Feedback on the new Compass Tires

Feedback on the new Compass Tires

As we get the first feedback from riders about our new Compass tires, it’s nice to hear that others enjoy them as much as we do. Here are a few samples of unsolicited feedback:
“I used the new Barlow Pass tyres on a route that included miles of rough railway trackbed. They make a big difference! A lovely ride both on and off road, I realise what I’ve been missing after years of heavy-duty Schwalbes.” – Tim Bird, who took the photo above.
“Thanks for making available the finest clincher tires I’ve ridden on in my 45 years of cycling!” – a customer who placed an order for another 8 tires!
“These new tires feel like they were designed for racing. It seems like they have better rolling resistance (as if I were running in a lower gear) and with better cornering that the Hetre XLs.” – a customer who wondered whether we’d discovered an extra-grippy rubber compound for the tread.
“Recently I have been looking at everyone’s rubber trying to find that perfect tire. You have pretty much delivered everything I had in mind.” – a former tire developer for a big U.S bike company.
“I have ridden about 130 miles so far on the 700×38 Barlow Pass Superlight tires. They have made my mid-1980’s Miyata 1000 touring bike much more enjoyable and fun to ride. Thanks.”
“I have been commuting on the Barlow pass tires for a week or two and am really happy with them. They roll faster and smooth out the bumps more than my previous set of Schwalbe Marathon Racers.”
“Oh my gosh I just love those tires!”
It’s nice to see that others share our enthusiasm and appreciate all the research and testing that went into designing these tires. Click here to find out more about our Compass tires.

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Comments (25)

  • Mr. Palomar

    I read your post on tires this morning. I wanted to write a quick note as
    I rec’d the 700c Cayuse Pass tires a few weeks back and installed them on
    my RB-1 for my daily commute – which is about 20 miles a day along the
    Hudson River Greenway.
    These tires are life changing!
    I’m coming from a year and a half of riding Continental Gatorskin
    Hardshell tires. I don’t mean to be overly critical of the Conti tires –
    they performed well and I didn’t have a flat for over a year of NYC
    commuting but – wow!, your tires are a whole other thing.
    They make the ride much much more enjoyable – bumps melt away – they are
    smooth & roll very fast.
    Thank you for making these available & kudos to your continued dedication
    to the world of cycling!

    March 28, 2014 at 9:03 am
    • Allan Folz

      IIRC, Conti Gatorskins were the slowest tires among those BQ tested a few years ago.

      March 29, 2014 at 8:45 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        When we first tested tire performance in Vol. 5, No. 1 – it’s hard to believe that is already 7 years ago! – the Conti Ultra Gatorskins fared surprisingly well, much better than they did on the steel drum in TOUR magazine’s test.
        The slowest tires were Rivendell’s Nifty-Swifty, with their Maxy-Fasty second-slowest. However, since then, we’ve tested a couple of tires that are even slower, including some airless tires that required 50% more power than good pneumatic tires.

        March 30, 2014 at 7:19 am
  • Bubba

    Jan, you’ve developed a very detailed set of theories on tires over the years, and the Compass Lineup is a culmination of all the conclusions you’ve made. Congratulations for that. Now, let me ask you a hypothetical. Since you’ve concluded that casing and tread construction are paramount, and tire pressure doesn’t matter much, and weight at the rim doesn’t matter much, let me ask you this:
    If you made a Compass tire, say the Babyshoe Pass standard, with identical construction and a WIRE BEAD, it would weigh ~60g more, and it would cost ~$15 less (I’m guessing). Your data would suggest that such a tire would be indistinguishable from the folding model. Imagine a $45 tire that performs better than much more expensive tires. Am I overestimating the cost difference? Am I underestimating the importance of weight at the rim?
    Would it be feasible to experiment with a wire bead run of a single model of tire? Clearly, the folding models are preferable as a spare, and maybe the demand would be small because we are all conditioned to buy folding tires, but you more than anyone has the data to indicate whether or not it would be a good idea.
    Bill Lindsay
    El Cerrito, CA

    March 28, 2014 at 10:18 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You are right that a wire bead would not really change the performance of the tire much. However, the cost difference is much less than $ 15, and much of that would be eaten up by the more expensive shipping. The end result would be a tire that costs only a fraction less and weighs 60 g more.

      March 28, 2014 at 10:49 am
      • Bubba

        Good to know. If the cost reduction of a wire bead would be small, then it’s not worth thinking about. I think some manufacturers offer tire models in folding and non-folding versions and the price difference is quite large. Perhaps that is because the non-folding versions have other corners cut in the construction to save money everywhere. Thanks for your great contributions

        March 28, 2014 at 11:10 am
  • aquilaaudax1

    Perhaps its more to do with the markup on the higher demand folding beads?

    March 28, 2014 at 1:56 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Prices depend a lot on the size of the production run. If you make 10,000 tires with wire beads for OEM customers, the unit cost will be much lower than if you make 500 kevlar bead tires.

      March 28, 2014 at 2:04 pm
  • David Pearce

    Well, I’m very happy for you, Team Jan. And I’m also happy to keep turning the pages of my Classic Bicycles 2014 calendar. I know all you guys (we readers, I mean) know that March is for the Hirondelle Rétro-Directe, but I’m not sure my eldest nephew does! Teenagers! 🙂 You can give a horse a water trough, but he may not necessarily drink from it!

    March 28, 2014 at 2:44 pm
  • Andy Sutterfield

    Maybe I’m not reading closely enough, but I can’t seem to find a direct comparison of your new Compass tires and the Grand Bois Extra Leger tires. I had a set of GBXLs and they were wonderful until I wore them out commuting. I would now like to buy a new set of either Grand Bois or Compass tires for non-commuting rides. Are the Compass tires really an improvement over the GBs?

    March 28, 2014 at 4:29 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The difference lies in the tread patterns, especially of the 650B tires. The Compass tires are further optimized for cornering performance. The casing is the same as the Grand Bois, except we also offer the Extralight in all-black.

      March 28, 2014 at 4:41 pm
  • David Pearce

    Do you ever worry about liability with all the products you sell? It’s sad to say, but I suppose you have to have a legal department to protect your operations from liability. Most of the products you sell have passed the test of time, and no one that I know of has died from a saddle accident, or broken decaleur, or a renegade chainring. But with your selling of tires, or brakes I guess, do you ever feel nervous that all these tires are out there, on bikes you can’t oversee, and wondering if there is a manufacturing defect? I have no idea what manufacturers / sellers have to do to run a business, but I’m interested.

    March 28, 2014 at 4:44 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      That is an excellent question. Years ago, when I bought a new custom bike from a well-known builder, the fork crown broke only a few months after I got the bike. Luckily, I was riding uphill while it happened, but it made me realize that not every component is as well-designed as we’d like. (We later analyzed the crown and found that it had a few design flaws.)
      Since we ride the components we sell, we have an added interest in making sure they are safe. In fact, part of the impetus behind starting Compass Bicycles was that we weren’t satisfied with the safety and performance other makers offered.
      All the products we sell have been tested, both in the lab and by us on the road. Most are designs that have proven themselves for decades and millions of miles. We are one of very few small bike companies who have an engineer on staff to make sure our designs are sound.
      Like most businesses, we also carry liability insurance, not just so we can sleep better, but also to make sure that if the worst-case happens, the person will be taken care of. However, our main insurance is being extra-diligent during design, testing and manufacture, so that we hopefully never will need the insurance.

      March 28, 2014 at 5:01 pm
      • David Pearce

        Hm! Imagine, a fork crown! Actually, that’s odd, because I think that even “spirited” riding could only break a fork crown that was defective. Glad you remained, to write more!

        March 28, 2014 at 7:19 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I do tend to brake hard, and the crown appears to have cracked when I braked hard fort a turn on a bumpy downhill… It broke completely five minutes later on the next uphill. Still, I brake much harder on my bikes these days, but they don’t use a poorly designed twin-plate fork crown…

          March 28, 2014 at 7:23 pm
  • Allen

    Here’s a random question: how long do you think your GB or Compass tires would last (in years) on a bike (or even removed and stored) that was ridden only every couple years or so? Yep, I have a sweet bike stashed w the in-laws overseas. Can’t wait to try it w your tires, but it’ll need the 700Cx23, which I won’t use over here. So they’ll just hang out until I can go back over and use ’em again. Your thoughts?

    March 28, 2014 at 8:05 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Tires will not last forever, but I have seen 60-year-old Barreau tires that looked and felt as supple as they were when they were new. Store them away from light, in a spot that is neither too dry nor damp, and away from electric motors (fridge, furnace, etc.). Electric motors emit ozone, which destroys rubber in short order.
      On the bike that I keep in Germany, I just store the entire bike in the basement, and so far, the tires have been fine. I changed the tires after 10 years because I wanted to ride better tires, not because the originals had deteriorated.

      March 29, 2014 at 7:54 am
  • Alex

    From my write up of a 200km ride –
    ‘Although it was early days I was feeling very pleased with the tires I had recently put on the bike. Their rolling resistance is very low. 38mm but just 325g a piece. They’re clinchers but to me look like fat tubulars. Very comfortable to. And they look good! Compass Barlow Pass Extra Light (black sidewalls). I had been a devotee of Schwalbe Marathon Plus and Marathon Tour tires for a number of years. Puncture resistance second to none. When however I compare the road comfort and rolling resistance of the Marathons to the Compass tires it does make me think what have I been riding on all these years! I guess at least one answer to that will become clear when I get my first puncture’.
    Since then I have ridden on gravel single track and woodland paths. They measure up to everything so far. No punctures so far either!

    March 29, 2014 at 1:19 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I am glad to hear that you like the tires so much. Eventually, you will get a puncture – on any tire – and I hope you’ll just find the culprit, replace the tube, and go on enjoying the tires.
      As the rose in Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince said: “If you want to enjoy the butterflies,you have to endure the caterpillars.”

      March 29, 2014 at 7:49 am
  • Larry T.

    After years (but maybe not for as long as guys like you?) of seemingly screaming into a black hole “supple casing + larger air volume + lower pressure = a better ride in every way” it’s great that so many are taking the hint, even the pros, who not too long ago sneered at anything marked larger than 22 mm (except at the cobbled classics) while the “racing bikes” sold to the masses are being redesigned to have room for larger rubber as well. Life is too short to ride on bad tires!!

    March 29, 2014 at 9:15 am
  • John Duval

    You can have your cake (fast tires) and eat it too (run flat free). For those worried about switching from tank treads like Shwalbe to ultra light tires like these for commuting or very long rides, I highly recommend a sealant. I was getting 2-3 flats a month in late summer on my GB extra leger tires, but after adding Slime Pro I didn’t get a flat for 4 months. When I took the tube out, it was peppered with holes, all sealed but one. It went flat because it ran out of sealant. I can’t feel any difference riding with sealant, and I rarely have to pump up the tires. The latex dries out eventually, so it is not so good for bikes that are not ridden frequently.
    I tried tire wipers before that, rear tire only. Most of my flats were on the front, but not all, and I hated the noise.

    March 29, 2014 at 11:17 am
  • David Pearce

    I’m in Washington, D.C., but I read newspapers online from around the nation. Right now in Boston, things really seem to be coming unglued: Steroid-rage idiot Jared Remy; Shooting of a rapper by his nephew in the midst of a funeral; Serial four-time car-jackings through multiple jurisdictions. What the hell is going on?????!!!! So different from the orderly world of building bicycles, making decisions, choosing options, cycling from place to place, and enjoying life.
    I run to your blog for sanity and to hide away from the weird world!

    April 1, 2014 at 9:20 am
  • Leo Desforges

    I switched my “road bike” (alu cross bike) tires from schwalbe marathon supreme in 700×40 to the Barlow Pass. Same tubes, same rims (A23 front, dyad rear) same everything except tires. Now, the supremes gave a decent ride considering the flat protection (2 flats in 1500 miles: two screws through the casing). The were adequately fast, too. I had to drink the cool aid, though and I bought the 700×38 compass tires. What a wonderful upgrade! Smoother, faster, unbelievable grip in cornering and they sound perfect. The bikes character has changed dramatically, for the better. I put an ounce of stans in each tube (removable valve core) for insurance. We will see how that goes, but it adds some piece of mind. I weigh 225 and I ran 60 front, 70 rear and will try less the next time out, maybe 58/66, just to experiment. The barlow pass is about 1-2 mm narrower than the supremes. I’m getting 37.3 mm on the a23 at 60 psi after 3 weeks mounted.

    April 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm
  • David Pearce

    I am just so sorry for the terrible deaths and chaos and mayhem that has been caused by this slide. It makes you understand what is really important in our lives. It is not a joke when I say there are no “mud-guards” that could have staved off this mud. The inhumanity of it all, all those things, just covered and subsumed in mud. The Earth has taken back some of its people. I just don’t know what to say, I just extend my sympathy.

    April 2, 2014 at 7:51 am

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