How are Compass Tires Different from Panaracers?

How are Compass Tires Different from Panaracers?

From time to time, a customer will ask us: “How are Rene Herse and Compass tires different from Panaracers?” It’s no secret that Panaracer makes our tires – we benefit from the research and technology of one of the best tire makers in the world. Panaracer’s engineers know more about casings and tread rubber than almost anybody, and they translate our ideas into tires that outperform all others in their intended environments.
That also means that it may not be immediately obvious how our tires are different from Panaracer’s own tires, like the Gravelking – or even Panaracer’s budget model, the Pasela. At first sight, with tan sidewalls and black tread rubber, they can look very similar. They are even made in the same factory!

Recently, we had the opportunity to spend some time with Mark Okada from Panaracer Japan (right) and Jeff Zell from Panaracer USA (left). When I mentioned the Pasela, Mark just laughed: “They are completely different tires that have almost nothing in common.” 
I guess it’s the same as asking whether a Bugatti Veyron supercar has the same engine as a base-model Volkswagen Golf, since both engines are made in the same German factory…
What about the Gravelkings, which are available with a tread pattern similar to that of Compass road tires – evidence that the technology transfer between Compass and Panaracer goes in both directions. Jeff said that Panaracer gets the same question, and this is their reply:
“The Gravelkings and the Compass tires are two different types of tires. The reason that Compass tires are so successful is that Jan and Compass have a clear vision for what they want in a tire, and Panaracer has the technology to deliver that. The materials and the construction of the Compass tires vary from the Panaracer line, because of the performance that Compass wants to deliver to the customer. The components that go into the Compass tires, and the processes to make them, cost more, hence the price difference. Both are high-quality tires, but the ride and performance are different. If you’re looking for the most supple tire that incorporates all cutting-edge tire technology, you’ll choose Compass. If you’re willing to sacrifice the ultimate ride quality Compass is known for, to get a little more puncture and sidewall protection, then Panaracer has you covered there.”

Which tire is best for you really depends on your riding style and terrain. Natsuko rides her 30 mm-wide Compass Elk Pass Extralights on really rough gravel with little trouble (above), but if you are somebody who tends to get a lot of flats or destroys tires with rock cuts, we’d recommend the Gravelkings. As the name implies, they are designed for riding on rough gravel, which also means that they can be a bit overbuilt for riding on the road.
The Compass tires (above) are designed for riding on the road, but they also work well – and offer superior performance – on gravel, provided the rider lets the bike move around and doesn’t force it into rocks that could cut the sidewalls. It helps if you ride wide tires. Not only are they faster on rough surfaces, but their lower pressures also make the sidewalls less susceptible to cuts: the tire just deforms when hitting a rock.
Around here, we ride Compass tires – even on our Urban Bikes – because they offer world-class performance while being strong and durable enough for everyday use.
Click here for more information about Compass tires.

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Comments (37)

  • Jonah Jones

    Jan, I’m looking at using a set of Snoqualmie Pass for this years edition of the Transcontinental Race. Comfort is paramount but also is the durability to last through 4000km. They will be set up tubeless with a couple of spare tubes for back up. I’d like to go with the extra lights for comfort. Would it be more prudent to select the standard though?
    thanks Jonah.

    March 6, 2018 at 5:07 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      During the Transcontinental Race, you’ll be mostly on pavement, so the Extralights will offer more speed and comfort with the same durability. Several riders have done the Transcontinental on Compass Extralights without problems.

      March 6, 2018 at 6:41 am
  • Johan Brox

    I think collaborations like this makes a lot of sense and it sounds like you’ve found a really good partner in Panaracer.
    A company big enough to do their own manufacturing has to cater to what the established system of mainstream distributors and retailers want, but can partner up with smaller companies close to the market to design specialized products for enthusiasts. Thus, the sports store can get millions of foolproof tires costing at $25 SRP while randonneurs can get high-performing 650b’s at $70.
    It’s a much better system than the small company selling a rebranded product with minimal design input from a big manufacturer, or the big manufacturer rebranding an existing product themselves. Think back to the days of British car productions in the 1970s, with the same compact being sold as an Austin, MG, Morris, Riley, Vanden Plas and Wolseley…

    March 6, 2018 at 6:04 am
  • Matěj Novotný

    Jan, I can see one advantage of Panaracer tires over Compass. It is made in more dimenstions in tubeless compatible version. I would love to test Compass tires but I would never go back to tubes on my brevet bike.

    March 6, 2018 at 11:00 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Most of the wider Compass tires are tubeless compatible. Tubeless isn’t really safe to use with more than 4 bar (60 psi), so for us, it makes little sense to offer tubeless-compatible narrow tires, since most riders need more than 60 psi to run them. I wrote more about road tubeless here.

      March 6, 2018 at 7:33 pm
      • Matěj Novotný

        Thank you for link to the artice. I have missed it.
        I use 28 mm tubeless Schwalbe Pro One without any problems. It has 30 mm in real. I am light so I use 60 psi. But I know few guys who use same tire but with higher preasure without any problems.
        I am interested in true 700c x 30 or 650b x 38. That is maximal dimension what I can fit to my recumbent.

        March 8, 2018 at 4:02 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Many riders have had zero problems running ‘road’ tires tubeless, but if even 1 in 1000 crash their bikes because a tire comes off, that is more than we’d be willing to risk. Thus, we don’t recommend it. From what I hear, the engineers at most tire makers feel the same way, but I guess their marketing departments don’t want to run against the prevailing trends, so these warnings don’t usually make it out in public.

          March 8, 2018 at 11:59 am
  • Jacob Musha

    How does Panaracer make tires with a puncture resistant layer and “more sidewall protection” at the same weight as Compass tires? Do they really have that much less tread?
    One example is the 700×32 GravelKing. At a claimed weight of 290g they’re 1 gram lighter than the claimed weight of a Compass Stampede Pass with standard casing. I bought a pair of the GravelKings and verified their weights to be accurate. And they seem very similar to my Compass tires – light and supple.
    The Panaracer 650b Pari-Moto is another example. I don’t own any of them, but it’s a similar story on the spec sheet.

    March 6, 2018 at 11:39 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We discussed this during our last meeting with Panaracer. The Compass casing is significantly lighter, but the actual tire weights don’t always reflect that.
      There are a number of reasons. The first is that Panaracer’s Gravelking has a thinner tread than our Compass tires. Panaracer knows that many customers buy the lightest tire, and few worry about how long it will last. At Compass, we put a little extra rubber in the middle of the tread, where it wears, so you’ll be able to enjoy them much longer. However, even our tread isn’t so thick that it’ll eventually ‘square off,’ which makes the tire useless long before it’s technically worn out. For us, a tire that lasts about 5000 miles in a 42 mm width is about ideal.
      In some cases, Panaracer’s claimed weight is their ‘target weight’ as calculated by their engineers. In the real world, tires often are a bit heavier. At Compass, we weigh our tires and publish those results. In the end, there is no magic to it. We could make our tires lighter, but they’d last a lot shorter. We don’t think our tires carry any excess weight – otherwise, we’d ask Panaracer to make them lighter!

      March 6, 2018 at 7:26 pm
  • David

    As a 220 lb rider of an All Road Rando bike, I completely abandoned the Compass tire line two years ago and switched to PR-Pasela. I found that the Compass tires wore out to fast and were too expensive to keep replacing. Also, after 8 flats last season, I’ve stopped buying the Schwalbe tubes from Compass for a different, less expensive local brand..,yet to see how that move will turn out.

    March 6, 2018 at 12:50 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Sorry to hear that Compass tires didn’t work for you – it seems like you are riding on roads where you get a lot of flats, and more puncture-resistant tires may be a better option. At your rate of flats, it may make economic sense to patch your tubes. When done in batches, you can patch about 10-15 tubes in an hour, which makes it worth while.

      March 8, 2018 at 12:03 pm
  • simchristopher

    Really helpful post. I’m enjoying my 32mm gravelkings for commuting but would like to step up to a 38mm tire. How do Compass tires of that size hold up against broken glass, construction debris, and plastic shards from fender benders? The gravelkings hav been great, but I don’t know if it’s the puncture protection or the higher volume (vs most road tires).

    March 6, 2018 at 3:55 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      it’s the puncture protection or the higher volume

      It’s probably both. Higher volume means lower pressures, and thus, the soft tire just rolls over debris that would puncture a harder tire. In the end, it all depends on your riding conditions. I’ve commuted on Compass tires daily since we introduced them in 2014, still without a single flat. (I’ve had a few flats on my other bikes out on the open road.) But I also ride around debris rather than over it wherever I can. If you tend to get a lot of flats, high-performance tires may not be ideal for you. Still, I’d say, give the Compass Barlow Pass 700C x 38 mm tires a try, and you’ll probably find that they work great.

      March 6, 2018 at 7:37 pm
      • Matthew J

        My experience with the original extra light Babyshoe Pass in Chicago so far is consistent with Jan’s. The city streets here get more than their fair share of debris between cleanings. Seven months in and no flats yet.

        March 7, 2018 at 5:29 am
      • Eric Langley

        Similar experience as Matthew. I also commute daily in Chicago (with its more-than-ample share of potholes and street debris) and have had very very few flats on Compass 42s in the past few years. You’d think that a commuter would need some sort of heavy, kevlar-lined tires, but I have found excellent puncture resistance with the Babyshoes. Plus they ride a hell of a lot nicer than those other “commuter” tires.

        March 7, 2018 at 7:27 pm
    • Jacob Musha

      I’ve had very good luck with Compass 700x38mm tires. They’re almost worn out after many thousands of miles (mostly commuting) and I’ve never had a single flat despite running over glass and other debris.
      I did get two flats on my Extralight Rat Trap Pass tires. Both were in winter/spring when the roads were wet. Small shards of sharp gravel, spread on the pavement to help traction, punctured them.
      If you do get flats, there are two solutions that don’t require switching to heavier tires. One is to fill your tubes with Stan’s sealant. The other (more aggressive) option is to use Mr Tuffy tire liners. They do add some weight but in my opinion are far nicer than riding a heavy, puncture resistant tire. I use them in the winter when the roads are covered in sharp pieces of salt and gravel. Plus, I *really* don’t like fixing flats in the cold… In the summer I don’t use them.

      March 6, 2018 at 9:37 pm
  • Gary Jacobson

    Very useful post as I’ve been thinking about how to get a better experience on hard pavement roads I use to access gravel and rocky roads where 3/4 of my riding is. I tried Hetres but within 100 miles the casing would cut and they’d “bubble” after hitting “axe and hatchet rocks”. 42 mm Gravel Kings haven’t failed yet, and I find the ride on hard surface acceptable. But I wonder if any Compass offerings would do better than the Hetres did in the area of casing failures?

    March 6, 2018 at 9:05 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      If you cut the sidewalls, then your terrain and riding style probably call for reinforced tires, and the Gravelkings are a good choice.

      March 8, 2018 at 12:01 pm
  • Tom

    I’m curious how the weight of a tube can affect puncture resistance. I know Compass sells both standard and extralight Schwalbe tubes, with a weight difference of about 40 grams in the 650b size. Are the heavier tubes more puncture resistant than the lighter tubes?

    March 6, 2018 at 9:13 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The heavier tubes are more pinch-flat resistant, but for punctures, once something goes through the tire, it’s only a matter of time until in punctures the tube.

      March 7, 2018 at 11:00 am
  • Rick Thompson

    Most of my bikes now have Compass tires. First was the road bike, switching from Gatorskins to Chinook Pass Extralights. The ride was so nice that the new Fitz allroad was designed around the Snoqualmie Pass Extralights. My old hardtail mountain bike was converted to an urban errand runner with Rat Trap Pass tires. The ride is great on all of them, but all of them were getting way more flats from thorns than they did with the Gatorskins or other previous tires. At the peak of goathead season, the Chinook Pass were flatting on almost every ride. On one ride I used up all my patches, a spare tube, and the last of the daylight fixing goathead flats. I was afraid I’d have to give up on the tires, at least during the worst of the goatheads.
    The solution is sealant, even with tubes. All the tires now have Orange Seal, and the flats are almost gone. After every ride I pull any thorns out with tweezers, and spin the tires to distribute sealant. I found that if a thorn stays in, the tire can still flat overnight.
    The best ride on the Chinook Pass is around 70 psi, but if I go off road any they get pinch flats at that pressure. Sealant is no help for pinch flats, it just makes a mess. At 85 to 90 psi they don’t ride quite so nicely but so far no pinch flats. The bigger tires run at 40 to 50 psi, no pinch flats.
    Anyhow, love the tires but for those of us in thorn country (N. CA) I think you should advise sealant.

    March 7, 2018 at 8:26 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Goatheads are the bane of cyclists! Thank you for sharing your experience with sealant inside the tubes. I am glad that has solved the problem for you.
      One thing I’ve found is that the sealant inside the tubes works only with new tires. Once you’ve had a few flats, there are several holes in the tire where the air can escape. So when you get another puncture, the air will leak out of the hole in the tube, but now has several pathways to exit the tire. This means the air (and sealant) will go in between the tube and tire. This creates a mess without sealing the hole.

      March 7, 2018 at 11:06 am
      • Rick Thompson

        Do you mean only works with new tubes? I’ve not had an issue putting a new tube into a multi-holed tire (I’ve got some holey tires). New thorn punctures have still sealed.
        Where does the sealant actually seal? The Orange Seal claims to have a range of particle sizes, which bind up in the small opening and form a clot. Does this happen in the tube or the tire? Does it have to be exposed to air?
        Still waiting for the tubeless rims for the Snoqualmie Pass, that should be the long term solution for those.

        March 7, 2018 at 11:42 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I am glad it worked for you to put sealant into a tube with an older tire. We tried the same thing, and in our case, the sealant leaked into the tire without sealing the hole. The sealant has to seal the tube, but it needs to be exposed to air – otherwise, it would just become solid inside your tire/tube. So it appears that the sealant with a tube works if the puncture of tire and tube work as one, with the sealant going through the hole in the tube and the hole in the tire, and sealing both at the same time.

          March 8, 2018 at 11:56 am
      • Rick Thompson

        Thinking about this some more, doesn’t the sealant have to be sealing at the tube? Regular (non-tubeless) clinchers are not sealed at the rim. Air would leak there even if no holes in the casing.

        March 7, 2018 at 3:48 pm
  • Dale Bamford

    Well said. Thanks for sharing!

    March 7, 2018 at 8:49 am
  • Lola Downs

    Thank you for this, very interesting! Maybe you can make a recommendation for me; I commute 20mi each way in New York City and currently run Schwalbe Big Apples 26 x 2.35, which I love. They’re a bit sluggish but I’ve gotten one flat in 3 years of riding them (and only replaced them last year, so a pair lasted 2 years of hard riding!) and they’re fun, comfortable and I can get decent, but not amazing, speed on them.
    Ive heard nothing but good things about Compass, but also that their supple/lightness means increased flats. Do you have a pair that you’d recommend for my use case? Obviously nobody can guarantee no flats… But I need something that gets as good as those BAs do. Thanks Jan for your blog!

    March 7, 2018 at 9:21 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Our Rat Trap Pass measures about the same as the tires you currently use. With 54 mm wide tires, you run them at low-enough pressures that flats shouldn’t be a big issue.

      March 8, 2018 at 11:51 am
  • tone bone

    Let’s be real ya’ll, it’s 2018, using inner tubes in a tire wider than 28mm is like wearing underpants under your bib.

    March 7, 2018 at 12:31 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Or like using tensioned spokes made from steel wire – 19th century technology that has been called obsolete many times. (Remember tri-spokes?) 😉
      For me, new technology that doesn’t offer advantages, only drawbacks, isn’t worth adopting, even if it’s fashionable. For now, ‘road tubeless’ seems to fall into that category…

      March 8, 2018 at 12:07 pm
  • Dave

    Do the stiffer casings on the standard tire offer any more flat protection than the extralights?

    March 7, 2018 at 2:02 pm
  • Paul Ahart

    Being in the bike business and a cycle commuter, I’ve tried a lot. Ran 32mm Gatorskins on my commuter bike; 2 years no punctures…but harsh riding! Now using 32mm Pasela…really comfy and maybe 1 puncture a year. Rear tire lasts about 8 months. Two rando bikes: 32mm Stampede Pass std. model on one, no flats in 4 years. Other bike: 42mm Babyshoe Pass std. model; 1 flat (glass cut) in two years…still running the same pair. Best flat prevention on the road: watch where you ride! Avoid glass/debris when possible, use the fattest tire that will fit, and don’t overinflate.

    March 8, 2018 at 7:13 pm
  • Bart Y

    Jan, fine article and clarifies quite a few questions. Here’s one for you:
    What is the suggested or best way to clean Extralight casings after rides where grease, oil, or chain grime stain or otherwise streak all over the sidewalls? Ordinary soap and water, citrus based degreaser (affects rubber sidewall surface?), stay away from any petroleum solvent based materials? Other options?
    Have been riding Bon Jon Pass 35mm with tubes on my 72 Italvega Super Speciale for last year’s Eroica California and probably put on ~1200 miles on them since with no problems. Tread still visible on rear, and a bit more on the front. Since you say 5000 miles should be a good expectation, I expect they should be good for this year’s Eroica, but I am purchasing another set of Bon Jon’s and a smaller set of Stampede Pass for another frame with less clearance. IME, have been an excellent choice for regular riding.

    March 9, 2018 at 3:43 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Cleaning tire sidewalls is tough. The aluminum oxide that comes off your brake tracks is a powerful stain. I recall once seeing somebody use Pedro’s Bike Lust on the tire, and it seemed to clean them amazingly well. Not sure whether the product still is available, and whether it affects the sidewalls. One (very small) advantage of disc brakes is that your tires stay way cleaner…

      March 9, 2018 at 7:43 am
  • Sam Carlson

    I asked this question of (I believe it was) Jeff and Mark at the Panaracer booth at NAHBS this year. Imagine my surprise to see it (and their faces) on your blog! It almost makes me wonder if they had this conversation with you afterwards. I was the annoying guy in the Alex Singer hat asking stupid questions, in case they mentioned me. It was quite surprising how many Compass tires I saw on the bikes there. By refusing to compromise comfort and efficiency, you’ve seemingly made quite the splash in the premium tire market.

    March 9, 2018 at 6:32 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      They reported that many people at NAHBS asked about Compass tires. Panaracer is a great company to work with – their dedication to quality is unsurpassed.

      March 9, 2018 at 7:40 pm

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