MBA Product Test: Vittoria Mezcal XC Race Tire
Vittoria Mezcal XC Race Tire
Vittoria is an Italian brand with a reputation for making high-quality tires for every genre of cycling. Among the many tires in Vittoria’s off-road lineup, there are five unique cross-country tread patterns. All tires are designed to perform best in a specific terrain condition: hardpack, intermediate or loose. This tire sits right in the middle of Vittoria’s offerings—it isn’t the fastest, lowest-profile tire, nor is it the biggest and burliest in the bunch. The Mezcal is positioned to be one of the company’s most versatile tires, capable of handling a mixed variety of terrain.
Featuring a densely packed, low-profile knob configuration, the Mezcals look fast just sitting in the bike stand. Their alternating center-ridge tread pattern is a cross between the traditional chevron/herringbone design historically associated with low-rolling resistance and numerous effective edges for cornering, braking and climbing traction.
Tech features: There are three tire constructions available—a rigid bead with 26-tpi and two 120-tpi models; a standard tubeless-ready (TLR) and a tubeless-ready with additional sidewall reinforcement (TNT). Available for 26-, 27.5- and 29-inch sizes in 2.1-, 2.25-, 2.35-and 2.6-inch widths. Vittoria even offers three choices of sidewall color: black, Anthracite (gray) and Para (skin wall). Prices range from $28.99–$66.99.
One unique element of Vittoria’s top tires is a material called “graphene.” An element of carbon found in everything from anti-corrosion coatings, electronic sensors, flexible displays and efficient solar panels, graphene can be used to facilitate faster DNA sequencing and drug delivery, and now Vittoria is utilizing it to optimize its tires. Graphene is the thinnest material known to man at one atom thick and is also incredibly strong—about 200 times stronger than steel. So what does that mean in a tire and on the trail? We were intent on finding out.
Field test results: Producing tires for all conditions, Vittoria claims the Mezcal is one of its best for dry and hardpack terrain. That was easy to find in our native Southern California with its hot and dry summers.
We came to appreciate the Mezcal as a fast-rolling tire that worked well on the high-speed loops in the foothills around our offices. The low-profile tread with tightly spaced knobs rolled with a smooth consistency that we enjoyed. The tires performed particularly well in sweeping, large radius turns. With the Mezcals, we were able to gradually lean more and more into the turn before the tire would break loose. The tire was remarkably consistent, allowing riders to drift into a controlled slide that was downright fun. We felt like speedway motorcycle racers, sliding in and out of berms with authority.
While the Mezcals were comfortable swooping, snaking and winding around terrain in smooth arcs, they lacked agility when it came time to slash, jerk and wrench through terrain that required quick movements. When we ventured above our foothills and into the more jagged and steep mountains, the Mezcal’s performance suffered in the loose terrain strewn with stray rocks and exposed roots. We clearly found the Mezcal’s limits at the city line. We would prefer a tread pattern with wider spacing between bigger knobs that could bite into inconsistent terrain, maybe something like Vittoria’s Barzo or Gato tires, which work better in loose terrain according to Vittoria’s convenient online comparison tool that highlights and analyzes each tire’s strengths and weaknesses.
Over the course of our testing, the Mezcal performed as promised. It is a strong, durable tire. Although Vittoria suggests nothing lower than 29 psi, we were able to run between 18–20 psi aboard the 29 × 2.25-inch Mezcal XC Race tires on our 120mm-travel bikes. Utilizing lower pressure helped the Mezcal to perform at its best in those chunky rock gardens and overcome the shortcomings previously mentioned. Best on hardpack terrain, Vittoria’s proprietary 4C mixture of four rubber compounds maintained consistent traction and offered excellent durability.
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