Onza tyres – first ride
Front: Ibex FR 2.25 / Rear: Canis 2.25
For the mountain bikers around during the early boom years of the sport, you’ll remember the Onza name, a once iconic tyre manufacturer. It was confined to the history books a long time ago, though a trials company baring the same name since sprouted up in Nottingham.
That aside there has been nothing in the way of tyres. But that all changed when, three years ago, a Swiss-based company decided they needed to be brought back. Headed up by mountain bikers with 10 years of experience, the company has launched a range of new tyres. They’re named after animals, localities and regions in Switzerland and local riders (like Roger Rinderknecht) were drawn on for their development input.
We got a chance to check them out when we visited Switzerland for the BMC Trailfox launch earlier this year. The Swiss company had done its homework and built the 25lb carbon fibre 150mm all-mountain trail bike with a decent specification of all-round trail-ready components, but it was a glance at the tyres that first revealed to us that something new and exciting was waiting to be ridden.
Onza tyres, once a familiar sight on mountain bikes with names like the Octupus, Rip’n’Rails, Porcupines and others, faded out of the spotlight many years ago, but we’re glad they’re back. Albeit with new names, none of the classics appear in the catalogue. Shame.
Says Onza: “In mountain biking’s early days, Onza changed cycling with products unique in style, function and quality. Now Onza is back to do it again. The company’s tyre product line offers the highest quality for best performance,”
Our test bike was fitted with a combination of Onza tyres, an Ibex FR 2.25 on the front and a Canis 2.25 on the rear. The former is described by the company as a good all-rounder for a range of terrain and trails while the Canis is a low profile job for low rolling resistance. The other tyre is the fast rolling Lynx, but as the trails were damp to drying and with lots of roots and rocks, we stayed clear of that one.
The Ibex is available in XC, FR or DH guise, we rode the FR model with a FRC120 sidewall, that’s tougher than the standard fare in the range, with an RC55a soft compound tread. Its tread pattern mimics something like the Maxxis High Roller, with wide horizontal central blocks and large angular aggressive side knobs. Weight is in the region of 695g to 850g.
That was the on the front. On the back was a Canis, which speeds riding up with an arrangement of medium height knobs closely packed on the central section of tyre and more widely spaced along the outer limits. Our tester has the company’s C3120 RC2 option, a lighter weight sidewall and a dual tread compound (65a down the middle for faster rolling speeds and increased durability while 55a is found on the outside edge for better purchase when leaning the tyre over in corners).
The trails that formed our test loop comprised of steep rooty and rocky inclines, spattered in places with slippery mud but drying throughout the day, along with some long gravelly fireroad climbs and some dusty singletrack in the afternoon. It proved a good mix, and on the Trailfox with its all-mountain capability and incredible light weight, the tyres seemed a good match.
Pairing the aggressive and chunkier tyre up front with the faster rolling rear tyre worked well, the angular tread of the front Ibex FR picking up traction even through the most challenging conditions, through fast running corners litter with roots and rocks the tyre was surefooted and stable, affording a planted feel. Through mushier stuff they bite deep, finding traction where others might otherwise struggle.
Running fast rolling low profile tyres on the rear is something that’s seems to be popular with the world cup downhill racers these days on the right course, and we can see why. However traction was compromised a little early in the day when the trails were still a little damp but as they dried out through the course of our test ride the tyre won us over, with decent grip though the lighter thinner sidewalls didn’t offer the level of stability that the front tyre did, resulting in a little squirm when loaded up hard into tight corners.
BMC’s Roger Rinderknecht rates the tyres (well they do sponsor him, and he helped develop the tyres), saying: “On the very edge, the grip in corners is what decides a lot of duels on the course – and thus the races. That’s why I mount either the Canis or the Ibex from Onza, depending on how rough the course is, in a 2in width in the back and in a 2.25in up front and always with the lightweight Kevlar bead.
“The tire pressure varies between 2.5 and 3 bar, depending on the course’s character.”
As pleased as we are to see the return of Onza to making tyres, don’t expect to see them in UK shops anytime soon…