Donnelly EMP 700 X 38 Tires: Getting Rolling- by Guitar Ted
New tires are a big deal for cyclists. Another model to perhaps tame the courses you ride. Maybe it is a specific, “specialist” tire that has a design which will conquer that event which has given you fits in the past with tire troubles. This new tire by Donnelly is, perhaps, just such a tire. A tire named after one of the most well known events on the gravel calendar- The Dirty Kanza 200. In fact, this new tire takes its name from the airport code for the host city of the Dirty Kanza, which is Emporia, Kansas. Let’s take a look at the features of this new model dubbed the “EMP”.
What It Is: The EMP was just introduced by Donnelly officially a couple of weeks ago. This is the first of a couple of promised sizes, (others to follow next year in the Spring at the earliest), and it is a bit of a surprise at a 38mm width. That’s a bit on the narrower end of tires that we’ve seen come through in the last couple of years. Let’s take a look at the feature set:
- X’Plor Series designed for adventure
- Soft rubber for extra grip and cushion
- High-volume, lightweight construction
- Tubeless ready casing
- Puncture-protection belt under the tread.
- MSRP is $72.00 each
EMP; Airport code for Emporia, Kansas. Home of world famous gravel roads that reach out to the sky.
The 700c X 38mm tires are black wall only, and feature a very aggressive, deep tread with a chevron arrangement up the center. These are much like a “pumped up” version of the MSO tread blocks. Then up along each side of the tire we see “U” shaped blocks which are like lateral stabilization knobs with the open end of each “U” shaped block facing outward, which should be good for cornering traction. Underneath this tread is where the puncture protection layer lives. The tubeless bead should be precise enough for simple inflation on most tubeless ready rims. The tires have not been mounted yet, but you can expect to read a word or two about that in the upcoming “Checkpoint” post in a few weeks.
The samples we were sent weighed exactly the same weight at 493 grams each. This was right in the ballpark for the weight we expected these to be at. This compares favorably with many other tires, but not even close to the overall lightweight champ in this category which is still the 380 gm Maxxis Rambler. (A tire that we reviewed which does not have puncture under the tread in the test samples we received but did have side wall protection.)
First Impressions: Yep! That’s some aggressive tread there! Donnelly got that right in their description of this model. There have been several puncture protection type tires that have come through here and in comparison, the EMP feels pretty supple. Generally a puncture protection belt only under the tread can make for a somewhat difficult tire mounting experience, but we will see about that in the next update.
The claimed width of 38mm is similar to the WTB Riddler 37mm tires which we have some examples of lurking about the shop. So, I compared casing widths and it appears that the EMP is about 2-3mm wider. This leads me to believe that the 38mm claimed width may end up being more like 40mm, but again- we will have to wait until the “Checkpoint” post to find out.
The only possible nit I have right out of the package is that the deeper, closely packed tread blocks may be a thing that picks up finer bits of gravel and tosses them around. We’ve seen this with other similar tread designs. But other than that, the tread looks great and the closely packed knobs promise a fast rolling tire on harder surfaces.
So Far…… The Donnelly EMP looks aggressive and tough enough with this beefed up tread design. At a claimed 38mm, it falls into a good range of size which many tires don’t cover. The weight seems about right, and if the previous Donnelly tubeless tires are any indication, we expect to have no issues with tubeless performance. The tire features a puncture protection belt which doesn’t seem to hinder suppleness in the hand. Stay tuned for the “Checkpoint” post coming soon.
NOTE: Donnelly sent over the EMP tubeless ready tires at no charge for test and review. We were not paid, nor bribed, for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.