Maxxis, Schwalbe, and in more recent times Continental, have a firm grip on the high-end tire market. In fact, it's to the extent that their model names become almost ubiquitous. Tires from other brands will often be described as a Minion copy or a Magic Mary, whether or not it flatters or they're happy with the comparison. In recent years, Vittoria have been making an earnest push into the high-end mountain biking sector. Whether through new models in the range, updating casing or compounds, or sponsoring some of the world's biggest events, they're certainly giving it a go.
Mazza Race Details
• 29 or 27.5" in 2.4 or 2.6"
• Exceptionally soft Graphene & Silica compound
• Reinforced casing across the breadth of tire
• Actual weight: 1340g (29")
• Price: $89.99 USD
It's been several years since the release of the Mazza, and the Mazza Race uses the same tread pattern and spacing. Instead, the key difference is in compound and casing. This tire uses a 60 TPI casing. This uses thicker threads in a lower quantity, and it represents something of a departure from the idea that has been perforated in recent years that a higher TPI will give a better tracking and a more supple tire.
As for the compound, it's just the one throughout. Vittoria has a history of eking the life out of their soft rubber by using graphene. This goes even further by using both graphene and silica. The rubber is incredibly soft, to say the least. The Mazza Race has a reinforced layer across the entire tire and a further additional protective insert that sits across the tread of the tire itself, as well as an anti-flat insert on the bead of the aramid bead.Details
So what is it? Is it a Minion? Well, there are elements of that. However, I would say this a more of a Minion and cut spike hybrid. Simply put, there is a lot of canvas on show with Mazza. This might be good for mud shedding and loose surfaces, but a more open tread can introduce a vague feeling when initiating turns, as well as being more vulnerable to rim damage or punctures. Compared to the standard Mazza, the Mazza race has a slightly more open tread.
The tires aim to negate that in two ways. Firstly, these tires are exceptionally soft. Each lug is like a gummy bear that's been left in the sun. At the start of the test, I wondered if these would be prone to being ripped straight off the canvas but I can report no such incidents.
As for rim damage, the design of the sturdy single-ply sidewall aims to protect against that eventuality, not least by being relatively portly. At 1340 grams each, the weight of these tires combined with the incredibly soft compound, might not be an enticing prospect for all-day pedalers. Curiously, Vittoria don't provide any details on what that means in terms of the durometer of the rubber.
These tires aim to establish themselves as the highest-performance option for gravity-focused riders in the range. A range that includes the 900-gram Trail casing (29x2.4"), and the 1300-gram 2-ply Enduro casing. It also represents something of a departure for the brand in terms of the technology utilized. Normally, Vittoria tires are known for their 4C makeup. This combines, you guessed it, four different rubber compounds throughout the tire, to tailor each knob, be it center or side, to the task at hand. They can then have firmer bases with softer outer layers. When this is combined with relatively complex siping patterns, it can give tires that hook up, don't deform too much, and roll well.
In the past, I have been very impressed with 4C tires that I have used from Vittoria in a variety of casings and tread patterns. The Enduro Race tire uses one super-super-soft compound throughout. The compound used is softer than any of those features in the 4C models.Performance
Let's start with the main point of these tires. They're intended to be exceptionally grippy for true enduro trails, and do they deliver?
This tire has exceptional grip under braking on sheet-like rocks or slabs. However, I would say that the same thing that can make it excel in those situations is the same thing that can undermine them in other instances. The Mazza Race, thanks to the softness of the rubber, can offer levels of grip and deforming at slow speeds that other tires can't come anywhere near to. If you want something that will give consistently high levels of grip then these are very impressive. The problem is when the speeds are higher and there are more inputs or twisting forces going through those exceptionally soft lugs.
At higher speeds, especially through turns, it can feel like the lugs just twist or roll. While this isn't the worst feeling ever, and it can give a very positive feeling in medium-load turns, it can also quickly breach a threshold and the tire goes from conforming to squirming. On the front, I have no complaints and I didn't feel I was ever getting the drawbacks of the soft compounds, while still enjoying the positives. On the rear, however, it was a thin line between carving a turn and feeling like you were going to rip the tire off the rim.
If you could isolate these attributes away, I would say that it's a very confident turner across the tread, going from edge to edge consistently. It's an okay braker, but compared to something like an Assegai or Krypotal Front it lacks the large braking paddle that's made up of center, transfer and edge knobs.
The softness of this tire could make it a very good candidate for the front and it would pair excellently with a 4C Enduro Mazza on the rear.
So, is it simply too grippy? It's so hard to say. The element of squirming only came when leaning, so was far more present in higher-speed bike park trails with built-up banked turns with positive cambers. The rest of the time, on more natural trails where there isn't the same lateral load going through the bike, the tire did give a very good grip.
For me though, I think you choose to run a 1300-gram tire for a reason, and that reason is support. For all the grip on the Mazza Race, it excels in places where you don't need such a heavy tire in the first place.
Some of this instability should also be laid at the door of the sidewall. Vittoria, for this tire, has included a APF (anti-pinch flat) insert around the rim but it is markedly thinner than what you might find in other tires. Typically this insert is an inch-or-so long piece of material that sits between the plys of rubber in the sidewall and not only helps support the tire when under extreme load, but also helps protect the rim in harsh compressions. While it is present with the Mazza, I question its effectiveness at helping protect the rim and stabilize the tire.
Cutaway of the Mazza Race sidewall, left, and a Maxxis Doubledown casing.
To try and demonstrate this, I cut up two tires. On the left you can see a cutaway of the Mazza Race, and on the right of a Maxxis DHR2 Doubledown. You can see the effects of the butyl rubber insert in the Maxxis tire means that it mainly flexes where the sidewall ends and the tread begins. On the Mazza, which instead has a thinner and more flexible insert, it doesn't have this inflexion near the tread and I believe is a less robust option because of it. Note - the red part of the Vittoria tire is the anti-pinch flat insert; you can see the dark grey insert of the Maxxis if you look closely. Whilst the pictures might not look too dissimilar, the sidewalls feel markedly different when in your hands.
A comparison I would make would be suspension with a low spring rate and low compression damping. Yes, it might grip at lower speeds but as soon as you start to go faster you'd gladly trade some suppleness for some consistency and control under larger hits.Durability & Reliablity
You measure some tire's lifespan in weeks, others in days. The Race compound on the Mazza's mean you can measure it in runs. You also don't have to look too far to see where the squirming sensation is coming from as each lug seems to deteriorate as much from the base as it does the edge. A few days in the park riding classic Creekside enduro trails will use up any tire, but that's not to say I wasn't taken aback but just how fast the Mazza Race's showed signs of wear. The tracks, which included trails such as Delayed Fuse and Misfire, are often used in Enduro races at a world series and regional level - and for good reason. If you looking for the style of feature or section you'd find on an enduro world cup race track, it's probably going to be in there. During testing, I typically ran either 26 or 27 psi, which would be matched front and rear.
There were also issues present within the test that can't be ignored. Typically, I wouldn't say I break many wheels. Or rather, when I do I can point to one large, Hail Mary style incident. During the first five rides on the Mazza Race tires I broke two carbon wheels. I can only speculate as to whether each rim would have failed with a different model on, but I have sliced tires on both rims previously and the rim has come away unscathed. It should be noted though that the tyre received no visible damage, and in the second instance still held air, although I did fit a fresh one when moving to a new wheel.
There was also an incident where the tire blew off the rim under medium compressions on the exit of a turn at 27 psi. I was surprised at this, to say the least. It's not something I've had happen for a very long time, and also not something that I have suffered with other tires on the same rims. It was terrifying and frustrating in equal measure, as I was left trying to slow the bike down in wet slippy tech. You could, I suppose, run extra tape to tighten up the fit of the tire. While I'm not against this, it's more of a racers trick and I don't think it's a reasonable expectation with new tires in 2023.
I think, and it's only my opinion, but these tires would be better with the added security of a thicker butyl insert. Yes, they would be heavier for it but the sheer grip delivered by this soft compound merits a sidewall that can keep up.
Incredible grip on rocks and slabs +
Penetrates loose dirt and mud
Soft compound wears very quickly-
Squirming under load-
Came off the rim while riding