The Good: Mega traction, supple and durable
The Bad: Availability is not widespread yet in the USA
So a few months back, I was asked by my friend Bill of gretnabikes.com to test out a set of tires from Onza (onzatires.com). You may remember the Onza name from the 90's, the classis Porc's tires, the bar ends, etc. These days Onza is back with a strong presence in the European market and their tires are designed in Switzerland. Gretna Bikes is slated to be the North American distributor.
Being that I am one of the few remaining 26" wheel riders in our local riding group, I was asked to test the 26" IBEX DH 2.40 FRC-120 RC2 55a Tires on my 2011 Cannondale Jekyll.
Specs on these babies state they are:
- MTB FREERIDE/DH TIRE with Freeride Casing 120TPI
- Dual Racing Compound 65a/55a
- Weight: 750g
A bit of background to set the stage for my review. I'm 40 years old and I've been riding bikes for 30 years, mostly BMX/freestyle for that first decade, then slowly transitioned over to mountain biking. And while I've seen most of my riding friends move over to 29ers in the past few years, I still prefer the 26" wheel because it suits my riding style of popping air off every little root and rock, kicking around the rear wheel, and railing the downhills and hitting the doubles. That's not to say I wouldn't ride the bigger wagon wheels, they are probably faster from point A to point B, but I'm not really a type A racer guy; my purpose is having the most fun from point A to point B. But if 29ers are your thing, ONZA has some nice treads for your wagon wheels too.
My past five seasons I've ridden mostly on Schwalbe tires; the Nobby Nic and Fat Alberts, as well as a set of Specialized and Continentals. I've also been running tubeless tire setups, and I wanted to set up the ONZA tires tubeless as well. However, there was no indication on the packaging or tire sidewall that these were tubeless ready. I decided to go ahead and try them tubeless anyway and take my chances. I had no issues getting them mounted on my Stans Arch rims with a scoop of Stans sealant. They inflated easily and spun very true. I ran 20-22psi in my Nobby Nic's, but 20-22psi in the ONZA's felt much too soft with the hand squeeze test. So I went up to 25psi and while still feeling soft to the hand, I decided to try that starting pressure.
First ride impressions: Amazing! So much more supple than anything I've ever tried. I don't know whether it's the 120 tpi casing, the softer rubber compound, or a combination, but these tires devoured the trail like a shark eating a school of fish for dinner. It felt like my bike had gained another inch of super cush suspension action. I liken it to having little marshmallows for knobbies, dampening the trail chatter with the slow rebound of the soft rubber. But at the same time, they didn't feel mushy or slower than any of my previous brand tires.
There was one minor inconvenience with my setup however, and that was they weren't maintaining air pressure sitting idle between rides, but had no loss during rides. For the first few weeks, I would come out to the garage to grab the bike for a ride and the pressure would have dropped to 10-15 psi. I attribute this to running a non-tubeless tire tubeless. Not the first time I've experienced this phenomena with this type of setup. The good news is it resolved itself and I haven't lost any air in over 2 months.
Now the best part of these ONZA tires is their grip, in both wet and dry conditions. I've never experienced a tire with this amount of traction in this weight class. I've had Maxxis soft rubber compound DH tires that didn't grip this good. And they are just so good leaning over into turns, the softer side knob tread really let me push the limits of my ability to take corners faster than I ever have before.
After 3 solid months, and 300 miles of trail, they still look almost new. The durability has been much better than expected with a softer tire like this. But I do avoid riding on the road as much as possible. And I find that on the road is the only place where I could feel they're a little slower than the average XC tire. I Inspected these after 3 months of riding aggressively on rocky Pennsylvania trails and have found to my surprise, NO sidewall abrasions, NO cuts of any kind in the casing, and very minimal tread wear. I am thoroughly impressed by these tires; they are the best I've ever tried.