Tioga Binary Tires: Checkpoint- by Guitar Ted
Tioga has brought an interesting take on a gravel tire that is very unique. A tread that is smoother in the center than almost anything I’ve tried short of straight up file treaded tires and a set of side lugs that do more than you’d think. I have already covered the technical side of the Binary and with some first impressions, you can find that information here. In this post, I will explore the traits of the Binary in some challenging conditions.
Spring in the upper Mid-West has been wet and cool so far. This has led to a lot of very challenging road conditions. I have had the Binary tires on a few rough rides featuring mud, fresh gravel, deeper sandy gravel, and the occasional smoother sections. The main takeaway here is that the Binary is no one trick pony, but it does the one thing that is obvious really well.
Of course, I am speaking of its speed. That central smoother section, which I think looks like a dead ringer for a hybrid bike tire, is fast. Tioga’s representative made it clear to me that air pressure was critical in getting the most out of the Binary, and he was correct in telling me this. Pump up a few psi, and you will find the Binary riding up on that smooth section of the tire. It will take you down the paved road like you were on a road racing bike. Then, drop a few psi when you hit the gravel, and then the tire puts more of those edge knobs in contact with the surface of the terrain you are on, which makes the tire work unbelievably well in mud, sand, and on rough dirt or gravel.
The tire has little for mud to cling to, for instance, so I found the Binary to be an above average dirt road tire. The mud that did stick flung off in a hurry, so working a muddy minimum maintenance road was fun and required no scraping of muck at the end of it. Treaded tires typical of the gravel category would not have fared so well in this situation.
Gravel was taken on with no real issues that would give me concern. Again, the tire pressure for your weight and load is critical here. I found that by running slightly less than what I would for a tubeless tire was sufficiently “in the ball park” since a tube reinforces a tire and makes the casing somewhat stiffer than a good tubeless tire. When the pressure was right, the Binary handled the gravel as I expected a 40mm tire to handle those conditions. Deeper gravel or sandy gravel was typical of an experience that I would expect on a 40mm tire. So, in this case the Binary was not unusually great nor was it bad.
Of course, this leads me into thinking a wider Binary would be a better tire for many situations. In fact, I can see this being a 50mm wide tire for bikes like a Salsa Cycles Fargo, or its ilk. But that said, a 42mm-45mm Binary would hit a sweet spot that I think would make it handle better in more extreme situations. And I have to say it: this tire would be awesome as a tubeless tire. I know you are thinking this, I know Tioga is thinking this, and I know I am as well. Again- Tioga is working on it but it may be a while before that happens. In the meantime, this tire is a pretty remarkable tire, and did I mention that I can fix a flat super easy if I get one? Plus, there is no tubeless sealant maintenance……. I know, I know……
So Far…..The Binary is an unique looking tire which has a fast, smooth center matched to a row of aggressive looking side knobs along the edges. The tire does roll fast and smooth on pavement or harder surfaces. It has more traction in loose or muddy areas than you’d guess, as long as the side knobs get engaged in the action. (Mind your air pressures!) While it is not yet offered as a tubeless tire, it does have great performance traits and is a good choice for those who are not dedicated to tubeless only use.
I’ll wrap up my thoughts on the Binary here in a few weeks in the “At The Finish” post. Stay tuned………
Note- Tioga sent the Binary tires for test and review at no charge to RidingGravel.com. We were not paid, nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.