XC riders looking for a versatile tire for the fall riding season, listen up! I recently tested two of the five sets of XC tires from Intense Tire Systems (ITS) in a variety of conditions and I’m finally ready to share the results. I chose the System 4 and System 5 tires for my tests but you’ll want to choose the System series that’s best for your local terrain and trail conditions.
System 4 and System 5 tires are great for those will experience a wide range of weather and also for those of us who pack a few extra pounds. Both tires are 26 x 2.25″ and have the same single-ply casing with long lasting and grippy C3 rubber compound. These tires are true 2.25-inch wide tires which means they are higher volume compared to other brands (meaning fewer pinch flats for heavier riders). Both the System 4 and 5 tires can be had for about $45 a piece.
The System 4 (left) is an all-conditions tire designed to do equally as well on soft surface as well as hard pack. The ramped and chevron tread patterns work together to keep your wheel where you want it to be. The System 5 (right) is designed for softer terrain with its mud-shedding, wide-spaced tread pattern.
I found that both sets of Intense tires mounted easily and seated nicely in the rim with a satisfying pop. As always I recommend adding a bit of talcum powder to the inside of the tire before placing the tube to reduce friction within the tire and to increase performance. After inflating both sets to 40psi, I was pumped and ready to go! (get it? )
First up: the System 4 tires. I decided to try these guys just after a good rainfall at a local trail that has a great mix of terrain, small climbs, and a few low spots. That day the trail had it all: freshly dried hardpack, wet spots, and even a little mud. On hardpack the System 4 did well and I couldn’t help but compare the performance to the Kenda Small Block 8s. System 4 offers great control on hardpack and rolls smoothly with little energy needed to get them moving. Leaning into corners there was very little squirm and they tracked well, allowing me to change lines at will without fear of loosing traction.
The large volume of this tire really opens up terrain possibilities beyond smooth hardpack. Riding over rough obstacles like rocks and logs felt quite comfortable, especially compared to other 2.00-range XC tires I’ve used in the past. With a smaller-width XC tire I would normally run the risk of pinching a flat, but with these I am glad to say did not have a problem. For that reason, this is a good tire to consider if you find yourself pushing the clydesdale line.
In very loose, wet terrain the System 4s did manage to clog a bit but luckily I had another set of tires in my quiver: the System 5s!
Changing over to the System 5 tires and hitting the same trails on the same day really gave me a good perspective on the differences between these two sets. The System 5 tire ran with a bit more vibration, but didn’t show it when the terrain turned soft. Just like the System 4, the System 5 ran with decent efficiency and didn’t suck up too much energy to get things rolling. The System 5 tread felt stable – not overly soft – and did great job at preventing wheel spin during climbs. However, when the terrain got extra muddy, the System 5s still clogged a little and slipped at times. On the descents these tires offered a ton of control and showed great stopping power.
With the aggressive tread pattern you might think these tires would squirm in corners but I always felt comfortable leaning into the soft stuff. Now on dry, hard surfaces you might not want to lean into these as much; instead, keep the bike more perpendicular to the ground for better traction. Like the System 4 tires, the added air volume was great for trudging through gnarlier trails that might normally serve up pinched tubes.
The System 5 is another great tire, especially for this time of year when the trails are a bit on the softer side and logs and rocks can be slippery and wet. Of course if the trails are really wet it’s usually best to stay off them – lets conserve the trails for everyone!
My overall impressions: System 4
8 out of 10 for climbing
8 out of 10 for rolling and efficiency
7 out of 10 for loose conditions
8 out of 10 for hardpack
8 out of 10 cornering
System 4 Specs from ITS:
Usage: Cross Country
Conditions: Soft – Intermediate – Hardpack
Compound LSG C3compound
Weight: 650 grams
My overall impressions: System 5
7 out of 10 for climbing
7 out of 10 for rolling and efficiency
9 out of 10 for loose conditions
7 out of 10 for hardpack
8 out of 10 for cornering
System 5 Specs from ITS:
Usage: Cross Country
Conditions: Soft – Intermediate
Compound LSG C3compound
Weight: 550 grams
These are certainly two good tires from ITS – choose the best ones for your terrain and riding conditions!