I sit here and write this while psyching myself up for another 3-4 hour ride of breaking trail on the Cannolis. It has been a good winter here on the west coast of the northern lower peninsula of Michigan and we have already gotten over 5′ of snowfall. We got the okay from the National Forest Service to groom the “outer loop” of one of our local trails which is 17 miles of hilly, tight singletrack. The only problem is that the tracksled we ordered to groom with isn’t going to arrive until the end of January so we have been trying to keep the outer loop “ridden-in” until the groomer arrives. In the last month I have spent so much time plodding along in the biggest two cogs of my cassette that I have worn halfway through the narrow teeth of my narrow/wide chainring. Better go eat my second breakfast of the morning to fuel up.
My point in bringing all of this up is that the Cannoli has been a staple tire this year in helping to keep the outer loop open. I have spent some time on the Vee Tire 2XLs and Surly’s Bud/Lou to keep perspective (aka “palate cleansers”) but the Cannoli has been the tire I have ridden more often than any other when needing to plow through a bunch of snow to keep our ribbon of singletrack open this year. I could have done all the same rides on either of those other tires but when I was going to air up the compressor and pop on a tire for some trail breaking, I picked the Cannoli more often than not.
The big reason for using the Cannoli is because of the great drive traction and mild handling manners. I can’t definitively say that the Cannoli has better drive traction than a Lou or 2XL because of the vast differences in snow types/conditions but I have been surprised at the number of times the Cannoli allowed me to make it further up a steep climb in deep snow than anyone else on a ride. If I couldn’t make it up a climb, 99% of the time it was because I screwed up my line, didn’t have low enough gears, or just didn’t have the motor to put out enough watts. Rarely did the tire ever fail me on traction.
“Mild” handling may not be a description that jumps off the screen and inspires you to buy this tire but it is an important aspect of why I like the Cannoli. The steering/front tire performance the Cannoli definitely doesn’t have the absolute cornering traction of a Bud. There is slightly more side-slip with the Cannoli than a Bud but the transition between slip and grip modulates well with the Cannoli. There are conditions where the Bud almost feels “indexed” where it can catch/grab ruts or the side of the trail and cause the bike to jerk around. In comparison, the Cannoli allows you to bump off and drift slightly keeping the overall piloting of the bike smoother and more relaxed. When you are “playing the game of Operation,” riding the “inverted balance beam”… whatever you want to call riding a narrow, ridden-in track, the Cannoli just allows you to relax more and keep on trucking.
Is the Cannoli all fried pastry and cream filling? Definitely not. The big negative is the weight of these tires. At about 2,000g per tire you are adding almost 2 pounds to your bike in the worst possible place when compared to a pair of Bud and Lou’s. This does limit the range/usability of the Cannolis because when you get into more mild conditions the weight becomes noticeable and can be a hindrance if you are trying to keep up with other riders. When I know I am not going to be playing in the freshies, I generally use a different bike or swap to a different set of tires just because of the weight. If Vittoria could figure out a way to drop even 200g/tire and retain all of the other positives of this tire it would vastly increase the range where this tire is competitive. All of that said, when your bike looks like in the image below and you are carrying 10+ pounds of snow on your bike, the last thing you are thinking about is the extra weight of the tires. All you care about is the how they keep you rolling forward so you can keep taking powder shots from trees overhanging the trail, loaded in fresh snow.
Two other aspects that found me wanting were hard cornering and rolling resistance on “mediocre” groomed trails. There is a spectrum for groomed trail conditions with the “not really setup enough so conditions are slippery and slow going” on one end and “hero snow that feels faster than summer conditions” on the other end of the spectrum. The Cannolis do well on the extreme ends of that spectrum but for some reason every time I would ride them in the mediocre middle of the spectrum conditions they just seemed slow and the front end would push in corners regardless of the pressure I ran.
If the above are the low points for the tire, the high point seemed to be whenever you needed to really drop the pressure. Most tires start getting wrinkly and handling weird but the Cannolis just flattened out, retained nice handling manners and seem to roll with less resistance than other tires. I have also never had any issues with snow building up in the tread.
If you are interested in geeking out about numbers, I think I listed most everything in my “First Look” write-up about the Cannolis. What I wrote about before snow arrived in regards to the lack of self steer, excellent tubeless performance and great construction all still apply. Even after being tubeless for a long time and stretching, the Cannoli is slightly narrower than the Bud/Lou but I have never felt any difference in float on the trail. I have found I like to run the rear tire in the “V-scoop” direction and the front in the opposite “fast and powerful braking” direction. Unlike a lot of tires where the sidewalls start to show threads and other signs of wear after a lot of low pressure use, the Cannolis are showing no signs of sidewall deterioration.
If you like to bushwhack and play in the pow, you owe it to yourself to check out the Cannolis. I am hoping Vittoria may be able to find a way to make these tires a bit lighter to expand their versatility but otherwise they have knocked it out of the park for tire that excels in deep snow.