Tracklocross Tyres: What You Need to Know
I will not recommend brands or sizing for tracklocross tyres; I will tell you about different tyre patterns and their uses. The reason for not recommending brands is that they may be almost impossible to buy, thanks to the pandemic. Sizing will also come down to your frame. A true track frame will have way less tyre clearance than a Squid SO-EZ or Surly Steamroller.
Mud Tracklocross Tyres
I’m going to start with mud. Mud is pretty much my favoured terrain for riding tracklocross. It could just be that I live in Scotland, and mud is then the terrain that I am most familiar riding. However, climate change appears to be making a difference to these conditions.
You will want blocks that you can see on mud tyres, and you’ll like them spread as far apart as possible. The reason for the wide spacing is to allow the tyres to shed mud, or if you want the proper vernacular, to stop them from packing up. It would be best to have tyres that can clear mud on a fixed gear in mud. Otherwise, you’ll just be slipping and sliding, which is fun until you try and pedal up a hill.
Ice, (wet) Grass or Sand Tracklocross Tyres
Pretty much the polar opposite of mud conditions. A good file tread pattern is what you’ll want here. A file tread looks like an open diamond, and the design will only be slightly raised above the tyre. With these tyres, you’ll get the least rolling resistance, but that means you won’t have as much grip. The file pattern will grip ice well, especially on wider tyres.
Intermediate Tracklocross Tyres (Dry to Slightly Wet)
Intermediate tyres will have blocks, and sometimes chevrons, that are closely packed and shorter than those found on mud tyres. These tyres will work in all conditions but will become “fun” when the mud gets serious. You can expect to see arrows and chevrons in the middle of the tyre and half-moons or dots along the tyre’s shoulder. You’ll know this point as your rear wheel will slide round to be in front of you.
Should I go tubeless?
I am going against the orthodoxy here and say no, you don’t need to go tubeless for tracklocross. You want your tyres to stay on the rim and be sturdy to provide stopping power. If you’re running tubed tyres (clincher), it will be way easier, quicker, and less messy for you to change tyres to suit conditions unless you have a load of wheels. There is also skidding.
Tubeless tyres don’t like higher pressures. Running higher pressures (in my opinion, a low-pressure tyre feels shit for skidding on) to stop skidding becoming a sloppy affair runs the risk of burping. Burping is when the tyre becomes unseated due to lateral forces, usually cornering, but on a tracklocross, you can add skidding and then reseats itself. You’ll lose pressure because of this and may end up walking your bike home. You can also experience this at lower pressures but is more likely at higher pressures.
A tracklocross bike is pretty simple, and it probably pays to run simple tracklocross tyres. You can, though, buy tubes with sealant in them. You can then have the benefits of tubes and tubeless, sort of. It gives peace of mind that punctures will be dealt with, and you’ll not have a tyre burping. It is my choice for my bikes.