Teravail Cannonball Review

Teravail Cannonball Review

Pulled directly from Teravail’s website:

“There are routes covered with razor-sharp flint rock, where the wind is unforgiving, and the destination is far beyond the horizon. For the toughest days of gravel, when winning looks like finishing, we created the Cannonball.”

Teravail describes the Cannonball gravel tire in a rather romantic way, but just below the editorial copy is the real reason any gravel grinder might be interested in this tire. Teravail advertises the Cannonball as being tubeless-compatible, with “tread designed for maximum traction, minimum rolling resistance and puncture protection”. For any dedicated gravel cyclist, these are words we’ve heard about every new tire introduced as a “gravel tire” in the past couple of years. These types of phrases and promises start to feel hollow after a while, but Teravail looks to be a company on a mission to truly Unlearn Pavement, and with the power and experience of one of the world’s largest bicycle parts distributers standing behind the brand, Teravail might just be a serious new player in an increasingly competitive game.

Initial Impressions Before Mounting:

Our samples of the 60tpi version weighed in at 489g and 490g, both around 10g lighter than Teravail’s posted weight. The rubber feels quite tacky to the touch, and the 60tpi casing feels stiff and unyielding. The bead is a bit squared-off, which typically makes for a solid seal on most rims. The tread pattern seems burly and thick, and appears to be a tire that will last for quite a few miles. The minimal packaging is a nice touch, there is never a need for anything more than a simple hang-tag on any tire.

Mounting, Tubeless Setups:

Our first attempt at mounting was on a Velocity A23 rim, a tubeless-ready rim typical of many gravel grinding setups. With Stan’s yellow tape and valves already installed, a tubeless setup should be simple and quick. The Cannonball slipped over 3/4 of the rim easily, the remaining 1/4 required a bit of force to slip over the rim and into the spoke bed, but was installed with no tools. The tire seemed to sit in the middle of the spoke bed, with the folds from the packaging process still evident, and the bead on one side of the rim curled up inside the tire in an unusual manner. Here is where our first problem with this tire began; the tire would not inflate. Using an air compressor, and with the valve core removed to allow maximum air flow, the tire simply would not push from the spoke bed onto the bead shelf. This is a relatively common problem with tight-fitting tubeless tires, and our typical solution is to manually pull one side of the tire up on to the bead shelf to allow the other side the flexibility to be pushed out of the spoke bed by the pressure from the air compressor. All of our usual methods failed to seat the tire, until adding Orange Seal tubeless tire sealant. After adding the Orange Seal, we shook the tire and rotated the rim multiple times to allow the sealant to coat the inside of the tire and rim. After letting it sit and coagulate for 5 minutes, we used the air compressor again, and this time the tire successfully seated, with several loud and reassuring pops. The setup has proved perfectly stable, with only 2 lbs of pressure lost overnight without first riding the tire. The exact same process was required for both the front and the rear tires in order to seat the bead.

After our struggles with the Cannonball on the Velocity A23 rim, which has been an excellent test rim for numerous other tubeless tire setups, we were a bit disappointed in the Teravail 60tpi rubber compound. It seems that the 60tpi casing is too stiff to allow for a quick and easy tubeless setup, and may require some skill and practice to install. However, we thought it only fair to try the tires on some other tubeless-ready rims in order to make a fair assessment. Our next setup was on a set of Bontrager Race XXX Lite wheels, with the Bontrager TLR strip and valve. On this setup, the Cannonballs slipped over the rim easily, and rested in the spoke bed in a very similar manner to the A23 setup. However, on the first attempt, without sealant, the tires snapped into place firmly and with a loud crack, a perfect tubeless setup. The tires have held pressure very well on these rims as well.

Setup number three was on the stock WTB i19 Frequency CX Team wheels on a 2016 Salsa Warbird. The rims were prepared with Stan’s yellow tape and valves, and the tires mounted as in the previous setups. In this example, as with the Bontrager setup, the tires popped in to place on the first attempt, and with no sealant. The tires lost most of their pressure overnight, but did not break the bead. Our last setup, in an attempt to cover a few of the most common types of rims that we see in gravel events here in the Midwest, was on a HED Belgium Plus rim. This setup proved to be just as difficult as the initial A23 setup. Learning from our experiences with the A23, we followed the same procedure to inflate the tires, which snapped into place finally after much sealant was sprayed onto the floor. These rims lost a few lbs of pressure overnight, but remained mostly inflated.

Setup Tips, lessons learned:

All of the rims that we tried have remained stable, with the Velocity A23’s on Tyler’s test bike getting the most mileage of the bunch. the 60tpi version may be a little too stiff for quick and simple tubeless setups on certain rims, but once seated, the tires have held up perfectly on all test rims. After 100 miles, the A23 set were removed and re-installed to check for stretching, and were able to be re-installed quickly and easily using an air compressor. We can certainly recommend these tires for tubeless use, but be aware that there may be some struggles with the tight bead and stiff casing. After installing the tires on 4 different rims, we would recommend tube-setting the tires before attempting to seat them tubeless. Simply install the tires with a tube first, then break the bead on one side to pull the tube out and install the tubeless valve, then inject the sealant in through the valve, with the core removed, as you would with a typical tubeless setup. If the tube-set method doesn’t work, you can lubricate the bead of the tire using Simple Green spray or a soap and water solution. The bead and sidewall are rather stiff and very tacky, which can result in the tire sticking inside the spoke bed and preventing the air from a compressor or pump from pushing the bead up on to the bead shelf of a tight rim. As always, if this process seems intimidating, take your bike down to your local LBS, along with a 6-pack and let their mechanics and their fancy air compressors do the grunt work for you.

First Ride: (Tyler)

After letting the tires sit overnight, and through a work day, I checked the pressures and went on a quick 25 mile test ride to begin forming an opinion on these tires. Riding the Velocity A23 wheelset, with the pressure set to 40psi we set out after work on a hot October evening as the sun set behind us. The terrain on this route was a mix of sun-baked red clay, and very thick, freshly-poured man-made gravel. I was a bit apprehensive about the prospect of riding this tire on some rough and nasty gravel, especially after the experience of setting up the bead with these remarkably stiff sidewalls, but my fears were forgotten as soon as the bike hit the dirt. For a 60tpi tire, the Cannonballs are remarkably supple, even at 40psi. They seem to soak up the washboard bumps on our roads much better than comparable tires in this size range. The tread pattern seems to be a mix of the Specialized Trigger, Bontrager CX0, and Clement’s X’Plore MSO and USH tires. I can feel specific characteristics of these tires while riding, the speed and supple ride of the CX0, the hard casing and sure-footedness of the Trigger, and the  excellent rolling and loose terrain handling characteristics of the Clement tires.

The 25 mile route starts with a few miles of rough, loose gravel on top of hard clay, and the Cannonball feels dependable and predictable in this terrain. There is definitely less tendency to slide around as my typical CX0 tires in this situation, although not as grippy as the WTB Nano 40 in very loose conditions. The gravel gives way to hard-packed Oklahoma clay after about 7 miles, and the Teravail tire begins to demonstrate its true strength. This thing is fast! There is a center line in the middle of the tread, which is slightly raised, a la the Clement X’Plor USH.

The tires seems to roll mostly on this center line when riding pavement or hardpack, which makes for a very fast-feeling tire. The clay turns to sand in every corner, and although not a strong tire for sandy conditions, the Cannonball feels relatively stable in the amount of sand that you might find during a long gravel ride.

My initial impression of the Teravail Cannonball is very positive, and makes the struggles of the tubeless setup seem completely worth it. The tire feels incredibly supple, the speed and handling characteristics are first-rate, and while only time will tell with regards to durability, the tire seems to be made of some pretty tough stuff. We will update the review before publishing, to reflect thoughts after more miles and other conditions, but at this point, this could be my new favorite tire.

Final Thoughts:

After just over 200 miles, the Teravail Cannonball is holding up impressively well. The tread looks to be un-ridden, no loose side knobs or pitted sections. I have played around with pressure to determine the perfect amount for my size and riding style, which I have found to be around 35 psi in the front, and 38 or so in the back. I am 6’1” and 185 lbs for reference. I have ridden this tire in mud, sand, loose gravel, and on pavement, and it has handled everything I have thrown at it admirably. I will be ordering a set of the 120 tpi models to see if the higher tpi makes for an easier tubeless setup, but with our experiences on other rims, it may very well turn out that many rims will set up struggle-free. The tread pattern seems to be very well designed, the tire wizards at Teravail certainly did their research, and with the Cannonball being the official tire of Dirty Kanza, we can be sure that the DK crew had a hand in putting some serious mileage on the prototype tires that many of us saw at Dirty Kanza in 2015. Please feel free to leave us any questions or feedback in the comments, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the Teravail Cannonball.

About Teravail:

Parent company QBP introduced Teravail Tires this year, in an attempt to create the perfect tire for off-road adventure cycling. Teravail.com

Basic Specs:

Available in 38c 60tpi and 120tpi versions, 60tpi tested. Both versions are tubeless-ready. Also available under different names, as the 32c Galena, and the 2.2in Sparwood.