This year's Taipei Cycle Show uncovered dozens of new tyre models of all shapes and sizes – and also reaffirmed the notion that fat bikes are anything but a passing fad. While we saw the usual road, cyclocross, and mountain bike treads introduced, the single biggest growth was clearly in tyres measuring 4in across and up.
Here's a rundown of some of the highlights from this year's show.
Challenge showed off a new Gravel Grinder tyre meant for – you guessed it – gravel racing. Based on the Chicane cyclocross tyre, the new Gravel Grinder uses the same tread pattern but in a harder compound that should hold up better to those races' notoriously abrasive surfaces. The sidewalls will also get a thicker layer of rubber to help fend off casing slices.
Challenge will offer the Gravel Grinder in a 38mm wide vulcanised version (410g), a 36mm wide open tubular (355g), and a 36mm wide tubular. The tubular and open tubular will be available around 1 May with the vulcanised version to follow later in the year.
Clement's new 25mm wide LGG road tubular is based on the Strada LGG road clincher. It uses a nearly identical tread pattern with the exception of a smoother slick centre section. As with other Clement tubulars, the sealant-friendly LGG will use a thin butyl coating inside the casing, instead of a separate inner tube like more traditional tubulars. Retail price is US$130.
Clement also showed a new 27.5x2.25in size for its FRJ mountain bike tyre, to accompany the initial 29x2.25in offering. The all-purpose cross-country tread features an openly spaced but heavily ramped centre tread combined with Y-shaped cornering knobs similar to what the company uses on its popular cyclocross tyres. Both versions are built around tubeless-ready 120tpi casings with Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls and cost US$70.
Hutchinson boldly pegs the new Taipan mountain bike tyre as a true do-it-all tread, supposedly offering a fast roll, excellent grip, light weight, and superior puncture protection on dry, muddy or in-between ground conditions. We'll have to see for ourselves once we receive test samples, as the siped tread pattern and slightly squared-off profile both look fairly conventional.
Hutchinson will offer the Taipan in a 2.1in width in 26, 27.5 and 29in diameters along with a 2.25in-wide version in 27.5in only.
Other tread patterns carry over but in several new sizes: 26x2.5in, 27.5x2.5in, 27.5x2.3in, and 29x2.3in for the Squale downhill tyre; 26x2.2in and 27.5x2.2in for the cross-country Python; and 29x2.2in for the speedy Black Mamba.
IRC has concentrated its efforts on the ultra low-profile G-Claw, built with a very fast-rolling tread that we're guessing is best suited for dry, hardpacked conditions. IRC will offer the G-Claw in a single 29x2in size with a claimed weight of just 595g.
Kenda has jumped into the fat bike game with the new Juggernaut Sport. Kenda is seemingly still taking a rather tentative approach to the segment, however, as the Juggernaut Sport will only be available in a single 26x4in size with a 60tpi casing and wire beads.
Also coming this season is a new DH-specific, 27.5x2.4in version of its versatile Honey Badger tread.
Maxxis will have two fat bike tyres this coming season: the 26x4in Mammoth and the 29x3in Chronicle. Both prioritize low rolling resistance over outright grip with very compact centre tread patterns, ramped leading edges, and relatively low knob heights. Both will be offered in 60tpi and 120tpi versions starting this June.
Meanwhile, the tubeless Padrone TR road tyres have gone on a major diet courtesy of a thinner butyl inner coating that supposedly saves 50g over the previous version (but now requires sealant). The 23mm wide version has a claimed weight of 250g and there's also a new 25mm version that weighs 10g more. Projected availability is later this summer.
Maxxis's tubular road tyres have undergone a major overhaul as well. The triple-compound Campione has now split into three versions: a 220g, 170tpi, 23mm wide version with no puncture protection; a slightly reinforced variant with single-layer puncture protection that adds 25g; and a more economical 285g, 25mm wide version built with dual-layer puncture protection and a 120tpi casing.
Bargain-minded tubular devotees will get the 305g, 25mm wide Forza tubular built with a 60tpi casing.
Headlining Onza's 2015 range is the new Citius downhill tyre, offered in both 26x2.4in and 27.5x2.4in sizes, with your choice of three different rubber compounds. Onza aims the dual-ply Citius at "dry, shallow-depth surfaces". Weights range from 955g to 1,140g.
Tioga has expanded its AI self-adjusting knob concept yet again, this time for a faster-rolling cross-country tyre called the Fast 13. Carrying over from other AI tyres are the siped triangular knobs but in a much lower-profile and more tightly spaced pattern that should lend better speed on hardpacked surfaces.
Tioga will offer the Fast 13 in 29x2.1in (697g) and 27x2.25in (687g) sizes, both with Mag 60+ reinforced tubeless-ready casings and folding beads.
Vee Rubber may not be terribly well known in mountain biking circles but the company is certainly banking heavily on the fat bike segment with no fewer than eightdifferent treads for 2015. New models include the 26x4.7in Bulldozer with openly spaced knobs; the studdable 26x4.8in SnowShoe XL with taller knobs to bite into deep snow and mud; the speedy-looking 26x4.25in H-Billie with more closely spaced and lower-height knobs; and the very tightly spaced Trax Fatty, which will be available in both 29x3in and 27.5x3.25in sizes.
Vredestein's new Fortezza Senso clinchers are designed specifically for riding in foul conditions, with lightly patterned treads and compounds supposedly optimised for wet weather. The top-end Fortezza Senso All Weather SuperLite features a supple 220tpi casing and 195g claimed weight while the mid-range Fortezza Senso All Weather subs in a 120tpi casing that adds 30g. Vredestein will also offer the All Weather in a 25mm-wide version that weighs 240g.
The Fortezza Senso Xtreme Weather, on the other hand, is meant to be ridden in both wet andcold conditions thanks to an extra-soft XWS compound. Claimed weight on the 23mm wide version is 245g while the 25mm one is 260g. Vredestein will have a 28mm version as well with a claimed weight of 280g.
Also coming are 27.5in variants of last year's 29er mountain bike tyres.
WTB continues its blistering pace of 27.5in and 29in tyre development for 2015. Highlighting the range is the 27.5x2.50in Breakout with tightly spaced but rather tall and siped rectangular knobs plus a very squared-off profile; the medium-spaced 27.5x2.25in and 29x2.25in Trail Boss for mixed conditions; and the very fast-rolling Nine Line in a wider 29x2.25in size.
WTB has also adapted its long-running Nano tread pattern to gravel use for the new Nano 40C. The continuous centre tread should yield a reasonably fast ride while the array of smaller intermediate and shoulder knobs promise good cornering grip in dry and dusty conditions.
Finally, there's the cyclocross-focused 700x35c Cross Boss with a rounded profile, tightly spaced tread blocks, and dual compound rubber.