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Versus Tires

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Direct-to-Consumer Tires: Versus Mountain Bike Tires Long-Term Tested

New tires from a new brand. They were 'Made to Challenge' and we can confirm Versus has pulled it off. Dig in for our impressions after several months of testing.

Rating: Vital Review
Direct-to-Consumer Tires: Versus Mountain Bike Tires Long-Term Tested

Another tire company?! Yes. Versus Tires is a direct-to-consumer brand hitting the ground running with great pricing on fresh rubber. While Versus is entering a well established market with some dominant brands, they're coming at it from a unique angle with an excellent product. Versus reached out over eight months ago with the chance to ride some prototypes and then the final version. Our extensive testing proved that these are not simply catalog tires with fancy branding, these are well-thought-out, premier level tires. We have no doubt that Versus is coming into the mountain bike tire world with the right attitude at the right time to shake things up.

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Strengths

Weaknesses

  • An excellent tread pattern for nearly every type of terrain
  • Fast rolling
  • Excellent cornering feel from an innovative tweak to the design of the cornering knobs
  • Climbing and descending are both excellent, on par with the best of what you're familiar with
  • The right casing options
  • The right rubber compounds for grip and durability
  • Direct-to-consumer sales and pricing
  • The Trail casing can be a little tricky to seat with its folding bead
  • Doesn't self-clean well in sticky mud conditions
  • Yellow splatter option is a slightly firmer rubber compound

Highlights

  • Direct-to-consumer at ~$65 USD per tire
  • 29 x 2.4-inch sizing (27.5-inch planned for summer 2020)
  • Single-wall Trail casing: Folding bead, 60 TPI, dual-compound tread (63/59)
  • Double-wall Gravity casing: Wire bead, 60 TPI, dual-compound Grip tread (58/52)
  • VERSA Woven Layer: Bead-to-bead, rubber-impregnated mesh layer for durability and air retention
  • Side Knobs: Engineered fold line on the leading edge and a solid trailing edge
  • Designed for ~30mm rim widths
  • Colors: Black // Yellow splatter Trail option
  • Weights:
  • 29" Trail, Black: 1,130g (2.5 lbs, claimed) // 1,159g (2.6 lbs, actual)
  • 29" Trail, Splatter: 1,030 (2.3 lbs, claimed) // 997g (2.2 lbs, actual)
  • 29" Gravity: 1,300g (2.9 lbs, claimed)

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From a technical perspective, there are a few things that help Versus stand out in the crowd. The first is the clever triangular siping on the cornering knobs, which gives a noticeable improvement in feel and grip. There is also a bead-to-bead rubber-impregnated mesh layer that gives the casing added puncture resistance and durability. The rubber mesh layer has a second benefit as well, it holds air better! Our bikes with Versus tires on them would go much longer in the garage without needing to be pumped up.

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Look out gum-wall tires, neon splatter is back!? The splatter yellow tire option is going to be polarizing, but it makes your bike stand out and will match your Pit Vipers. Shy riders rest assured, you have a standard black option available as well.

Initial Impressions

The Gravity casing is stiff and sturdy, like a cross between a Maxxis Double Down and DH casing. This casing definitely felt tough and strong. The Trail casing is very compliant and much lighter. It compares to a Maxxis EXO to EXO+ casing range in terms of feel and flexibility.

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Mounting the Gravity casing tire was a cinch and they paired well with our 155mm travel bike park/enduro shredder. The Trail casing was light and compliant with its folding bead, but a bit trickier to seat on carbon Santa Cruz Reserve and RideFast Hotwire rims. A compressor and some special mechanic tricks were required, including soap spray on the bead before inflating. On our Stan’s and Mercury Alloy rims this struggle was less, but a compressor could be a handy tool. We mounted another Trail set with CushCore without any trouble.

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Inflated to 25psi on 30mm internal width rims, the tread measures 2.34-inches while the casing at its widest point is 2.4-inches. A hair narrow but pretty bang on.

On The Trail

There is nothing quite like rolling out on a fresh set of tires. All the pebbles that fling up and all the confidence provided by razor sharp knobs makes it a joy. We'd argue that fresh rubber is one of the most important and easiest ways to revitalize your bike.

When you lean into the cornering knobs they rotate ever so slightly, creating a better angle of attack and a broader contact surface.

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Versus tires feature side-knobs that stand apart from most tires. The triangular-shaped sipes on the leading edge of the cornering knobs cause the knob to deform unevenly under load. When you lean into the cornering knobs they rotate ever so slightly, creating a better angle of attack and a broader contact surface. This results in a little extra special feel when you really push into them. It's a confidence-inspiring feeling that has allowed us to be more comfortable leaning into any surface. While other brands have done similar looking things, the execution here is particularly effective.

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These tires handle all aspects of trail and all-mountain riding very well. The height and shape of the centerline knobs seems just right – big enough to provide the braking support demanded by an aggressive rider, but not so chunky that you feel like you are always riding in sand. We've ridden tires with better braking performance, but they were definitely slower-rolling tires. Versus has found an excellent balance of speed and braking. This and the rubber compounds give the Versus tires excellent characteristics to push in any terrain. We loved the casing feel, cornering confidence, and rolling speed.

Over the past eight months we've put miles on the Versus tires in every imaginable condition and terrain. Summer, fall, and winter rides were had as well as desert, alpine, and loam.

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We did not expect them to be a mud tire, but the one place they definitely found the limit was in sticky mud conditions where they packed up and got sketchy (like so many do). On wet trails, when transitioning from dirt to rock, the tires pick up a layer of debris and carry it onto the harder surface causing some tire slippage. This too is not unexpected as most tires will encounter the same issue. Slippage on wet hard surfaces is as much a tire compound issue as it is a rider position issue in our book.

On dry and wet roots the tires perform well. At 25/27psi, the Trail casing well and helps maintain traction through multi-root sections. As always, you must stay off the brakes and let the tires do their job to get this benefit! The Gravity casing is stiffer and didn’t conform to roots quite as well, especially at lower speeds. At higher speeds while descending they did a better job. They just need a little more force to conform to the roots. Like an F1 car, if you drive it too slowly, you will crash it.

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As far as rear tire pressures, casing support, and puncture resistance go, at 190-pounds we confidently ran the Gravity casing at 25psi without a tire insert and the Trail casing at 25psi with an insert and 27psi without. We never had a flat.

Overall, these tires are excellent. We rode them in all kinds of terrain and found them to be what we needed in nearly every situation. Unless you are a professional racer changing tires to be on exactly the right tread and compound to find tenths of a second on race day, the Versus tires are worthy of being a go-to for broad range of rides.

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Things That Could Be Improved

The neon splatter option is a slightly firmer rubber compound, but it's also a bit lighter. If we are going to get truly nitpicky, the finish work on the splatter version was not perfect with some odd-looking rubber fins on the centerline, but this did not affect the ride quality or the general quality of the tire.

Not something to improve, but something worth noting again is that the Versus tires were not up to the task in properly muddy conditions that would traditionally call for mud tire. This is expected though, as there is no tire that is great in the mud and still 100% rideable in every other condition. Other than that, these tires were excellent and handled everything we threw at them.

These are quality mountain bike tires with tech that matches up against any other.

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Long Term Durability

In our testing period we had zero flats with and without rim protection installed. As the tires wear there is not any significant undercutting of the cornering knobs and braking surfaces. They did round out a bit and chunk a little, but the overall structure of the knobs was intact and still more supportive after months of use than some other tires we've ridden. The dual-compound tread helps ensure better life. Overall, we believe you will be completely satisfied with the life of Versus tires. They hold up as well as any other high-end mountain bike tire.

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What's The Bottom Line?

Every version of the new Versus tires impressed us. They are premier-level products for people who ride often, with all the qualities we look for in proper mountain bike tires. There is some innovation in the triangular siping on the side knobs, they hold up well, and are offered in Trail and Gravity casing options. Most of all, they make us confident when schralping turns.

As a direct-to-consumer company, Versus will be able to offer incentive programs, referral discounts, and/or bulk-buying options that make things more affordable – something very enticing for a type of product that wears out over time.

Keep an eye on www.versustires.com for more details. The brand launches May 1st.

Vital MTB Long-Term Rating: 4.5 stars - Outstanding


About The Reviewer

Matt Fisher - Age: 39 // Years Riding 25: // Height: 6’0" (1.82m) // Weight: 190lbs (86.1kg)

Matt discovered mountain biking in 8th grade. It was a welcome escape from becoming an overweight, TV-addicted adolescent statistic. After a long, slow climb through the downhill racing ranks as fitness and skills improved, he landed in the Pro class and was able to make a go of it for 8+ years, winning some local and regional races and qualifying to race as pack-fill in the World Cup Series. In addition to a lifetime of riding and racing bikes, he has worked his entire career in the bike industry, starting as a shop rat sweeping floors at age 15. From there he has held jobs as a mechanic, salesperson, sales manager, global warranty manager, tech manual writer, demo team manager and more. Now he is a trail rider who doesn’t turn pedals against the clock very often, instead choosing to spend his time seeking out new trails and adventures wherever he happens to be. He'll never give up on going fast and playing in the margins.

Photos by Marc Bergreen

May be the only tires I use from here on out!

Rating: Featured Member Review
The Good:

Cornering, Braking, Low Rolling Resistance (somehow...I was blown away by this), Price, Climbing Traction, Pretty much everything a tire should do well...these tires check all the boxes.

The Bad:

Mounting onto my wheels (Spank Oozy Trail 345's with Huck Norris inserts)...Weight??? They were heavy out of the box but certainly didn't ride like it.

Overall Review:

So, let me start by saying, I will be buying another set, or 2, of these tires within the next month.

When I initially received these tires I was leery. The plan was to put these tires on my DH bike but, I opted to put them on my Capra.  The reason I was leery is because, the tires felt HEAVY for a trail bike.  Regardless, I figured I would give em a shot on my Enduro bike and see how they worked.  After all, compared to Maxxis tires, they were about 50-70 bucks cheaper for a set...so it's not that expensive of a lesson.

Heading down into my garage to mount these tires, this is where the fireworks began  This is where I soured on the tires and nearly had a stroke in the process.  Now, I am a fairly experienced mechanic.  I've worked in a myriad of shops over the years, worked in the industry as an engineer for 4 years, and have been a self support DH racer for over a decade.  All that being said, the story that follows, and my reaction, probably would have made a good .gif to depict pure rage.

Anyway, when I went to install the first tire on the rear wheel, the tire popped onto the rim with minimal effort.  I was surprised because, the casing on these tires are super stiff.  I was half expecting to have to wrestle these tires on with multiple levers but, they popped right on.  

Now, I don't have a compressor to seat tubeless tires but I do have (or had before Thursday) one of those pumps that busts air from a pressurized chamber.  So, I pressurized the chamber to 200 psi, switched the valve to burst the air, and poof!...all of the air comes rushing out around the bead along with about 10 cc's of sealant.  

Okay...NBD...its happened to me before.  So I pulled the tire back off, tried to salvage as much sealant as I could, cleaned the rim with alcohol, and attempted to wrap a 2nd layer of tape around the rim.  Well, I couldn't get the 2nd layer of tape to stick.  No fault of Versus but it ratcheted up the level of frustration.  So...I pulled the original tape off, cleaned the rim with alcohol, and applied 2 new layers of tape.

Round 2.  Popped the tire on, charged up the pump, burst the air in, and....Pfffffff...all the air and 10 cc's of sealant out the bead.  Frustration ratcheted up to about a 6 at this point.  I couldn't bring myself to pull the tire off and add a 3rd layer of tape, so I charged the pump and gave it another shot...Of course...same outcome.  

Now, I am angry.  So I pull the tire back off, clean it again with alcohol, and attempt to add a 3rd layer of tape...which of course...didn't stick.  I removed the 2 layers of tape a just installed, and installed THREE NEW layers of tape.

Round 3...repeat step one...ha...Pffff...all the air and 10 cc's.  Okay...at this point...I had a level 10 melt down.  I smashed my pump off the ground breaking the pressure gauge, and stomped around my garage looking for more stuff to break like a big baby man.  I had to walk away...

Round 4.  So the pump still worked, even though the gauge was broken.  After I cooled off, I figured I would wrestle with if for a while but, I was not willing to add another layer of tape.  So I just kept charging the pump, bursting air in, and pumping like a maniac while chasing leaks around the bead.  After about 20 minutes I FINALLY got it seated.  Wheew!

Now...after all that...I was DREADING installing the front tire.  Regardless, I forged ahead.  This time though, I removed the original tape and double wrapped the front wheel to start.  After the new tape was installed, I popped the tire on, pressurized the chamber, burst the air in, and POP!  WHAT THE!!!  The front tire literally popped right on with no fuss!  I was as relieved as I was confused, but I didn't have time to dwell on it, time to go ride.

Once I had the wheels back on the bike, my Capra felt noticeably heavier.  Granted, the tires I pulled off the bike were a Maxxis Assegai 2.5 in the front and a DHR II 2.4 in the rear with a trail casing.  I was expecting the bike to feel heavier but was still leery about how adding all that rolling mass to the bike was going to effect performance, specifically climbing to the top of the descent and sprinting.  Again, no time to dwell on this, just wanted to ride, and see how these tires stacked up.

Right out of the gate I was surprised by these tires.  My ride starts with a climb up a fire road.  I would say its about a 600 ft climb.  Its a short grinder mostly, with one steep technical spot that is always a challenge.  If your tires aren't on point for the steep bit, you'll get tire slip every time...sometimes to the point where you come to a dead stop.  

Riding up the fire road, the tires didn't feel heavy...like at all.  It actually felt like the bike rolled more efficiently than the trail casing Maxxis tires I removed which were easily 200-300g lighter.  I was VERY pleasantly surprised.  When I got to the steep bit, the tires tracked right up.  No wheel slip, all traction.  I honestly felt like I could have turned off the finesse and just hammered up the chute without fear of the rear tire breaking loose.  Stoke level was rising.

Now for the fun part...the descent.  My local spot has a descent that is just over 3 minutes pinned.  Trail conditions are over hard, clay, chunky berms, flat turns, long and lows, and some roots.  This was the point where, I all but forgot how miserable the installation process was.  This was the point, I came to the realization, these may be the only tires I buy from now on.  

In the brake bump riddled berms that are nearly as hard as concrete, the tires tracked perfectly.  The heavier casing seemed to deaden the blows quite a bit.  Its almost seemed like the tires made my bike more quiet!  In the over hard flat turns, the tires were just as predictable and trustworthy as a 90+ dollar Maxxis DH casing Minion or Assegai.  It almost took too much effort to break them loose.  Slapping a berm or drifting a flat corner required an increased amount of pushing or even a little rear brake tap to get things started.  Regardless...to me...that's a good thing.  I would rather have the seemingly endless traction as opposed to edit worthy drifts and berm slaps.

Braking...well...let me tell you.  These tires may have prevented a lawsuit.  The spot I ride is right in the city of Pittsburgh.  It is usually crowded with runners and hikers...most of them wearing head phones, oblivious to the world.  At one point, there is a crossing on one of the descents where the downhill trail crosses a running trail.  Coming down this descent, there was a runner on the running trail.  I could see him through the trees, I could see that he had headphones in, and I knew he wasn't going to yield.  I had to stab the brakes, hard, on a very loose over hard trail, in a spot that was fairly steep.  Honestly, I was expecting the front wheel to push and I was pretty sure I was going to hit this guy.  But to my dismay, the harder I grabbed the front brake, the quicker the bike slowed down...to the point where, I basically did a stoppie, coming to rest right next to this guy.  I've never ridden a tire that brakes that well up front.  This incident happened pretty early in the ride so, I learned quick that I could wait much later to brake before a corner than I typically would with my go-to Maxxis tires.

Ultimately Versus, I don't know what kind of secret sauce you put in these tires, I don't know what kind of magic you put in the tread pattern (which really kind of looks a little bit like a DHR II), and I don't know who you had to sacrifice to get the price of the tires down so low.  All I can say is, I'm glad you did what you did and I hope you'll be around for a while.  I know its gotta be tough to launch a tire brand in the midst of a global pandemic but, please do what you gotta do because your tires perform right up there with the best.  Even though they feel heavy and possibly clunky out of the box, holy cow, they work awesome and the weight is barely noticeable once on the trail.  I am looking forward to outfitting all of my bikes with these tires in the near future.

I would give these tires 4.5 stars, with a 1/2 star penalty for the mounting issue.  The performance and price of these tires more than makes up for the pain of trying to get them seated.  Performance wise, I would put these right up there with Maxxis Minions, Assegai's, and Schwalbe Magic Mary's (Honestly...I feel they are better than the Magic Mary's).  I would give Maxxis a 5 star rating over these Versus tires but, ONLY due to the ease of installation.  So, with Maxxis, the extra 30 bucks you'll pay per tire won't be for performance...but rather ease of insulation.  Personally, I would rather pocket the money, and practice getting better at mounting these tires.

Cheers to you Versus!  Great job on these tires!

Amazing tire

Rating:
The Good:

Grip amazing
Durable
Effortless Tubeless installation

The Bad:

Nothing I have encountered

Overall Review:

I’ve been running versus for a year now after I got asked to test the prototypes. I rode them just about everywhere up and down the west coast including whistler, park city , mammoth and Squamish . I rode all summer on one set of tires and they held up beyond my belief !! Solid tires and my new go to! 

Specifications

Product Versus Tires
Riding Type
  1. Version 1:Enduro / All-Mountain, Trail
  2. Version 2:Downhill, Enduro / All-Mountain, Freeride / Bike Park
Wheel Size 29"
Tire Width 2.4 inches
Tubeless Compatible Yes
Bead
  1. Version 1:Folding
  2. Version 2:Wire
Durometer
  1. Version 1:Dual-compound tread (63/59)
  2. Version 2:Dual-compound Grip tread (58/52)
Sidewall
  1. Version 1:Single-wall Trail casing, 60 TPI
  2. Version 2:Double-wall Gravity casing, 60 TPI
Weight
  1. Version 1:2 lb 8.9 oz (1,159 g)
  2. Version 2:2 lb 13.9 oz (1,300 g)
Miscellaneous
  1. Version 1:Colors: Black // Yellow splatter
    Designed for ~30mm rim widths
    VERSA Woven Layer: Bead-to-bead, rubber-impregnated mesh layer for durability and air retention
    Side Knobs: Engineered fold line on the leading edge and a solid trailing edge
  2. Version 2:Colors: Black
    Designed for ~30mm rim widths
    VERSA Woven Layer: Bead-to-bead, rubber-impregnated mesh layer for durability and air retention
    Side Knobs: Engineered fold line on the leading edge and a solid trailing edge
Price $65
More Info Version 1:

versustires.com

Version 2:

versustires.com

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