The Vittoria Mezcal & Barzo are the brand's top-of-the-line cross country mountain bike racing tires, designed for speed and suppleness. While either tire works well as both a rear and front—for either fast/dry or technical/mixed conditions respectively—as a combo they offer riders the benefits of both worlds.
I've been putting a pair through their paces over the past four months while riding and racing XC across a wide variety of terrain in Oregon & Washington, and have been quite pleased with their performance.
The Techy Tech
The Mezcal is a super-fast tire that has a tightly-spaced chevron-style centerline for low rolling resistance and more ample side knobs for maintaining cornering traction.
The Barzo is grip-focused, and has an open tread pattern designed to perform across a wide range of terrain and conditions.
The Mezcal & Barzo tires both have 120 tpi casings and are offered with two levels of puncture protection — TLR XC-Race or TNT. For this review I opted to forgo the full-wrap sidewall protection of the TNT construction in favor of the reduced weight and improved ride quality of the TLR XC-Race (plus their distinctive tanwall is a classic touch).
I picked a 2.25" Mezcal and 2.35" Barzo, both of which weighed in within a few grams of the claimed weights of 690g & 725g, with the Mezcal slightly heavier and the Barzo slightly lighter.
I mounted these with Vittoria Air-Liner Light tire inserts which added some protection for my Race Face Turbine R30 wheelset and allowed me to ride at a lower tire pressure.
In both competitive and casual settings these tires have been nothing but impressive. They performed marvelously across a wide range of dry terrain: hardpack, loose over hard, loamy singletrack, rooted & rutted switchbacks, & rocky descents. Any slip ups I had were due to rider error, never the tires.
I attribute this high level of grip to the relatively soft rubber of the lugs — they are just the right level of tacky and pliable.
Also, these tires are fast. Coming from a wider, more aggressive set of winter tires I was especially impressed by how speedy the Mezcal and Barzo were.
They got up to speed super quickly and held it extremely well, climbed just as fast, and inspired confidence in the descents.The tightly spaced tread of the Mezcal kept the pace high, while the more aggressive Barzo kept the front wheel locked on the ground in loose conditions or when touching down from catching a little air.
One initial concern I had was about the durability of the XC-Race versions of these tires — you can see the threads peeking through the supple sidewall. Throughout my testing, however, I did not experience a single puncture or tear despite thrashing at race-pace through jagged volcanic rock fields in Central Oregon, and descending at eye-watering speeds through boulder-strewn singletrack alongside Mount Hood.
Granted, good line choice and luck play a large role in how your tires fare, but I'm positive the excellent construction of the Vittorias contributed to a flat-free testing period.
The Last Word
At the time of writing I have ridden these tires for about 35 hours over 300+ miles, which is more than enough to convince me that I'll be riding the same combo for my XC race season next year.
All of the races and rides I did on these tires were dry (lucky me!) so I did not have a chance to see how they held up in adverse weather. But, given how much I love this setup, I'll be rolling on these as deep into the PNW winter as I am able to, and am eager to see how they perform.
While the Mezcal & Barzo are XC tires first and foremost, I found they punched way above their weight class and not only held up, but excelled in much more demanding conditions. As such, they are likely an excellent fit for any rider looking for a fast, lightweight and versatile tire setup for their mountain bike.
Written by Bertrand Mejia-Morin Photographed by Bertrand Mejia-Morin* Published on August 4th, 2023 *Race photograph courtesy of Andrew Stringer
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