Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vittoria Zaffiro Road Tire Review *Updated 05.22.12*

Vittoria tried to provide the best of both worlds with the Zaffiro by taking advantage of two tread compounds that give this tire a long lifespan and decent cornering grip. The sidewall features a softer compound that's supposed to provide "unparalleled" grip for cornering. The center tread is composed of a hard tire compound that's more resistant to wear and tear.  Based on my own experienceg conditions, this tire provides the best of only one world.

The pictures in this post show what my tires looked like after a little over 3000 miles- not bad right?  I have put these tires through the abuse that winter and summer can throw at it.  They have been over hot asphalt, snow, salt, brick roads, broken asphalt/ potholes (back roads), fine gravel, broken glass and road kill (accidentally hit it when I glanced down at my cycling computer).

Throughout these miles, I never experienced a single flat caused by low tire pressures or punctures.  While the Zaffiro was durable and lasted a long time, I felt that frequently checking my tire pressures contributed a lot to its long life.  Remember that these tires have two compounds which wear at different rates.  If you run a lower tire pressure, the softer compound will make contact with the ground more often and wear out the sidewalls.  Weakening the sidewall can lead to some seriously bad problems.  This is probably the reason why many complain about the tire falling apart or failing abruptly.  If you check your tire pressures, this tire should last a long time.

To experience the "unparalleled" grip for myself, I took the Vittoria Zaffiro to a 30 minute criterium.  The weather was sunny and the temperatures were not scorching hot- great conditions for any soft compound race tire.  During the first four laps, the tires provided a decent amount of grip around the corners, but after the fourth half mile lap, grip progressively diminished and became very unpredictable. On three occasions, these tires gave no warning and completely lost grip for a split second- luckily, I was able to make quick steering adjustments to prevent a crash.  Although the tires were scary around the corners, I was happy with the amount of rolling resistance they had on the straights.  Based on the lack of feedback and unpredictable grip, I would not recommend these tires for any type of racing- unless you're doing a 10 minute criterium or a time trial with no sharp turns!  The "unparalleled grip" is an huge exaggeration compared to the racing tires out on the market.

Even though these tires are horrible for racing, I still highly recommend these tires.  For the price and lifespan (15-18 dollars ea./ ~2000-3000+ miles), they are perfect for high mileage training.  They are reliable, durable and can provide a good amount of grip in short bouts to get out of hairy situations.  Just don't expect these tires to provide enough grip throughout an entire race- once they heat up, they become dangerous to corner on.  I've retired the bike in the picture, but still run the same tires on my Fuji Roubaix 3.0 and Kestrel Talon.  For racing, I use Continental GP4000 S Road Tires and all I can say is that these are the best tires to race on!

  • Resists puncturing (only if you check tire pressure!)
  • Low rolling resistance (only if you check tire pressure!)
  • Durable 2000-3000+ miles (only if you check tire pressure!)
  • Good grip - wet, dry and freezing temperatures.. dry weather grip could be better though
  • Great price!
  • May fail or break apart if correct tire pressures are not met
  • Unpredictable at the limit

Performance Bike Product Description:
"This all-season road bike tire is perfect for racing or long training rides.
  • Aramid 3D Compound construction gives you lightweight performance, stiffness and longevity for the road ahead
  • Twin Thread design places the hard tread in the center where the wear occurs and uses a softer compound on the shoulders for unparalleled grip when cornering
  • Intrepid PRB material under the tread offers maximum puncture protection while maintaining low rolling resistance
  • 26 TPI casing with high carbon content adds durable comfort
  • Four twisted steel wires for better flexibility

This product is part of the following package(s):
Bead: Wire
Max. PSI: 130
Min. PSI: 110
Size: 700c x 23, 700c x 25
TPI: 26
Weight: 300g (700c x 23); 340g (700c x 25)" - Performance Bike