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Vittoria Syerra downcountry tire first ride review

Vittoria’s new Syerra is a downcountry tire that adds volume and grip, but is it the downcountry upgrade to enhance your cross-country bike’s technical capability?

What is a hands on review?
Vittoria Syerra downcountry tire first ride review
(Image: © Graham Cottingham)

Early Verdict

High-volume, floaty cross-country inspired tire that will add trail contact confidence to your cross-country or downcountry bike without sapping rolling speed or agility

For

  • - Noticeable ease maintaining rolling speed
  • - Low pressures and 2.4in width adds more float compared to a regular cross-country tire
  • - Low weight compared to trail-lite tires

Against

  • - More aggressive siping would improve wet root/rock grip

Vittoria has released its new Syerra tire, a downcountry-specific tire that features a completely new casing and a tread specifically for those who want to get rad on their cross-country bikes. There are already plenty of downcountry-compatible tires in the best mountain bike tire market, such as Schwalbe’s Wicked Will and Maxxis Rekon for example, but as far as we are aware Vittoria is the first to fully embrace downcountry and write it on the sidewall. 

Close up of the Vittoria Syerra downcountry tire tread pattern

The tread pattern uses widely spaced knobs with light siping (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Construction

For the Syerra, Vittoria specifically drilled down to determine what downcountry means and what the average downcountry rider is looking for from a tire. With downcountry breaking through the cracks between cross-country and trail riding, its needs and demands are still somewhat of a grey area that is open to interpretation. Some may define downcountry as filling the gap that was left by trail mountain biking before it got led astray by enduro, however, Vittoria sees it as a close relation to cross-country with a bit of trail bike soul sprinkled on top. They're aimed at riders who like long format rides that include technical descents, yet are riding for fun rather than against the clock. With that definition, Vittoria prioritized finding a middle ground between grip, rolling resistance and low weight.

A lot of Vittoria’s focus was on adding width, running lower tire pressures and how the casing has to be designed to optimize this. Rather than plumping and toughening one of its existing cross-country tires, Vittoria designed a new construction, casing and tread pattern for the Syerra. 

The new tire features a 60tpi nylon casing (rather than the 120tpi casing of the cross-country tires) with a breaker layer under the tread for extra protection. Each sidewall has an Anti-Pinch flat insert: a sliver of the same material used in the trail and enduro tires. The Anti-Pinch insert has not only been used to stop damage from the rim, but also is positioned to help stabilize the tire at low pressures. 

The open tread has a fast-rolling center section with more aggressive shoulders to improve cornering. The treads are lightly siped; these cuts in the tread add a second edge and allow more deflection to improve grip. Angled sipes in the center help with braking whilst the parallel shoulder sipes should increase cornering traction.

The tread itself uses Vittoria’s Graphene-based 4 Compound rubber which is a combination of four different compounds layered across the tire tread. Simply put, the lower layers add support and protection, while the upper layers provide the desired interaction with the trail. The center uses two cross-country compounds for faster rolling speeds while the shoulder knobs use two compounds used in Vittoria’s trail tires to enhance grip.

Vittoria claims that the weight of the Syerra is 850g which is in the ballpark of other tires that have found themselves within the downcountry category, and about 125g heavier than the Vittoria Barzo in a similar size.

A close up showing the tread height difference between the centre and shoulders on the Vittoria Syerra downcountry tire

The shoulder knobs are more pronounced than the center channel (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Performance

We were invited to Glentress in the Scottish Tweed Valley to test out the new Syerra pre-launch. The tires were fitted to Scott’s Spark Team Issue AXS cross-country bike and Vittoria inflated them to 17psi front and 20 psi in the rear. A small Vittoria airliner was also fitted to the rear for a little extra protection.

Traction on hardpack felt confident with a communicative easing of grip if you stray off the trail’s mainline onto slightly looser parts. The rounded profile and supported sidewalls hold shape well, despite running low pressures. This helps give the tire a very uniform transition to the shoulder knobs without the feeling gaps in grip or folding of the carcass despite pushing hard through some high-speed berms and compressions.

I found the siping and tread knob frequency not aggressive enough to handle wet rocks and roots, the same for slimy armored hardpack trails, with grip feeling a little less sure during dynamic cornering moves. We only had a short time riding the tire though, so I wasn’t able to explore this further or experiment with alternative tire pressures. However, as this tire is pegged as a beefed-up cross-country tire it’s unsurprising that the siping isn’t more exaggerated. 

That’s because Vittoria has aimed to maintain the rolling speed and there was obvious ease of speed on open sections of singletrack. Testing was performed on trails which I am very familiar with and there was a noticeable increase in pace carried over flatter sections. This is further helped by the improved damping over an outright cross-country tire, soaking up some of the pinball effects of chunkier sections facilitated by the 2.4-inch volume and the ability to run those lower pressures. Climbing is much the same, as the tire helps keep the bike feeling spritely when putting the power down.

Image of the tire sidewall showing the Vittoria logo in white on a red background that fades to black

Vittoria has also introduced fade graphic for the Syerra tire (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Verdict

Vittoria’s downcounty principles were made clear before we set off on our test ride: “this isn’t a trail tire, so manage your expectations accordingly” we were briefed. The goal here was not to create a tough trail tire, after all, Vittoria already has the Mazza and Agarro to take on such duties. Instead, it was to make a tire that still had similar characteristics to a cross-country tire but with more technical terrain toughness.

For the short time that we rode the Syerra I was very impressed with its speed and eagerness on climbs and descents in dry and intermediate conditions. The tire carries an excellent pace on rolling trails too and has a very uniform and predictable feel as you turn into corners. Compared to a cross-country tire on the same trails there is a noticeable enhancement of push and lean you can confidently get away with through corners, allowing you to minimize incoming braking needs and adding bonus speed on the exit. 

For trail centers in the dry, the Syerra front and rear are a good combo to enhance the grip and volume of your cross-country bike and add a little more forgiveness and control. Alternatively, it would make a good candidate as a rear tire on a trail bike for riders looking to enhance rolling speed whilst still running something beefier upfront.

The Vittoria Syerra is expected to be available in late November and will retail for $77.99 / £60 / €60.95.

Tech Specs: Vittoria Syerra downcountry tire

  • Price: $77.99 / £60 / €60.95.
  • Weight: 850g (claimed)
  • Colors: Black
  • Sizes: 29x2.5-inch
Graham Cottingham

Graham is all about riding bikes off-road. Based in Edinburgh he has some of the best mountain biking and gravel riding in the UK right on his doorstep. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro and, most recently, gravel racing. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has embraced bikepacking over the last few years and likes nothing more than strapping some bags to his bike and covering big miles to explore Scotlands wildernesses. When he isn’t shredding the gnar in the Tweed Valley, sleeping in bushes or tinkering with bikes, he is writing tech reviews for Bike Perfect and the muckier side of Cyclingnews 


Rides: Canyon Strive, Surly Karate Monkey, Surly Steamroller, Dolan Seta

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.