~~By Dave Willet
The Gibson tyre attack has begun. This brand isn't just attacking the market but also the track with young, fresh thinking and new tyre technology. The Gibson tyre range is made up of four different tyres, currently with one front and three rears, but the range will quickly widen.
The front is the MX 1.1 which covers both sand and mud in soft to intermediate conditions, covering a wide range of applications by using their latest tyre technology. The three rears, the two called the MX 3.1 and MX 4.1 cover pretty much every terrain from intermediate to hard mud, and there’s also a dedicated sand tyre, the MX 5.1. I haven't had a chance to test the whole range but I have tried the front and MX 4.1 rear in a range of conditions.
The MX 1.1 front is a surprisingly good tyre considering it covers such a broad range of terrain and I genuinely expected it to fall short in some departments. In all honesty, it didn’t. It seems to have all the pros of a soft compound tyre and none of the cons of a harder compound tyre, so in essence it gives you the best of both worlds. You get premium tyre grip and more durability which has to work out cheaper in the long run.
The rear MX 4.1 is also impressive in the grip department, whether I was riding intermediate or hard ground, the tyre performed consistently well and also left me surprisingly impressed.
Tyre fitment was very easy as the Gibson boys very kindly sent out a set of wheels with the tyres already fitted which makes life easier. But as I’ve done a lot of tyre testing of late, I've got a good feel for tyre compounds and have a few tests of comparisons I like to know between the manufacturers when I actually fit the rubber. So I took the tyres off and refitted them before I went riding.
I like to get the feel for the carcass of the tyre and when taking a tyre on and off the rim and also the way it grabs the inner rim when putting pressure in the tube to blow out the tyre, you get an understanding or a better feel for it. It's a little be crazy but hey, that's me!
What many riders don’t grasp is that the tyre carcass is just as important as the knobbles on your tyre. People take so much time inspecting the knobs but it’s not just down to the height or shape of the blocks. The carcass plays a big part in tyre performance is it has to move and flex correctly to allow perfect grip but also not move too much so you don't feel you've got a flat tyre. It's important as the best carcass moulds to the ground and if it’s too hard it can cause a spinning feeling at the rear - especially on hard pack tracks. The carcass is also important on the front as the sidewalls of the tyre have to be right or you lose the front’s usual planted feeling and the tyre rolls again, especially on hard pack.
The Gibson tyres feel quite light in the hand – certainly not heavy like some budget brands which can really affect handling - and I found them easy to fit which is a plus as some tyres are a nightmare - mostly budget tyres, I find.
I tested the MX 1.1 and MX 4.1 in muddy conditions at first - it wasn't my choice but beggars can't be choosers with UK track options and the British weather. Then later in the week I had a nice frozen track to test on which was the sort of ground I was looking for.
The tyres coped really well with the mud, hooking up perfectly and the lightweight polyester carcass didn't let the mud stick to it too much. I didn't have that horrid 'sausage tyre' feeling on the front when hitting the turns, and it was the same in the rear as on the track there was a few hard lines that had dried out and I didn't feel a loss of traction in that section. Sometimes a tyre holds the mud and which effects traction on drier sections, but I didn't get that feeling so this tyre compound clearly does it's job well.
On one section of track, I tried another brand of rear tyre for a direct comparison. It was a left-handed, uphill section that leads to a tabletop and I was losing grip which made the jump harder work than it should have been. But with the Gibson tyre it was the opposite - I had more grip leading to the take-off and the jump was obviously much easier and safer.
The second time I went out testing the tyre I was more interested in how the tyre would react and if I'd be comfortable on track because the ground was hard and frozen. I was interested in seeing if the front end would break traction too easily but it didn't. I was actually really relaxed entering the turns as the trust was there. Even under braking, the tyre performed brilliantly..
The rear got a big thumbs-up as the rear traction on track was impressive. It hooked up great on the harder sections of track and even lasted longer than I expected. I thought because the feel was reasonably soft, the knobbles would break or deteriorate fast which didn't happen. I think the reason I had good grip was also the how wide the top of the knob block is. The surface face is bigger than most and it makes sense for it to hook up good as it’s putting more rubber to the ground to grip the terrain. Overall, the Gibson tyres are impressive and I'm looking forward to testing the rest of the range.
UK scientific know-how is Gibson’s weapon
Using the own PhD-level scientists Gibson have engineered in as much technology to the tyres as possible in a bid to make them work well, last well yet not be too expensive. “Gibson Tyre compounds have been developed by our very own scientists, who use the latest testing methods including infrared surface analysis, capillary extrusion rheometry, and many more world-leading technologies,” is their official line.
“All compound research and development takes place solely in the UK. It is this UK testing of a wide variety of physical properties on all of our competitors’ compounds which enables our team of chemists to tailor our very own range of market-leading innovative performance compounds.
“The way in which a compound is developed is firstly by breaking down and analysing our competitors’ compounds, for such physical properties like, tensile strength, viscosity, abrasion, elasticity and elongation. These are just some of the properties we test for, and these properties are what determines the performance of any given compound.”
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