For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.
Few mountain bike tire makers possess a portfolio as complete as Vittoria. The Italian company produces some of the most versatile and high-performing rubber options on the market including the renowned Barzo, Mazza and recently launched Syerra down-country tire. And while the Barzo is often seen as the go-to – read best XC tire – choice for many cross-country and marathon riders, the Mezcal is fast becoming as popular and for very good reason.
The tread pattern is purposely designed and similar to that of the Maxxis Aspen in that the center section is packed with low-rolling tread and bookended by sharper, more pronounced shoulder knobs. It's a beautiful tire, too – the tanwalls present a stylish alternative to the glut of dark-colored tires that comprises the best xc tire space. I've been using this specific tire for years, such is their brilliance on the dirt.
To refresh my opinion, I recently decided to re-test them on the loose and dusty trails of Minley Manor in the UK for a 12-hour mountain bike race.
In terms of visual clout, there aren't many cross-country tires out there that can compete on an aesthetic level with the Vittoria Mezcal. The tire pictured here is the brand-new version featuring a refresh – a new tanwall and reversed-out logo treatment. It looks fantastic and provides another level of contrast to complement your mountain bike. They are also available in plain black and anthracite.
Available with the choice of TLR (pictured here), TNT, and rigid bead 120tpi nylon casings, the Mezcal benefits from Vittoria's proprietary Graphene-enhanced 4C compound. Weights vary from tire to tire but the 29 x 2.1 version will tip the scales at just 640g per unit – the 2.25 version we tested weighed just 682g per tire. While their sizing spans 26-, 27.5- and 29-inch, the latter is only available in widths of 2.1, 2.25 and 2.35in, which is plenty wide for modern cross-country racing.
The tread pattern is pretty densely packed with low-profile knobs in the middle and more pronounced lugs along the shoulders, which makes for an appreciably fast-rolling tire but the downside to this layout is the less-than-ideal mud clearance, but more on that later. The lugs are siped and this helps them spread out to foster better traction.
I put a brace of Vittoria Mezcals to the test on the dusty trails of Minley Manor in Camberley, Surrey at the Torq in your Sleep 12-hour MTB race and came away mighty impressed by the assurance and amazing levels of control they provided. The tread pattern, while low-profile and not very aggressive, managed to dismiss the dry and dusty course with relative ease. Even maintaining speed and traction on many of the off-camber and rooty corners, which I always find difficult to navigate. While there was nothing too alarming in terms of putting the sidewall protection to the test, I have used these tires before on a couple of stage races back in South Africa and can vouch for their ability to handle the hostile, rocky, and thorny terrain.
While many cross-country riders will use the Mezcal at the rear and a Barzo up front, I've always felt confident using a front/rear Mezcal combination. It all comes down to finding the right tire pressure. The Mezcal rewards with speed and control, allowing you to really dig the wheel into every corner without the fear of washing out. The only real downside is when things get wet as the tread pattern can clog up quickly, negatively impacting grip and control in the process.
As far as outright performance goes, there's not much in it between the Maxxis Aspen, Barzo, and Mezcal. All three are very good at dismissing dusty and dry conditions but when it comes to outright speed, the Mezcal is at the top of the pile. The supple casing and low-rolling resistance coupled with its lightweight properties mean you're always connected to the trail, which boosts confidence and cornering speed.
There's a lot to like here and the Vittoria Mezcal range has something for all types of cross-country riders. As far as weight goes, only the Specialized S-Works Fast Trak is lighter but that brings its own set of comprises to the equation. You can't go wrong with the Mezcal – the brand's rich heritage and detailed understanding of creating tires tailored to specific disciplines is the real kicker here.
As a long-time user of the Vittoria Mezcal and having raced on them in myriad countries, the way they perform never ceases to amaze me. Of course, I wouldn't use them in wet conditions but they're not the worst performers in the mud either. If you're looking for a reliable tire that prioritizes speed, look no further than the Vittoria Mezcal. It's a brilliant tire for cross-country and marathon riding.
Tech Specs: Vittoria Mezcal 2.25
- Price: $60 / £52.49 / €63
- Wheel size (inches): 26-, 27.5-, 29-inch
- Compound: Graphene enhanced 4C compound
- Carcass: TLR 120tpi
- Dimensions: 2.1, 2.25, 2.35in
- Weight: 682g (TLR 29 x 2.25 tested)