Clément Ushuaia Wheels + X’Plor MSO 50mm Tires
Clément recently released their Ushuaia, a curiously named wheelset designed with gravel adventure in mind. We had a chance to spend a little time with the new wheels along with their new 50mm version of the X’plor MSO tires…
Clément is a longstanding Italian tire brand that has specialized in the manufacture of reputable road tires for years. After they found renewed success in the cyclocross and gravel tire market with their popular X’plor line, the company released the Ushuaia gravel specific tubeless wheelset in late 2016.
For those who recognize the word, “Ushuaia” might evoke picturesque landscapes from around the windswept town in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Also nicknamed the “End of the World”, Ushuaia is the southernmost tip of South America and the literal end of the road for many bike tourists. It is in fact the official end of the unofficial bike touring route from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska — often dubbed the Panamerica, or tip-to-tip. With this in mind, one might assume Clément’s new Ushuaia wheelset to be a tool made for long-form adventure — in part to explore the fabled and rugged 1,200+ kilometer Carretera Austral enroute to Ushuaia. However, it appears that the Ushuaia was in fact built for more rowdy gravel rides, races, and doubletrack weekend exploits, although this wheelset’s purpose is not entirely clear. We spent some time testing a set along with a pair of the new 50mm Clement MSO X’plor tires to see what they are all about.
At first look, the new Clément Ushuaia wheels have a fairly straightforward design with sealed bearing hubs, offset rims, and 28 J-bend spokes per wheel. But the Ushuaia’s proprietary alloy rims borrow a few features from the mountain bike world making them somewhat interesting for off-tarmac adventure. In addition to a hookless bead and offset spoke design, both suggestive of a more rugged construction, the rims are also tubeless and come taped with valve stems preinstalled.
As much of the industry is moving to wider rims for better tire performance, Clément followed suit with a 23mm internal width, allowing tires between 28mm to 50mm wide with an ideal sweet spot around 42-45mm, a popular width amongst gravel grinders and drop-bar adventurers. The rims have a 26mm external width and a depth of 25mm. The Ushuaia is offered in two sizes, 700c and 650b.
The Ushuaia wheels come with swappable endcaps that make them compatible with most axle types. The 100mm front has standard QR, and 12mm or 15mm thru-axle adapters. The rear can either be setup on a 142×12mm dropout or standard 135mm QR.
In the past, I might have shrugged off 28-spoke wheels for big adventures. I’ve seen way too many long distance bike travelers’ wheels come unravelled on the road. However, after beating a 28-spoke wheelset to no end on 860 miles of Cuba’s ultra-rugged dirt roads, I have a renewed faith. Plus, Bikepacking is inherently less weight intensive than its pannier laden cousin, especially when trips are more in the vein of races, or weekend trips. That said, I am still not so sure I’d completely trust just 28 spokes on a long trip abroad that involves a heavier bikepacking load. In Cuba, owed in part to its warm climate, we carried very little and remained very lightweight comparable to other month long trips. In addition, the wheels I used in Cuba had straight gauge spokes, versus the slightly more vulnerable J-bend spokes that the Ushuauia wheelset employs. Having read several other reports on the wheels, no one has had any issues on them so far, and I’ll make sure to update this post once these see a few hundred more miles.
A few more things worthy of note. The Clement hubs house Shimano style sealed cartridge bearings (#17287 PHB-CX29 in the front and rear, and #6803 PHB-CX29 in the rear). The Shimano-style freehub has three pawls with 36 points of engagement and is also available with XD driver body. Between the front and rear wheel, the spokes come in two different lengths 288 and 289mm.
- Rims feature a hookless bead and offset spoke design which translate into a more durable design.
- A rather lightweight wheelset for the price.
- Hubs should be generally easy to service.
- Swappable end caps for multiple dropout configurations.
- Tasteful and minimal graphics.
- Sets up tubless with ease.
- I would prefer a 32 hole design for J-bend spokes.
- Clement doesn’t offer Boost spacing end caps.
- Three pawl/36 POE is fine for most gravel and road riding, but not ideal for technical mountain biking.
- Spoke count: 28
- Axle (front): 100x9mm QR, 100x15mm, 100x12mm
- Axle (rear): 142×12mm, 135mm QR
- Weight (rear wheel, taped): 892g
- Weight (front wheel, taped): 776g
- Weight (total, taped): 1668g
- Place of manufacture Taiwan
- Price $650.00
- Contact clementcycling.com
While I put some hard rides on the wheelset, I didn’t get to put as many on them as I’d have liked for a proper long-term review. For that matter, consider this something of a first look. I’ll make sure to update this posting down the road and republish. Ultimately, my experience on the Ushuaia was favorable and they performed as expected. The offset spoke design in combination with the hookless bead make for a rugged design. They easily setup tubeless with a floor pump and I had no issues with denting or tire burping. They may not be as stiff as a 32-spoke wheel, and based on their 28 spoke count, I might shy away from bringing the Ushuaia on a 3+ month trip out of the country.
For that I’d prefer a handbuilt wheelset anyway. EDIT: Clément let me know that all of their wheels are indeed handbuilt. But if you are looking for a relatively inexpensive and lightweight wheelset for a gravel-specific bike or drop-bar do-all rig, the Ushuaia might be a good choice.
Clement MSO X’plor 50mm
Named after the ‘… airport code of Missoula, Montana, home of the Adventure Cycling Association and the inspiration for countless cycling journeys’, the X’Plor MSO is an adventure tire designed to bridge the gap between pavement and mixed terrain. The X’plor MSO has been available for a while in 700x32mm, 700×36 mm and 700x40mm. And now Clement has released the MSO in 700x50mm.
The X’plor MSO has been a popular tire choice in the gravel racing community for some time. It’s known for a combination of grippy and shock absorbing soft rubber tread, tightly spaced center knobs for speed on pavement or gravel, and more aggressive side knobs that provide control in the corners and loose surfaces. In addition, their casings are tough and have been reported to weather thousands of miles with little wear. All of these factors add up to it being a good tire candidate for dirt-road touring, gravel bikepacking, or ultra-racing.
While many gravel and drop-bar dirt-touring cyclists might stick to the 42mm MSO or another 45mm tire, I welcomed the larger 50mm high-volume version. With the same measurements of a 29 x 2″ tire, the Ushuaia X’plor MSO 50mm is essentially a 29er tire designed for gravel, two-track and road. As such, I presume it joins the ranks of Tour Divide ready tires such as the Teravail Starwood.
After a quick and easy tubeless setup on the Ushuaia wheels, I was able to run the plump 50mm MSOs at around 20PSI — even though Clement prints a recommended 35-55 PSI on the tire — which took the edge off the chunky National Forest roads where these were mostly tested. The added cushion of a 2″ tire on this type of bike is great for trips such as the TD or our Cuba trip.
- Size (as tested): 700x50mm
- Weight (as tested): 786g
- Place of manufacture Taiwan
- Price $60.00
- Contact clementcycling.com
As with the Ushuaia wheels, I didn’t put enough miles on these to justify a proper long-term review. But, given past reports on the smaller MSOs, I would speculate the same overall durability and longstanding performance. They are indeed fast and seem to corner well as expected. They don’t quite have the cornering prowess as a semi-slick mountain bike tire, which is likely the proper subject for comparison. And given their flat center tread profile, they weren’t as fast as a gravel specific 42 or 45mm tire either. But as a high-volume gravel tire destined for long days in the saddle I was impressed at their ability to be run tubeless at lower pressures without sacrificing speed. They were pretty good in the traction department when railing down National Forest gravel roads too.
If I were to plan a run on the Tour Divide or the new American Trail Race, these would definitely be one of a few tires I would consider. Aptly, I mounted this wheel set on the Salsa Cutthroat and it fit perfectly. That said, the main reason I didn’t get much testing on them is the fact that I had to return the Cutthroat. And due to the lack of other drop-bar bikes that fit 50mm tires, I didn’t have the ability to try them on another bike. Off the top of my head, there are only a few other bikes I can think of that would fit them… are the Kona Sutra LTD, Raleigh’s Stuntman (which is specced with these tires, I believe) and the Soma Wolverine. Again, I’ll make sure to add updates once these see more mileage.
New in gear
- Aug 15, 2018Quad Lock Bike Mount Review: Simplicity & Versatility
- Aug 10, 2018Map of Bikepacking Gear Makers: Buy Local!
- Aug 9, 2018Tribulus Endover Review: Ultralight Rolltop
- Aug 8, 2018Blackburn Big Switch and Switch Wrap: First Look
- Jul 26, 2018Kitsbow Icon V2 review: a shirt to live in