What We’re Riding is a series on the bikes and gear we’re riding. Maybe it’s about the latest product we’ve discovered that we really like or the main whip we’ve been cruising around on for the last year or two. Here’s where you’ll hear about all the details that made us choose our gear.
If there’s one thing I’ve put a lot of thought into on my mountain bike, it’s tires. Tires are one of the most important components of your bike, they literally connect you to the ground. Every tire is a compromise: too light and they’re not reliable, too heavy and they’re sluggish; too slick and they’ll slide out from under you, too knobby and they roll like a monster truck (with much less horsepower behind it). Having the right tire for your setup is very much a personal preference, and what you read on the internet or bike magazine may have little to no application to where and how you ride. Just because pros are running Maxxis Minions while shredding loam in British Columbia doesn’t mean you should run them on your local hardpacked rocky singletrack. Horses for courses as they say…
Having used most of the popular Cross Country tires over the last few years, I gave the Graphene line from Vittoria a shot, first the Mezcal but then the Barzo. The Mezcal is an excellent XC tire especially in hardpack conditions, and I’ll have a full review of the new Graphene 2.0 XC Race Mezcals soon, but over the last year I’ve had more seat time with the Barzo.
Looking at the Barzo you’ll see a pretty basic square/moto block type pattern with a little siping on each knob as well as angling. Siping is the cuts or grooves in each knob which give it an extra edge to grip, and it’s something Vittoria has spent a lot of time working on.
If you’d like to hear a podcast about what they put into these tires check out this one from Mountain Bike Radio. The knobs on the Barzo are nicely spaced to clear mud well but not too tall to cause significant drag. They definitely roll a bit slower than the Mezcal, but you notice it more as a rear tire than a front tire. A really good combo is to have a more aggressive tire in the front and a fast rolling tire in the rear, Barzo/Mezcal would certainly be one way to do that. Trading rolling speed for grip is what made the Barzo my go to tire over the last year as I traveled all over to race in unknown conditions on race courses I’d never pre-ridden. The added margin of error was used, early and often in some of these races and kept me upright and rolling.
There are basically 2 versions of the Barzo, the lighter XC Race casing (formerly non G+ non TNT) and the XC Trail casing (formerly G+ TNT). Over the last year I’ve ridden these tires in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, and of course sunny Florida in both versions. It’s generally about 50g in each size to go from the lighter casing to the reinforced version, and I ran both depending on the conditions.
One quibble I had with the old Barzo is that the 2.25 and 2.35 were exactly the same size and weight on a variety of rim widths. I’m interested to see if the new XC Race and XC Trail casing comes with increased volume for the 2.35’s. The only other complaint is that they’re heavier than other options, up to 740g actual for a reinforced 2.35 Barzo on my scale. Definitely the heaviest tires I’ve mounted on my Top Fuel but also the most grippy and reliable.
For example, when I went to Colorado to race the Steamboat Stinger 50 I wasn’t as worried about cacti and sharp rocks so I went with the lighter casing to help my Florida legs get up Emerald Mountain. The tires performed great in the loose and varied conditions the entire week I was in Colorado, including getting me my first win in a MTB race!
When I took the bike to Arkansas to race the Epic Rides Oz Trails Offroad I went with the reinforced sidewall Barzos as I heard about the sharp rocks throughout the Ozarks. The rain on raceday exposed some new edges and as I passed at least 20 people repairing flats on other brand tires, I held my breath that my Vittoria’s would get me to the finish line. Sure enough, despite having over 50 slices on my tires I didn’t leak a drop of sealant or lose 1 pound of pressure.
An informal survey at the finish line showed other Vittoria riders had a similar experience, and riders on other brands were certainly asking questions about why their reinforced EXO tires had repeatedly failed them on race day. No, I didn’t see any Schwalbe’s at the finish line, because, well LOL nobody is that brave to run those in the Ozarks.
For 2019 I’m fortunate enough to be a part of the Vittoria Tester program, and they sent me a pair of Mezcals in the new Graphene 2.0 XC race casing to test. I’m excited to mount them up and see how they perform on race day.
I know the pattern very well and when I like running the Mezcal versus when I’m reaching for the knobby big brother the Barzo, so I’m interested to see if the new implementation of Graphene widens the operational window. Of course I’ll make sure to put my findings here, but if you need a great all-around-er that’ll keep you rolling fast and railing corners, the Vittoria Barzo is at the very top of my list. I like them so much I stocked up on them when they went on sale a few months ago, not knowing the new Graphene 2.0 was pending release.
I’m certainly not upset to spend my own money on a tire that’s now been updated, as they’re just so good. I’m sure the new compound is even better!