A couple years ago, I made a review for all the cyclocross tires I had accumulated, to help me categorize them for different races or rides. The selection below includes the most frequently used in my stable:
*Note: the higher the number indicates more of that quality on a 1-5 scale
WTB Cross Wolf 700x32c
Rolling Resistance: 3, Traction: 4, Mud Shedding: 3, Hardness: 4
This tire proves to have strategically placed knobs across the unidirectional cross-corrugated casing, providing a stable climbing and descending platform for rigid bikes. Even with the high-profile knobs, there isn’t a tremendous amount of squirm in the lower tire pressure range – which helps with sharp cornering. In loose terrain, the tire was entirely capable of cutting through to shallow hard-pack without sliding. The dual compound manages limited wear despite being ridable in a multitude of conditions, and would be the preferred tire for pine needles and/hard pack sandy conditions with occasional roots or rocks. It’s inspired me to tackle new challenges. Its a great training tire, but might be a bit heavy for weight-weenie racers. If I had one complaint, it would be the fact that this tire doesn’t make as cool of a “zip” sounds as with the Interwolf.
WTB Inter Wolf (700x38c)
Rolling Resistance: 2, Traction: 1, Mud Shedding: 2, Hardness:2
I have frequently gone back to this for pothole-covered road commuting although the dual compound is magnetic for goatheads. It has a tendency to spin-out on climbs because of the relatively slick-style tread, and had trouble doing switchbacks because of its width on singletrack turns. I definitely wouldn’t race on it, because it’s kinda heavy and doesn’t accelerate well at all. It’s also not UCI legal (needs be under 35 width), not that I am doing any of those races.
Maxxis Larsen Mimo CX (700x32c)
Rolling Resistance: 1, Traction: 4, Mud Shedding: 1, Hardness:1
This is one tire that accelerates well in Bay Area conditions, because the casing sits tall, and it has scattered mid-profile knobs. Because of the scattered nature, however, it also wears fast if ridden on pavement often, and squirms in sharp turns. Good for fast, flat and sandy routes.
Michelin Mud/Sprint (700x32c)
Rolling Resistance: 2, Traction: 5, Mud Shedding: 5, Hardness:1
These tires are probably my favorite off the shelf, because of the way it makes the bike feel connected to the terrain, but it wears ridiculously fast even if you don’t ride much pavement. They’re are also suitable for specified front (Mud) and rear (Sprint), so that you get the hook-up on the climbs and turns, without loosing momentum on acceleration. It also repels Mud like I wish I could repel poison oak.
Continental Twister (700x32c)
Rolling Resistance: 4, Traction: 5, Mud Shedding: 3, Hardness:5
This is the perfect tire for technical riding on your ‘cross bike. Its not good for moving fast on pavement or hard-pack, unless you like working against yourself. It does, however, grips rocks and roots extremely well, as if the hard compound seeps an anti-weather substance. If I even move back East and am forced to ride on the ice, again – this would be my tire of choice.
Kenda Kwick (700×32)T
Rolling Resistance: 4, Traction: 1, Mud Shedding: 2, Hardness:5
These tires are what I was first sold as a multi-purpose tire. It served as a fairly heavy, yet puncture resistant city tire. I rarely rode it off-road, as the knob profile was shallow and arrow shaped. The variation in density and traction changed little when tire pressure was released.
Ritchey Speedmax (700×30)
Rolling Resistance: 3, Traction: 3, Mud Shedding: 2, Hardness: 3
Much like my first pair, but with squared knobs on the outside and smoother center tread. This was curious to me: two tires in one. When changing a flat, the bead was particularly tight on the hooked rim -resulting in detachment from the casing. Not impressive.
WTB All-Terrainasaurus (700x32c)
Rolling Resistance: 1, Traction: 3, Mud Shedding: 3, Hardness:5
I used to have this unbelievably awesome commute from Oakland to Mill Valley, and often split my route with dirt in either direction. This was the perfect tire, because of its low rolling resistance and natural flat-proofing on pavement. It is also versatile as the harder compound doesn’t wear fast (but is heavy), and can be deflated a bit for off-road adventures, enabling the outer knobs to hook up on dirt. Its very affordable, too.