CX tire choice for new CX racer?

Planning to give CX racing a try for the first time this fall with my gravel bike. Have been riding and racing XC for 2 years now and road and gravel for one.

I am in Atlantic Canada, so conditions will be cool with the season occurring in October and November. I don’t expect to encounter snow but do expect mainly grassy courses, often wet and soft, getting cut up with some areas getting muddy.

To start out I’m looking to get one set of tires that will suit the wet grass mainly but will also be suitable for dry, hardpack grass in the early season. I have done some research to get an idea of what might be suitable but also have read that a lot of the tire recommendations are more for highly skilled CX racers and newer racers should be using more aggressive tires than the pros.

I would like to use a tubeless set up and stick to the 33mm width (our local series apparently only measures tires on podium finishers but would like to run a legal/traditional setup regardless).

Tires I was considering include:
Maxxis All-Terrane
Continental Cross King CX Racesport
S-Works Terra Tubeless
Challenge Baby Limus or Grifo
Schwable X-One Allround or X-One Bite

Open to other tubeless suggestions as well, if there isn’t really a strong favourite, might just look to see what is available at a decent price and is lightest.

Challenge grifo and clones like the donnelly MXP are perfect all around tires for a beginner. The baby limus and donnelly PDX would be close seconds. they roll a bit better but have less straightline grip at the tread has less “paddles” to dig in when accelerating or braking. No experience with the other tires but those two combos are tried and true

1 Like

All terraines a solid choice for lots of grip, also did the PDX’s and Im just more comfortable with lots of grip and dont really feel like i loose that much speed with a “faster” tread pattern.

Get yourself a digital tire pressure guage if you dont already have one. Getting the right PSI on any tire will make more difference than selecting the best tire and running the wrong pressure.

Do have one of the Topeak digital pressure gauges. How do you find the All Terrane and PDX compare?

Agreed. MXP is just an automatic for these conditions. They should cover most conditions and not be giving up too much vs a file or mud tire if the conditions vary, especially for a newbie.

1 Like

I was told by someone locally to avoid Donnely tires as they had poor QC, this person had stocked up on Clement tires as they were their favourite but had issues following the switch to Donnely.

Is the Grifo the MXP equivalent?

Clement is Donnelly or Clement became Donnelly via a name change.

Clement was an old name licensed from Pirelli. The licensing changed and they were rebranded Donnelly.

I have had maybe a dozen Donnelly tires and they have all worked very well tubeless and the tubulars were good, but the rubber did harden with age on the tubular tires.

(Donnelly Sports ends Clément license, launches Donnelly Cycling)

I had some Clement prior to the name change and just after. Everything was the same about them with the same markings and same print on the inner tire


There was no change in manufacturing, just a change in license. They had some QC issues when they are clement as well, I had a couple wobbly MSOs they warrantied for me.

I ran PDX for a few seasons and maxxis last year, so no back to back compare. I dont think you can go wrong with either. PDX might be slightly faster because of tread pattern, but maxxis will be more forgiving for a beginner with more aggressive tread. I cant feel a difference in the speed, cross courses are nuts, not like paved road. For me, a confidence inspiring tread pattern makes me faster and addresses my weaknesses better than a “faster” tread pattern.

1 Like

I ran Baby Limus last year in my first year ever of CX racing, they worked well, just manage your psi for the course.

I’d go baby limus of that list. Good compromise tyre for muddy courses, grip in the corners and not quite as much tread in a straight line. Very popular in the UK.

However, best would be to ask someone who has done some of those races before - you might think a course is grassy and will cut up, but if it’s on sandy soil or on some sort of hardpack, it won’t be that bad. Other grass might turn into a swamp very quickly. If you don’t know anybody, look for photos from last season for a few hints.

I had some Clement mud tyres, compared to spesh or challange they felt stiff and terrible.

I’d agree with the advice to go for slightly more tread if in doubt - grip is everything in cross, worry about speed once you know where you’re at.


Big fan of the Maxxis. I ride in similar conditions. Not serious enough to have multiple sets of tires so I pick one and keep them on all season. The maxxis tire is a great choice!


My $0.02USD, giving you that extra 6/10ths of a penny for free :wink:

First season, options should be on the heavier mud side. If they save you one spill the entire season, they’re probably faster than worrying about straight-line resistance. MXP seems like the minimum you’d want in the Donnelly line, BOS might be worth it.

No direct experience with the rest of the named products, but just looking, I’d go X-One Bite over “Allround” etc.

And you’re already used to decently stout knobbies from XC, so the bike and rubber will already feel lighter.

I’ve always wanted to try the WTB Cross-boss, having gone through a few sets of tubed and tubeless Cross-Wolves that I loved, but haven’t had the occasion yet.

Most TLR rims and tires play better together now than they used to, but its still worth an online search to be sure lots of people aren’t suffering from a Maxxis/Roval issues or a Conti (insert OEM factory rim here) issue before you buy.

OP- USH and MSOs are not cross tires.

I’ve got 6-years on MSO and USH varieties commuting and gravel riding… I’ve only had one USH with an issue. I need to switch it from the front to the rear of my rack and fender bike and it won’t bother me anymore. Maybe if I watched where I was going it wouldn’t bother me as much, either… Maybe if my fender wasn’t there to compare to “straight.” I love my MSOs, especially in 36 World Cup edition. (Runs off to check various online sources to see if there’s a slight discount).

I race MSO 36s for dry cross races all the time FWIW, they are super fast with just enough side lugs for grip. I’ve had no issues with my MXPs or PDXs or my PDX tubs.

You’re not wrong, MSOs work like a large file-tread. I ride them in drills in the summer and on all types of grass because I’m too lazy to swap wheels and because it never hurts to practice on the edge of control. Except when it hurts after I outride their grip. (gave up searching for a crash emoji).

Not what I would recommend for racing in October and November in Nova Scotia or PEI or New Brunswick.


haha that is originally why I started using them too, got lazy switching between gravel/cx practice. Then I found they were actually fast and fun. Ditto on crashing. They have some lugs…but not much

1 Like

Used to ride the crossboss, but they clog up quickly and don’t shed mud well. Now use them as my summer/gravel tyre. Maybe ok if you don’t have muddy courses?

1 Like

Agree, Crossboss is much better as a rough gravel tire. Also, I have cut sidewalls on them twice and no other tires.

1 Like

Dropping in kind of late.

I recommend just about everyone race on an intermediate tread if you aren’t going to swap tires consistently for conditions. Even if it is bone dry, and intermediate tread is going to be 98% as quick as a file tread.

Given your locale - and this applies to most of American CX - our courses aren’t really file tread type courses. Most are very tight and technical being held in small city parks with a small footprint. You will be spending more time cornering than straightline powering. In Europe that isn’t always the case. Choose either Sworks or All-Terranes and go off. The grifos are sometimes polarizing but another good choice.

I am going to be “that guy” on 38 vittoria terreno dries. They are massive compared to what I am used to, will see if I switch back to a 33 intermediate.