a passing, silly fad? Is it an industry buzzword because it denotes a genuinely different style of riding or is it just lazy marketing? Well, as somebody who has been bitten by the downcountry bug, I would contend that it is very much here to stay and it would seem that Vittoria agree. Today they release their new downcountry tire, the Syerra.
If downcountry is to be taken seriously it needs some downcountry-grade parts. This isn’t dissimilar to how a lot of us, myself included, balked at the idea of enduro
-this and strap-a-banana-to-your-downtube
-that. This might make for uncomfortable reading for some people, but downcountry is a thing and it’s only going to get bigger.
However, it’s not unheard of for a brand to add “e-bike ready” to a components spec list purely because they worry e-bikers won’t buy it unless it explicitly states its compatibility and this has never felt very helpful to me. In fact, this is exactly the nonsense Vittoria are trying to avoid; they're not here to offer a mere sticker to add to your collection. This is a new product designed for a specific purpose.
The Syerra is a completely new tire designed explicitly for the demands of downcountry and is there to complement and not replace the other tires in Vittoria’s range. There will still be the XC race tires such as the Barzo or the trail orientated Aggaro. It’s intended to offer a genuine alternative to both. So, how does it claim to do this?
Due the combination of a slightly thicker 60 threads-per-inch cord in the sidewall and an anti-pinch flat insert, Vittoria feel that the damping provided from the tire is adequate enough for the rider to venture to lower pressure as they try and find the grippiest set up. Unlike a thinner tire, you can aim to use the stroke of the Syerra without fear of hitting your rim. Vittoria wants this tire to strike a balance between speed, comfort and descending capabilities.
The tire, unsurprisingly for Vittoria, uses four compounds throughout with their 4C technology. The centre knobs are the XC-grade fast rolling rubber and the side of the tread uses the trail-grade compound. The idea behind the four compounds is that you can have a harder compound at the base of a knob to resist excessive deforming and softer at the top to help it grip. Both the centre and edge knobs feature two different compounds to make four compounds total.
The tread also aims to offer more of a shoulder than traditional rounded XC tires. Throughout the tread you can see quite intricate siping. This is done to let the knob deform while also biasing it to only move on one plane. You can also see the stepped centre knobs. At lower speed they aim to give a second edge under driving load. However, thanks to their relatively small step, at higher speed they should begin to act more like a single edge and not decrease rolling speed.
You might also notice that the tire does not feature an alternating tread pattern. This is done in a bid to provide more braking traction in whichever area of the tire is in the dirt as you lean the bike or ride more technical trails where the contact patch isn't always so consistent.
The tire features quite an open and spaced tread throughout. This is for three reasons. Firstly, it means that there is a paddle-design to aid traction on slippy stepped climbs or on obstacles such as roots. Secondly, a defined channel between the side knobs and the outer centre knobs means that there can be a second turning edge as you lean the bike. This channel also helps with the third reason - how the tire clears mud and dirt.
The open tread and relatively small knob also hope to help keep the casing flexible. As you can imagine, as knobs get bigger, and their surface area greater, it will begin to take on a structural influence and add stiffness to the tire’s tread, acting as something like an exoskeleton.
The tire has a claimed weight of 850g and will be available in a true 2.4” when fitted to the 30mm internal rim diameter that it was designed around. The weight is important because it often goes hand in hand with damping. On short travel bikes having light tires at high pressures can compromise comfort and traction when riding hard. In fact, I personally think the more damping you can do before the forces even get to the axle the better the ride quality and this is made more prominent on modern shorter travel but very capable bikes.
The tire has a RRP of $78.99 USD and will be available around November.