Hutchinson might not be the first brand you think of when it comes to the best XC tires but the French company's Skeleton Racing Lab tire has all the makings of a super-fast racing option. The tread pattern is anything but aggressive – the shallow centre, higher shoulder configuration has been tailored for speed and not all-out cornering precision. As a result, the Skeleton tires thrive in a hardpack trail environment – even in semi-loose conditions – supplying a really good mix of grip, speed and pliancy thanks to the large 2.3-inch-wide tire footprint. Ridden in anger, they’re not the easiest tires to connect with and, in some instances, they do break traction at both the front and rear if the terrain is really loose or steep.
Design and specification
The Hutchinson Skeleton Racing Lab tires are easily recognizable thanks to the dark brown sidewalls and prominent wordmark branding, the combination of which comprises silver, yellow and white. It’s a bold and catchy design. The tear pattern, however, is one of the least aggressive designs in the best XC tires segment and we did express some concerns after merely examining the tires before fitment. The Skeleton Racing Labs utilize the brand’s three-layer Race Ripost XC compound, which it claims is suited to ‘riders who are looking for performance, responsiveness, and grip’. The tire pictured here also features ‘Hardskin’ reinforcement – distinguishable by way of the brown, grid-like sidewall texture, the bead-to-bead Hardskin protection has been added to bolster confidence in technical riding. This extra reinforcement means you can run lower tire pressures, too, which doubles down the comprehensive 2.3-inch footprint.
At 750g per tire, the Skeletons are substantially heavier than the claimed 690g weight listed on the website, but you don’t feel the extra 60g per tire out on the trail. In fact, the Skeletons are pretty lively and respond eagerly to pedal inputs thanks to the low-profile tread design. In the dry, they’re very hard to fault and perform as effectively as many of its rivals providing stellar adhesion on hardpack and firm terrain. The tread pattern is effective and does well to distort around objects and trail imperfections, which boosts traction.
They’re less effective over roots and up appreciably steep climbs but they do the job. The only area where the truly come undone is in muddier conditions where the lack of taller knobs are evident – which is especially true when on the front end. Like the Schwalbe Racing Ralphs, the Skeletons can cope when used as dedicated front tire but conditions need to be perfect. In the UK or regions where it’s wetter most of the year, it makes better sense pairing it with Hutchinson Kraken up front.
A truly affordable tire that can hold its own in most conditions, the Hutchinson Skeleton Racing Lab tire is better suited to dry, firm conditions where the low-profile tread can zip along hardpack at speed. Traction is okay on the whole but could be better in the wet – the tires eally struggle with grip in muddy conditions as the shallow lugs fail to offer any sort of purchase. Overall, you get a really good tire for the money which offers good balance between speed and grip (in the dry, at least), which makes it a worthy consideration for lap racing.
Tech specs: Hutchinson Skeleton Racing Lab tire
- Price: $39 / £30 / €40
- Wheel size (inches): 29-inch
- Compound: Triple-layer, Race Ripost XC compound
- Carcass: Hardskin
- Dimensions: 2.3in
- Weight: 750g (29 x 2.30)