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It is tricky to strike the right balance with a cross-country mountain bike tire. Light weight, low rolling resistance, durability, and traction are all important, but they aren’t usually combined in one product. Vittoria’s Mezcal tire comes close. As such, it has become one of our favorite treads for XC rides and races this year.
As one of Vittoria’s most popular tires, the Mezcal comes in a range of sizes from 26″ (retro!) to 27.5″ to 29″. Also there are three width options: 2.1, 2.25, and 2.35″. We opted for a 29er tire in the 2.25″ width.
Nowadays, we rarely venture onto trails with tubes in our tires, so we went with Vittoria’s TNT tubeless-ready casing. This option adds 35 grams over the standard folding casing, and it is also $15 more — worth it on both counts. Plus, you get those cool grey sidewalls.
It is more than aesthetic though. We have yet to have any flats on the Mezcal, despite our best efforts to smash it against the rim on rocky downhills.
The tread pattern is similarly effective. Although at first glance it looks chaotically packed with knobs, there is a logic to the design. Down the middle, there’s an almost continuous center tread for low rolling resistance. The tread opens up a bit on the shoulders to punch through loose surfaces. And finally, there is a line of continuous side knobs that are firm and supportive for cornering.
Vittoria uses its 4C rubber design, which — as the name suggests — has four compounds. The base is different than the top, which helps keep the knobs from squirming on hardpack.
Overall, the Mezcal tires seem most at home on hardpacked surfaces. But they aren’t limited to smooth, fast trails. The stout side knobs are predictable on loose, gravelly corners. There is a bit of drift when you push hard, but it can be managed. Climbing traction is quite good as well. Given how tight the knobs are packed, it might be a stretch to run these on a boggy day in the mud, but the pattern is open enough to be serviceable in mixed weather.
Naturally, these tires won roll as fast as race semi-slicks or some other options with lower profile knobs. Also, with the TNT casing, the Mezcal is a bit heavier than some other options.
However, that balance is what it is all about. No tire can do it all, but Vittoria’s Mezcal is versatile enough to be our go-to pick for XC mountain biking.