OK so I may have been a little unkind to the spotted cat in sandy conditions and after spending some more time on them I have realized they deal with sand better than first experienced. In the front it can fishtail as mentioned before, but the narrow profile seems to cut in, and find grip lower down to still be able to steer and maintain control, it can wash a little so don’t go barreling in hoping for hardpack lower down, but it’s a predictable feel and correctable if you get a whip from the front end.
They are pretty damn good overall and it’s a race-worthy tire, I tried going lower than suggested pressure front and back and found there was no magical extra grip to be found running them any softer than 35psi. The supple casing started to bottom out hit the rear rim over roots and the front end felt like it would roll/burp if I pushed it harder, I could tell even climbing that it would be a problem if I descended at the pressure they were at (2 bar front and 2.2 rear) I inflated them with a hand pump and felt my confidence in them return with the extra air. I have also smacked the rear on some protruding rocks on my way down a few times and heard the thud (and cringed for my rims) but inspection shows no damage to their casings or signs of wear.
The descent from Noordhoek Peak is loose gravel, like small grey railway stones the whole way and you have to stay on just one hard pack line to avoid running off the mountain, drift wide and you’re in the loose and there is no going back. The Spotted Cats coped amazingly well at full blast and only once did I get myself into a tricky situation on the front in a 90 degree right-hander. I saved the front and got back up to speed. I had no mercy for the tires and slid the rear in to corner faster and looked for resultant wear afterwards but couldn’t find any. If it wasn’t for three groups of dog walkers (that I slowed down for) I would have had the Strava KOM on the descent for sure.
After the week-long tire slashing fest that was Team RAC’s Cape Pioneer Trek, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about tires, reading and reviewing and pretty much riding a lot of different combo’s. The tires that interested me as a Renegade rival were these: The Vredestein Spotted Cat.
Now available in the 29er versions, I ordered the Tubeless specific version in 29 x 2.0 for both the front and rear of my Methanol. I quickly un-boxed and weighed them and both came in within 2g of the claimed 580g. Spot on Vredestein, and that’s a respectable XC weight, especially for a full tubeless tire. The sidewalls don’t feel paper thin either so I’m hoping they offer up the cut resistance I desire. It’s not something you want to go out and achieve, destroying a new tire, but over the coming months the results will be inadvertently clear.
Mounting them up took less than 3 minutes each and most of that time was spent looking for a non existent directional arrow, so I had to apply some common sense, something the average Joe may not possess, so it may be a good inclusion on the bead or a instruction pic on the box may help. The bead was pretty tight going over my EC90’s and this was the first tire I’d had to pinch down to the center of the rim bed to pop the last bit of the bead over. I’d imagine these would be a forearm workout on my ZTR Crests, where fitting a Renegade was an issue – and those breezed over the EC90 rim (and required bombing to inflate). The snug fit is a blessing though as they came straight up and popped into place with a floor pump, and I’d say even a hand pump would work. I especially like this feature as it inspires confidence for trail-side repairs. There is nothing worse than blowing Co2 straight out of the side of your burped tire, then having to install and hand pump a tube. Once inflated they hold air perfectly and would do so without sealant. I pumped then to 3 bar and left them over night after a quick spin by hand to swirl the sealant around. My initial reaction was: Wow these are thin, that looks like a cyclocross tire… but a quick snap of the measuring tape revealed they were only 5mm narrower than the S-Works Fastrak 2.0’s that were coming off.
The next morning the tires still had the same pressure and I adjusted them down to the minimum recommended pressure of 35psi or 2.5bar. This is a fair bit harder than I would ordinarily run a tubeless tire, but that’s what the manufacturer says so who am I to judge…
Once out on the road I was immediately impressed with their rolling resistance. They simply fly over asphalt, the micro ramped knoblies almost roll into a continuous tread and there is no whirr, proving their continuity over the hard stuff – the same applies to any smooth surface and fine gravel – they are super fast.
LOOSE OVER HARD
The Micro knobs prove themselves again on the loose over hard conditions, fine gravel coated hardpack and kitty litter. They are pretty confident inspiring and you can turn them harder than you initially think, tipped over they are grippy and even more so when you get them onto the higher ramped side knobs. I didn’t get them to completely let go, although traction was lost momentarily it was always predictable. They can give a floaty sensation as you transition into the side knobs, but it’s not at the expense of control.
I climbed a fair bit on these this morning, and chose various lines to test out their grip at the rear. Obviously on hardpack they are perfectly fine, on some skiddy fine gravel they can micro slip over bumpy stuff, but not more than say a fastrak would, and even on loose pebble type gravel they handled themselves well. They never spun out but could dig a rut to grip lower down and keep drive going forwards. I found that I could stand up while climbing and still have a decent amount of traction, not a stand up and deliver tire, but you could alternate riding positions if you need a break from seated climbing.
The low volume of the tire is apparent in sand, the narrow profile can fish-tail a bit on the front end over sand where a bigger wider tire would track true, I didn’t have to corner it hard in the sand but where I did have some sand in corners it was pretty manageable considering it’s profile and tread size.
For a fast micro knob tire this is a an excellent race worthy choice. It has a fairly narrow profile and lower than expected volume for a 2.0 but the smooth arc of the tread delivers precise and fast turn-in, its a very flickable tire that eases into direction changes. It’s very easy to put it where you want and seems to liven up even my twitchy front end on the Bianchi. I only sensed the tire under-steering when I was cornering and hard on the front brakes, but if feathered and controlled from the rear you can dart the front end wherever you please.
The casing is supple – Inflated to 2.5 bar this tire has the feel and comfort that belies it’s overall size. The rear was compliant almost to the point of pinching to the rim over sharp rocks but without bottoming out. I purposefully rode over stones on concrete to feel a deflection but was amused at how they were simply enveloped without a hint of trouble. Amazingly they still provide a connected feel with fine tuned feedback similar to my road tubbies, I could feel the finer deviations in the road or trail yet still be comfortable – Vredestein are on to something…
Grip is fantastic for this type of tread pattern, fast progressive and predictable in dry conditions so far. Even descending at high speed over loose pebbles it tracked well and was sure footed.
Extremely easy to mount and inflate, uniform casing and well balanced, spins up without any hops or wobbles.
Light-Weight, considering it’s proper tubeless, and has decent amount of sidewall protection and rubber. 580g is pretty good.
Well priced – Considering tubeless 29er tires are retailing for up to R800 each the Sub R500 price point for these is superb.
The narrow overall tread width and smaller than most volume don’t provide a huge amount of plushness for a HT bike, on a dual they would be superb, but for marathon distance events I think a 2.3 version would be ideal. For the volume they have they do very very well, but still a wider tire would be preferred. This in turn would help it’s cause in sandy conditions often associated with dry South African trails and especially stage races. If they hit the shelves in a wider casing soon I’ll be the first in line.