Over the course of the last three years I have been equipped with Hutchinson Tires and gained first hand experience on a huge variety of conditions. I am a product tester and this guide / summary is a mix of facts acquired from Hutchinson Tires webpage and my own personal opinion. My aim with this guide is to provide a better understanding of each of when to use each of the selected tires, and their relative strengths and weaknesses.
The Black Mamba XC tire was developed with Julien Absalon (2x Olympic and 4x World XC Champion). It was specifically created for the London Olympic XC course. Its design lineage comes from the Hutchinson Piranha and Cobra. The goal of the Black Mamba is a very light and fast in dry condition tire. A dense low profile 2 compound knob pattern covers the tire. With the 2.0 version of this tire weighing in at only 450 grams this is an extremely light competition tire. Softer compound side cornering lugs hang on well when cornering. Available in Tubeless Ready RR and Airlight tubed models. This is definately a race day performance tire.
There are however lighter tires on the market, but lightness is a compromise. These tires are quite puncture resistant and tubeless ready, and with their fast rolling pattern it makes for a fast and safe option. It provides relatively good grip on hard surface and is ideal for gravel races such as Birkebeinerrittet, Grenserittet, Cykelvasan, Kongerittet, Blue Lagoon Challenge.
The Cobra is another Absalon-Hutchinson collaboration. Sort of a “son of Python” if you will. The knob count is denser to improve tracking and lower rolling resistance in dry loose rocky conditions. The density of the knobs also helps the tire find it’s way out of ruts. Again, high side lugs hang on like crazy in the turns. Dual compound Race Riposte ads tread life, lowers rolling resistance on the rolling tread and makes the side knobs grip. Nice honeycomb styling pattern on the sidewalls. Available in Tubeless Ready and tubed configurations. Quality made in France.
The Cobra has a larger volume and a more coarse pattern than Black Mamba. The rubber compound makes the tire very durable compared with it’s competitors and the volume (2.2) increases grip surface. The sidewalls are incredibly strong and provides an excellent protection from sharp rocks. The casing has an overall great puncture resistance and the tire is of course tubeless ready. Safety makes this a slightly heavier tire than others, but it’s a great compromise for allround use. Ideal for most races with more technical terrain. Ideal for Ultrabirken, NC marathons, international marathons, cross country racing and even by Absalon in the Olympics!
The Taipan is unlike any other tire Hutchinson has ever developed. Starting completely from scratch, the idea was to create a uniquely knobbed all-around performing XC tire that would excel in a variety of conditions. Traditionally MTB tire design is terrain or condition limited, it’s either dry or muddy, rocky or wet specific. The Taipan uniquely spans all those conditions through its unique tread and knob design. Widely spaced knobs help shed mud when the going gets wet. Raised geometric ridges between the knob grab onto roots and smaller rocks when you need traction between knob contact. The rolling contact patch is also knobbed with 3mm high knobs that deliver the perfect mix of tread with low rolling resistance. But traction is only half the story. What moves must stop as well, the Taipan has specifically angled ramps on its geometrically profiled knobs that guarantee that when you grab a handful of brake lever, something predictable happens.
My first impression of this tire was GRIP!!!! The volume (2.0) is a bit lower than Cobra. That makes it lighter and it cuts through the mud for grip on the underlying harder surface. It grips well on all conditions and sheds mud well. But it also gives excellent grip in dry conditions. Might for some be a bit overkill, but if you are a bit afraid to ride technical stuff this gives you a large spike in confidence. A lot less sliding around and much more predictable steering and grip. This grip comes with a price though. The harder rubber on Cobra has great durability, the Taipan wears a bit faster. That’s the “price to pay” for excellent grip and using soft rubber. This is the ideal choice for races like Ultrabirken, Terrengsykkelrittet, XC and other technical challenges you want to master. If you have only been using a gravel tyre from before, you MUST try a proper terrain tyre like this to experience the difference. It’s night and day!
If you are interested in testing out Hutchinson Tires for yourself, I’m happy to tell you as a dedicated reader of my blog, I can offer you a 30% discount on your first order. Just send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with subject “Hutchinson Tires discount” and I will provide you with a discount code.