More than four years ago, Hutchinson introduced the first commercially available tubeless cyclocross tyres: the Bulldog and the Piranha.
Many amateur cyclocross racers – this tester included – were excited about the concept, as it was much cheaper and more versatile than tubulars, and, in theory, of roughly similar performance with a healthy serving of flat protection mixed in. The reality, unfortunately, was different.
The tyres were stiff and prone to burping. This new generation, however, seems to have delivered on that original promise of high-performance, versatility (in that they're much easier to change than tubulars) and flat protection.
The Piranha 2 CX has a low-profile center that rolls quickly on most dry surfaces, with side knobs that offer a little bite in corners. This is a definitely not a foul-weather tyre, but for fast, dry courses it's right at home. Racing in Colorado and New Mexico on hardpack, sand and grass — all in the dry — the robust tyres were confidence-boosting.
Unlike the previous versions, we have not burped the tyres once, despite running them at the same pressure as our tubulars (approximately 32psi for a 185lb rider on hardpacked courses).
Using Hutchinson's ProtectAir sealant, the tyres mounted easily and quickly with a floor pump, and more than a half dozen goathead thorns that embedded themselves in the tyres over a month of riding and racing did not cause a flat. When we'd pull out the thorns, there would often be a little leakage until the sealant did its job.
Goathead thorns? No problem
We have bottomed out the tyre on the rim a number of times — sometimes rather harshly — without the slightest air burp. (We would have likely experienced a pinch flat had we been running tubes.)
Billed as 700x34mm, we tested our pair on Easton's wide-rimmed EA90 SLX tubeless wheels, where they plumped up to over 35mm. Yes, this is well over the UCI regulation of 33mm, but honestly, how many weekend warriors care about this? Many who do are on tubulars anyway. For our money, we like the extra girth — and subsequent bump absorption and traction — of the Piranha 2 on wide rims. At 350g, plus about 60g of sealant, the weight is a non-issue.
A cyclocross purist might scoff at the idea of racing tubeless instead of tubulars. But unless that purist wants to buy you a tubular wheelset to go with your tyres, we can recommend the Piranha 2 as a viable option for those who already have tubeless wheels. It's a much better option than traditional clincher tyres with tubes, as you can safely run lower pressures. And the thorn-thwarting ProtectAir sealant is a blessing.
Related reading: Tips and guidelines for using tubeless cyclocross tyres
Hutchinson's Piranha 2 CX tubeless tyre is a great option for dry, fast courses