance, all day adventures which would include 50/50 (road/off-road). I am not interested in racing, but do want to participate in events, etc. My question: What are the best tires to run on a CX bike under these circumstances? Thanks.
I've ridden many different tires on my cyclocross bike, and I've found that a 32 mm is the comfortable on the road.
The most fun I've had though is on 40mm Clements, especially if there's any off road involved, if you can fit them on your cross bike.
You have to compromise. On road you want smooth and off road you want tread.
On road touring or road tires. Anywhere from a 700 X 32 - 700 X 38. You get low rolling resistance and good traction on the road.
Off road you want some tread. Anywhere from a 700 X 34 - 700 X 38. A small block will give you some traction but still do OK on the road. As mentioned by hillsons - the Clements. For sure you don't want wide spaces knobs as they are poor on the road.
Durability is a big factor for me. A CX tire is just not going to last as long as a touring tire. A CX tire is not going to be as puncture resistant.
For me I take a touring tire for road performance and durability. A knob has poor wet road performance and if weather turns bad I just want to get home. If it was serious off road I would take my mountain bike. On gravel and hard pack I just don't ride aggressive.
If you are riding 20 miles to get to some cool trails then go with a CX tire.
At 50/50 you have to decide which 50 is more important.
Look for a CX bike that will take larger tires. You still have option to run smaller tires. Also look at gravel bikes. And don't rule out a light touring bike - do you want a rack for your all day adventure.
I've found that slick tires can lead to unpleasant surprises on loose surfaces, such as a thin layer of gravel on top of hardpack. So I'd recommend a cyclocross tire with a decent tread pattern (a bit like a mtn bike tire).
I used to have Clement Crusader PDX tires on my cyclocross bike. I liked them because they were 37mm wide, even though they are labelled 33mm. The extra width doesn't slow you down, but it makes the ride more comfortable, plus it works better on loose gravel.
These days I ride that bike mostly on the road, so I've switched to 35mm Schwalbe Kojak tires for now. If I'm riding entirely on asphalt, then there's no point in having knobby tires.
- Clement X'PLOR USH 35mm
- Clement X'PLOR MSO 40mm
- Surly Knard 41mm
I own Clement X'PLOR USH 35mm tires and Surly Knard 41mm tires. USH tires are faster than Knards, they are pretty good on gravel but not as good as Knards. On the other hand, Knards are really good on the gravel, even on MTB sigletracks. However, Knards have bigger rolling resistance on the pavement so expect it's slower than USH. If you think you'll ride on the pavement more, choose Clement X'PLOR USH. Otherwise, choose Knards or Clement X'PLOR MSO. I haven't tried MSO yet but people generally say that MSO has similar performance to Knards on the gravel but faster on the pavement.
The best tires I've ever used for linking up dirt and road in the same ride are Avocet Cross II's. They had a "negative" tread. (i.e. grooves in a mostly slick tire.) Unfortunately, they are no longer made.
There are lot's of choices for this kind of tire for "gravel grinder" riding, if you ever run across anything that looks like the Avocet, buy it.
Panaracer Pasala's are usually cheap and generally work well. For the most part you need much less tread than you would think at first, but you do need some tread. For most dirt road surfaces, the size of the tire is more important than the tread. 32mm or larger tires really help. The only place tread is really required is when you have loose material over a harder surface. If you have only hard packed dirt, (very common in the SF Bay Area), you can get away with a traditional road slick, although a fatter tire will provide a more comfortable ride on the dirt sections.
In general, you want a tire that has a solid a central ridge as possible and some tread towards the shoulder of the tire. A negative design works well because you can "tune" the amount of tread by changing the inflation pressure of the tires.
I would avoid knobby cross tires that look like skinny MTB tires. They add a lot of rolling resistance on the road and can be squirrelly on hard surfaces. They are meant for riding in mud.
Schwalbe CX Comp or Smart Sam in ~32mm width. Low pressure is most important on gravel etc. the profile is only useful in mud etc.
If it’s really light off-road you could even try a Continental 4 Season in 28mm.