While some people have wonderful associations with the old Panaracer Fire XC, I can’t say that they’ve ever been at all kind to me. In fact, I’ve been almost more uncomfortable riding them than I was when I ran over a nest of ground wasps (maybe that’s not entirely the truth); the point being that I’ve never felt like the Fire XC tire was my style of tire. So when the Panaracer Cinder showed up on my desk, I had some reservations about it as well. Bear in mind that I love Panaracer’s Rampage tire, so initially I was hoping the Cinder would be some kind of middle ground between the two.
The Cinder is billed as an XC style tire: no big mountain hucks or drops here. I mounted it up on my short travel “go fast” bike and rode it for a number of months through a large variety of terrain, all of which led me to conclude that the Cinder does indeed wipe away the tears of the Fire XC and reminds me greatly of the excellent Rampage.
My first mounting of the Cinder was less than favorable though. I mounted it up on my Crossmax front wheel and had similar problems to those that I always had with the Fire XC. The tread is great on the Cinder and it tracks well, rolls quite fast and hangs reasonably well in corners due to the sharp shoulder blocks, but I always felt like it just wasn’t holding well enough in those corners which you really push it. On harder packed surfaces, it handled very well indeed, but I was much less comfortable once things started to get loose. In the mud, forget it. It packs up quite quickly and becomes very slick, although it did clear reasonably well at lower speeds, so the momentary pack up is at least tolerable, if not resolvable. It’s worth noting that my riding style generally centers around a larger volume sticky rubber front tire, so while I was often put off by the Cinder under my nose, it is not a bad tire. It just doesn’t hang with larger volume or stickier tires as well as I’d like it to. As a front tire though, it is capable enough.
When I swapped the Cinder to the rear wheel, that’s when I found the secret. I actually like the Cinder so much as a rear tire that it has become a permanent fixture on my rear wheel, much to the chagrin of the other testing staff who never even got a chance to ride it. While it still suffers from the problem of packing up in mud, it does shed even better on the rear wheel. The breakaway characteristics of the Cinder are fantastic on the rear wheel: rear wheel power slides are quick, sure and easily managed, and the weight of the tire allows the rear wheel to spin up to speed amazingly quickly. Both seated and standing climbs were cleaned with the Cinder behind me, and wet roots and rocks proved to be little challenge for the “claw over anything” capability it showed while under power.
With that all being said, I have to say the Cinder eliminated the fears I harbored early on about it being similar to the Fire XC. Panaracer has done their homework and produced a great lightweight trail tire that really shines in groomed or slightly loamy conditions, especially on the drive side of your bike. The price is also quite reasonable, and they wear fantastically well, so you really get your money’s worth.