GRAVELBIKE

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.

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.

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.

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