[Editor’s Note: We posted this review by Marshal Olson last fall, and if you missed it back then, you don’t want to miss it now.]
• Panaracer CG XC 2.1, 26″ (645g, true 2.1″ width) and CG XC 2.25, 29″ (755g, true 2.25″ width)
• Panaracer CG SoftCondition AM 2.1, 26″ (655g, 2.1″ true width) and CG SoftCondition 2.25, 26″ (760g, 2.25″ true width)
• Panaracer CG AllCondition AM 2.35, 26″ (794g, 2.35″ true width)
• Panaracer CG 4X AM 2.35, 26″ (850g, 2.3″ actual width)
Bikes: Giant Reign X trail bike (30lbs) and Canfield Nimble 9 29er (23lbs)
Rider: 6’2”, 205 lbs.
Test Locations: Colorado Front Range
Conditions: Dry, wet, loose, rocky, muddy, hard, and everything in between.
Cedric Gracia is a bit of a mad man, and if you are unfamiliar with his antics, you should type his name into Google or YouTube.
But in addition to the craziness, he is also a bike rider who absolutely shreds, be it Four Cross, Mountain Cross, Downhill World Cups or Red Bull freeride contests.
I was intrigued to see that he designed a range of tires using a unique rubber compound with Panaracer, so let’s take a look.
The Panaracer tires use a unique dual-density compound for their tires, which Panaracer has dubbed “Combo Compound.” Unlike most dual compound tires that use a hard rubber as the base or center line and soft rubber as the outer layer or cornering knobs, Panaracer actually flips the equation, using a firmer durometer outer layer and a soft base layer.
This concept really provides a great improvement by reducing knob deformation caused by the soft base layer, but extending wear and diminishing rolling resistance thanks to the firm outer layer.
I am really impressed with the Combo Compound. It rolls fast and wears well, but offers incrementally better grip than if a firm compound were being used all the way through the knob.
The Panaracer tires are not rated as “tubeless ready.” However, I was easily able to get them to seat up tubeless, mostly thanks to the reinforced (ASB – Anti-Snake Bite) bead that Panaracer debuted 10-plus years ago on their Fire XC Pro. I did, however, think that the sidewalls were a little thin for me (at 205 lbs.) to ride in the Colorado front range, where there are a lot of sharp and jagged rocks all over the place. Personally, I need an 850-900g tire with a thick sidewall to get more than a few rides out of a tire when set up tubeless, so that was not tested. But I am sure that those riders rolling tubeless with Schwalbe and Maxxis standard casing trail tires would be fine running the Panaracer CG tires tubeless.
I did have great success with these tires run with tubes, not a single flat when coupled with ultra-light, 100g tubes at 32psi (my normal pressure is 32-34psi for trail bikes). The tires are neither very heavy nor light. They are adequately reinforced at the bead and under the tread, and there were no issues at all. Given that I tested a total of six tires and got at least 20 days per tire (i.e., more than 100 total rides and at least 1000 total miles), this is a ringing endorsement.
All of the Panaracer tires measure just about true to size, more in line with a Schwalbe or Kenda sizing scheme, and will be notably bigger at a given size than a Maxxis or Hutchinson. (Generally speaking, a 2.1 Panaracer is comparable to a 2.3 Maxxis or Hutchinson, and a 2.35 Panaracer is comparable to a 2.5 Maxxis or Hutchinson.)
OK, on to the specific tires…