Acknowledging the breadth of the gravel spectrum, French tyre brand Hutchinson, has released an off-road tyre designed for “muddy woodland trails to super technical rocky descents”, whilst seeking not to sacrifice the “fast rolling speed” Hutchinson claims its tyres are renowned for.
The tread pattern is said to have drawn inspiration from Hutchinson’s Black Mamba cross-country MTB tyre for a “more secure feel through the most technical of routes”. To boost its clag-coping abilities, all but the most important tread blocks have been removed in order to provide as much mud clearance as possible.
Sure enough, the shoulder knobs are much more aggressive than you generally see on a gravel tyre, with large gaps between them and the central knobs. Down the middle of the tyre, though, the tread becomes much more tightly packed – indicative of Hutchinson’s desire to help the rolling speed on tarmac and hard packed sections for trail.
Along similar lines, the shoulder knobs benefit from a softer and tackier rubber, for better grip on unyielding surfaces which the tread can’t dig in to, whilst the centre tread is given a harder wearing compound.
The Tundra is available in both Tan Wall & Black versions. The 700x40 edition weighs in at a claimed 490g with the 700x45 sizes weighing a claimed 580g (ours were only 522g). Pricing stands at £49.95 for the Tan Wall tyres, whilst the Black Walls are £39.95. More information can be found over at Hutchinson's website (opens in new tab) here.
Is the Hutchinson Tundra the solution for muddy gravel riding?
There are dozens and dozens of gravel tyres on the market and finding a set to suit the riding conditions of a UK summer isn’t a difficult task. Through the winter, when those hard and dusty trails turn into a boggy slop, there simply aren’t a lot of good options.
Most gravel tyres are designed for dry and dusty conditions, only very few are designed for mud and those that are either don’t take the design far enough for a UK winter or have their own specific limitations.
The Schwalbe Ultrabites, for example, are one of the most aggressive gravel tyres out there, but the horizontally oriented knobs – although great for climbing and straight-line grip – don’t offer much help with off-camber trails or corners.
There’s the option to fit a set of cyclocross tyres, and these do work well in terms of their grip and control, but being only 33mm wide, it’s so easy to ding a rim on any roots or rocky sections. Tyre inserts do help somewhat, but it’s a sticking plaster rather than a solution – wider tyres with a greater volume of air are what’s really needed.
But going the other way and trying to fit MTB mud tyres to a gravel bike isn’t straightforward either – most brands have stopped selling mud tyres in widths that could be coaxed into most gravel frames.
So do the Hutchinson tyres look promising?
Over on the bottom right we have the Specialized Hillbilly, my go-to MTB mud tyre. The large, square blocks provide ample grip both in a straight line and laterally. Of course, you’re still going to slip and slide in the proper mud, but they give a lot more control than more tightly spaced tyres which just become clogged up with mud and effectively become a slick. You can see a similar design in Hutchinson’s DZO MTB tyre in the top left.
Striking a bit more of a balance between rolling speed and grip are the Schwalbe X-One Bites and the Specialized Terra Pro, another two personal favourites. Both of these have shorter knobs than the Hillbillys, but thanks to their open tread patterns, they still provide great levels of grip.
The super soft compound of those two CX tyres means they’re not especially fun to ride on the road. They’re very fast – Ultrabites actually feel faster – and it just feels like you’re quickly wearing them out as you ride along. It feels much nicer riding them on soft, squishy earth
Although simply just supersizing those to 45mm widths would work for some people, it would make sense to strike a little bit more of a balance for tarmac sections and hard pack trails.
I haven’t yet had the chance to try out the Tundras in the mud – and having just come into a period of wall-to-wall sunshine, my opportunities to before November comes round are quickly running out. Launching a mud tyre at the start of spring is a curious choice.
So, fingers crossed for a wash-out April and a more timely review...?
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After winning the 2019 National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Biking Championships and claiming the plushie unicorn (true story), Stefan swapped the flat-bars for drop-bars and has never looked back.
But his favourite rides are multiday bikepacking trips, with all the huge amount of cycling tech and long days spent exploring new roads and trails - as well as histories and cultures. Most recently, he’s spent two weeks riding from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia.
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