This time last year Panaracer launched two new tyres developed with gravity racer Cedric Gracia. Never one to sit still, the Frenchman has now expanded his signature range to four 26in mountain bike tyres, plus 29er – yes, really – and cyclo-cross options.
A 29in tyre seems an unusual departure for a man known for his love of four-cross, downhill and freeride – all disciplines that have so far resisted the move to big-wheelers. But it seems Gracia is a convert to wagon wheels.
"I went to see Rob Roskopp at Santa Cruz [sponsors of Gracia's CG Racing Brigade team]," he told BikeRadar. "I had no bike so I took the Tallboy out for a ride. I was amazed how good it was. That's what I ride now most of the time [outside of racing]."
The new CG XC 29 uses the same tread as the standard 26in XC but comes in a 2.25in rather than 2.1in width. Claimed weight is 850g. A similar tread, with Gracia's CG logo worked into the design, is found on the CG CX 'cross tyre (700x32, 300g).
New on the 26in wheel side of things are the CG SC (Soft Condition) AM (2.25in, 760g) and XC (2.1in, 650g) – designed for sandy, loose or muddy conditions – and the CG AC (All Condition) AM (2.35in, ) all-rounder. While Gracia's first two tyres (the XC and 4X/AM) were clearly inspired by four-cross racing, the design of these new treads was prompted by Gracia's burgeoning interest in trail/enduro riding.
"It's the only way I can ride with my friends," he told us. "They have normal jobs and at the weekend they like to go to the bikepark or do some enduro. I'm not used to this but I do this with them because I want to spend some time with them. I said, 'Jeff [Zell, from Panaracer], we need to make tyres for this', and I started drawing the stuff I wanted to see."
We've just tested the SC AM , which was partly inspired by one of Gracia's favourite motocross tyres, and found it to be "a really impressive technical winter tyre". The AC, which will be available in tube and tubeless versions, has a more directional tread and is designed to be fast rolling yet grippy.
The Combo Compound rubber combines a hard skin with soft knob cores, while sipes cut into the knobs allow the tyre to deform over roots and rocks for better traction. "I've never pretended I'm an engineer but I know what I like," said Gracia. "I appreciate it when people try the tyres and get the same feeling I do when I ride them."