In a world where we are bombarded with “cutting-edge technology”, “epic performance” and “aerospace materials”, it’s easy to forget that normal products with normal prices and sufficient performance are still available. That’s why we wanted to see if it’s worth taking in consideration budget tires.
So we tested three budget tires from CST, more specifically the Traction, Dolphin and Ouster models, all 26 inches models but with different use destination and width. The three are available in the “old” size of 26 inches, with the Ouster being available for 29ers and the Traction available for 24 inch wheels.
At first glance the tires look great, nothing else to say, they have no problem. They are heavier than competition tires, but at their price level, the balance is perfect. For example, a 460 gr (16 oz) mountain bike tire, such as the Continental Speed King RaceSport 29 × 2.2, has a price of 35 EUR.
CST Dolphin is a small thread tire. It is still a MTB tire but the design of the thread make it a fast rolling one. Obviously, we only have single compound rubber at this price and the TPI is only 27. This means you have the same grip whether you are rolling straight or pushing it around corners. More expensive tires have a softer compound around the edges to help with traction while cornering. Dolphin does not have that, so you have to be carefull how much you push it.
27 TPI means basically less comfort, a big TPI creates a more supple tire that offers more comfort when rolling. A small TPI provides greater resistance to wear and tear, which is great. A wire bead adds to the tires weight but this is something to expect at this price, however this can cause problems when mounting the tire on some rims. Lucky enough it wasn’t the case for me. The 2.1 width is perfect for the tire’s destination, i.e. recreational rides. You can use this tire for competitions, if you really need to, it’s low thread might help you, I personally liked this one the most out of all three.
CST Traction is the “skinny” one from all three, but also the heaviest, with a 1.95 inch width in both 24 and 26 inches diameter. The thread is closely placed, which offers both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand you will have less rolling resistance, so better speed, be it asphalt or forest. On the other hand, wet off-road grip is not that great.
The Traction is perfect for commuting if you use your mountain bike for it, even long trekking or touring rides match this tire. With 22 TPI, wire bead and single compound build, Traction is the most entry level tyre out of all three, but also the cheapest.
CST Ouster is a “fatter” tire. The width is 2.25 inches on both 26 and 29 inch models. It is a more aggressive tire, with a more aggressive thread. I see it being used for enduro or downhill, unless you have 27.5 inch wheels. Ouster has dual compound rubber, with a softer compound around the edges, meaning you can get more traction around corners.
On the track, Ouster felt like it had more grip, specially on loose ground. Of course, you should always be careful when riding on difficult terrain, but the composition of the tire, the width and especially the thread give you a helping hand. We have again a wire bead and 27 TPI rubber, but this is to be expected in order to keep the price low.
I generally enjoyed Dolphin, Traction and Ouster models from CST. I liked Ouster when going down off-road really fast, Traction when I was going around the city or on rides with the kids on easy off-road and Dolphin is ideal for general cross country riding.