Review: Veloflex Master Clincher 23mm/ 25mm Gumwall
(2015) Now that criterium and road racing season is in full swing, it’s a good time to talk about one of the tires to snap on when race day comes. But first, a story:
There’s a turn just outside of New Hope, Pennsylvania that’s always been a challenge to wring out its full potential. It starts as a right-hand turn that leads into a small decline that becomes the feature left-hand turn. It’s sharp, it’s blind, and it could be extremely enjoyable to hook up on if only it could be attacked with confidence.
For many years I plied the corner with the leading clincher in the industry. If the clincher wasn’t right out of the box new, it was a sandpapery jolting of a ride that performed a tire’s equivalent of dragging fingernails across the road surface in a vain attempt at holding a line. Despite going into the turn with ambitions of exiting wide open, I found myself grabbing the brakes, stabbing my right foot down into the pedal, and hoping I didn’t lodge myself into the dirt bank on the outside of the turn. I leaned as hard to the left as the bike would allow, yet the rubber still proved lacking. I resigned to thinking the turn couldn’t be experienced in its entirety.
Progressively, last year I left my race tires on out of sheer laziness and decided to rack up a few miles on them. Lo and behold I found myself on Chapel Road approaching the right/ left combination that would take me to River Road and ultimately into New Hope. Lo and behold I decided to take the turn for all its worth, putting faith in the wheel/ tire set-up. I vowed not to touch the brakes and not to pussyfoot the approach. The right turn went well. The downhill into the left went well. Actually the left turn went surprisingly well. As a matter of fact, at full speed, I exited the turn on the centerline whilst pedaling. The difference was drastic. The confidence was boosted.
Furthering my story, I used the Veloflex open tubular tires in the Thursday Night Training Series at the Rodale Fitness Park. The final turn received my tire prints several times on the inside lane. It is this turn that spawns finishing sprints. It is approached with wide-open seated sprints launching one into an out-of-the-saddle hammerfest toward the finish line. The Veloflex Master held its end of the bargain. The tire is just that good.
Not only does it perform well, it looks good, too. The return of the gumwall tire is a welcome sight among the peloton and track riders. The gumwall isn’t just for looks; it’s for performance. And while I’ve made it this far without using the oft-used adjective “supple,” the tire conforms to the surface, which equals a smoother ride and grippier turns, and at 320 threads per inch, the ride is absorptive.
What the tire is not is durable. We’ll get that straight out of the way. Two things kill this tire: heat and distance. While Veloflex’s website says this tire is wound with a DuPont Kevlar bead, the last set of Veloflex tires lasted roughly 500 miles of racing and training rides. Hot roads zap the tire’s durability. (Don't even think about using these on gravel roads, either.) Any debris in the hot asphalt will mosey its way through the casing and kill the tube. The sticky compound becomes its own enemy in the heat. The tread pattern noticeably followed suit. Shortly thereafter the punctures followed. These weren’t chintzy pricks to the tire; they were straight-up slices. And it wasn’t as if I were plowing through a debris field. The tire could not hold up to road shoulders that harbored pebbles. When the rubber was removed, several boots fluttered out of the casing in locations where the road was no match for these clinchers.
Since most racers have a race-day set of wheels, mounting these up would avoid the pitfalls of trainer ride use. While the drawback of these tires is longevity, they make up for it in bang-on performance. If one were to pair these tires with talc latex tubes, the ride becomes dangerously close to a tubular experience. Selecting the 25mm width will also add a little comfort to the ride, but the 23mm rode just as well and weren’t a wrestling match to mount. Current market price in the United States runs about $75 for one/ $150 for pair. At those prices the tires are competitive with leading brands. With these tires looking traditional as it is, perhaps the clincher Veloflex Master will get an honorable mention in the tubular religious circles.