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The Clement X'Plor USH tyre is defined as an adventure tyre and is, in my view, an excellent choice for those of us who run their 'crossers all year round. Gravel bikers – or indeed adventurous lightweight tourists – wanting the best of both worlds without the hassle of swapping tyres should also take a closer look.
True, there are some elements of compromise. On paved roads they've lacked the outright pace of a comparable-section slick, such as Vittoria's Voyager Hyper, or the bite of pure-bred cyclo-cross rubber through the gloop. Nonetheless, traction is better than I expected, and they offer a magic carpet ride over poorly surfaced dirt roads and moderate forest trails.
The X'Plors are folders, which scores a 10 on the convenience front, and come in two versions, 120 and 60tpi (threads per inch). Which you choose will depend on which order you place rolling resistance and durability; 60tpi is my personal default for this sort of duty, but I've equally good things to say about its more feathery counterpart over the past few weeks.
The tread follows the traditional diamond shaped knobbles/firm centre-strip narrative. This pattern got an undeservedly bad reputation courtesy of the cheap dual-purpose models that burst onto the late 80s mountain bike scene.
Being a wider section, the supple casings make fitting onto most standard/deep-section rims very straightforward. I mounted ours effortlessly, using only my thumbs, and they'll slip free using a single tyre lever. Those looking towards some more adventurous lightweight/weekend touring shouldn't rule them out either, although I'd look towards their 60tpi siblings for that.
While most modern 'cross builds, especially those with discs, will have sufficient clearance for the USH's 35mm width, you might need to check if you run mudguards; things proved a few millimetres too tight at my 'cross-inspired fixer's rear triangle.
Operating pressures, though lofty (at their lowest) by tubeless standards, range between 55 and 90psi, which covers most bases. Run between 80 and 90psi for the first week or so, they're swifter than their pattern and moderate weight might suggest – much faster than a 'cross tyre, but without disconcerting squirm. Even when pushed hard at 32mph along wet 1-in-7 descents, there was ample warning before things threatened to turn remotely sketchy on metalled roads.
At these pressures the ride never felt unduly harsh, although 70psi seemed optimal, delivering a plush, magic carpet ride across lumpy lanes and battle scarred town centres. Hitting fire roads and moist woodland trails, the compliant theme continued; here, 55-60psi was about right, although at a more competitive pace some drift – albeit predictable – was apparent over looser surfaces. When things turn really boggy they can't shed the mud, so turn slick faster than a true knobbly.
Despite a heady diet of flints, shards of glass/sharps, not to mention a rut or two, the casings remain in rude health and I'm yet to succumb to the dreaded hiss 400 miles in.
Purists will rightly point out that if you want a tarmac tyre, buy one; ditto 'cross. But if, like me, you like to make the most of your 'crosser's versatility year-round, or are more adventurous in your commute/weekend tours, there's a lot to like here.
Impressive best-of-both-worlds tyres for 'cross-biased builds and more adventurous tourists
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Clement X'Plor USH
Size tested: 700x35C
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?
Clement says: "The X'Plor USH is a 700 x 35 mm adventure tire designed for mixed conditions. The combination of firm center ridge and diamond-shaped side knobs provide low rolling resistance and great cornering control.
"Perfect for dirt roads, touring, and urban assault. The USH will fit on your cyclocross bike, commuter, or touring rig. The USH is named for the airport code of Ushuaia on the island of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, and the ultimate destination for adventure bike touring."
I'd describe them as a fast rolling mixed terrain tyre that cope extremely well on tarmac, gravel and dry, dusty to moist trails. However, they can't compete with a genuine cross tyre in the gloop.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Size: 700 x 35 mm
Tread: Smooth-rolling firm center ridge and diamond-shaped side knobs. Soft rubber compound for extra grip and shock absorption.
Casing: 60tpi or 120tpi versions available.
Details: Clincher, folding bead, color black
Fast rolling, engaging ride with surprising pace – especially across tarmac. Performance is pretty good off road when conditions are reasonably dry too, though limitations become very apparent when things turn gloopy.
No obvious signs of cuts or similar damage to date and I've heard some riders say good things about them 1,000 miles on.
Compliant, rewarding ride over most surfaces, even at the higher pressures.Very easy to mount too.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, as you'd expect from a 'best of both worlds' tyre, there are some minor compromises. It doesn't quite compete with a comparable section slick such as Schwalbe Kojak, or Vittora Voyager Hyper across well surfaced roads, and a thoroughbred cross knobbly will blow it into the weeds through gloopy mud. However, they've proven nimble, compliant and dependable across roads dressed in loose chippings and dry to moist trails.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Smooth, compliant and responsive ride, easy to fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A little pricey at full rrp but not outlandish taking everything into account.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, though I'd probably plump for the 60tpi versions.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Decent tyres that perform well in most contexts. Probably the best of this genre I've tested to date. A good option for those who want to exploit their 'cross/gravel bike's versatility year round without swapping between slicks and knobblies. Loses a mark on account of price, although I've seen them discounted online.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)