There’s a new road bike tyre on the block from French firm Hutchinson, called the Fusion 5. It’s a direct successor to the Fusion 3, and comes in three versions: Galactik, Performance and All Season.
BikeRadar was invited down to Sicily to try out the new tyres in the company of the two professional teams that Hutchinson is sponsoring for the 2016 season, Direct Energie and Armée de Terre. After racing round the foothills of Mount Etna in their wake and discussing the new rubber at length, here’s what we found…
Some big claims
The first question that needs to be answered is – if these are the successors to the Fusion 3 tyre, then what happened to the Fusion 4? Well Hutchinson believes there are five main performance criteria of a tyre: rolling performance, grip, durability, puncture resistance and comfort. Simply put, the Fusion 5 was created to shine at them all.
They’ve got some big claims too: the new tyre compound is claimed to be 22% more durable than the Fusion 3 compound,10% more grippy, and with 18% better rolling performance, according to independent test benches in Germany, France and Denmark. They’re also 5-10g lighter per tyre in clincher and tubeless versions.
The race-tested tubular version is claimed to be even more of an improvement on its predecessor, the Carbon Comp: 31% more durable, with 27% more grip and 5% better rolling performance, and again Hutchinson says those numbers are from independent test benches.
The new Fusion 5 range
The Fusion 5 Galactik weighs just 180g in 23mm width
At the top of the range sits the Galactik, available in 23mm and 25mm widths for both tubeless and clincher versions, weighing 180g in the 23mm version thanks to a thickness of just 0.8mm. There’s a 127 TPI casing using a high density weave made up of extremely thin threads, with polyamide puncture protection. They retail at £45 / $57 per tyre in the clincher variety (Aussie pricing TBC), or £55 / $77 in the tubeless variety.
The Fusion 5 Performance gains a Kevlar-reinforced casing
Next comes the Performance tyre, offered in 23/25mm (tubeless) and 23/25/28mm (clincher) versions, weighing from 190g, with a thickness of 1.2mm. They promise better puncture resistance and wear than the Galactik version, thanks to a Kevlar reinforced, 127 TPI casing. They retail at £37 / $57 per tyre for the clincher version (Aussie pricing TBC), or £45 / $77 in the tubeless version.
The Fusion 5 All Season looks to be the best bet for weekend warriors riding in variable conditions
For weekend warriors in less balmy climes there’s the All Season, available in 23/25mm (tubeless) and 23/25/28mm (clincher) versions. Weights start at 210g, and the casing is 1.6mm thick. It features a dedicated tread and grain design for winter and wet conditions, and the compound is designed for durability and grip on various terrain, over long mileage. They retail at £35 / $57 per tyre in the clincher version (Aussie pricing TBC), or £45 / $77 in the tubeless variety.
Finally, the Fusion 5 tubular was co-developed with the race teams and is built on a 220 TPI polycotton casing, to offer more flexibility, a better contact area and comfort. There’s a latex inner tube for lightness, low friction resistance and comfort. UK price is £65 per tyre, international pricing TBC.
The union of all knowledge
Team Hutchinson with the two pro teams the brand currently sponsors, Direct Energie and Armée de Terre
"This is the union of all knowledge of the Hutchinson group across research, development and experience in the composition of the best cycling compounds," said Hutchinson’s service course manager and R&D co-ordinator, Joël Balez.
The entire range is made entirely in France, in a factory around 100 miles (160km) south of Paris – a fact that the Hutchinson team are clearly proud of, given how few high-end bike tyres are still made in Europe.
There is an illustrious history there, too: Hutchinson started making tyres in 1890, and notched up a first road race win in 1909 with the Monofil tyre. Since then, they’ve been ridden by greats of the sport including Louison Bobet, Alberto Contador and Laurent Jalabert.
First ride impressions
So that’s the spec and background, how do they ride? Well, I only had a short few hours to get a flavour of the Performance variants, on bumpy Sicilian roads using Look 765 endurance bikes that had been supplied for the occasion. In other words there were a lot of unknowns, and it was impossible to make a like-for-like comparison.
But they did feel grippy and zippy. We cranked it up on the flat to 35kph for a 30-minute period and they felt like they could easily go faster with a bigger engine than mine behind them. Those Sicilians roads are a bugger for bumps, and the Fusion 5s combined with the Look 765’s vibration-damping flax fibres to smooth out even the pavé we came across (yes, really).
The test ride included around 500 vertical metres of brutal, switchback-laden ascent at the halfway point, and the tyres never put a foot wrong. Coming back down for the return leg home, they were so assured in the numerous hairpins that I couldn’t help pushing them harder than would perhaps be considered wise.
I did manage to break their grip at one downhill corner, but only on the rear tyre and only when deliberately grabbing fistfuls of the rear brake – way more than I'd have done in normal riding. How they’ll handle in the wet or on loose surfaces is another matter, of course.
We’ll be putting in more miles on these very good tyres over the course of this spring, and will report back with more complete findings…