Vittoria is the first brand to produce a tire actively labeled as ‘Downcountry’, with the new Syerra taking construction and compound cues from both the XC and Trail/Enduro sides of its current lineup. The result is a tough, long-lasting, and efficient all-rounder at a great value price, but is it enough to make it into our best mountain bike tires selection? Keep reading to find out.
Design, specifications and aesthetics
If the big ‘Downcountry’ label on the side didn’t give the mixed character game away the design would. Based on a tougher 60TPI (threads per inch) carcass than Vittoria’s XC tires, the Syerra also gets a reinforcing strip above the bead to fight off pinch flats at lower pressures on rougher trails. The result is a tire that (going off Vittoria’s claimed weight) is 115g more than its 29x2.35in Barzo or Mezcal tires. The Syerra is also 26g heavier in reality than that, which isn’t a big deal but definitely puts their weight where we’d have pegged ‘trail tires’ not long ago.
The tread pattern is essentially a lower, smaller knob and more open-spaced rendering of that used on the Agarro trail tire. This means an alternating arrangement of directional arrows and cross tire paddles flanked with small intermediate ‘comma’ knobs before the final rank of alternating, buttressed side knobs. All the blocks are siped (small slots in the top of each knob) to allow surface splay and extra grip. There’s no ramping of the front edges though, just a slight step on the nose of the arrows.
The quad rubber mix uses Vittoria’s XC dual compound in the center and then the Trail recipe for the outer edges. It also includes hard-wearing Graphene additives which make it sound very high tech compared to the triple compound mixes that most other tires top out at. While they only come in one 29er size, that’s the size most people are wanting for this sort of hybrid XC/Trail work anyway.
The first test of any tire is getting it on, and the slippery, flat-packed nature of the Syerra means a bit more wrangling than normal is needed to get them onto the rim. Once they’re on though they started inflating as soon as I was pumping and they clicked uniformly into the bead at under 30psi with very little sealant spatter. I did get some ‘snail trails’ of sealant creeping up the sidewall on the first ride and had to add pressure after the first couple of runs, but after that, they held air fine. They also ‘grew’ by 2mm after the first couple of rides, although at 2.32in they were still undersized for a 2.4in labeled tire.
The base-reinforced carcass seems more predictable at lower pressures than the previous mid/light-weight Vittoria tire I’ve used. That meant I could run high teen pressures without any sudden crumpling or folding putting me on the deck if I started driving or braking hard. After a recent run of pinch-flatting similar sized XC and Trail tires from Michelin, Bontrager, and Teravail, I’ve yet to split or burst the Syerra, despite feeling the rim on a regular basis. The tread still looks basically unused too, with no signs of the narrow knobs tearing or rubbing off even after aggressive use in dry conditions. That tallies with seemingly evergreen wear life from other Vittoria Graphene compound tires I’ve tested both on and off-road. That makes the already reasonable price look even better, especially if you’re a high mileage rider.
The wear-resistant compound does affect confidence on wet roots and rocks, especially in colder temperatures, so you’ll need to be careful in winter woods. The rounded rather than squared-off overall profile doesn’t bite that hard on turns or off-camber either. There is enough grip and support to rail in firmer/drier situations though. The center tread also grips OK in loose, loamy, or wet conditions where the fast clearing spacing helps them stay predictable. They feel at their fastest on grassy, loamy or loose conditions too, noticeably pulling away from chunkier trail tires for a similar effort level.
The blunt, wide-spaced tread has a noticeable roar on harder/smoother surfaces though, and while they don’t drag there’s no obvious ‘free extra gear’ sensation. I didn’t even notice a massive difference when switching between the Syerra and a Mazzo/Agarro combination on a mixed trail ride with road transfers. They are lighter and more responsive in terms of acceleration though, so you can pull meters out of most trail tires coming out of corners. Again, it’s not in the same way as you’d get from a true XC tire though, and the reinforced carcass is numb rather than nuanced when compared to similar tires from Schwalbe, Maxxis, and Specialized. For something that feels more alive on the trail, you might be better off with the Specialized Ground Control Fastrak and Renegade XC downcountry tires. Even at lower pressures, the Vittoria Syerra feels efficient rather than effervescent, and comfort levels are acceptable rather than a bonus on big days out.
The ‘downcountry’ category is proving a really hard one to target both in terms of bikes and componentry. Possibly because it suggests an unrealistic balance of blistering XC speed with carefree confidence bludgeoning down rougher trails or ripping sketchy off-piste tracks.
The Syerra doesn’t scream ‘extra speed’ as soon as you fit them and the harder compounding and numb carcass lack grip and communication on greasy tech, though they are significantly lighter than most modern ‘trail’ tires without sacrificing rock and pinch-flat protection. They’ve also got an efficient and predictable feel across a wide range of surfaces, particularly if you’re blessed with a drier, warmer climate. Their wear life makes an already good price look even better value too.
Tech Spec: Vittoria Syerra
- Discipline: Downcountry/Trail
- Price: $79.99 / £54.99
- Size: 29 x 2.4in only
- Weight: 866g
- Width: 57mm (on 30mm internal rim)