by Matt Thompson
Hutchinson's Squale tire is offered in a couple of different configurations. A 2.3-inch which was originally co-designed by ten-time DH World Champion Nicolas Vouilloz, and a 2.5-inch version which has been subsequently modified by the Hutchinson UR Team lead by Mick Hannah (the latter is also available in 2.6-inch width). With such a storied pedigree, and sporting relatively low weight, we were excited to lay our hands on the 2.3-inch version of this tire with the intent of testing it on both the DH and XC rigs. Would it be up to the task at hand?
- Co-designed by Nicholas Vouilloz and the Hutchinson UR race team
- Specific Race Riposte compound couples performance and durability
- Hardskin reinforced casings to reduce pinch flats.
- 66 TPI (on 2.3)
- Steel bead
- Weight: 800 grams (+/- 7%) (2.3/26-inch)
- MSRP: ~$80 USD (EUR 57)
Looking over the Squale in more detail, we note the reinforced casing "on the tread and sidewalls to prevent against cuts on rough terrain" and the Race Riposte rubber compound which Hutchinson claims offers "excellent grip and resilience." The Squale we tested (2.3-inches wide for 26-inch wheels) weighed in at 780 grams which is a competitive weight for an Enduro tire and certainly very light for a DH tire. It can be purchased in the $80 range.
Initial impressions of this tire were mixed, a recurring theme as I went through the review process. Usually I prefer a tire with a pronounced channel between rolling and shoulder knobs, and the Squale almost fit the bill save for an alternately placed transition knob that left me wondering how it would corner. The Squale also boasts aggressively ramped center knobs offering hope that it would roll quite well, despite the ample space between knobs. Overall, the impressive knob shape and pattern looked like they would provide most of the things I look for in a tire - sharp cornering and braking edges with decent rolling characteristics. Mounting the tires proved Hutchinson's measuring methods to be in line with of most other tire manufacturers, as the 2.3 looked impressive in its girth, with a nice profile. Time then to put these tires in the dirt...
On The Trail
Initially I set up the Squale on the back of my downhill bike as I prefer a bigger tire up front and I had my reservations about this tire's ability to withstand descents here in the Rockies. Simply put, the casing just didn't seem up to the task of everyday Colorado downhill riding. My concerns were well founded as I sustained two flats in the first five runs while riding typical terrain. Consistent with a tire in the 800-gram range, I came to the conclusion that I could not use it for downhill on my home terrain. Not a surprise, but worth mentioning since the tire is labeled for Enduro AND downhill use.
At this point it's worth discussing Hutchinson's recommend pressure for this tire and how it just doesn't conform to how I prefer my tires to perform. For a rider of my considerable, er…, heft, Hutchinson recommends running 43.5+psi, and this is where I started. However, it was readily apparent to me that the tire wasn't providing enough trail feel with this high pressure. Running it at 35psi provided a comparable feel to other tire brands I frequently use.
Next, I mounted the Squales up on my endu…, er, all-mount…, uh, regular mountain bike to see how they'd perform, and this is where these tires really found a home for me. My initial fears about a vague cornering feel due to the transition knob were completely unfounded. Simply put, this tire turns awesome! It provides very good grip while leaned over and allows for super fun, controllable drifting. When it steps out, it doesn't do anything squirrely, like many other tires out there. These tires make turning really fun for a hack like me.
Mounted in the rear, the tire does not provide good climbing performance with regards to grip. Unsurprisingly, the aggressively ramped center knobs do not offer much in the way of traction on the loose, rocky climbs common out here. On the flip side, the Squale's rolling resistance is impressively low despite the somewhat wide spacing between some of the center knobs. Braking proved to be top notch on these bad boys, as the sharp, horizontal bars down the middle of the tire really provide great control under hard stopping efforts. I even had to readjust some of my braking points compared to the tires I usually use. Worth mentioning, as well, is the tire's above average mud-clearing capacity and performance in the wet.
Things That Could Be Improved
This area is tough for me. As a mostly-descending-but-still-really-fitness-based race tire (not that I'm an expert in that area), I think this tire would be perfect, but as a downhill tire, the casing simply doesn't offer enough protection from flats. I even flatted this tire once on my XC bike on a normal impact. As an XC tire, the center knobs don't offer enough drive in loose conditions to warrant everyday use for me.
Long Term Durability
I was not overly impressed with how this tire wore during the test. The braking edges are incredibly sharp and offer very high performance, but they really seemed to wear fast on this tire. Other than that, I have no major concerns about long term durability.
What's The Bottom Line?
I really like this tire, but it's not without issues. It turns and slows down like a dream. I'd love to try it more on the DH bike, but the 2.3 is not big enough for me to use on the front for most of the tracks I ride and the casing just isn't robust enough to hold air on rough Colorado tracks (the bigger and heavier 2.5 version may prove up to the task here). As it sits, it's a really fun XC tire that rolls fairly well for the amount of grip it provides going downhill. It does not climb loose terrain well at all, so consider what the climbs look like on the trails you frequent before you get it for everyday use. I would think this tire could work really well for Enduro racing on certain types of terrain, if that's your thing.
For more details, visit www.hutchinsontires.com.
About The Reviewer
Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210-pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on a bike in little to no time.