Written by Alan Starrett
Tuesday, 09 September 2008 01:00
Product Reviews -
New Product Introductions
Challenge is a young company manufacturing hand made cyclocross tubulars and open tubulars (clinchers to you and I) in the tradition of former industry leader Clement. A family-owned company for many years, Clement was purchased several years ago by the Pirelli Group, who licensed the brand to companies such as Vittoria before dropping it completely. They sold the factory molds to Brewo, an established Italian trading company who retained many of Clement’s former employees thus preserving the tradition and art of manufacturing high quality, “fatti a mano” (hand made) tires. Since that time, Challenge rubber has been appearing on the bikes of a number of pro riders, most notebly the Belgian Team Fidea riding them to a Cyclocross World Championship by Erwin Vervecken.
Challenge started small and originally just offered the classic Clement pattern in the Grifo with 3 tubular sizes; 30mm, 32mm, and 34mm. Over time they have expanded their cross offerings. First by adding the 32mm Grifo XS tubular, a fast rolling file pattern dry conditions tire. This tire is designed for all out speed on dry courses.
They then updated the 32mm and 34mm Grifos by adding an extra knob on the outer edges of the tread pattern to even further improve their already excellent cornering characteristics.
After that they developed clincher, or "Open Tubular" as the Euros call them, versions of the 32mm Grifo and Grifo XS. These tires have the exact same tread and handmade casing as their tubular cousins. With these tires you are as close as you can get to the feel of a cross tubular in a clincher. These are fantastic to race on if you don't want to drop the cash on tubular wheels. They are also great if you race on Grifo tubulars and want to train on the same tire without risk of damaging your tubular tires and wheels.
For the 2008 season Grifo has added more tires to their cross lineup than in any other year. Since white is the new black they produced a limited number of white tread / black sidewall Grifo XS in both the tubular and clincher versions. I will be honest I was a little skeptical about these when I first heard about them but when I saw them in person I have to say they look pretty cool. They are eye catchers for sure.