13 January 2009

bikefix Initial Review: Hutchinson Toro 2.35 UST MRC Medium tires

I have always wanted to like Hutchinson tires but they never seem to have had the right combination of attributes for types of riding or the surfaces I’m riding on. They make some good tires for sure, but I get the impression nobody in their company is doing product development in (or for) the American Southwest. I would think it would be easy for them: Spain is close to France and has dry, rocky and loose terrain (from what I can tell). Nearby Algeria in Northern Africa (a former French colony and still French administered) probably has a bunch of terrain that is similar to our Southwest, but Hutchinson seems to make treads that suit other climates better. The Toro may be the exception though.

I knew this tire was fairly heavy (even for a 2.35) when I ordered it, but I figured I would but it on my geared hardtail as a winter training tire. I put them on the scale and each tire weighed about 950 grams. Even knowing the weight in advance I was surprised by how heavy they felt to my legs- they seem to ride heavier than they are. A plan is a plan however, and I proceeded to ride them over a bunch of different trails for the last few months. Here is the really good part- They are very competent. I have not been in a situation yet where they let me down, or did anything unexpected. They always seem to have enough traction and I can run very low tire pressures (even for a UST tire) without trouble. I used sealant in the tires of course- you have to out here (note: you should always use sealant with UST tires- no matter where you live), and I have gone over at least 3 cacti and still no problems. Actually, this capability is fairly standard for UST systems, but it is always a relief when you don’t hear that “shhhh” sound. The tread pattern is nothing fancy and the tires seem to roll fairly efficiently (excluding the weight issue)- I say seem because at speed, they don’t noticeably want to slow down like some larger, knobbier tires can, but perhaps I’m wrong and this is why they “ride heavy.” The side knobs are strong, but not the strongest I’ve seen, and do have a tendency to roll-over during hard cornering, but they let you know they are going to do it- and it’s slow and controlled (i.e.- predictable) when they do. The good traction and predictability of this tire is due in part to the MRC rubber. The MRC part of the tire’s title refers to the use of a medium-rebound rubber to enhance traction.

The strength and weight of this tire is palpable. When riding on them I feel like they are impenetrable, and I spend no effort trying to avoid things that might rip a side-wall or cause a failure. So far nothing has fazed them. Hardskin is Hutchinson’s technology for strengthening the tires' sidewall and is probably responsible for the extra weight and their bomb-proof feel. I knew what I was getting into with the weight but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t an issue. I like these tires and the only real problem I see with them is that there are other tires that give as much traction, without as much a weight penalty- and many are pretty tough and durable too. I should qualify this by saying that I rarely destroy tires- so perhaps I can’t accurately judge whether the Toros are tougher than some other tires I ride which weigh less. It’s hard to really quantify the “toughness” of a tire but my guess would be that the Toros are far tougher than most of my other tires- I just can't say for sure. For me this means that these tires will continue only as a tough training tire- for folks who are hard on tires the Toros may be the answer to all their problems. The Toros have a suggested retail of $74.00 each but I have yet to see anyone ask this price. They are more commonly priced between $50 and $60 and often on sale for less.



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