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The Challenge Grifo TLR is a highly versatile tubeless-ready cyclo-cross tyre that can cover an entire season's conditions as long as you're prepared to play with the pressures. The tread pattern gives decent grip in muddy conditions and it clears quickly too. Speed is very good, with the central knobs providing a quick ride. For cyclo-cross use, these are best paired with an insert at the lowest pressures.
In line with the gravel and road market, there's been a huge growth in tubeless tyre choice for cyclo-cross too – we're no longer required to bodge a non-tubeless setup together with electrical tape and hope that everything seals.
Challenge offers a range of its cyclo-cross tubular race tyres in tubeless versions which, given the popularity of their tread patterns, can only be a good thing.
The Grifo sits in the middle of the wet-dry range. This is a tyre you'd pick when it's a bit muddy, or, if you're not into having a huge range of tyre options, it's one you'd plump for to get you through a full season of racing.
I've ridden the Grifo TLRs on everything from tarmac and dusty trails to full-on mud-plug courses and, as long as you are happy to run super-low pressures in the mud, they will provide just about enough traction to get you around the corner most of the time.
Cornering grip in the mud isn't as good as a proper mud tyre, neither is the traction on short, steep climbs. The key thing, though, is that it is good enough, and you could even approach this with the attitude that the Grifo will make you a better technical rider. Well, that's how I tried to feel on the occasions that I found myself on the floor. "Tom Pidcock wouldn't have crashed there," I told myself.
Straight-line speed is where the Grifo impressed. Unless you're going to be racing in exclusively dry or sandy conditions, the Grifo is probably the lowest tread that you'll want and, thankfully, it doesn't feel sluggish in dry conditions or when going all-out for the finish line.
The defining theme of most pre-race chats is tyre pressure and Challenge recommends sticking between 26 and 36psi in the Grifo TLRs. I immediately disregarded this advice and stuck my usual pressures in that I'd use in muddy conditions, along with inserts to help keep the bead in place at low pressures.
With 16psi in the front and 18psi in the rear – I don't weigh much at 62kg – I was pleasantly surprised to find the tyres behaving themselves beneath me. The inserts really help here. It's important to recognise how worth having they are.
Challenge is making its tubeless tyres in line with ETRTO guidelines and it shows. Tubeless setup was incredibly easy, requiring just one tyre lever for persuasion and a track pump. The only issue I had was a slow leak from the tubeless valves that I was using on the Roval wheels. But that was unrelated to the tyre and quickly solved.
While we're on setup, I was also using the Effetto Mariposa Tyre Invader. Inserts are a great addition to a tubeless cyclo-cross setup. They can protect the rim from impacts that will occur when you're using low pressures, but I'd say that they have a hidden benefit: the insert acts a little like an inner tube, stabilising the tyre when you're down at those low pressures.
I found that I was feeling the tyre fold far less than I'd expected, which results in a far more predictable ride.
Installing the Invaders was simple too. There are plenty of (space invader shaped) gaps for sealant to pass through, and there is a large cutout so that the valve remains unobstructed.
That's enough for now. I'll have a proper review for you soon.
The only thing that bugs me about the Grifo TLR is the relatively low 120tpi. The Grifo also comes in a Handmade Tubeless design with a 300tpi casing. That would maximise the feel of the tubeless tyre to a point where I think there would be very little between these and a tubular.
The handmade model is quite a bit more expensive at £80, though, so you'd have to really care about ride feel. Still, it is a consideration for keen racers.
At £56, the Grifo TLR isn't bad: it sits between one good option and one excellent option. The Michelin Power Mud (£51.99) isn't, in my mind, a full mud tyre, and it suits much the same conditions as the Grifo TLE. My favourite all-conditions tubeless cyclo-cross tyre is still the Schwalbe X-One Allround. It is quite a bit more expensive, though, at £66.99.
If you want one set of tubeless cyclo-cross tyres to do a full season of racing then the Challenge Grifo TLRs are up there with the best. Aficionados of tyre suppleness might want to upgrade to the Handmade TLR versions, but for the majority of riders, this vulcanised version will offer the better value.
Great cyclo-cross tyres for a range of conditions, with easy tubeless inflation
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Challenge Griffo TLR
Size tested: 33mm
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?
From Challenge: 'The best all-around cyclocross tire ever created excels in wet or dry, soft packed, rocky and root-infested courses, grass, and more. The Grifo features fast rolling knobs and a center section that offers excellent pedaling and braking traction."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
TPI - 120
Casing - Nylon Superlight
Size - 33mm
Pressure - 1.8-2.5BAR
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As long as you're happy to play around with the pressures, you'll get a fast and grippy tyre.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The tread pattern is a real winner, being fast enough in a straight line and grippy enough in muddy conditions.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The 120tpi casing would tempt me to spend extra for the handmade model.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They sit in between the Michelin Power Mud at £51.99 and the Schwalbe X-One Allround at £66.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Very good tyres that can just about see you through a full cyclo-cross season.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!