The Donnelly X'Plor MSO folding tyre is a superb choice for a full range of adventure riding from gravel roads and trails to urban riding. Don't be confused by the rebranding, they are every bit as good as the formerly recognised Clement X'Plor MSO tyres.
- Pros: Grippy, confidence-boosting on most surfaces, well manufactured
- Cons: Struggles in deep mud, relatively expensive
Having ended its trademark licensing of the Clement name from Pirelli in 2017, Donnelly Sports has relaunched its tyres under its own brand name, Donnelly Cycling. Since revitalising the 130-year-old Clement tyre brand in 2010, Donnelly Sports has developed some great cyclo-cross and adventure tyres, and it doesn't appear to have lost any of the quality with rebranding.
The X'Plor MSO tyres are aptly named after the airport code of Missoula, Montana, home of the Adventure Cycling Association and the epicentre of many of their cross-country cycling routes, including the TransAmerica Trail, and a stone's throw from the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. You quickly get a sense of where the inspiration for the adventure tyres has come from.
The combination of smooth-rolling centre knobs and aggressive shoulder lugs creates a confident feel in all conditions bar sloppy mud, which in fairness they aren't designed for anyway. The 40mm clincher MSOs tested allowed pressures as low as 20psi (bearing in mind I'm a small and light rider) with no worrying signs of pinch flats. The integrated puncture protection belt under the tread also seemed to do its trick for me, with no flats over the month of testing.
I thought they were brilliant in almost everything I tried. Urban riding around Bristol was great, with the large width and low pressure ironing out bumps in the road without that wallowy feel. They give full confidence in the rain and have made a great winter commuter tyre with minimal wear over a month.
In their natural off-road adventure habitat they were grippy on the dirt and gravel, despite their relatively small knobbles. They reminded me of the Schwalbe G-Ones I rode a few years ago at the Dirty Reiver and have loved ever since. The only time the MSOs struggled was when I attempted a practice lap of a VERY wet and muddy cyclo-cross course where they ended up out of their depth.
Other than that, they give you full confidence on the trails and light mud. If the test had been during the incredibly dry early season they would have done really well, and should certainly serve you well for some summer 'cross (provided your league isn't a stickler for tyre width rules).
Speaking of width, the permutations of sizes, widths, thread counts and tubeless ready or clincher versions for the MSOs is vast. For anyone running 650Bs looking for some fat tyres, Donnelly offers 42mm or 50mm, both in tubeless ready and clincher options. There is also a tan-walled option to add to your retro look, both for 650B and 700.
As for 700C, widths of 32mm, 36mm, 40mm and 50mm are available, with tubeless ready or clincher for all bar the 32mm, which seems to be clincher only. Sadly, I wasn't testing the tubeless option here so I can't comment on the difficulties of setting up, but the clincher was a breeze, as you'd expect from a folding bead.
There are also two threads-per-inch (TPI) options for the X'Plor MSO tyres, 120TPI as tested, and 60TPI. As a general rule of thumb, a higher thread count means finer weaves that make the tyre more supple.
Although it might seem pricey at £65, in my view it's worth every penny for the grip and ride quality you get. I'm all for lower price, long lasting tyres, but if you can't enjoy riding on them then it's worth spending more.
A couple of warnings. Be sure to check what tyre width can fit your frame, and remember that they will inflate to a different width depending on the rim width you use. Also, with so many configurations of size and width, just be sure to double check your purchase exactly to avoid disappointment!
All in all, the Donnelly X'Plor MSOs are excellent all-round tyres for urban riding, commuting, trail blazing or gravel grinding. Be wary in the thick mud, but otherwise it's a great tyre to get out and have some fun on, the confidence they give with grip being key.
A brilliant choice for your 'do it all' adventure bike and still has the quality associated with the old Clement name
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Donnelly X'Plor MSO tyres
Size tested: 700 x 40
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Donnelly says, "The X'Plor MSO is an adventure tire designed for the most ambitious adventures. The combination of smooth-rolling center knobs and aggressive shoulder lugs provide great traction and durability for gravel roads, trails, urban assault and even pavement.
"The MSO tire is named for the airport code of Missoula, Montana, home of the Adventure Cycling Association. Donnelly's X'Plor adventure tire series is designed to bridge the gap between pavement and blazing your own trail. Each tire within this series is designed for multiple conditions from off-road touring, to gravel racing, to just getting outta' Dodge."
Stay clear of the deep mud, but other than that they are an excellent, grippy and fun tyre for all your winter or summer riding. If you care more about having fun on a bike than just simply speed, these are great tyres – and they're still fast rolling.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Donnelly lists these configuration options:
Size - 650B & 700C
650B: 42mm, 50mm.
700C: 32mm, 36mm, 40mm, 50mm.
Thread Per Inch Count: 120TPI & 60TPI
Tubeless ready & Clincher for most sizes
Tanned sidewall option for 650B x 42mm Tubeless ready & 700 x 40mm Tubeless Ready.
Weight - varies depending on size and whether tubeless or clincher. 286g - 794g
Well made, no noticeable blemishes.
Excellent performance in all conditions it was designed for. Perfect for a great adventure or just buzzing around town.
Minimal signs of wear over the month of testing. This included largely riding off-road, so if you plan to ride only on the road this may differ.
In line with other similar adventure and gravel tyres. Varies greatly depending on which configuration of tyre you buy. Naturally, the large tubeless tyres are significantly heavier, but if you're looking for those then weight is largely irrelevant.
Brilliant ride comfort. Rolls nicely and irons out most of the bumps thanks to the size and low pressure you can run.
Not cheap at £65, but for what you get it's worth it. Yes, you can get cheaper tyres for your car, but what really matters is whether you can have a good ride with plenty of grip and comfort by spending significantly less, and most often the answer is no.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The tyres did brilliantly in all the conditions they were designed for. They made riding fun and easy even in miserable winter conditions.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great grip and comfort, both on and off road. You can run them at low pressure without too many worries of flats, especially if you get the tubeless ready set. They feel fast on the road and yet give plenty of grip and confidence in the corners.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
There really wasn't much to dislike. They didn't do well in 'proper' mud but then that's not what they were designed for. I'd like to try a tubeless pair to run at super-low pressures and might well buy a set.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It is in a similar ball park if not slightly more expensive depending on which configuration you buy. For comparison, they are similar to the Schwalbe G-One variants and haven't changed much in price since their previous Clement MSO days. There are cheaper gravel tyres out there, but I doubt they would have the same performance as an all rounder.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I'm teetering on the edge of 'exceptional', but the price is pretty high, and since they are a relatively soft all-terrain tyre their wear durability will likely be hampered. Although I didn't see too much wear in my month of testing, if these were to be ridden mostly on the road then you might struggle to justify the price for the durability. But if you want a mighty impressive tyre to give you plenty of confidence on multi-terrain adventures, this is the one!
About the tester
I usually ride: Giant TCX My best bike is: Scott CR1 Pro
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives