Hutchinson has given a subtle Gridskin construction upgrade to a couple of their top-selling tubeless road and gravel tires, promising improved environmental sustainability, in addition to both better flat protection and lower weight for gravel riders. Hutchinson says they’ve been developing the new reinforcement technology for their made-in-France tires for the past two years with the goal of improving all-around sustainability, with overall performance improvements providing welcome added benefits.
Hutchinson Gridskin sustainable road & gravel tire reinforcement
The original idea was to produce a better, more environmentally sustainable casing reinforcement for Hutchinson’s lightweight road and gravel tires. And ultimately, the new knitted mesh Gridskin not only reduced the energy needed to produce the tires, the number of steps needed for their construction, and the excess waste from production, it also made tires that are more supple, able to run lower pressures, yet have greater resistance to punctures & cuts, and up to 8% lighter for gravel.
So what’s actually new?
I’ll be honest that Hutchinson is a bit vague on the real differences between the previous Hardskin reinforcement and this new Gridskin. We do have the above image that shows the structure of Hardskin (old, left) and this lighter Gridskin (new, right) reinforcement. It doesn’t look all that different there, but it seems to go quite a bit deeper than that.
Hutchinson does say that the “reptile-like knitted mesh” is designed to isolate tire damage to prevent sharp debris from “progressing deeper, eventually creating larger holes and punctures”, with an ultimate goal not only of reducing flats, but increasing the usable lifetime of the tire.
What is Gridskin?
The new Gridskin protection layer is still a bead-to-bead fabric protection. But from the production photos we’ve seen, it appears the mesh is simply wrapped around the core 127tpi casing, just before the rubber layer is laid over the mold to be vulcanized. The previous Hardskin system appears to have been adhered to the casing in a more complex multi-part process before the rubber was vulcanized on the tire. Hutchinson says it’s a reduction of four steps down to just one to reinforce the tires, reducing material waste, time, and extra energy to produce – “less plastic, less rubber, and less electricity“.
The Gridskin result is improved puncture & cut protection, (sometimes) lighter weight, more supple construction, and a more sustainable process overall.
Limited edition Hutchinson Fusion 5 road & Touareg gravel Gridskin tires
In the end, the Gridskin tires get something of a snakeskin-like texture to the sidewalls. And while they should ultimately be available with all-black sidewalls, they are offered now as these limited edition Gridskin naked versions only. Taking reduced waste even a step further, the tires get no printed sidewall labels (hot stamps) to eliminate more scraps, and move to new minimalist recycled paper board packaging, also made in France like the tires.
With natural brown/tanwalls and no logos, these are some of the most subtle-looking tires you can get. For road tubeless riders, the popular Hutchinson Fusion5 Performance tire gets the limited edition naked Gridskin in a 700x28mm size at a claimed 276g for £65 / 66€ (which is actually a few grams heavier than the 270g for the previous 28mm Hardskin version.)
And for gravel, there’s the newest Touareg Gridskin tread in the narrower 700x40mm at a claimed 473g for £63 / 60€ (vs. 490g for the 40mm Hardskin version.) Both are available now, through regular Hutchinson dealer retail channels.
Future tires to get lighter, better, more sustainable Gridskin protection?
Manufacturing in Hutchinson’s Châlette-sur-Loing, France factory is still recovering from COVID-19, so for now the new lighter Gridskin protection is limited to just these two tires, and only one size each for the time being. But the goal behind the Gridskin project was always to improve lightweight performance while decreasing the environmental footprint of their French tire production.
So once Hutchinson are back running at full speed, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more of their lightweight Hardskin reinforced tires make the jump to the better Gridskin, including the Fusion 5 All Season on the road, pretty much all of the top gravel & cyclocross treads, and maybe even the lighter RLAB race team XC & trail mountain bike tires?