First Impressions: Clement X’Plor MSO Tires

When I was a young teenager, I saved up for my first good bicycle–a Motobecane Grand Record.  The Motobecane was my first exposure to Reynolds tubing, Campagnolo derailleurs, and Clement tires.  While the Grand Record’s tires didn’t have the pedigree of Clement’s Paris Roubaix or Criterium Seta models, the Elvezias were a huge step up from the clinchers I was used to.  More than 35 years later, Clement is still producing bicycle tires, but with an emphasis on dirt-friendly tubulars and clinchers.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravelbike gravel grinder Clement tire XPlor MSO Sun Ringle Salsa Vaya

One of Clement’s newer offerings is the X’Plor MSO.  As the name implies, this 700x40C tire is designed for on- and off-pavement exploring.  To help reduce rolling resistance, the X’Plor feaures a compact, low-profile tread pattern that’s very quiet on the road, but still hooks up when the pavement ends.  Folding beads keep the weight to a respectable 485 grams.  Inflated to the max 90psi, my 60tpi MSO samples measured 39.5mm knob-to-knob, and 37.5mm at the casing (on Sun/Ringle Equalizer 23 rims).

One of the first things that I noticed about the X’Plor tires was how smooth and quiet they were on pavement.  For such a large tire, they felt lively and quick, even when inflated to only 50psi (front) and 60psi (rear).  Cornering on the MSOs was predictable, and I didn’t notice any “knob squirm.”  As an aside, both tires easily mounted without any wobbles or hops.  While this may seem trivial, it always puts my mind at ease when I’m testing a new or unfamiliar tire.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravelbike gravel grinder Clement tire XPlor MSO Sun Ringle Salsa Vaya

In the dirt, the Clements are fast, but still very predictable.  There’s enough tread to keep you out of trouble, but not so much that they prevent you from hammering when you want to really motor.  The X’Plor excels on hardpack and in small, fine gravel.  Flotation was good for a 40mm tire, but I found that I had to drop down to around 40psi in front and 50psi in back to cope with rougher conditions.  The MSO’s profile has a slight “peak” which reduces the tire’s overall footprint, and this can make things a little tricky in very deep gravel or extremely soft/powdery dirt.

If you’re looking for a tire with more cushion than a typical ‘cross model, but don’t want the heft of a monstercross tire, the X’Plor should be on your short list.  The MSO might not be my first choice for exclusive use on pavement, but for a gravel grinder, they would certainly be one of the first that I’d consider.

The Clement X’Plor MSO will be available in 60tpi and 120tpi/dual-compound versions (MSRP $55 and $80, respectively).  For additional information, see Clement’s website.

Disclosure: Clement provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

9 thoughts on “First Impressions: Clement X’Plor MSO Tires

  1. Nice review, thanks! It might be helpful to know what other similar tires you have tried/tested. As a reader, it would help me to put your comments in context, especially if some of the comparison tires are ones that I have personally ridden.

    Thanks for the actual measurements. I added it to the “Tyre Actual Measurements” spreadsheet.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AquGGB-a4RW8dDdVU1hhTG9MQXotb1d0UU91dXB6Y2c#gid=0

    You mention it has a noticeable crown. Could you measure that height, too? I know on some of my bikes I run out of room for wide tires at the bridges rather than running out of width.

  2. How do you feel these compare with Kenda’s Happy Medium tires? My Ritchey ZEDs are finally just about shot, and I need to find a similar 40mm shallow lugged tire. I think I have it narrowed down to those two models, and am wondering which would be better for dry SoCal fire roads and decomposed granite singletrack. And best guesses?

    • For SoCal conditions, I’d go with the Clements. The Kendas are fantastic tires, but they work better in softer, more loamy soil. If you’re riding heavily rutted terrain, or very deep gravel, the MSO’s “peaked” cross-section can make things a little tricky. But that same profile makes the Clements very fast rollers (especially on pavement).

      • Thanks for the feedback! I’ve been looking long and hard for the perfect 40mm tire to replace what I have, so glad to have happened across your reviews! It’s definitely all hardpack out here, but usually with a light layer of ball-bearing like sand across it! Good times!

  3. I’m doing the same comparison of MSO’s to Happy Mediums. It sounds like the MSOs will roll faster with high pressure, but need to be aired-down for dirt/gravel due to the center crown. The Happy Mediums might not roll as fast at high pressure, but wouldn’t need to be aired down for gravel sections. Hmmm…. Thanks for the reviews of both.

    • If you’re riding mostly unpaved surfaces, I’d go with the Happy Medium. For paved use, the Clement will be smoother/quieter.

    • I tested the 60tpi version. I haven’t ridden the higher-tpi model, so I can’t comment on the difference in ride quality.

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