Clement’s X’Plor MSO tyres have been the go-to tyre for many who seek a higher-end cyclocross or adventure tyre, and for the last few months I’ve been throwing everything I can at them to see if they stand up to their reputation.
It may not be much of a secret that I like riding gravel. I get a bit of stick for it among some of my roadie friends, but hey, there the crazy ones, right? Gravel is the best, and aside from gearing, one of the most important pieces of equipment that makes for a successful day of grinding gravel are your tyres.
What kind of tyre you choose depends on the kind of riding you plan on doing. If you happen to plan on doing everything, then Clement’s X’Plor MSO tyre needs to be at the top of your list.
What are they?
Clement describes these as an adventure tyre. Of course, adventures can be had anywhere, so the X’Plor MSO (as opposed to the USH, which has a tread more inclined for urban assaults) gives you a bit of everything.
To start with, they offer them in three different sizes to suit your needs. 32c is the only size that will work if you want to race them. 36c for those who want something for a little more exploring (sorry, X’Ploring…) but don’t want to go full-sized to retain a bit more speed on faster surfaces. These are, however, only available in a tubeless version at present. Then, if seeing where every road, path, trail, or track goes is your thing, no matter what the condition, the big 40c option is about as big as you can get in most cyclocross or gravel bikes.
The X’Plor MSO’s feature a smooth, tightly packed tread along the centre to make them fast on the hard stuff, two rows of small but slightly more open treads on either side for extra grip on looser surfaces, and a slightly larger and more aggressive block on the outer edge for even more insurance. The rubber compound is reasonably grippy and all the knobs are a pretty low profile and are fairly firm.
These are not tubeless ready, and don’t specifically mention anything about puncture resistance.
How do the X’Plor MSO’s perform?
They’re not particularly heavy, nor particularly light. Sitting right around 500g each for the 40c version, these will be considerably heavier than a good 32c cyclocross tyre, but about average for a large tyre such as these.
Fitting is interesting, but not because they are tight. Quite the opposite. They can be a bit challenging to fit because they are so loose, with the bead slipping off in spots as you try to get it on in elsewhere. Makes you wonder about running them at lower pressures, but so far I’ve not had any dramas with this. Trying to use these in a tubeless set-up is not likely going to result in success.
Clearance in the frame, as you can see from the photos above, is fine, and should fit most, if not all CX bikes, and presumably, most, if not all gravel bikes. On mine, the clearance behind the bottom bracket is pretty tight, but not tight enough to cause any rubbing at all.
In terms of pressure, I have found that, generally, between 40-50psi is the sweet spot, depending on the conditions. The bizarre thing to me is that they are “rated” at between 55-90psi. I’ve had them down to around 35psi, which seems fine and is certainly nice and cushy, but obviously, for whatever legal or technical issues I can’t imagine (damaging the casing, rolling off the rim?), can’t actually recommend using them at such a low pressure.
With that said, as I’ve just mentioned, I don’t ever run them above 50psi or so, because they get increasingly harsh beyond that on anything but a smooth surface.
The X’Plor MSO’s continually surprise me with how much grip they offer. With such a small, tightly spaced tread pattern, they work well across hard-packed gravel, through to lose, rocky single-track, and even well enough in slick mud. They can spin a bit when climbing really steep gradients, but for what they are, they perform admirably.
Yesterday they were the only thing between me and the longest, steepest, loose, wet, 30% descent I’ve even taken a CX bike down, and they hardly broke a sweat. Unlike me… Last weekend I had them working hard on some very wet, very muddy, and very slick singletrack (think clay), and aside from one sharp section that I don’t think any tyre would manage, they kept the wheels spinning with my feet in the pedals.
On more than a few occasions I’ve taken them through what you might describe as full-on MTB terrain, with quite rough, very rocky trail. The large volume (for a CX bike) is to thank for much of their ability here, but again, they have surprised me with how much they will put up with before letting go. As of yet I’ve not had one puncture, and have suffered only one small pinch-flat due to getting a bit over-zealous with speed through a particularly rocky section of trail.
For what most people will surely use the X’Plor MSO tyres for – all-day adventures on mixed-terrain – these will provide comfort, grip, and more than enough speed to see you through.
My CX bike is also my everything else bike. I commute (and more) on it every day, so I’ve so far done hundreds of km’s on sealed roads with these X’Plor MSO tyres. As I mentioned, I have found that as you go over 50psi in these, they loose some of their suppleness and start to bounce off of every bump, so I never inflate them beyond that.
They aren’t light, but their rolling resistance is quite good. They may take a bit more effort to get up to speed, but they don’t feel slow. I was tempted to think that they were actually not much slower than much smaller slick tyres, but reality took care of that the first time I used these on a proper road ride with everyone else on road bikes. They’re not that fast, but they aren’t that bad, either. The fact that I have managed to do a handful of long rides with guys on roadies and not return completely smashed is not a testament to my fitness, but an indication that even in 40c guise, these MSO’s wouldn’t be described as slow.
What you’ll get back with these is comfort and a complete lack of concern about obstacles in the road. Because of the way Clement have built the tread up, they aren’t squirmy under cornering either, so they handle quite nicely indeed.
Finally, they have shown almost no signs of wear. After somewhere in the area of 1,400 km’s of commuting and no less than 1,000km’s of gravel, even the rear tyre still looks pretty good.
Obviously, good. Quite good. I love these tyres. As far as I’m concerned, Clement has knocked one out of the park with the X’Plor MSO’s, and unless you’re racing CX, I’d most certainly recommend the 40c version as the one tyre to rule them all.
All images: The Sticky Bidon