The Specialized Tracer Pro is a truly versatile tyre for those that roll their cyclo-cross bike over a variety of surfaces.
The tread design belongs to the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) school of thought, and that's no bad thing. Four rows of staggered squarish knobs are slightly beveled on the drive edge but square on the braking side and are bracketed by slightly longer blocks along the sides to provide lateral steering stiction. And it's a rubber combination that works.
If you're using it for mainly road purposes the Tracer Pro is good for up to 100 PSI which means it fairly hums along the black stuff, the alternating centre blocks running nimble and smooth, handy if you use your cross bike as a workaday commuter over shattered roads and then as a rough and tumble machine at the weekend with half the air let out the tyres. It's something that the Tracer Pro adapts to admirably well.
The tyres were used on every possible type of terrain you could think of; broken blacktop, grass, hardpack, gravelly lanes, steps, dirt singletrack through the trees and a wide variety of muds, be that in races, training and general mucking about and they didn't put a tread wrong. The Tracer Pro is a real default tyre, if you're not sure where you're going or what geology you're riding over then lever these on, they'll see you right. Even in general purpose mud the knobs are widely spaced enough to clear pretty well and they only get a bit fazed in thick churned up muck where steering can get a little sideways, but they show a decent fist and let you know in good time when they're going to break free, and keep muttering kind words to the rear tyre and it will churn through happily enough, not with the tenacity of a proper mud tyre but they'll still fight to get you to the other side.
The Tracer Pro is a lightweight tyre which means they spin up to speed pretty quickly for a grippy tyre, and certainly when racing out of endless stripy-taped corners and in twisty turny mucking about on the bike there wasn't any turbo lag you could put down to sluggish tyres rather than plain old baggy muscles.
The one minor caveat with the Tracer is the narrow carcass. Although it's stamped on the side as a 33mm wide tyre to comply with UCI rules should you be that deep into competing it's actually significantly undersized and measures closer to 30mm from edge to edge. This has its plus and minus points. On the good side it makes the tyre fast on tarmac and not slow and wallowy anywhere else either, and if you're faced with stodgy mud the Tracer cuts its way through rather than squirming about on the top. The downside is that it's not the most shock-absorbing tyre out there, although that doesn't mean it's solid and uncomfortable, the supple sidewalls prevent that, giving lots of feedback. It just took a little experimenting to find the sweet spot when it came to the right tyre pressure, there's not much wiggle room between bouncing around all over the place and bottoming out on roots and sharp edges. And maybe it was just dumb luck but they're been a wonderfully puncture free tyre. That's blown it. Literally.
The Specialized Houffalize was my favourite do-a-bit-of-everything cyclo-cross tyre and when that disappeared from the catalogue there was a certain amount of pouty bottom-lip in the house. Luckily Specialized have come up with a tyre that is more than good enough to replace it. The Tracer Pro works well on just about every type of surface you can imagine, only getting a little bit intimidated by thick mud, but even then with a bit of gumption it'll struggle through. Sizing up smaller than its stated 33mm and being lightweight it rolls quickly when needed although that means it needs more air in it to survive gnarly off-road, if that's your thing. But that's a little niggle in an otherwise exceptionally adaptable cyclo-cross tyre.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Tracer Pro CX Clincher Tyre
Size tested: 33c
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Specialized say the Tracer feeds the beast for a fast CX tread for all around riding and racing. This is one tread that covers all courses. The centre knobs provide ample traction. The siped shoulder knobs adapt on hard and loose ground. The Tracer is lightweight which makes it easy to accelerate.
I'd agree wholeheartedly with that, I had to look up siped though.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
700 x 33, 120 PPI casing, foldable bead, 60a compound, rated for 50-100PSI.
Despite their light weight and supple sidewalls they're holding up well.
A great multi-surface cyclo-cross tyre for those that can't afford or don't want a different set of tyres for every condition.
Surprisingly resilient considering its light weight and narrow profile.
Nice and light, quick to sprint up to speed out the endless taped 350° corners on cross courses.
Despite its narrow profile it's not a harsh cyclo-cross tyre by any means, lightweight and supple, the tyre pressure needs a precise hand though.
It's at the upper end of the price window for a cyclo-cross clincher but its versatility and longevity make up for that.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a tyre designed for all round riding and racing it was spot on. A new favourite tyre.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The versatility, the light weight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The need to get the tyre pressure just so. A larger volume version would be fantastic.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes. I'd buy ten in case Specialized decide to stop making them.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 180cm Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he’s not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he’s not doing either of those he’s pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he’s agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours doesn’t. He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.