Vittoria Martello 2.6 Review
Cons: Thinner sidewalls, heavy for how thin the sidewalls are
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Vittoria Martello is an impressive performer. When this piece of rubber is in its element, it shreds. Cornering, rolling resistance, and installation were highpoints while braking traction was a little less impressive. This tire has no fatal flaws and our only real concern is the flimsy and potentially weak casing. In addition, there are definitely tougher and more aggressive tires in this weight class
We were quite impressed with the way the Martello cornered. We would go as far as to say this tire rails corners. While the center/rolling blocks aren't especially large, the shoulder knobs are sizeable and aggressive. The shoulder knobs are the shape of a trapezoid and are two different sizes. These different sized lugs are staggered with the larger lugs on the edge and the smaller knobs moved slightly inboard. The cornering lugs are siped vertically to allow the knobs to conform to the trail most effectively.
On the trail, we were thrilled with the cornering performance. During our testing period, we rode everything from flat and gravely corners to sandy berms to picture-perfect berms. The Martello carved them with relative ease. This tire was predictable and you could feel when you were on the edge of control. Some tires have a vague feeling the further and further you lean them over, the Martello's squared-off profile lets you know exactly where you are. The 120-TPI casing feels supple and it conforms well to the trail surface. We found the transition from the rolling knobs to the shoulder knobs to be smooth and didn't have any hitches or twitchy points.
This tire really rails corners. On most surfaces, it hooked up exceptionally well and allowed us to carry maximum speed. Even on looser surfaces, this tire handled fine. It wouldn't be our top choice for the deepest, dustiest, rutted corners. We would suggest looking towards some of the beefier and chunkier options. In addition, if you are working through chattery, rocky corners, we might suggest something a little more substantial. We have little concern about this tire mounted on the front wheel. However, the Trail casing is too thin for use on the rear tire if your trails are rockier or rough. Vittoria does offer a more robust, and substantially heavier casing called the Enduro/EMTB casing. This would be far better suited for dragging brake through nasty corners.
It is worth noting that we tested the 2.6-inch version of the Martello. We used a set of Park Tool calipers and measured this tire on our 30mm internal rim. This tire only measured 2.4XXX-inches. This isn't narrow by any stretch. That said, if you are looking for a huge 2.6-inch tire with a giant footprint for maximum traction, we suggest looking elsewhere. A wider rim may give this tire a slightly wider stance, but it likely will not get you to the 2.6-inch mark.
The Martello has plenty of pedaling traction. If you examine the tread pattern you will notice the blocks are squared-off. Other tires are ramped where the tread block is sloped to offer a smoother rolling tire. This is not the case with the Martello. The tread blocks are squared-off with provides maximum bite.
When you are out of the saddle, punching up a steep climb, the Martello has your back. This thing has superb bite into the soil. Steep, standing, climbs are often a prime situation for your rear wheel to spin out. This is an exhausting situation as you dump all of your momentum and it often causes your body to lunge forward. The Martello really, really grabs quite well on most surfaces. Hardpack, loam, rock, moderate sand, this tire offers a secure bite that you don't really need to think about.
We prefer the Martello as a front tire, but there is no doubt it would serve well in the rear for those looking for great pedaling traction. It sacrifices some rolling speed in the name of great pedal traction and cornering abilities.
It should be noted that braking traction primarily pertains to rear tires. It should be noted that we prefer the Martello as a front tire given its sharp cornering abilities. You could certainly run it front and rear for loads of traction.
When it is time to shut down the speed, the same tread blocks that provide excellent pedaling traction deliver impressive braking bite. Those squared-off knobs really dig into the trail surface and dump your speed quite quickly. We don't have a scientific way of gauging braking distance, but this tire can hang with the best.
In addition to the square tread pattern, this tire has some horizontal siping on all of the rolling knobs. These horizontal cuts in the tread add additional braking bite as they conform to the trail under braking loads. The siped blocks are found in groups of three on the tread. Each group of three is separated by two vertically-siped blocks.
The Martello isn't going to blow your mind in terms of rolling speed. There quite a lot of tires that roll faster and carry momentum far more effectively. That said, this tire rolls reasonably well for having such an aggressive tread pattern. The center of the tread had fairly compacted knobs that are on the smaller side. No, they are not ramped, but the size and density of these knobs hold momentum reasonably well.
Again, this isn't some super-fast rolling rear tire. That said, it does roll quite well for an aggressive piece of rubber. Those who are concerned about speed above all-else should look elsewhere, those who want a beefy front or rear tire with a healthy amount of traction might be pleasantly surprised.
During our testing period, we observed no significant wear on our tires. The Martello still looks stellar and could almost pass as new. The only area starting to show minor signs of wear is the sides of the shoulder knobs. These minor wear signs are not cracking of the rubber or the breakdown of the shoulder knobs, just a little bit of scuffing on the knobs from hard cornering. It seems that the tread will have a relatively standard life. We are a little more concerned about the longevity of the sidewalls and the casing. We tested the lighter weight trail casing, and the sidewalls feel a little on the thin side when compared to more robust enduro casings.
The Martello was very easy to install. The thinner carcass/sidewalls made it quite easy to pull the bead over the rim. We were able to achieve this with our bare hands, a feat that is near impossible with some of the burlier tires in our test.
The bead snapped onto the rim pretty easily with a floor pump. We used a ToPeak Joe Blow Booster pump. The bead snapped on quickly and we finished the job with a few supplementary pumps. Throughout our test period, we did not observe any signs of sidewall seepage or sealant leakage.
At $70, the Martello is a solid value. That price puts this tire on the lower price range in terms of performance tires. The Martello could deliver great value for the right buyer with its blend of performance and price.
The Vittoria Martello is a great example of a tire that performs exceptionally well within its scope. This tire blends excellent cornering abilities with nice braking bite, pedal traction, and decent rolling speed. Our main criticism is how narrow this tire was when mounted to a 30mm rim. In addition, when you purchase the Trail casing, it is very much a trail tire and would not fare well being enduro-ed. For riders who want to carve down flow trails and shred berms, the Martello rips.
The Martello is available in the 27.5-inch and 29-inch wheel sizes. 26-inch tires are not available.
The 27.5-inch version comes in a 2.8-inch, 2.6-inch, and 2.35-inch width. The 29-inch size is only available in the 2.6-inch (tested) and 2.35-inch size.Vittoria offers two different compounds. The Trail casing (tested) is lighter with a thinner construction. The Enduro/EMTB casing is more robust and tougher.
— Pat Donahue