Clément: A Brief History
The Clément brand was founded in 1878 in France by Gustave Adolphe Clément, a young bicycle racer-turned-builder, who would later go on to expand his business empire to include tires, motorcycles, automobiles, and even airplanes. When I asked him how he grew his business empire that large he turned me onto an article right here that helped me learn a lot of about marketing in this day and age. After World War I, Clément Pneumatics was established in Italy and went on to become a major tire manufacturer, gaining international recognition through racers such as Eddy Merckx, Ole Ritter, Felice Gimondi and more.
After an acquisition by Pirelli in the 1980s followed by a hiatus when Pirelli exited the bicycle tire market, the brand was revived in 2010 and is now better than ever. Clement now manufactures an ever-expanding line of bicycle tires for all purposes — road, cyclocross, mountain, and everything in between.
Enter the USH
The Clement X’Plor USH is a mixed-terrain “adventure” tire, designed for gravel, dirt, bad pavement and other scenarios where you’d benefit from some grip, but don’t necessarily want or need an aggressive tread to get the job done. It’s offered as a 700c tire, 35mm wide, in a 60 and 120 TPI (thread count; more on that later).
It caught my eye in early 2014, and since then, by my (loose) calculations, I’ve logged over 3,000 miles on several pairs. After those miles and countless gravel rides, dirt roads, day-long treks and quick errands, I can confidently say that the USH is my favorite all-around, do-everything, ride-anywhere tire.
Tread Lightly (or Heavily)
The tire’s strength lies primarily in its tread design, which sports a thick, contact-heavy chevron pattern down the center with pyramid-pattern knobs down the side. The thick center tread rolls fast on pavement, and if you air the tire up to the upper end of its pressure spectrum (they’re rated for 90 psi, which at 35mm wide, is downright rigid), you can ride civilized roads all day and not feel like you’re at a major disadvantage. While they’re not a substitute for a standard road tire, they certainly hold their own.
On the flipside, when the terrain gets rough, airing down to the 40-60 psi ballpark will put you in the sweet spot for gravel, dirt, rocks, singletrack and other semi-gnarly stuff. The side knobs grip well on loose gravel, granite, dirt and the like, and the combined center/side tread pattern makes for climbing that remains confident even when things get thick.
While the USH is a jack-of-all-trades tire, it does have its limits, like any tire of its size. So, can you take them on technical singletrack? Yes! Should you? Probably not! But the point is, it can be done, so if you’re like me and find yourself in situations where common sense doesn’t prevail, your tires will likely emerge unscathed.
Lifespan, Longevity and fLats (The Three Ls)
Typically, I’ve found that I’m getting around 1,500 miles from a USH on the rear wheel. The majority of those miles are typically on mixed surfaces, primarily gravel roads, so, all things considered, the longevity is really decent. The softer rubber compound in the tread does exhibit noticeable wear (pictured), but I haven’t noticed any major losses in handling or ride quality as the tires wear. Plus, I have yet to slash a sidewall or otherwise cause a USH to fail prematurely. They’re pretty tough.
As mentioned before, the USH is available in 60 and 120 TPI (threads per inch) variants. As is typical with thread count differences, the 120 TPI model is purported to be more supple and lighter, at a slightly higher price and with slightly decreased durability. I’ve only used one 120 TPI USH, and didn’t really notice a difference for the kind of riding I do. However, if I was using the tires for touring or other heavy pavement / rough-pavement applications, I’d opt for the 120 TPI model.
While I haven’t kept a tally, it does seem to me that I typically get fewer flats on USHs compared to other tires. In the first 500-600 miles on my most recent pair, I’ve gotten maybe a handful… probably fewer than five. Most flats have been of the pinch-flat variety and were probably my fault for running pressure too low in terrain too demanding. Flats are generally a rarity.
A Word About Tubeless
While the USH is not a tubeless-compatible tire, I have successfully run them tubeless for periods of time (using Orange Seal sealant) without inner delamination or bead-mounting issues. Your mileage may vary! The good news is, Clement has recently released the Strada USH, a 32mm variation of the X’Plor USH. Watch for that review in the coming months.
When it comes to bicycle components, tires are a great investment. The right tires will positively affect your bike’s handling, performance, comfort and safety. Dollar for dollar, no other component can transform your bike as much as a new pair of tires can.
In addition to the USH, Cycle Analysis stocks a full line of Clement tires. Come on by and check them out today!