Tire test: Hutchinson Touareg Gravel Tire
Are you looking for a new gravel tire option? Or maybe an ideal early-season, high-volume cyclocross tire? Hutchinson’s Touareg is worth a visit, and we’ve got a long-term review for you today.
In mid-2020, Hutchinson introduced a new gravel tire to its range. Named after a nomadic tribe of the Sahara, the Touareg from the French tire manufacturer (not to be confused with the German vehicle of the same name) joins the Override as a dedicated gravel offering alongside the Toro, Piranha 2 and Black Mamba cyclocross tire lineup. We have traveled many miles on the Touareg in the past pandemic year.
Hutchinson has been in the tubeless bicycle tire game longer than others with a hand in developing the UST standard with Mavic in 1999. Hutchinson also had the first tubeless road tire, developed with Shimano in 2006. Mis apart from the tubeless conversions at the end In the 2000s, Hutchinson had the first tubeless ready tires, the Bulldog and the Piranha carbon ball in 2011.
The Touareg made in France is available in the modern and popular gravel sizes 700C X 40 and 45, and 650B X 47. We have received the 700C X 40 and 650B X 47. The 700C X 40 weighs 507 grams, or about 3% more than the advert 490 grams of claimed weight. The 650B X 47 version weighs 585 grams, corresponding to the advertised weight. There is a choice of black or beige sidewall with no noted weight difference.
When handling the tire, it is difficult to tell that the carcass has a different hand or feel than other tires. The casing wall thickness of 127 tpi is nominally the same as that of other gravel tires. Our 700C exam samples are “black” sidewalls. They have a sidewall color that is a dark coffee brown, but still reveals a woven pattern of the pearl-to-pearl Hutchinson protective fabric which they call Hardskin. It looks like the carcass of a Continental Gartorskin or 4 season road tire. Our 650B samples are the beige version with the same fairly noticeable Hardskin case weave.
The 700C X 40 has a bead-to-bead measurement of 100mm. Mounting on a tubeless rim with 24mm internal width and hookless sidewalls was easy, and the tire sat down using a standard foot pump. The tire was holding the air without adding any sealant, but small bubbles of the soap solution I used to aid in fitting and checking for leaks revealed an incomplete seal. The deal was sealed with a few ounces of sealant. The mounted tire has a carcass width of 41mm and a knob width of 41.2mm. The 650B X 47 version is 126 mm from rod to rod. This results in a tread width of almost 48mm when the tire is mounted on a hookless rim with an internal width of 24mm, like on the Hunt 650B Adventure wheel.
The uniform button height of 1.5mm gives the inflated tire a round profile. The outermost row of buttons is 2mm high. The fairly even and closely spaced button pattern is similar to a Donnelley MSO or Schwalbe G-One with square buttons. In this way it reminds me of the Kenda Small Block 8. It is a standard model for performance in dry conditions with gravel or hard earth, sand or dry grass.
The 650B version is essentially a 27.5 ″ x 1.9 ″ XC mountain bike tire that could have been popular 15 years ago on a 26 ″ platform, like the Hutchinson Python or the Kenda Small Block. 8.
The first test drives in California’s dry midsummer climate featured hard and dusty tracks with buried rocks, gravel fire roads and dry grass. The center row of buttons are closely aligned, with the two adjacent rows close by, making the sidewalk sections buzz-free. The two straight rows of more spaced intermediate studs make contact with the ground even without tilting. These small buttons are also 1.5mm high. With hard support on the road, I didn’t feel any discomfort, thanks to the low height and relatively close spacing of the straight rows. Such a wide tire offers a lot of rubber on the road even with a knotty tread, which gives a lot of confidence in the corners. Off the road, the engagement of the intermediate studs adds a good level of traction in the dry conditions described. The farthest row of buttons are quite peripheral on the round profile and would require an extreme tilt angle to engage. That said, on a camber or in a rut, they do provide some traction and safety as well as some sidewall durability when scratching against rocks. Under these circumstances, I was glad they were there.
I weigh 155 pounds and have experienced the pressure for a smooth ride, good traction and safe cornering. I went for 24-25 psi on the back and 22-23 psi on the front. Along the coastal regions here the soil is sandy, but precipitation can compact the sand and create a soft mud. There are also a few stream crossings with wet banks. The center section of the button stows away easily but clears off once back on dry ground, but keep in mind this is not a mud tire. On a lush, fog-covered trail strewn with roots and accumulated water along the trail, the stud spacing varies enough on the wide tire to provide a certain level of confidence in the slippage. I went down on a wet rooted section, but I don’t think even wet cyclocross conditions or a mud tire would save me. Lower pressure might have.
In an area known as the “Cradle of Mountain Biking,” north of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County in Northern California, the ground is dry and dusty and there are several sections of trails with boulders in the area. fist size both uphill and downhill. There is a reasonable probability that a rock impact will cut the sidewall, so I thought this was a good abrasion resistance test of the Hutchinson Hardskin. However, the tread wraps far into the housing with the large side buttons far along the edge preventing any sidewall abrasion. With over a thousand kilometers of mixed terrain on the Touareg, the center studs are slightly rounded but not worn. For my type of driving, I guess it would be at least another 1,500 miles before needing to be replaced.
With the durability shown so far, you might think the ride quality will suffer. Tires of this size and weight have won big gravel events this year, unlike the Touareg itself. The 700C X 40 version distinguishes between durability and performance. I find it straddles the line well; it climbs and behaves well on largely mixed terrain. The Touareg is slow in a road sprint as you would expect for a 500 gram tire, but to get to the final sprint you have to do the entire trip over any terrain. The Touareg lacks the smooth center tread of the specialized Pathfinder, so it’s slower on the pavement, but provides better traction on slippery off-pavement sections and loose climbs. If you are doing long hikes in mixed terrain in predominantly dry conditions, the Hutchinson Touareg is a solid recommendation.
Specifications of Hutchinson Touareg Gravel tires:
MSRP: $ 65 (USD) all versions
Envelope: 127 tpi, black or beige sidewall
700C x 40, 507 grams, pearl to pearl width of 100mm
700C x 45, 550 grams (advertised weight), black only
650B x 47, 585 grams, pearl to pearl width 126 mm