09 August 2010

bikefix Exclusive Review: Geax Saguaro 26x2.2 TNT tire

In the lead up to any sort of event- be it a big ride, road trip, or even the occasional XC race- the thing I fret about the most is tire choice. Knowing just much difference the right tire can make for a big day out usually means that I'm in and out of the workshop, looking at the available tires, and (internally or with fellow rubber fetishists) debating the merits of each. In the recent lead up to a loose, rocky, and brutal cross country race this past weekend, I went back and forth over the respective merits speed, traction, sidewall strength, and rim protection and (once trail conditions were confirmed as largely dry) chose to leave a well-worn 2.2in Geax Saguaro TNT tire on the rear wheel of my cross country bike.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not much of a racer. Sure, I can hold my own if a course doesn't require too much dirt road riding- but I'm really most at home on challenging terrain. As fun and fast as lightweight tires can be, I've come to realize (at considerable expense) that I don't have the finesse needed to spare paper-thin tires or superlight wheelsets from the punishment that New Mexico's loose, sharp rocks seem designed to inflict. For that reason, if there is any aggressive riding to be done, a fatter tire with fairly sturdy sidewalls goes a long way toward reducing mid-ride wheel truing and flat fixing.

Since its introduction a couple of years ago, Geax's TNT tire casing has become my hands-down favorite. It's not as light as many companies' "tubeless ready" casings- but it is much more deserving of that label. The casing is much closer to the UST end of the spectrum and I would argue that TNT casings are stronger than many companies' full tubeless offerings. Because they seem relatively thorn- and cactus-resistant, I also see ridiculously long sealant life in TNT tires- the goop just isn't called upon to deal with the little stuff, so there tends to be a good deal available when it's really needed.

The Saguaro itself is a fast-rolling tread design that provides what I would consider moderate levels of forward and cornering traction. On the rear wheel. A few years ago, I found the 29er Saguaro to wash out too readily on the front wheel- and the 26in version is no different. On the rear, however, the Saguaro provides a bit more driving traction than a full-on race tire with very little loss of speed. More importantly, it breaks loose predictably, allowing for a bit of controlled drift action and rear wheel steering. I'm not sensitive enough to notice the difference in rolling resistance between "speed" and "traction" orientations, so tend to run the Saguaro in "traction" mode until the knobs are all eaten away and there's more traction available the other way 'round. Still, in loose conditions, I find myself modulating power more with the Saguaro than I'd like to keep it from slipping. That's not altogether unexpected with fast rolling tires- but makes the tire better suited to those who sit & spin rather than mash the pedals.

On normal XC-width mountain bike rims (Bontrager Race X Lites in this case), the Saguaro's 2.2in claimed width seems plausible- it's not noticeably wider or narrower than other 2.2s. The 730g claimed weight won't have the racers salivating- but it's hardly obscene for a wide-ish, durable tubeless tire. The Aramid Racing 3D compound is a durable 60 durometer- again, it won't get anyone too excited but is probably a good choice. After over a year's use, the tire's main wear area is absolutely the shoulder tread. Despite staying away from the use of fast-wearing soft rubber on the cornering knobs, they haven't held up as well as the rest of the tire- I can't help but think that some work in that area might keep the knobs from being undermined so quickly (and might even help the tire corner better).

At the moment, my only real argument against the Saguaro is that it's been eclipsed by its stablemate, the AKA. Using the same TNT casing and a dual-compound tread, the high-knob 2.2in not only corners better than the Saguaro, but it drives better, rolls faster, and weighs less. A reader recently asked me my thoughts about the Saguaro and I recommended that he try the AKA instead. After riding the tire in Southern California, his feedback was that "It was a bit of a surprise, but the AKA seemed to outperform the Saguaro in every way. The Saguaros have a more steam roller feeling, but that's not really the feeling I'm looking for on my XC bike," which about sums up my feelings as well. When the Saguaro finally gives up the ghost, the AKA will certainly take it's place. Geax Saguaro (and AKA) TNT tires run under $45 apiece, making them a great deal as well.


Ryan from Geax has been in touch since our review and noted that the AKA require a bit of sand, loam or other penetrable surface to work well- otherwise they can be a bit squirmy. In those conditions, the Saguaro would be their recommendation. Thanks Ryan!



beachdrifter said...

Been using the saguaro tires for most of a year, switched to an AKA on the back recently. wonderful tires, I haven't thought about them at all. They don't do well in mud, but they aren't designed for that. I have the folding, the TNT, and the wire beaded versions- they all seal up well tubeless. my two favorite features are that they are all true to size (my 2.2 tires actually measure 2.2!) and even when running tubes at low pressure, i didn't seem to get that many pinch flats. good grip on hardpack, granite and limestone, and grip fairly well on overly dry loose over hardpack

bruce said...

Which one would you reccommend for hardpack with a bit of loose/sand on it? I thought about AKA, but I'm afraid that their little thread will slide on the looser surface (just like Kenda SBE did). On the other hand, has Saguaro a good grip on a hardpack terrain? Fast and aggresive turns are what I'm thinking about ;) Thanks for any info!

bikefix said...

I prefer the AKA over the Saguaro in most conditions that I would have considered the Saguaro. The 2.2 is a great trail rear tire and the 2.0 is a good fast tire. For racing, a 2.2F/2.0R is a great combination, especially in loose-over-hard conditions.