The Touareg is the more aggressive of Hutchinson’s two gravel tread patterns, sitting next to the more ‘all-road’ oriented Overide. It’s available in just the one casing style, which uses a dual compound tread and Hutchinson’s Hardskin reinforcement. It can be had in 700c x 40 and 700c x 45 sizes, but we tested the 650b x 47 version. This being 2021, it is of course also offered in a tan sidewall for those of you who like that sort of thing (or enjoy winding up those who don’t).
Hutchinson Touareg Specification as tested
- 650b x 47
- Dual compound with Hardskin protection
- Claimed weight 585g. Measured weight 593g
- Price: £32.99
- From: https://www.windwave.co.uk/
The tightly-packed central chevrons scream low rolling resistance, while the three rows of more aggressive, wider-spaced knobs on the outer edges suggest that leaning into a corner shouldn’t throw up any nasty surprises. The French tyre makers themselves say that the Touareg is designed to “enjoy every second of the off-road adventure while maintaining strong performance upon tarmac”, and from looks alone that seems about right. Interestingly, at first glance the threads-per-inch count and the price tag don’t seem to match up: high tpi casings are usually reserved for pricier tyres than this, so with the Touareg costing just over thirty quid it was going to be interesting to see whether we might have a hidden bargain on our hands…
Fitting and Riding
As should be the case with any decent modern tyre, the Touaregs seated easily. Notably among a world of gravel tyres with lightweight casings, air retention was never an issue. That was, I imagine, due to the relatively thick, bead-to-bead Hardskin reinforcement, and it’s there that we get down to the characteristic that will swing this tyre one way or the other for you.
That bead-to-bead reinforcement makes for a very solid ride. It’s more sturdy than any other graven tyre that I’ve come across – a noticeable step up from Maxxis’ EXO casing, for example – and on the rough hill tracks that make up a fair portion of my gravel diet it was very welcome. The feeling of toughness and durability that I got when fitting the tyres was borne out on the trails, where the stiffer carcass made rockier routes less of a minefield of potential punctures. I’m used to feeling the rim contact the odd inconveniently-placed stone or drain, but when inflated to my standard 32psi (or lower) there was a noticeable reduction in bottoming out compared to the thinner and flimsier Rocketman I’ve also been testing lately.
Unfortunately, that 127tpi casing is negated somewhat by the overly stiff reinforcement, and the stiffness that makes them such a good option for rough ground has a big impact on the ride quality elsewhere. The stiff sidewalls did little to tune out trail buzz, and the extra weight of the reinforcement does make itself felt on the climbs – these are not a light tyre. Try as I might, I never could manage to find a sweet spot between soft enough for comfort and firm enough to avoid the tyre folding. Running them softer also resulted in a lot of energy going into deforming that stiff sidewall, which in turn saps an appreciable amount of rolling speed. I would be interested to see a version that added the Hardskin only to the sidewalls, allowing the tread itself to remain more supple.
But, ‘horses for courses’ as they say, and perhaps I’m overlooking the niche that the Touaregs happily occupy: they’re great value, fast-rolling and confident on a variety of terrains. For a heavier rider, or if heavy loads are part of your plans, they could make for a safe pair of, err, feet for gravel-based bikepacking adventures. Many gravel tyres really struggle with the added weight of overnight gear, but if anything the Touaregs performed better with the extra load. Likewise, if I lived somewhere as rocky as the Lakes or the Peak, I would be looking at those sidewalls and thinking of all the time saved as a result of not fixing punctures trailside.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that the Touaregs are a bad tyre; far from it. The tread pattern performed admirably, offering plenty of traction in everything bar mud, and rolling quietly and quickly on the tarmac when inflated enough. If your gravel travels see you spending time on a mixture of road and off-road surfaces you’d likely be well served by the Touareg’s surprisingly fast tread. I’m a fairly light rider though, and I appreciate a supple carcass to make up for the lack of suspension on a gravel bike. If I were heavier, or frequently rode my gravel bike loaded, then I would be placing these at the top of my wish list. With a price like that, they don’t have to be perfect to be an excellent choice.