First Impressions: Clement X’Plor USH Tires

In this age of hyper-specialized bicycles and components, do-it-all products sometimes get overlooked–or downright ignored–by gearheads. While it’s fun searching for the lightest or fastest gear, most of us are better served by equipment that performs well under a variety of conditions. For gravel and mixed-terrain riding, having the right tire can mean the difference between a great ride or drudgery. Drawing on the company’s deep cyclo-cross and gravel roots, Clement Cycling designed their X’Plor USH tire to excel in mixed conditions.

GRAVELBIKE.com Clement X'Plor USH tires gravel bike gravel grinder

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First Impressions: Clement X’Plor MSO 700×32 Tires

In April of 2012, we reviewed Clement’s 700×40 X’Plor MSO tires. More than two years later, that review continues to be one of this site’s most-read articles. Riders searching for a high-volume 700C tire that can handle dirt and pavement are well served by the 40mm X’Plor MSO. But what if your bike can’t accommodate such a large tire? Clement has you covered with their 700×32 X’Plor MSO.

The 32mm MSO features the same low-profile tread pattern as its larger sibling, but scaled down slightly to fit the narrower casing. At the recommended maximum 75psi, our sample tires measured 32mm knob-to-knob (30mm at the casing) when mounted on Mavic Ksyrium Elite S wheels. Actual weight for our 60tpi tires was 325g (Clement also offers a 120tpi version).

Like the 40mm version, the MSO’s tightly-spaced tread pattern proved to be smooth and quiet on paved roads. While the larger MSO had more of a peaked profile, the 32mm size featured a rounder, more circular profile (which made for more sure-footed cornering). As with other similarly-sized tires, it took a little experimentation to find the best pressure for balancing comfort and flat/rim protection (60psi front and 70psi rear worked well for dirt and gravel).

While Clement’s 32mm X’Plor MSO may not offer the performance of a conventional cyclo-cross tire in loose or muddy off-road conditions, it’s perfectly at home on hardpack trails and gravel roads. Where the tire really shines, however, are those rides where you want to piece together paved and unpaved sections for a day of two-wheeled exploring.

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

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.

First Impressions: WTB Byway Road Plus Tires

Words and photos by Aaron VanDerlip

Wilderness Trail Bikes’ Byway 47 is a 650B/27.5″ tire ($67.95 MSRP) that borrows significantly from the company’s Horizon 47 Road Plus model. The Byway replicates the same smooth tread pattern along the centerline as found on the Horizon. Outside the centerline you’ll find a row of herringbone tread, followed by a diamond-shaped pattern that transitions to low-profile side knobs. If you crossed the Horizon with Clement’s X’PLOR MSO, you’d get something like the Byway as the result. From the side profile, it looks like a knobby tire, but the knobs take up a minimum of the tread surface.

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