Vittoria has taken the popular Mezcal cross-country mountain bike tyre, reduced its width and labelled it a gravel tyre. While there might be some crossover between the disciplines, is the tyre pattern still effective for gravel riding?
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The Mezcal mountain bike tyre is available in a wide range of sizes, carcass types, and compounds. We recently tried the lighter 2.25" XC Race version. It impressed with its speed and grip it provides, and it performed well in everything except the muddiest, most slippery conditions.
The Mezcal Gravel is a new addition to Vittoria's lineup, which includes the previously tested Terreno Zero and Terreno Dry, as well as more aggressive, trail-specific versions, Terreno Mix and Terreno Wet. With such a diverse range, the Mezcal falls somewhere in the middle, closest to the Terreno Mix, with a deep tread and open sections.
Vittoria Mezcal Gravel Endurance - Technical details
In terms of the range provided, the Mezcal gravel, or Gravel Endurance to give it its full name, keeps things simple. There are two sizes available, 700x35mm and 700x44mm, with the same tubeless-ready, anthracite sidewall. The size range varies from the many gravel tyres available, where 40mm and 42mm are more popular. The smaller 700x35mm version may be better suited for cyclocross bikes, but it will not meet the UCI's limit tyre width of 33mm for anyone racing at the highest possible level.
The 44mm size, which we have on test, will undoubtedly be the more popular option for gravel riding. The tyre has the same reinforced sidewall as the mountain bike XC-Trail tyres and features a 120 TPI casing. The amount of different compounds used within the tyre is one area where the technology differs. The MTB variants have four different compounds, however, the Gravel Endurance only has one, Graphene 1C.
The tyre tread changes from a nearly continuous middle tread with a directional chevron pattern to a more open area and, finally, blocks that are closer together along the edge. According to Vittoria, it is intended to provide grip and speed on hard surfaces for drop-bar bikes.
On the scales, they were practically identical, at 537g and 538g for our pair. This is a little more than the stated weight of 500g, but while they are heavier than Vittoria claims, they are still light in comparison to other similar-sized gravel tyres on the market. Others we've reviewed include the race-oriented Schwalbe G-One RS 45mm (525g) and the Hutchinson Tundra Hardskin 45mm (570g).
I mounted the pair on Scribe Gravel Wide++ 40 wheels, and they fit and inflated easily, even with Tubolight EVO gravel tyre inserts. I was able to ride and test on a variety of terrain, and I used the tyres at my usual pressures, which were in the upper 20's PSI front and back. The Scribe wheels offer a 24mm hookless internal rim width, which, although not exceptionally wide, is still within what is currently regarded as a suitable width for gravel riding wheels. It was therefore surprising to find the Mezcal Gravel tyres inflate a little narrower than expected, at 43mm.
I also fitted the Mezcal Gravel to a set of WTB CZR i23 rims with an internal width of 23mm and tyres inflated to 43.5mm. Fitting to these wheels was quite simple and no tyre levers were needed.
Vittoria is in the process of updating the range of tyres they offer and making them compatible with hookless rims. The pair we have on the test is not suitable for hookless rims, and this fact is missing from both the tyre carcass and the product information on the Vittoria website. Having clearer information would be preferable.
Vittoria Mezcal Gravel Endurance - Performance
Vittoria claims the tyre delivers grip and speed on hard surfaces, and with its tread pattern and near continuous centre line, it certainly delivers on the speed front. It's also quite quiet. There is no drone or hum that certain tyres produce on the road, and while this doesn't necessarily indicate that it is a fast tyre, there is no feeling of drag. I have finished multiple long-distance, three-figure kilometre rides, with portions of road, and at no point did I ever feel the tyre was slowing progress, even when compared to riding a typical winter road bike.
Moving off-road, initially on forest roads, the speed remains, and the Mezcal tread pattern works through faster lines downhill. There isn't as much feel and feedback as some other tyres, such as the Schwalbe G-One RS, with that tyre features a very supple sidewall, whereas the Mezcal Gravel has a reinforced 120 TPI casing with sidewall protection.
Although the Mezcal Gravel is not intended for looser, muddier tracks, when testing in Wales during the early winter those are difficult to avoid. Given the tread shape, the feeling of speed was perhaps expected, but the way they gripped through turns was superb. I wouldn't recommend them for regular muddy trail use or a typical British cyclo-cross race around a grassy field, even with the narrower 35mm, but for more typical gravel terrain, even the occasional muddy byway and lane, they delivered levels of traction under acceleration and braking that exceeded expectations, and the tyre cleared mud quickly.
Riding on forest roads and what many people think of as typical gravel riding, the cornering grip is fantastic and they give you a big amount of confidence, as you lean into the corner and trust they will hang on.
Muddy tracks with no firm surface beneath were the only slight terrain where the tyre began to slide and lose grip. Most gravel tyres would suffer, except a handful that has a very open and aggressive tread pattern, and for me, it simply meant being conscious of this and slowing down on the muddiest areas.
Throughout the testing, this has proven to be a strong, and reliable tyre, and some terrain has been well beyond what Vittoria probably envisaged them being used on. Several times, I pushed the bike to my limits on tough trails, knowing that a misplaced wheel could spell disaster, yet the tyres never let me down.
Vittoria Mezcal Gravel Endurance - Verdict
The Mezcal Gravel Endurance costs £50, which is a good price when compared to other tyre options. Vittoria produces very competitively priced tyres, and the only pricing question I have is with another tyre in the Vittoria lineup. The mountain bike version of Mezcal we tested includes the 4C compound, which is only £5 extra, making the MTB version an even better deal.
If money is no object, the Schwalbe G-One R and RS tyres are still the race tyres of choice. Compared to other popular all-round tyres, the WTB Riddler 700 SG2 is £55, and the Panaracer GravelKing SK is currently £50.
So, in terms of pricing, the Mezcal Gravel Endurance compares well, and it outperforms others with outstanding all-around performance. With great speed, a quiet ride, and more grip than you'd think, it's proven to be a tyre that I'd be happy to leave on all year and deal with all surfaces and weather.
It will be interesting to see whether Vittoria offers the Mezcal in a more race-focused carcass, and not only the current two sizes and Endurance casing. With gravel racing expanding so quickly and racers looking for every bit of extra performance, a race version, like the mountain bike version, would most likely be welcomed by racers, providing a slightly lighter tyre and a more supple ride.
If your bike has the clearance for a 44mm tyre, even though it may inflate a little less, it is worth adding to your list of possible tyres. By lowering the size and creating this gravel version, nothing has been taken away from Mezcal's performance and all-around ability.