Even though we’ve already covered the only truly new tread pattern introduced by Challenge this year when they unveiled the sand-specific Dune, they had so many new updates at Eurobike that it took us a while to dig through them and prioritize. We would probably start with their gravel expansion, just because there has been so much movement in that growing discipline, but we really wanted to lead with a picture of these nice new World Champion special Baby Limus tubulars, even though you won’t be able to buy them (unless you win worlds, presumably.) They highlight several of the new updates this year, including a revised Baby Limus tread, a new pre-sealed Team Edition S cotton construction, and a revised Handmade Tubular naming system. Besides these update to Gravel & CX lines, the road, track & mountain tires share some of the same updates plus a few others. Check it all out after the break…
First we should probably look at the new naming scheme as it carries across Challenge’s complete tire offerings. We’ll use cross tires, just because it is that time of year and we at Bikerumor are getting geared up for our own cross campaigns to start. Challenge has up to now called their three tire types tubulars, open tubulars & clinchers in an attempt to convey the similar construction methods of their top tires. But that has led to confusion, with many people not entirely clear on what an open tubular really was. So that is all history.
All new tires from the brand will now fall into the renamed categories of Handmade Tubulars (HTU), Handmade Clinchers (HCL) & Vulcanized Clinchers (VCL). That makes it much more straightforward, yet still emphasizes that the top tires share a similar made by hand construction method that results in a much more supple tire than the standard vulcanized offerings. The handmade tires use a polyester, cotton, or silk casing with thread counts from 260tpi up to over 1000tpi for the silk tires. The stiffer vulcanized tires which a made under heat and pressure use nylon casings with thread counts from 33-120tpi.
OK, so back to the gravel, Challenge had received a lot of customer feedback asking for Bigger versions of their knobby all-terrain tires, so that’s what they’ve done, mostly in their affordable Vulcanized Clincher range. That is mainly because the Vulcanized Clinchers with stiffer construction are more resistant to sidewall cuts and other trail abuse, even if the ride is not as supple. The Gravel Grinder gets a new 42mm wide offering in all three of the VCL spec levels: 120tpi Race, 60tpi Plus & the 33tpi Comp with its wire bead.
On the gravel slick side, the Strada Bianca gets a new light but wide 36mm version in the 260tpi Handmade Clincher with either tan or black sidewalls. The same 36mm Strada Bianca will also come in the three vulcanized levels: 120tpi Race, 60tpi Plus & 33tpi Comp.
Back over to cyclocross, let’s take another look at those rainbow stripe tires. Challenge doesn’t sponsor a huge number of top cross racers, but they did happen to be backing both the men’s & women’s winners of this year’s U23 World Championships – Eli Iserbyt of Belgium and Evie Richards of Great Britain. So they decided to make the two some special tires to celebrate. The issue became that Challenge has a new Sealed Corespun Cotton casing for the new Team Edition S tubulars, so they couldn’t just paint/print the stripes on. It just didn’t look goos when they tried. So they pre-dyed the individual threads and actually wove the rainbow stripes into the casing. (Click the photo to zoom in. It wakes it pretty easy to see that 320tpi construction, especially in the yellow and green.)
While you can’t buy the rainbow tires, you can get all of the same tech benefits in their new pre-sealed tires. Gone are the days of Aqua-Seal.
Challenge already was well-known for their SuperPoly polyester tubulars that deliver a supple ride, but don’t fall apart like many more expensive tubulars after sometimes less than a season. Now their Team Edition S tubulars in cotton and the Ultra S tubulars in silk get the pre-sealed treatment that is said to make them last longer, and without ongoing maintenance. The latex sealing happens as they construct the casing and does not impact how the tires ride.
The new sealed casings are not just for cyclocross. The show up in the top Ultra S silk and SC S cotton tires for track and road, as well.
In the new cross line up the 100+tpi silk Ultra S tubular will only be offered in a 33mm Grifo, while the Team Edition S 320tpi cotton tubular will come in the Grifo, Baby Limus, Limus, Chicane & Dune.
Speaking of the Baby Limus, it actually gets an updated tread design as well. Fast becoming one of Challenge’s most popular tires for racing in all conditions (and one of our own favorites) riders had been apparently been asking for a bit more grip. So, Challenge increased the height of the central lugs by about 1.5mm. Doesn’t sound like much, but have a look at the two tires next to each other and you can see the difference. The new height blocks have already made their way into the supply chain, so now any TE S tubulars you can get have been updated, with the Pro handmade tubulars and clinchers close behind.
Over on the mountain bike, Challenge is putting a little more energy and focus on their cross country racing handmade tubulars. Not a lot of companies make tubular mountain bike tires, but after seeing another year of the World Champion racing on tubulars, more and more people are trying them out. Challenge offers their two tread designs (MTB Two at left, MTB One at right, above) for both 29″ and 27.5″ wheels, and this year is adding a natural tan sidewall option for 29er racers looking for a more classic look than the red or black walls.