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Cyclocross tire review: Challenge Limus vs. Specialized Terra CX tubulars

  • By Caley Fretz
  • Published Oct. 13, 2011

The Challenge Limus performed flawlessly on the muddy Fort Collins USGP course. Photo: Caley Fretz © VeloNews

Saturday’s New Belgium Cup started out gray and turned ghastly, with temperatures in Fort Collins, Colorado, dropping into the low 40’s and the sky opening up for a few solid hours of rain prior to the afternoon’s UCI Elite race. The formerly bumpy track quickly turned to a slick soup — perfect conditions for testing two pairs of mud tires.

I put Challenge’s brand new Limus tubular on my primary bike, and Specialized’s Terra tubular on my pit bike, confident that the conditions would require me to use both (I was right). Challenge is calling the Limus a “Rhino killer,” referring to the gold-standard Dugast Rhino mud tubular, while the Terra has already proven itself — Todd Wells rode a pair to a very sloppy national championship in Bend last year. I couldn’t go wrong (at least with tire choice — my poor working-man legs were a different story).

Tech Specs:

Price: Weight: Tread height: Width: Tube: Casing:
Limus $100 407g 3.2mm true 33mm latex 300TPI poly
Terra $100 418g 2.3mm true 31.5mm (33mm claimed) latex 260TPI poly

Cornering traction:

The Limus’ enormous 13mm long, 3.2mm tall side knobs bite into slick corners fantastically. Challenge’s brand manager Bill Marshall told me before the race that I’d “be able to do whatever I want out there,” despite the inches of goo. He was right.

Despite its smaller side knobs (even counting the two closely packed side knobs as one, they’re only 11mm long and 2.3mm tall), the Terra is no slouch in the corners. The narrower casing allowed it to dig in a bit deeper to find traction.

Advantage: Limus

Straight-line traction (climbing in the mud)

The Fort Collins USGP course runs up and down a rather large hill. The start heads straight down before cutting straight back up. Getting power down to ground on this steep climb was a challenge in the mud.

In this instance, the Terra’s narrower profile shone. Since all the rain came in just a few hours before the race, there was still harder dirt under the first layer of mud. The Terra was better at cutting through and getting traction, despite its shorter and narrower center tread.

The Limus had a bit more difficulty in that section. Its wide and tall center tread (7mm by 3.2mm) was largely helpless against the slick top surface. However, in the deeper mud sections, where the Terra wasn’t able to dig down to solid footing, the Limus’ big, paddle-like knobs faired better. Much better.

Advantage: Terra, for this particular set of conditions. For deeper mud, I’d take the Limus.

Mud shedding

Both tires have lots of space in between the knobs, and shed mud almost instantly upon hitting any hard surface. Neither packed up, even in the more peanut-buttery mud sections.

Advantage: neither, both are excellent.

Suppleness

Challenge recently moved both the Fango and Limus to larger 33mm casings, at the limit of the UCI tire width rule. They also bumped both tires’ thread count up to 300TPI from 260. As a result, the Limus is noticeably more supple than the narrower, 260TPI Terra.

The difference was most noticeable on off-camber, rut-filled corners. The Limus allowed line changes, the large casing grabbing the top of ruts and pulling the wheel out of them. The Terra would get sucked into a rut and there was little I could do to get out.

Advantage: Limus.

Rolling resistance

The Terra’s lower knobs take the cake here, allowing the tire to roll pretty quickly over harder surfaces. The Limus, in contrast, feels like it’s rolling through molasses on pavement.

Advantage: Terra

Overall winner

For nasty, muddy conditions like we saw in Fort Collins on Saturday, the Limus was a clear winner. The much more expensive Dugast Rhino should worry indeed — as a mud-specific tire, the Limus is catching up. It doesn’t roll as quickly, but it’s equally capable in the slop. Sharper and slightly shorter center knobs would make the Limus lethal on Euro-style ‘cross courses with mixed mud and pavement.

The Limus’ enormous knobs hooked up far better than the Terra’s in the corners, and it climbed better in deep mud. The wider casing was more comfortable and helped tracking through ruts. It may have been slow on the road section, but staying off the brakes around corners certainly made up far more time.

The Terra certainly has its place, though. It’s a far better all-around tire, while still doing quite well in the mud. The lower, super sharp knobs roll quicker, and are confidence inspiring in dry to moderately muddy corners. The Limus has no place on a dry course, unless it’s obscenely technical. As a mixed-conditions tire, the Terra is an excellent option. Its straight-line traction would make it an excellent rear tire on muddy days as well — a good compromise between rolling resistance and traction.

The Terra is also available as a clincher. Challenge is developing a clincher version of the Limus, but don’t expect to see it until next fall.

Check back for a review of Specialized’s all-around Tracer tubular, which I raced on a much drier course on Sunday.

FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech / Cyclocross / Reviews

Caley Fretz

Caley Fretz

Tech Editor Caley Fretz can usually be found chasing races along the backroads of Europe or testing bikes and gear in the mountains outside Boulder, Colorado. If you can't find him there, check the coffee shop across from VN World Headquarters.

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