If fine, supple, light tyres are your thing then chances are you’ve at least heard of Veloflex. Many hold Veloflex tyres in high regard, and after spending the last month training and racing on their Master tyres I can understand why these tyres are held in such high regard.
Veloflex describe the Master as an “all-purpose open tubular”. Featuring tan sidewalls and a 320 TPI corespun casing, this tyre adds a real ‘classic’ look to most bikes. I tested the 700x25 version, which measured roughly 24mm on a 17c rim – quite narrow by today’s standards. Weight was almost bang on claimed, with my two tyres weighing 207g and 201g, giving an average weight of 204g.
When unboxing the first thing that struck me was just how supple and thin these tyres are. The bead isn’t very rigid, and when paired with a flexible casing you can fold this tyre up quite tightly. I doubt this effects the tyres performance, though. It’s just interesting to note because I could never fold tyres from Vittoria, Michelin or Continental this tight (and that’s including the Vittoria Open Corsa range).
Out on the road the suppleness of these tyres was immediately obvious. When paired with latex tubes and a reasonable tyre pressure, these tyres gave an impression of ‘gliding’ along the road. Despite only measuring 24mm, these tyres give the comfort of a (lesser) tyre measuring 26mm but also the reactivity of a 23mm tyre. They’re a step above ‘regular’ tyres in terms of road feel.
You’re probably now expecting me to suggest these tyres offer terrible puncture protection but in fact the puncture protection has been more than adequate – it takes more than riding over glass to get a flat, in fact the only flats I’ve had so far have been pinch flats (I was experimenting with how little tyre pressure I could get away with).
I often find cornering grip can make or break good tyres, and these tyres certainly corner well. In the wet and dry the tyres offered good, predictable grip and feedback. They’re better than the (now superseded) Vittoria Open Corsa line, but not quite as good as a Michelin Pro 3 (or 4). Perhaps I feel more confident on the Michelin tyre because I’ve had more kilometres on them.
From what I’ve described, it appears these tyres would make the perfect race tyres, they’re light, supple, corner and roll well. However, if I were picking race tyres I would probably overlook these because I can get sturdier tyres that corner just as well, if not better. Yes, the Masters offer decent puncture protection, but I would prefer greater reliability in my (road) race tyres. I feel at club level the ‘speed’ difference between this tyre and say a Conti GP4000s or Michelin Pro 4 isn’t going to be the difference between winning and losing, but puncturing is. It’s for that reason that I would pitch these tyres solidly at those aiming to enjoy cycling, and don’t mind fixing the odd puncture. Or perhaps those who are willing to risk puncturing more often, for a marginal performance increase. Unfortunately, I prefer to finish my races, and usually the difference between winning and losing comes more down to race tactics, or training rather than my equipment.
Conclusion: Light, fast and supple tyres that offer decent puncture protection. Great for fast, long rides, but perhaps not my choice for a racing clincher.