Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: Hutchinson Atom Galactik

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to review the Hutchinson Atom tubeless tire. In that review, I noted that as a dedicated racing tire, the Atom " just isn't providing the  level comfort I am looking for."

Now the next generation of the Atom is here, the Atom Galactik. I was fortunate to receive a pair for review at Interbike, and I have since put hundreds of miles on them in Colorado and even in the hills of north Georgia. So far, I am impressed.

The Atom Galactik Road Tubeless tire sheds 25 grams a piece from the previous version that it supplants. And while I am a committed weight weenie, I am also a rational member of the reality based community. Therefore, I would be lying if I told you I could instantly feel the difference in weight between the old Atoms and the Galactiks; I can't. This is especially true since I had previously mounted the stunningly light IRC Formula Pro Tubeless Light which claims to come in at 240 grams vs. the Galactik's 245. Unlike machined parts, tires are soft goods subject to greater manufacturing tolerances, so the difference here is negligible.

But in terms of riding characteristics, the Galactiks are very different from the IRC offering and even the previous Atom. The original Atoms felt so firm that they were almost rigid. It was as if they beefed up the casing while reducing the diameter of the Fusion 3s. In contrast, the Atom Galactiks feel somewhat more supple than the original Atoms. They accelerate well, grip nicely in corners, and tolerate road imperfections to a much greater degree than the old Atoms.

But at the same time, they still seem to retain the narrow profile, which appears much more like a 21c tire than the labeled 23c.  The IRC counterpart appears to be slightly wider and thinner, while offering an even more compliant ride, but the IRC it is a very thin tire and it appears to wear faster than the Galactiks.

The old Atoms were like a sports car that has bald tires and was lowered. It was great for racing, but not practical for luxury touring. The Atom Galactik is more like having a Porsche. It meets the needs of racers while being an acceptable tire for long distance riding.

With greater comfort and less weight, I have to say that I like the direction that Hutchinson is taking with their road tubeless line. Since the invention of road tubeless, Hutchinson has been the clear leader in the field. And as the peleton of road tubeless tires grows larger, the Galactik appears to be Hutchinson's statement that they intend to lead the pack and try to break away.