Clément X’Plor USH Tires

Clément X’Plor USH Tires

Of the many loops I used to ride in Los Angeles, one of my faves was a half road/half dirt loop through the Santa Monica Mountains. Actually, the loop was more like 65/35 road to dirt, but time-wise, it ended up being half and half. Except for one birthday ride, I tended to do this ride by myself, in part due to the climb up Paseo Miramar where, several hundred meters after the gate that signals the beginning of the fire road, the pitch turns north of 20 percent. Even with a 34×32, the climb is a leg breaker to the point that when it settles back to 12 percent I found myself thinking, “Oh, this is totally doable.”

With so much mileage spent on the road I liked running tires that would still permit me to do 20 mph on the flat and yet still have enough air volume that they didn’t flat on every sharp rock. That meant selecting tires that weren’t 40mm wide and had as smooth a tread as possible. Those two details forced a third and even a fourth; they required me to run a fair amount of air pressure and to be comfortable with the bike drifting in turns.

Then I ran across the Clément X’plor USH. At 35mm wide, it’s big enough to allow you to pass over plenty of rock without flatting, while that nearly slick center ridge rolls almost impossibly fast. The small pyramid-shaped knobs on the side gave plenty of purchase in turns before breaking away gradually on dustier and looser terrain, which is just a descriptive way of saying all of California these days.

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The Achilles heel of any big tire is that it can turn into a rubber flywheel, which is nice when you’re at speed, but can be Rubik’s Cube difficult to get up to speed. And if they use a low thread count to keep the price down and durability up, the feel of the tire can be as sensitive as trying to type with winter gloves on. Not much fun.

The USH comes in two versions, both of them 35mm wide, one with a 60 tpi casing, which would probably be good for loaded touring, and the other with a 120 tpi casing, which is the tire I’ve been riding. It weighs in at 372 grams. My desire to claw through terrain quickly has caused me to experiment a bit with pressure—with 55 to 60 psi in the front and 60 to 65 in the rear. Pinch flats may be the best reason to keep pressure up, though.

Since my move, this tire has been a manna-like gift, allowing me to ride roads at a reasonable pace and then taking off on gravel and dirt diversions as I encounter them, which is with the regularity of freeway exits. Most riders I know don’t get to roll down dirt roads within a mile of leaving home. The reality is that we find ourselves linking up bits of dirt with significant stretches of pavement. Why there aren’t more tires like the USH is a mystery to me. This seems as all-purpose a road tire as one might desire. The only thing anyone can say against it is that it’s not tubeless ready.

Suggested retail for the USH is $65 with the 120 tpi casing and $45 for the 60 tpi version. I think of tires as consumables and unless you’re spending $80 or more on tubulars, it’s pretty easy to experiment, making a tire like this a low-risk investment. There will be times when I’m going to want something bigger, given all the rock I encounter here, but most days, this tire is my new go-to.

 

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14 comments

  1. Andrew

    This is a great tire. It is shocking how fast these are on pavement, and as you said, they’re brilliant for mixed pavement/dirt/whatever rides.

  2. blue

    So – just ordered a pair of the LAS’s for a multipurpose road/gravel/dry cx because they were a good bit cheaper and spec’d out at ~100 grams lighter, but was also considering these guys. Have you tried the LAS, and can you compare them? Any substantial difference?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Blue: Clement’s description of the LAS is pretty spot-on, I’m guessing. I’d have tried it by now if it was just a little wider. There’s so much rock where I am and my Seven Airheart has so much clearance I really don’t have to entertain tires that aren’t at least 33mm wide. Which is to say, yes, I’m spoiled, but also acknowledge that with all this sharp rock, I have a serious need. You should see the dent I put in my front Grail rim. Wowzers. I think it’ll be a really fast tire in faster conditions, but also fast on grass, if likely to break away easily. I need to branch out and try some tires from other manufacturers, but overall, Clement’s line is just killing it.

    2. Mike E.

      I used to run the LAS as my mixed-surface tire of choice, still very fast on pavement and worked great on dirt/gravel and they had a lot of volume for a 33mm tire, but they didn’t last very log, especially as a rear tire. I only got about 800 miles out of my last rear before it go so bald & thin down the center it would flat constantly (3 times in the last race I used them for, I had to walk the last 3 miles out…).

      My current bike came with Sammy Slicks which are working out pretty good, I can take my pulls in a brisk paceline and they don’t hold me back and so far their durability is refreshing, and they are pretty decent on dry to slightly wet unimproved roads, but when they finally wear out I’m going for the MSO or the USH.

    3. Greg

      LAS wear really, really quickly. They are a quicker rolling tire because of the file tread, but they wear SOOOO fast. And they pick up flats like nobody’s business.

      I just sprung for the USH 120tpi. I’m really looking forward to putting them on and then hitting the gravel roads in Indiana for as long as my legs can carry me.

  3. Andrew

    The LAS are fast but flat easily. I was getting flats on gravel with them, which I never do. The last straw was the front flat that caused me to crash. Back to the USH. They’re perfect, for our conditions at least.

  4. khal spencer

    Thanks for the review. I have a completely different purpose for a tire like this–a commuter tire on my cross bike for winter days when oops…I am at work and it is snowing. Fast enough for a lively commuter, but enough bite to keep me upright if there are a couple inches of white stuff on the ground.

  5. Hoshie99

    Another one to try is the challenge gravel grinders – 38s and roll plenty fast on pavement. Like the LAS but more volume; a plump file tread.

    Just did dirt mulholland on them – perfect choice.

    J
    J

  6. Joack

    Has anyone here ridden the larger Compass or Grand Bois tires? I’m running the the 38mm Compass tires to great success. The smooth tread flies on the road and handles gravel like a champ.

  7. T. Guy

    I read your whole review with the thought, “Too bad it’s not road tubeless”. I f that’s the only thing anyone can say against it, I gotta ask, “Why not road tubeless, Clement?” and, “Why not road tubeless, Continental?” and, “Why not road tubeless, Michelin?”
    “Why there are not more tires like the USH is a mystery to me.” You and me both, Padraig.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      T.Guy: From what little I’ve been able to find out, the problem with releasing more tires in tubeless versions is that there are very few factories able to produce those tires and they are pretty much at capacity. The other factories you typically see a company like Clement deal with don’t yet have the tooling necessary to produce tubeless tires yet. So it’s a pipeline/availability issue more than anything else. That said, I don’t actually know if Clement has any desire to produce those tires in tubeless versions, but most smart folks follow market opportunities.

  8. Roadscape88

    I work in a big volume, wide range bike shop (REI top 5). While I wish there was a demand for road tubeless to entice the big players into the market, the demand just isn’t there.

    It’s the old chicken and egg conundrum. If there were more road tubeless ready rims (or dual purpose, like Shimano Dura Ace and Ultegra rims) tire makers would respond. If there were more tubeless ready road tires, the rim makers would respond.

    However, wide road tires like Compass and Pacenti offer have shown there is no profit niche for tubeless. Maybe someday the twain will cross from MTB tubeless to road tubeless, but that time seems to not be soon in coming.

    Bill in Roswell, GA

  9. Yuto

    Hi, thank you so much for writing this review! I’m trying to do this exact combo of Stan’s Grail and Clement USH, but I saw that the rim is labeled for up to 45psi with 32mm tires. Have you had any problems with this? A response would be super appreciated!

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