I've always been a fan of Vittoria's tubular tires. They remain the classic tub, with countless victories in the PRO peloton. When it comes to tubulars, I don't ride anything else. But when it came to Vittoria's clincher options, I was less devoted. There are so many great clinchers out there. Michelin and Continental first come to mind with Michelin being the only clincher tire to ever win Paris Roubaix.
At the end of the 90s, tubulars had given way to clinchers as the tire of choice among serious cyclists as materials and construction methods meant a clincher could ride almost as well as a tubular but without the headaches associated with gluing and regluing. Tire companies were mastering the use of Kevlar or Aramid and the results were to the benefit of cyclists everywhere. Finally, we could all have a durable tire that didn't ride like a cheap garden hose. It was during this period that Vittoria introduced the "Open Tubular" concept. In short, Vittoria took their highly coveted tubular tire and rather than sewing an inner tube into the tire, they finished the ends of the casings with a Kevlar bead essentially creating an "open tubular". Hence the name. This technology quickly made Vittoria's Open Tubulars the best riding clincher. With one exception: the tires would literally fall apart after roughly 1,600 kms. I remember Vittoria would boast about their dual compound tires, identified by their dual color treads. A harder compound for the center gave it a faster rolling surface and intended to prolong the tread life. The shoulders had a softer compound that gave the tire added grip in the corners. It was this marriage of tire material that also proved to be the weak link as tires would literally separate at the joint. To add insult to injury, the compounds used were susceptible to cuts, so customers would return tires to the shop, essentially in pieces and with deep cuts everywhere.
In 2001, I bought a set of Open Corsa CX tires. The ride was simply wonderful and they were more durable than the Vittorias of previous generations. Relative to other tires they wore out quickly, but the wear took place over roughly 1,500 miles. Vittoria tires are no longer made in Italy, they are now produced in Thailand, gone are the quality issues of old; engineered out through material development and manufacturing methods. The resulting tire exhibits the ride of an expensive tubular but with all the ease of a clincher.
In 2005, I switched to Vittoria almost exclusively for summer and winter riding discovering the Pave EVO CG tires. One glance at any Spring Classic and it is tough to miss the distinctive green and black of the Pave. The PROs opt for the tubular configuration, taking full advantage of reduced pinch flats and the ability to continue riding on a flat tire. For me, I opted for the clincher version of the tire. (Even with all of the snow plow damage from the winter, my riding conditions aren't even close to the rough cobbles of Northern France).
Vittoria's 290 threads per inch (TPI) give the tire an extremely flexible casing, delivering a supple ride while giving the tire an ability to conform and roll over objects. This is especially desirable when the road surface is rough or when the tire is at an angle during cornering. After all, a comfortable tire provides the rider with a cushion and, on a three-hour ride; this makes a big difference in performance. Even in 2005 the Vittorias wore quickly. The treads remain more susceptible to cutting than, say, a Conti 4000, and the softer compound tends to wear out in half the time of a Michelin PRO Race. However, I am willing to deal with these issues because the ride quality is simply unparalleled. The essence of a great tire is comfort and grip and the Open Pave EVO CG has both. In spades. The tread pattern on the Pave is diamond-shaped; similar to the old CG tubular (hence the use CG in the name), but slightly more aggressive and the rubber is softer than the standard Open PRO CG tire. The use of a softer material allows the tread to remain flexible in colder temps and gives the tire bite in the wet.
The Pave comes in one size, 24mm, and it runs true to size. The wonderful thing about this tire is that even though the rubber used is softer than a standard road tire and the profile is 1mm wider than a traditional "road" tire, the Pave rides like a race day tire. Back in 2007, Vittoria offered up an all-black version of the Pave EVO CG, giving it a subtler, stealthier look. I am a fan of the all-black tire; it hides asphalt scuffs and road marks.
So, how do they perform? The Pave is fast, light, and grippy as hell in the rough or wet conditions. The best part about the tire comes during the first October ride when the summer tires are removed and replaced by the Pave. The 24mm profile and the softer compound give the tire a smooth, comfortable ride. For two tires I paid $115. Not a bad deal given that the tires ride so well and are going on their third winter season. If you have never ridden Vittoria tires, I would highly recommend trying them and the Pave in particular. The ride is fantastic in the 115 psi range and really come alive on rough surfaces in the 100 psi range. The Paves look PRO as hell and will deliver some sweet miles.