When it comes to high-performance clincher tires, cotton casings -- or more commonly, a polycotton blend -- are where it's at for their enticing blend of suppleness and low weight. Not surprisingly, it's what Vittoria has used for every model in its Corsa range of high-end road tires.
Well, up until today, that is.
With the introduction of the Corsa N.EXT, Vittoria is looking to bridge the gap between the Corsa Control and the Rubino Pro, with a new high-performance casing and tread design that's claimed (naturally) to deliver the best overall performance of any nylon road tire to date. It's not really any less expensive than the popular Corsa Control, but Vittoria says it provides better durability and cut resistance for riders who put in a lot of saddle time, but still want a fast roll and excellent grip.
The anatomy of the Corsa N.EXT
Vittoria is offering the Corsa N.EXT in both tube-type and tubeless-ready versions. Both use a 100 TPI (threads per inch) nylon fabric that's arranged in a way that yields three plies under the tread for puncture protection, but just two in the sidewalls for more flexibility to reduce rolling resistance. There's also an additional puncture-resistant belt under the tread cap.
Tube-type Corsa N.EXT tires are fitted with a conventional aramid bead, while tubeless-ready ones are built with a more stretch-resistant Zylon material. Tubeless-ready tires also get an additional coating inside the casing to aid in air retention.
The tread design is borrowed from the Corsa, but the rubber compound is supposedly brand new, with a silica-infused compound down the center, and a graphene-infused one on the shoulders. According to Vittoria, the new combination yields a very slight improvement in rolling resistance and puncture resistance over the company's current graphene-only compound, but a bigger gain in grip (which suggests to me that this new configuration will quickly find its way into other Corsa models). A handy wear indicator is molded directly into the tread.
Vittoria is offering both Corsa N.EXT versions in six sizes, ranging from 700x24 mm up to 700x34 mm. Claimed weights range from 190-240 g for the tube-type tires, and 260-340 g for the tubeless-ready variants. All but the narrowest 700x24 mm tubeless-ready Corsa N.EXT is also officially compatible with hookless rims.
Retail price for the tube-type version is US$75 / EUR60; the TLR is slightly more expensive at US$85 / EUR70. Pricing for other regions is still to be confirmed.
Riding the Corsa N.EXT
Vittoria doesn't mince words when it comes to how good it thinks the Corsa N.EXT is, describing it as "best-in-class in terms of puncture resistance, comfort, and wet grip."
But is it really? I've only gathered up a few rides on my test samples at this point, but the experience has been encouraging so far.
In your hands, the Corsa N.EXT is amazingly flexible and soft -- unusually so for a vulcanized nylon tire, in fact. It's not quite on par with a cotton-casing open tubular in that respect, but it's very close, and slightly better than most high-end vulcanized clinchers on the market. On the road, that suppleness yields a fast and elastic feel, with outstanding feedback on what's going on at the contact patch -- almost as if you were running your own fingers on the tarmac to gauge the texture.
Dry grip is absolutely superb. You can really push the Corsa N.EXT hard in the corners, initial turn-in responsiveness is outstanding, and that incredible feedback offers plenty of indication to your hands if you're pushing them a little too hard. I can't comment on how these are in the wet -- it's been very dry here in Colorado recently -- but on dry tarmac, it certainly inspires a lot of confidence. I, unfortunately, can't say at this point if that grip comes at the expense of wear,, and I also can't comment on how resistant the new Corsa is to punctures. That said, any claimed improvement in that regard over the Corsa Control would be welcome.
Installation-wise, however, make sure you've got a tire lever handy. The Corsa N.EXT tubeless-ready tires I tested aren't a total bear to get on to a rim, but that Zylon bead material really doesn't want to stretch. Good technique is key. But on the plus side, they inflate readily, and it's no problem getting the bead to pop on to most tubeless-compatible rims with just a standard floor pump. Air retention is quite good, too, without any of the low-level seepage that has sometimes accompanied the cotton-casing Corsas. And measurement-wise, the 28 mm-wide (printed width) Corsa N.EXT is just about spot-on when mounted to a 19-21 mm-wide rim.
All in all, the Corsa N.EXT is one of the nicest vulcanized road clinchers I've used, and it fills a long-standing hole in Vittoria's lineup that I honestly can't believe has existed for as long as it has. The Corsa N.EXT feels fantastic, it rolls very well, and it grips tenaciously. Admittedly, it may not be quite as luxurious-feeling as a Corsa Control or standard Corsa, but it's certainly worlds better than the underwhelming Rubino Pro, and finally provides a more direct head-to-head competitor to tires like the Continental GP 5000, Specialized S-Works, Pirelli P Zero, and so on.
Only time (and a lot more collective experience) will tell if Vittoria's claims of improved durability and longevity relative to the polycotton Corsas will ring true over the long haul. But assuming all of that holds up -- fingers crossed -- the Corsa N.EXT is a welcome addition.
More information can be found at vittoria.com.
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