Vittoria Syerra Review
Cons: Casing is fairly easy to puncture, not the best braking traction, only available in one size
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|Price||$80 List||$52.99 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Lightweight, very low rolling resistance, awesome all-around tire on the right terrain||EXO sidewall protection, excellent cornering grip, good on front or rear, dual compound increases longevity||Great cornering grip, good braking traction, aggressive tread pattern, super damp ride quality, available in 2.6 and 2.3-inch widths||Versatile, affordable, great all-around use, intermediate tread height, fast rolling||Reasonably priced, versatile yet aggressive tread design, good all-around performance as a rear tire|
|Cons||Casing is fairly easy to puncture, not the best braking traction, only available in one size||Not the best for hardpack, high rolling resistance, requires good technique||Moderate weight, not the fastest rolling||Not the best braking traction||Moderate braking traction, firmer rubber compound|
|Bottom Line||A lightweight and fast-rolling tire aimed squarely at the down-country market||One of the most popular tires ever, and for good reason||Specialized's classic aggressive trail riding tire with a new rubber compound, enhanced grip, and same great value||A versatile and well-rounded do-it-all rear tire for any kind of riding||A versatile, well-rounded, and reasonably priced trail riding tire best suited for use on the rear of the bike|
|Rating Categories||Vittoria Syerra||Maxxis Minion DHF 3...||Specialized Butcher...||Maxxis Aggressor 2....||Specialized Elimina...|
|Pedaling Traction (20%)|
|Braking Traction (20%)|
|Rolling Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||Vittoria Syerra||Maxxis Minion DHF 3...||Specialized Butcher...||Maxxis Aggressor 2....||Specialized Elimina...|
|Size tested||29" x 2.4"||29" x 2.5" WT||29" x 2.6"||29" x 2.5" WT||29" x 2.3"|
|Weight as tested||829g||954g||1123g||950g||945g|
|Front, Rear, or Both||Both||Front, Both||Front, Both||Rear||Rear|
|Casing Tested||Anti-Pinch Flat (APF) insert||EXO||GRID Trail||EXO||GRID Trail|
|Compound Tested||4C Graphene||3C Maxx Terra||Gripton T9||Dual||Gripton T7|
|Tread Count (TPI)||60||60||60||60||60|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Vittoria has been steadily growing their tire offerings, and the Syerra is a new model in their lineup that they are marketing specifically to the emerging down-country market. Down-country is a term that was coined (half-jokingly) by one of Pinkbike.com's editors to try and categorize the growing number of lightweight shorter travel bikes with more aggressive geometries. Vittoria seems to have latched onto that term and run with it, even printing it on the hot patch of the Syerra's sidewall. We bought one and tested it head to head against a very similar tire and came away quite impressed, though we found it to have a relatively narrow terrain and conditions bandwidth.
Vittoria designed the Syerra to bridge the gap between cross-country and trail, and in doing so they seem to have made cornering performance one of the priorities. This is evidenced by the fairly substantial row of cornering knobs, as well as some smaller knobs filling in the transition zone. We found them to perform admirably in the corners when kept within their terrain and condition limits, but they could get a little squirrelly when pushed a little too hard or things get super loose.
Like most cross-country tires, the Syerra has a fairly round side-to-side profile. Unlike most cross country tires, however, Vittoria gave it a considerable row of moderately tall cornering knobs. The center and intermediate tread knobs are fairly low-profile and small in size, but they still provide a bit of bite when rolling this tire on edge into a corner in firmer conditions and it feels nice and smooth as you make the transition. Due to the smaller size of the knobs in the transition zone, we found that the Syerra relies mostly on the cornering knobs to do the heavy lifting in loose soils or any time you're really leaning it over. Over time, we learned to trust this tire's grip more than we expected in the corners, but we also found that there are limits to how hard we could push them. Of course, once were in awe of how well this super light and fast-rolling tire was performing, we proceeded to put a little too much faith in its cornering grip and stuffed a corner right into the bushes.
Vittoria uses 4 different Graphene infused rubber compounds in the tread of the Syerra, and the cornering knobs consist of a firmer, supportive base topped with softer, grippier rubber. The center tread employs two other compounds, but with a firmer top than the side knobs for faster-rolling properties and increased longevity. In general, we found the grip of this tire when on edge to be great on firm surfaces and slabby rock, though it could feel a little skittish when more upright. We also found that the relatively thin casing required close attention to tire pressure. Too low and the tire could feel squirmy and risk flatting, too high and it would bounce you around, but get it just right and it provides a well-damped ride feel with an increased contact patch that enhances the traction. This was a pretty fine line, but 23 psi in the front and 25 psi in the rear seemed to be the sweet spot that we settled on.
The Syerra is a very fast-rolling tire and its pedaling traction impressed us in some conditions and left us a little wanting in others. Firm, smooth, and even slightly loose surfaces are where we found this tire to shine, but when things got properly loose, so did its traction. Looking at the tread pattern, that's pretty much what we expected.
The rolling tread of the Syerra consists of an alternating pattern of fairly small, low-profile angled knobs. We found them to hook up quite well when climbing hardpack and loose over hard surfaces where these knobs offered ample grip. Once things got a little looser, however, we found ourselves a bit more prone to spinning out as the knobs didn't penetrate quite as well as tires with more aggressive tread patterns. This was less pronounced when seated, but during out of the saddle power moves it became much more noticeable. That said, when kept in the right conditions and terrain, we feel they perform admirably and as expected.
In the right conditions, braking with the Syerra is a controlled and predictable affair. The tread pattern seems optimized to enhance their braking traction while remaining fast-rolling, but again, we found there are limits.
On firm and even moderately loose conditions, we found the Syerra to provide comfortable and controlled braking characteristics. The angled center tread knobs flare towards the back to provide a larger braking surface and a little more meat to grab at the ground when the brakes are applied. Once things get a little looser, however, the size and height of the knobs become a little more apparent, and there's simply not a lot there to claw into the soil. This was super evident when riding this tire back to back with the Specialized Ground Control which is a similar tire with a more aggressive tread design. The Syerra would break into a skid and lose traction much sooner. Now, we're not trying to knock this tire as it certainly has others beat in many ways, but it's something to keep in mind if you ride in loose conditions regularly.
The Syerra definitely stands out for its very low rolling resistance. In fact, we'd say this is one of the fastest-rolling tires we've ever tested. While it might not roll as quickly as true XC race tires, it is still truly impressive considering its crossover down-country intentions.
It's pretty evident that Vittoria designed the Syerra with low rolling resistance in mind. The center and intermediate tread knobs are fairly small and moderate in height, with tapered and slightly ramped leading edges. The moment you get on this tire the first time, you can feel just how fast they roll. They are impressively smooth and very quiet on all surfaces with virtually no drag or slowing sensation when you stop pedaling. The weight is another factor at play here, and at 829-grams (less than the claimed weight of 850-grams) on our scale, they are very light for a 29" x 2.4" tire. If you're coming off a heavier tire, that difference will be very noticeable, and the Syerra instantly made our test bike feel lighter, zipper, and quicker all-around.
We feel the Syerra is a bit of a mixed bag in the longevity department. On the one hand, we know that Vittoria's Graphene infused four compound (4C) rubber tends to wear evenly and a little slower than many other brands on the market. This was evident when testing the Syerra, and after the course of several weeks of use on both ends of the bike, the knobs are still in good condition with only a little deterioration of the shallow sipes on the top and just a little erosion on the inside of the cornering knobs. The center tread uses two compounds and is a little firmer to maximize rolling speed, while the cornering knobs use two different, slightly softer compounds to help increase grip.
On the other hand, the Syerra is a pretty lightweight tire with a relatively thin casing. It has a 60 tpi casing along with an added Anti Pinch-Flat (APF) insert closer to the bead. The sidewalls are very pliable in hand, and there simply isn't a lot of material there to prevent against pinch flats and punctures. On one of our first test rides, we came into a small rock garden a little hot and slammed it into a blunt rock edge on the rear wheel. Air started leaking slowly, but the puncture was just a little too big for the sealant to handle. When we stopped to fix it, we were sure that it was going to be a pinch-flat with two holes, one at the bead and one by the tread, but much to our surprise, there was only one hole by the tread which we were easily able to plug. So, perhaps there's something to the APF insert, but it was fairly easy to flat this tire regardless. Assuming you don't spend much time riding super chunky trails with lots of sharp rocks, we don't really see this being too much of an issue, but if you do or you're just prone to getting flats, there may be better options for you. In Vittoria's defense, on the Syerra's packaging, they do recommend the use of their Air-Liner MTB tire insert on the rear wheel. This would add approximately 165-grams but significantly decrease the chances of getting a pinch flat.
Installation of the Syerra was quite normal, and it didn't cause us any headaches. The only thing really worth mentioning is that the casing is light and very flexible, and it doesn't hold its shape quite as well as beefier tires. This didn't pose any problems, however, and it was quite easy to get it on our test rim with just a little help from a tire lever to get the last bit of the bead over. We probably could have done it all by hand, but we generally prefer not to struggle. Inflating the tire was easy with just a regular floor pump, but it should be noted that we are using Reserve's new Fillmore high flow valves, so that may have played a role.
Mountain bike tires aren't exactly cheap, and the Syerra falls around the middle of the pack in terms of price. We feel these tires will be the best value for the rider that Vittoria is specifically targeting. If you ride a lightweight bike and you want a light, fast, but still fairly capable tire to complement your down-country exploits, these could be worth their weight in gold.
If you're looking for a lightweight and fast-rolling tire for your down-country rig, the Syerra is definitely a compelling option. This tire's standout features are its low weight and rolling resistance, yet it still manages to hold its own in the corners and in the right conditions. The ideal candidate rides generally smooth and hard-packed trails with occasional moderately loose and chunky sections to spice things up a bit. If that sounds like you, check out the Syerra.
— Jeremy Benson
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