Vittoria's new rubber - Graphene Plus


I started riding a road bike in 2009. Racing in 2010. And getting a clue about anything to do with bikes sometime after that. When I did, there was one thing that was certain and that was Vittoria rubber was good. I won’t forget my first time racing on Enve SES 3.4’s with Vittoria Corsa CX tubulars – it was like I was floating. Suffering. But weightlessly.

                Not long after then however something seemed to change with Vittoria. Some blamed the move to a different continent for manufacturing. Others said it was just the clinchers, the singles were still fine. Either way, my experiences went from ‘riding on a pillow’ to ‘riding on an ice rink’. In the dry, not so bad. But as soon as there was moisture on the road life got decidedly unpredictable. The tyres also didn’t seem as supple as they used to be either. An unnamed pro once told me about the relief he and his team had when they were told next season they would be moving away from Vittoria “we might actually be able to grip the road!”. Seems I wasn’t alone.

 

Fast forward three years and I get a message from Shane ‘the Lama’ Miller asking if I was keen to test some new Vittoria tyres… <insert sceptical meme here> But took him up on the offer. Their ‘influencer program’ wanted us to ride the tyres, share some pics on social media and report back. No stipulation on what they were hoping to hear – but there was this blurb in the email:

 

This prototype uses the revolutionary material Graphene Plus (G+) that will provide significant performance benefits in speed, durability, grip, puncture resistance and overall strength. Our tires are now intelligent. The Intelligent Tire System compounds become harder and softer, adjusting to the needs of the rider.

 

Now regardless of whether I believed a tyre is that ‘intelligent’, they mentioned ‘grip’ as a ‘performance benefit’. Vittoria, you have my attention. And a few weeks later they arrived.

 

First thing, tan side walls. Delicious. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love them. On the bike they looked just as good.

Vittoria never listed ‘aesthetics’ as addition, but they nailed it. Big ticks. There was precious little actual information about the tyres in the emails. Even less inside the package – just two tyres and two tubes. Maybe the idea was to think less about the tyres and just ride them? My take is ‘garbage in = garbage out’. I have no idea of their size (although Vernier callipers say 24.4mm front and 24.5mm rear) or TPI. No model was provided, just ‘prototype’. Only this recent article, coupled with a tyre weight of 245g, suggests it’s the Corsa Speed open tubular.

 

With all that in mind, what are they like? Grip certainly feels higher than previous Vittorias. I’ve hit the deck twice on their older tyres, neither time pushing my bike Valentino Rossi style. These new Graphene Plus took a while to gain my trust. But have since railed descents – varying from dry to completely wet. Yet to feel any sensations that would suggest the tyres were about to let go. Nice. Excellent in fact. Science says tread patterns mean little when it comes to the grip a tyre offers so it must be the compounds used. Either way, the new longitudinal pattern (at least mentally) felt like they helped with road purchase.

                Actual ride quality wasn’t bad. From memory not the same as older Vittoria or as nice as Veloflex . But still nicer than certain rivals offerings. Pressures were 105 PSI rear, 95 PSI front (with my weight around 77kg) so that may play some role in the ride quality. Riders who are 65kg, with 120 PSI front and rear, and then complain about “harsh tyres” leave me a little lost for words. So made sure I was fair to Vittoria and didn’t rubbish the tyres simply due to over-inflation.

 

Puncture resistance has been perfect. Nearly 700km on them and no dreaded ‘hiss’. Not that I puncture much with the tyres I normally run, but so far so good (watch me cop a double flat next ride).

 

This just leaves the speed test for the (claimed) ‘fastest road tyre ever’. It just so happens that my girlfriend’s bike has the same alloy training wheels as I do (and had fitted the Graphene Plus to) so would make for an easy test against the tyres she had mounted. The equipment was as follows:

  • Bike: Cervelo S2

  • Wheels: Fulcrum Racing 7

  • Power meter: Power2Max Type-S

  • Head unit: Garmin 810

  • Rider gear: team kit, no leg warmers but gilet on (Spring in Geelong ain’t super warm)

  • Tyres on comparison wheelset: Specialized Turbo Elite, 60 TPI

  • Conditions: mild wind from the south.

Each wheelset got a 10 minute run at 276 watts – figuring that was a nice ‘middle of the road’ wattage to hold. And 10 minutes more than long enough to express differences between the two. Run 1 was the Vittoria, run 2 the Specialized. Results

As you can see, the Specialized were actually 0.1km/h faster. 17 metres to be exact. But let’s call it even. Only the issue is that the Turbo Elite are a 60 TPI tyre with at least 2000km of riding in them. The Vittorias should have creamed them. I appreciate there could be seen that there is a lot of ‘bro science’ to this testing. And would be happy to run some more tests. But I use the same protocol for Chung Aerolab Analysis of other equipment (simple terms: finding out what stuff is faster than other stuff) and results those have all held up well.

 

What I can say then is buy these tyres because you love their looks (and that alone will be enough for plenty). Buy them because they do seem to grip better than Vittoria’s recent offerings. Buy them because you love the brand. Just don’t buy them if you’re expecting them to be the ‘fastest road tyre ever’. Because they are well short of that. At least for me.