How much faster are supple tires?

How much faster are supple tires?

Improving your tires can make the biggest impact in the speed of your bike (apart from changing the motor!). The difference is especially pronounced for slower riders, whose wind resistance is less than that of faster riders.
Most cyclists know that supple tires make you faster on your bike. But so do ceramic bearings in your derailleur pulleys. The important question is: “How much faster?” For ceramic bearings, the difference is too small to notice on the road, because standard ball bearings already have close to zero resistance.
For supple tires, the difference is much greater. If you have a hard time staying with a group, changing your tires to a faster model may help you avoid getting dropped. And if you get close to the time limit in brevets, faster tires can provide you with a significant time cushion, so that a flat tire or a slight detour due to misreading the route sheet no longer results in a DNF.
Here is a comparison between three tires from Bicycle Quarterly‘s tire tests. These are all marketed as performance tires, and none of them have puncture-proof layers that would further slow them down.

  • Vittoria Open CX Corsa 700C x 25 mm
  • Grand Bois Cyprès (standard casing) 700C x 32 mm
  • Rivendell Rolly-Poly 700C x 27 mm

Our first tests were rolldown tests on relatively rough pavement, like you typically find on American backroads. The speed was between 23 and 25 km/h (13.5 – 15.5 mph).
On this surface, the fastest tire rolls 13.5% faster than the slowest. That is a huge difference. Imagine going 15 mph with the slower tire, and on your next ride, after changing your tires, riding at 17 mph with the same effort. During a century ride, you’d be 45 minutes faster!
We also tested these (and many other) tires on a very smooth asphalt surface at constant speed with a Power Meter. The speed was higher (27.9 km/h; 17.3 mph), and the ultra-smooth surface reduced the vibrations. However, even under these “ideal” conditions, the rider on the slowest tire had to put out 13.5% more power to keep up with the rider on the fastest tire. That can make the difference between “hanging with a group” and getting dropped within a few miles.
If you calculate the speed difference for the same power output, it’s 5%. (Wind resistance going up exponentially with speed, so you need 13.5% more power to increase your speed by 5% to stay with the rider on the faster tires.)
As you can see, supple tires make the greatest difference on rougher surfaces, and at lower speeds. But even at high speeds, make the largest difference in the performance of your bike. For comparison, aero wheels make you about 1% faster. And when you are drafting, your wind resistance goes down, so rolling resistance becomes even more important. That is why the pros always have ridden supple tires.
Does this mean we all should ride Vittoria CX tires? Not exactly. The CX is optimized for ultimate performance, and it has a very thin tread. This means it will wear out quickly and suffer more punctures on the way. If you are racing or riding a timed event, these compromises may be worth making. For everyday use, it often makes sense to give up some speed to obtain twice as much service life and fewer punctures.
The Grand Bois Cyprès is designed as an all-round tire. It has a thicker tread that will last thousands of miles. It will get faster as it wears. The Grand Bois also has a sturdier casing that resists sidewall cuts better. As a result, it rolls a little slower. (Disclosure: Compass Bicycles sells Grand Bois tires.)
The Rivendell Rolly-Poly has an ultra-tough casing that provides peace of mind when you ride through debris and are afraid of cutting your tire’s sidewalls. This may be overkill for most riders. The more rigid casing slows the tire down significantly.
When we designed our Compass tires, we started with the Grand Bois tires, and then optimized the performance further, without making the tires into “event” tires that are not very suitable for everyday riding. We reduced the tread thickness on the shoulders of the tire, where it does not wear out, but kept it the same in the middle, where it wears.
For the Extralight models, we used a casing that is significantly more supple than the “standard” casing shown in the test results above. We haven’t measured the performance under controlled conditions yet, but our (and others’) on-the-road experience suggests that they are significantly faster than the standard models.
Tires really make a big difference. When I switched from tires with stiff sidewalls to supple ones, not only did I set many personal bests on long rides, but I also found that I could rest while drafting, whereas before, I was working hard just to hang on.
Take our Flèche team in the photo at the top: If one of us had significantly slower tires than the others, he would have to be much stronger just to keep up. We’d rather have the stronger rider take longer pulls at the front!
What if you don’t care about speed? Supple tires also are much more comfortable. And they just feel different, making cycling much more fun. To me, that is the most important difference, and why I ride them on all my bikes.
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Comments (71)

  • David T.

    Does the difference between tires depend on the speed you are riding? My hunch is that at low speeds, the differences in efficiency are less. It seems that even slow tires can roll reasonably well up to a certain speed, and that every tire has an upper limit beyond which you really need to push.

    June 13, 2014 at 3:56 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It works the opposite way: At low speeds, wind resistance is small, and tires account for most of the resistance. It was amazing riding with my children after I swapped their tires from Schwalbe Duranos to a more supple model. Just coasting down the street, they were way faster.

      June 13, 2014 at 7:09 am
  • Ford

    I recently received my Chinook Pass tires. They are the nicest tires my bicycle has ever seen. They make the ride so much livelier- on all surfaces. I ride on lots of rough surfaces and these tires sing. They sing on the smooth and the rough.
    Thank you !

    June 13, 2014 at 6:48 am
  • Erkki

    Would be interesting to know how for example 28mm Continental 4 Season compares to these in the tests, as it has quite a sturdy puncture protection, but still the weight is pretty similar to the standard model of Grand Bois Cerf at about 250g. Although the Contis tend to be a bit narrower than the stated size.

    June 13, 2014 at 6:58 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We haven’t tested the 4 Season model. The Ultra Gator Skin scored relatively well in our test. Adding puncture protection will make the tire slower. For me, most Continental tires have a very buzzy harsh ride that make them rather unpleasant to use.
      Tire weight alone does not provide a reliable indicator of how supple the casing is. Many factors determine how supple a casing is. In the Summer 2014 Bicycle Quarterly, we report on a visit to the Panaracer factory in Japan, where we were able to talk to their engineers about what makes a tire supple and fast. (Hint: It’s not weight, nor TPI/threads per inch)

      June 13, 2014 at 7:12 am
      • Michael

        Direction of threads? More radial?

        June 14, 2014 at 8:44 pm
      • Michael

        I look forward to the article. I have been having a great time reading Bicycle Quarterlies. Very interesting articles.

        June 15, 2014 at 9:53 am
  • doug in seattle

    I just installed a set of Cypres EL on my bike. I am very pleased. Not only are they much more comfortable than the tires I had on previously, my handles much better. There has also been a big improvement in traction, which I really enjoy very much. The previous tires were very inexpensive 28mm, and their harsh feeling never inspired confidence.
    All I’ve done with them so far is commute (a cold struck the household, eliminating all non-essential bike trips) but I am very much looking forward to more quality time with them.

    June 13, 2014 at 8:36 am
  • Erik

    Your method has been used before by Wim schermer and he stopped using it after it became clear that the results were influenced by several factors there were not tire related. You can find his quest for the ultimate test method and some of the results here: (it’s in dutch, but on earlier occasions I was under the impression you were able to read it).

    June 13, 2014 at 8:37 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      When you do any real-road testing, you really need to control all variables carefully. For the roll-down tests, you need a hill that is just right – steep at first so you get up to speed quickly – otherwise, the slower tires never really get going – then less steep so the speed remains roughly constant.
      You have to be careful to control all extraneous variables. So you must test on days when there is no wind, and the rider must keep their position the same between test runs.
      Many have doubted that these variables can be controlled, but it’s easy to check: You do repeat tests of the same tires, and then you do a statistical analysis. It’ll show whether your results are due to the tires you tested, or whether other variables influence the results. We did all this, and we are confident that our test results are valid. To make sure, we validated the results with a second method, by using a Power Meter on a bicycle track. The results matched perfectly, which gives us further confidence in our results.
      As to whether a rider can do repeat runs with the same position, we tested this in the wind tunnel, and we found that it’s not that hard. We were able to get the same readings for the same position, even on consecutive days.
      Of course, it is possible that others are less lucky in controlling the extraneous variables, and thus don’t get good results using the same method.

      June 13, 2014 at 12:01 pm
      • Bill Gobie

        Wim Schermer’s pendulum method looks a lot more convenient and time-efficient than testing tires by riding bikes. All his apparatus lacks is a dissipative element to mimic what you call suspension loss in the rider’s body. A big block of jello or ballistics gelatin would do the trick. A block as heavy as a rider is impractical, but by using several blocks of different masses one could probably extrapolate to a typical rider’s weight.

        June 16, 2014 at 8:40 am
    • marmotte27

      You really want to read the original articles in Bicycle Quarterly, you very quickly are convinced of the quality of the testing and the methods used as everything is explained in great detail. That is what makes reading BQ such a pleasure, you feel respected as a reader.

      June 14, 2014 at 7:17 am
  • Andy

    Interesting that you mention your fleche – didn’t the team have quite a significant number of flats? I do like the feel of my moderately supple tires, but have to wonder if there’s a limit at which they become too fragile to be relied on for long distance rides where speed isn’t the main factor to enjoying my ride.

    June 13, 2014 at 9:13 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      During the 2012 Flèche, we had one flat, on a set of “event” tires that were quite thin. We were three that year, and only rode 500 km, so that makes it one flat in 1500 km.
      In 2013, when the photo was taken, we had zero flats. Considering that five riders rode 600 km each, that means 3000 flat-free kilometers.
      This year, we were less lucky. It was rainy, and one rider was on very worn tires. He had two flats. Our tandem had one flat, plus a few pinch-flats on very rough gravel roads. The other two riders had zero flats. Even on this ride – which was the worst for flats we have had in a long, long time – the supple tires gave us more speed than they cost in time for fixing the flats.

      June 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm
  • Erkki

    I agree the Gatorakins are pretty harsh (and slippery too), but I’d say the 4 Seasons are considerably nicer. I remember them having a different casing and material of the puncture protection.
    Still they are not nearly as supple as Cypres’s, but then again the are very different in width too. I have not ridden the Cerf.
    Looking forward to the article about Panaracer.

    June 13, 2014 at 9:17 am
  • Daniel M

    I have a pet theory about this with no objective testing whatsoever to back it up. I am starting to suspect that the larger the tire, the less the suppleness of the casing matters, owing to the larger contact patch and lower deflection angle at the edge of the patch.
    I have a Boulder All-Road with regular 650×42 Hetres and they are truly wonderful tires. The Boulder replaced a Rivendell that I had shod with 700×40 Schwalbe Marathon Supremes that were bulletproof (belted) but felt (for what it’s worth, which is not much) rather energy-sapping. Switching to 700×38 Panaracer Paselas (also belted) seemed better, but not much. The Boulder with the Hetres is a revelation by comparison. I run them around 40psi and incidentally have yet to get a flat in a year of riding over highly varied surfaces – from urban streets to root-strewn singletrack.
    However, at the same time, I have a 26″-wheeled touring (and commuting and shopping) tank (Rohloff-equipped Thorn Raven) and numerous friends of mine have 26″ Surly Long Haul Truckers for the same purposes. All of us love or have loved our Schwalbe Big Apples in 26×2.0″ or 2.15″ sizes, despite their heavy wire bead and Kevlar belt. They just seem to roll with an intoxicating smoothness, which is of course entirely subjective and not tested in any way. When it came time to replace mine, I ordered a pair of 26×2.35″ (60mm!) Schwalbe Super Motos from Germany. They look nearly identical to Big Apples, but they are folding bead and lack the Kevlar belt. I run them at 25psi or lower and the ride is dreamy, but still the bike feels really efficient – at least the drivetrain and tires; the bike is stiffer than a Long Haul so there is no way it planes, and the built-up weight is nearly 40 pounds! Either way, I do wonder if, as the tire size approaches “balloon-ness”, the casing might matter less.

    June 13, 2014 at 9:25 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I have limited experience with tires wider than 42 mm, but your experience is interesting. It’s worth testing…

      June 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm
    • Allan Folz

      I’ll echo the Big Apple experience. I have a set of 26″ 50mm BA’s and they are incredibly smooth. In fact, I privately feel a little sheepish in that I, frankly, cannot imagine how any set of tires could be markedly better than those BA’s. (What kind of philistine cyclist am I? 🙂 )
      Now, are they slower, despite the feel? I have no idea, since I’ve never ridden for time on the bike they are on. However, I’ve never had trouble keeping up with a group while riding that bike. In fact, I’m usually in front wondering why everyone is slow-poking it along.
      It would be very interesting if there is an additional factor related to tire width, or maybe a relationship between both width and diameter.

      June 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm
      • Allan Folz

        I should have said “extreme tire width.” Obviously tire width matters. 🙂 Specifically, the question seems to be does the benefit of suppleness drop as width increases. Furthermore, is there an upper bound where suppleness is either not a factor, or a becomes a slight, marginal one.

        June 15, 2014 at 3:41 pm
  • B. Carfree

    I know I’m not alone in my desire for truly high performance 26″ tires. Just how much would the molds cost? Perhaps it’s time for a “put up or shut up” challenge to us 26″ road riders. Set a price and specify that they won’t be made unless we pre-order some set amount. Give us a running tally of the number ordered and we’ll see if we are a market worthy of such an investment.
    By the way, I do enjoy the Compass 26″ offerings, but of course I’m greedy for more. The 1.5″ set we initially purchased were by far the best performing tires we have ever used on our tandems. The 1.75″ set seemed a bit stiff by comparison, but that may have been due to my initially inflating them to slightly over 60 psi. They are much better with lower inflation (and with a bit of the rubber worn off).
    Thanks for all you do and please keep up the great work.

    June 13, 2014 at 10:14 am
    • Vince DePillis

      Carfree: Great idea, count me in.
      Vince DePillis
      Seattle, WA

      June 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm
      • Cris

        +1 on B. Carfree’s idea on getting us a high performance 26″ tire.

        June 13, 2014 at 10:47 pm
    • Greg

      Agreed! What width, though? How about 1.25 inches?

      June 14, 2014 at 7:04 am
    • winslow

      And another in support of a performance 26″ tire.
      I would be willing to pre-order a set.
      I’m riding the 1.75 Compasses now – around town & forest service type roads.
      I don’t need wider, but I would enjoy more supple.

      June 16, 2014 at 10:44 am
  • Dave M.

    I was stunned by the difference when I switched from the 32mm Vittoria Randonneur Pro tires that came with my bike to 38mm Barlow Pass tires. I was expecting a noticeable change, but it was far bigger than I expected. All the sudden I felt like sprinting through lights and having more fun on my normal commute.

    June 13, 2014 at 11:12 am
  • alliwant

    Jan, could you give a little more detail on the rolldown test? Are you measuring the time to reach a certain point, so that the tires with the highest numbers lose more speed after initial speed is met? The assumption would be that tires that coasted faster/further has less rolling resistance, which makes sense. When I saw the term, I was envisioning a test where a test bike would be ridden at a certain speed to a starting point, then allowed to coast to a stop. Your comment above gives me a different mental picture.

    June 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We used an old soapbox derby track. The bike/rider coasts from a pre-determined point. It accelerates, then the gradient levels off, so the speed remains almost constant. At the leveling-off point, we start the timing. We time a set distance (184 m) for each tire. If we let them roll to a stop, we’d get too much variation in speed. Especially at low speeds, you get wobbles, and your wind resistance also changes too much. By having the entire test run at a relatively constant speed, we get complete results for the tires’ speed, including air resistance, suspension losses, etc. So we really can tell you how much faster one tire is than the other, rather than just looking at one factor alone.
      Some more info is in this post.
      For the full details, refer to the report in Bicycle Quarterly Vol. 5, No. 1.

      June 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm
  • Charles Shand

    There are some great tyres in 559 (26″) sizes but we never hear about them in Bicycle Quarterly, but you keep plugging away with 650B sizes. Here in the UK, 650B is vitually unobtainable except in very limited budget versions which are used by Grandads to keep their old shopping irons on the road. I have a two Expedition bikes which are ideally suited to the kind of rough riding you were doing in the last edition of Bicycle Quarterly and they both run on 559 x 50 tyres – and do they roll well. So I support the principle of larger flexible tyres based on may years of personal experience. It would be nice to see more coverage of this in BQ and I’m just longing to see some constructeurs getting to grips with building decent (non-suspension lightweights) using these size wheels – a sort of “Mountain Fusion” please …. !!!

    June 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I agree that 26″ wheels make a lot of sense for very wide tires (wider than ~42 mm).
      I am unaware of a truly high-performance 26″ tire beyond the Compass ones. Even those use the “standard” casing rather than the “Extralight”, because we use an existing mold, and the thicker tread doesn’t work well with a superthin sidewall. Unfortunately, demand for high-performance 26″ tires isn’t great, and with mountain bikes moving away from the wheel size, it’s not increasing either.

      June 13, 2014 at 4:12 pm
      • B. Carfree

        For years, the conventional wisdom, and thus the products available on the market, was that skinnier tires were faster. You had an experience that caused you to doubt this. Fortunately, you are a data-driven fellow, so you tested your hypothesis and found the conventional wisdom lacking.
        Now, the conventional wisdom says that there aren’t enough 26″ riders to justify the cost of doing a run of high-performance tires. Let’s see some data! Ask your contacts in Japan to estimate the cost to make the molds and the number of tires that would need to be initially made. If conventional wisdom is correct, then all you’re out is the small amount of time involved in coming up with those numbers. If conventional wisdom is wrong again, then you’ve established yet another market and have hundreds of happy riders.

        June 13, 2014 at 8:27 pm
  • marcpfister

    Any plans to test the Resist Nomad 700×45 and Specialized Fatboy 29×1.7?

    June 13, 2014 at 4:39 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      When we do the next round of tire testing, we’ll consider these and a number of other tires. At this point, we only will test tires that have the potential to offer great performance – we no longer need to do basic research into what makes a tire fast, since that has been established. So the Specialized Fatboy probably won’t make the list, considering it weighs 555 g and has a “Flak Jacket” puncture-resistant layer.

      June 13, 2014 at 9:18 pm
      • Ted

        Would you consider testing the tried and true Panaracer Pasela? I’ve had 700×32-37 on my bike for many years and agree that a supple casing makes a difference. Are the Compass tires “suppler?” I would really appreciate knowing if a different “supple” tire is worth an extra $80. Thanks for everything. I really enjoy this blog.

        June 16, 2014 at 2:39 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          We did test the Pasela 700C x 37 mm (nominal size). It was our “reference tire” for the first few years of testing. So we tested it several times during each test session – first, middle and last – to make sure that conditions hadn’t changed, and that we were getting replicable results.

          June 16, 2014 at 6:55 pm
      • Andy

        I haven’t used Paselas above 32mm. I recall hearing that the 35 and 37 weren’t worth the extra width because they were overbuilt on tread. My experience with 25mm Paselas was lacking, 28mm was really good except they left me a little squeamish on corners for some reason unless the pressure was ~90psi, but the 32mm felt the best over a range of pressures, and I continue to use them for my rando rides. Being able to find them for $20 is why I haven’t looked elsewhere yet. I plan to try Compass tires when I wear out my last Paselas, but like all things in the luxury quality range, it’s tough to rationalize paying the premium for a product when I feel that my needs are pretty well met currently.

        June 16, 2014 at 7:10 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Think about the cost per mile. With wide tires, you get a lot of miles out of a set, and so the extra cost per miles is a cent or two. You decide whether that is worth it…

          June 16, 2014 at 7:44 pm
      • Greg

        Jan, cost per mile is everything, in my opinion. I use it for car-related things as well. Even buying shoes, so to speak. If I buy a pair of $100 shoes and they last me three years, vs. someone else purchasing $30 shoes at Walmart, and then they last months, who has spent more? The Walmart customer! Life-cycle cost is what matters in the final analysis.

        June 17, 2014 at 6:48 am
    • cory.b

      I would be interested to see the Resist Nomads tested in the 35 and 45 sizes. Recently I’ve switched from Resist Nomads in 700 x 35 to Grand Bois Cypres and have noticed a discernible difference in speed and effortlessness, however comfort seems to be along the same lines. I think the Resist tires are an excellent budget tire and may even feel better than a non Tourguard Pasela in a similar size.

      June 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm
  • Eric Whedbee

    Great write up! I have wanted to try a more supple tire on my bike, but selection for 27″ tires is a bit limited or so it seems. Any chance Compass has plans to produce a tire of this size? Meanwhile do you or anyone here have any suggestions for a good and supple tire that has qualities much like the tires described in this post?

    June 13, 2014 at 11:31 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The market for quality 27″ tires is tiny. Unfortunately, making a new mold costs a lot of money. Even for the more popular 700C and 650B sizes, it will take Compass some time to recover the investment. So it’s unlikely that we (or anybody else) will offer a super-high performance 27″ tire. Right now, Panaracer offers the Pasela in 27″. It’s not a high-performance tire, but it’s probably your best choice.

      June 14, 2014 at 5:27 am
      • Greg

        I agree that the potential market for ultra-high-performance 27-inch tires is perhaps relatively small, but I’m not sure that it is ‘tiny.’ There are quite a lot of frames out there with cantis. that only fit 27-inch wheels, both singles and tandems. Now that tire technology has matured, and we know that about 32 mm is optimal in that diameter range, and the classic size was 27 x 1-1/4″, which is about 32 mm, funny enough, what would it take to produce a fabulous Compass 27 x 1-1/4″ tire? How many would the first run have to be? Maybe only do an EL? Or only a non-EL?

        June 14, 2014 at 7:13 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Most 27″ bikes easily can be rebuilt with 700C wheels. For example, my Jack Taylor tandem was built for 27″ wheels, yet when I compared the location of the canti bosses with a friends’ Taylor tandem made for 700C wheels, the measurements were the same! So for our Flèche ride, I just dropped in some 700C wheels, which allowed us to ride the Barlow Pass 700C x 38 mm tires.
          That leaves the market for classic that are kept in original condition. Those don’t get ridden much – and thus don’t wear out their tires. The market for tires made specifically for classic bikes is indeed tiny.

          June 14, 2014 at 7:20 am
      • Greg

        Jan, the difference in radius between 700c and 27-inch rims is about 5 mm. How can the canti. bosses be at the same location? If that is true, then I have some figurin’ to do!

        June 14, 2014 at 10:16 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The difference is 4 mm (630 – 622 / 2). Even on canti brakes, the pads adjust up and down. On the old Mafac pads, you adjust the height by pushing the posts inward or outward. That rotates the brake on its pivot, which changes the height. Many modern brakes have slots like sidepull brakes do. Of course, if the builder placed the pivots so that the brake is at the wrong end of the slot, then you are stuck (or need different brakes in addition to different wheels).

          June 14, 2014 at 10:23 am
      • Steve

        A useful product for those of us with 27″ wheel bikes would be a canti shoe offset by 4mm. Fortunately, only my rear posts were biased more towards 27″ rims and I was easily able to switch to 700c.

        June 14, 2014 at 11:16 am
      • Greg

        My knowledge of cantilever brakes is near-zero, so I was going from memory of what the old Mafac cantis. looked like. I just looked at our tandem, which is from 1988 and has Shimano cantilever brakes, with 27-inch wheels. They are indeed near the top of their adjustment slots, so one could probably switch to 700c wheels on that bike. I learned something today!

        June 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm
    • Paul Ahart

      Eric, you might try the 27×1-1/4 Panaracer Pasela tire. The basic model, not the “Tourguard” model. They are cheap, under $30, and perform very well. Note: they are a true 1-1/4″ big, so fitting under fenders on an old road bike might be an issue. I’m running the 700×32 version of that tire on my old commuter and they feel great, compared to the 700×32 Gatorskins previously on the bike.

      June 16, 2014 at 7:17 am
      • Greg

        The wired-on non-Tourguard Paselas are really a bit of a bargain at their price-point, in my opinion. While not truly ‘high-performance’ tires, they are more than OK for the low cost.

        June 16, 2014 at 6:12 pm
    • Eric Whedbee

      Thank you guys for the information. Not sure I can fit anything but these 27″s; so for now I’ll have to try out the Pasela’s, which I too have heard good things about.

      June 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm
  • John Duval

    For 26″ tires i like the Primo Comet without the Kevlar belt (recognized by lack of reflective strip). Still a tank tread in comparison.
    I just built a recumbent bicycle around the Babyshoe Pass. I find that pressures much lower than the 15% compression rule work best.
    It seems like skinny high pressure tires have become entrenched in the recumbent world, which is surprising because I learned the benefits of wider tires from recumbent riders about 12 years ago. Wider tires worked so well that I switched back to upright bikes a few years later. I discovered BQ while searching for high performance wide tires for the frame I had fabricated for that purpose.
    So that makes two bikes I built specifically for Compass tires, even if I didn’t know it at the time!

    June 14, 2014 at 1:44 am
  • Trazymach84

    i’ve heard that Vittoria Voyager Hyper in 38mm width is a very fast and comfortable tyre for touring. Could you please test this tyre in the future? I also wonder about Schwalbe Kojaks. I find these tyres pretty fast and comfortable on my bike, but I don’t have much experience to compare them.

    June 14, 2014 at 4:04 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I also have heard good things about the Voyager Hyper, and we’ll include it in a future test. I am a little concerned that it’s still labeled as a “touring” tire. I really would like to see Vittoria make a 32 and 38 mm version of the Open CX Corsa, perhaps with a little extra material on the tread for greater durability. Of course, that is the tire we had in mind when we made the Compass Barlow Pass Extralight…

      June 14, 2014 at 5:35 am
      • Trazymach84

        Thank you, I’ll be looking forward to your test on Vittoria Hyper Voyager! Keep up the good work!

        June 14, 2014 at 8:06 am
    • Bill Gobie

      Kojaks are good, fast, grippy, long-wearing touring tires. They are not as fast as racing or event tires. I rode many miles on 35 mm 26″ Kojaks on my Bacchetta Ti Aero. I tried a Compass 26×1.75″ on the front wheel, and liked the improved comfort. I eventually switched to a heavier steel Giro frame that would fit a Compass on the rear wheel. With that change my speed increased 2-3 kph and the bike was a lot more comfortable.

      June 16, 2014 at 8:50 am
  • sdm

    So for improving bicycle ride comfort, tyres (and their associated pressure/materials/width) seem to be an order of magnitude or more of importance than wheel compliance (rim/spokes flexing), which seems to be another order of magnitude of comfort/compliance in the frame and fork. For power transmission, the same progression seems to be true; tyres => wheel => frame.
    So for the recreational tourist wanting to “gain” comfort, as rear triangle on the frame is vertically relatively ridged and wheels are fairly ridged (so power is more than provided for); should we just be focusing on tyres volume and its supple construction? Maybe ride any frame, but spend your money on the tyres? Or does the lateral flexing of the rear triangle of a nice steel frame, which seems to provide an extra whip of power transmission; is this power lost in going to larger volumed tyres (to gain in comfort) with the whole bike moving sideways, on the supple sidewalls “leaking” some of the power (as tyre sidewalls should be more flexible than chainstays)?

    June 14, 2014 at 9:05 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You are right, it’s hard to see how the frame (or the wheels) could flex a lot. In a back-to-back ride on really rough pavement, we did seem to notice a slight difference in comfort between aero rims and standard rims (same tires, same pressure), but it was really small.
      Fork blades make a huge difference, because they can flex a lot, but tires still are the most important factor. When you look at the unsprung masses – a tire contact patch weighs a few grams, so it can react to high-frequency vibrations. The fork has the entire front wheel attached, so it can only handle bigger, low-frequency hits. When you look at Moulton’s experimental data from the 1950s, you can see why suspension with hard-riding tires doesn’t work. Our experience matches that data.
      So the tires are most important, since they can absorb the high-frequency buzz you get from rough pavement. Suspension (whether a springs and dampers or just flexible fork blades and perhaps rear triangles) can handle the big bumps that exceed the tires’ “suspension travel”.
      Frame stiffness matters for performance more than comfort. You can read about that in this post.

      June 15, 2014 at 8:04 am
  • martl

    “The CX is optimized for ultimate performance, and it has a very thin tread. This means it will wear out quickly and suffer more punctures on the way.”
    I highly doubt that the thickness of the tread has anything to do with resistance against punctures. A shard of glass or a nail will go through 1.2mm of rubber with the same ease as through 2mm. Chinese-manufactured proof can be bought for 9,95$ at the next Walmart.
    The deciding factor is the carcass/ply of the tire. The finer the weave (more TPI), the better the puncture resitance and, conveniently, the ride as well.
    Modern tires typically use one or several layers of “breakers” like the Conti Gatorskin, which adds additional resistance.

    June 15, 2014 at 11:30 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      When your tires are starting to get thin, you usually notice because you get more flats. The Vittoria CX tends to have more punctures than the other tires mentioned here. So whatever the reason, the CX is less suitable as an everyday tire than the others.

      June 16, 2014 at 5:08 am
      • Doug

        My experience aligns with Jan’s. I had a Cerf that I used for quite a while. It got more flats in the last 2 weeks of use than it had for the prior 14 months combined.

        June 16, 2014 at 7:41 pm
    • jimmythefly

      Anecdotally, I’m with the other guys. I always get more frequent flats near the end of a tire’s life. Or another way to look at it, is once I get a few flats in a month, I put on new tires, and the rate of flats goes back to near-zero.

      June 18, 2014 at 12:03 pm
  • thebvo

    I’m always excited about the technical research that BQ puts out. It’s especially impressive when you think about the ratio of revelations to budget as compared to the massive cycling industry that keeps telling us that aero wheels, carbon, and ceramic bearings are the best ways to improve the performance of a bicycle.
    I hate to regurgitate what’s already been said, but the Resist Nomad 700×45 tire is amazing! Besides their attractive price they seem to roll well (seems ain’t science, but…).
    They’re so nice in fact that I haven’t changed into my new Compass Barlow Pass tires yet. Of course the Barlows are prob faster but at almost a full centimeter wider, I wonder what I’ll gain and give up… I guess that means I should switch and try!
    Price, width, speed, and fold-ability. Not necessarily in that order.

    June 16, 2014 at 7:28 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I’m always excited about the technical research that BQ puts out. It’s especially impressive when you think about the ratio of revelations to budget as compared to the massive cycling industry

      When you look behind the scenes, you realize that the “massive cycling industry” doesn’t do nearly as much research as they would have you believe. It’s not that different in the car industry, where small companies like Lotus do a better job with suspension setup than the big makers. In fact, quite a few big makers go to Lotus for help with suspension setup.
      From my time as a geologist, I know that the most expensive science isn’t always (or even usually) the best science. Looking at trends in the data and forming a good hypothesis doesn’t cost a huge amount of money!
      Beyond that, we’ve been lucky that we’ve had enthusiastic help. Our editorial team includes a several scientists who volunteer their time. Our double-blind test of frame stiffness would have been very costly, if Jeff Lyon hadn’t built us four frames at a huge discount, and if Jamis hadn’t sold us three bikes for the components at a close-out price. Our wind tunnel testing would have cost in excess of $ 10,000, but working with a student at the University of Washington, the wind tunnel time was free of charge. As a result, we spent more time in the wind tunnel than Lance Armstrong! If we had to pay for all that at market rate…

      June 16, 2014 at 7:34 am
      • Greg

        “When you look behind the scenes, you realize that the “massive cycling industry” doesn’t do nearly as much research as they would have you believe. It’s not that different in the car industry, where small companies like Lotus do a better job with suspension setup than the big makers. In fact, quite a few big makers go to Lotus for help with suspension setup.”
        Here I must strongly disagree (about the automotive part of your statement), sorry. The larger automakers spend huge amounts of research, time, and money setting up their suspensions. GM’s magneto-rheological shocks are amazing, and as a result that technology is licensed by Ferrari!
        BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, even VW, all do great jobs with their suspension designs and calibrations. Lotus is a tiny company that does do some consulting work, but it totals a drop in the bucket of the automotive suspension calibration universe….

        June 16, 2014 at 6:23 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          You probably know more about the automotive world than I do. I can tell you that in the bike world, the actual basic research is almost non-existent. There is some research and testing to refine things – for example, how to make a frame stiffer without adding weight – but the basic questions whether stiffer is better, or how tires roll on real roads rather than on steel drums, don’t see much study.

          June 16, 2014 at 6:56 pm
      • Greg

        Agreed about the cycling world. 98% advertising, and to the same, relatively small group of ‘male enthusiast buyers.’ . Are they marketing carbon-fiber tires yet? Carbon-fiber chains? Those metal chains are soooooo last year! 🙂

        June 17, 2014 at 7:03 am
  • Neil

    Just received my Grand Bois 700-28 in the mail this week…excited to mount them on the bike and see if I notice a difference in ride quality.

    June 16, 2014 at 8:34 am
  • Roger

    Jan, what about mounting a Stan’s Tubeless Kit ? The Flow Kit will fit 650B rims.
    Friction between tube and tire would be completely eliminated and the wheels should roll faster. What’s your experience mounting such a system?
    I appreciate your profound knowledge in this matter!

    June 16, 2014 at 9:25 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We haven’t tested the performance of tubeless yet. It’s also on our list…

      June 16, 2014 at 9:49 am
      • Roger

        Already an idea when this will happen? I’m curious to see what the results will be.
        Just to say that “Radtouren” (German bike-magazine) compared the Schwalbe Marathon Almotion with tubes versus the Tubeless version (700x38C). Power dropped from 24,6 Watts to 20 Watts to keep them rolling at 23 km/h, that’s -18,7% less ! It’s obvious these tyres don’t compare at all to the ones from Compass Bicycles but you get the idea …

        June 16, 2014 at 11:55 am
  • John Wood

    I’ve been riding Vittoria Randonneur/Voyager* Hypers in 700x37c(35×35 actual size on 19mm internal sized rims)on a Salsa Vaya for around 2,000miles with one puncture (a bramble or wild rose thorn).
    I ride them on UK(read pretty bad)roads,gravel forest roads and Bridleways,which they take in their stride without issue,I’ve been astounded by the speed and comfort of these very supple and grippy(even in the wet) tyres.
    These tyres are so comfy and quick I stopped riding my Audax machine(700x28s maximum clearance) and sold it earlier this year replacing it with another Vaya(which TBH are a dream ride for my type of cycling,but that’s another story).
    I tend to run them at low pressures 45 front,70psi rear with an all up weight of around 98kg(bike 13kg,rider 83kg and usually a 2kg day bag) and find that anything much more they just become progressively more uncomfortable with no speed increase.
    I too look forward any tests you carry out on these excellent tyres.
    Thanks for a very interesting blog.
    *both are the same tyre,Voyager Hyper being the new name for the Randonneur Hyper,perhap so it doesn’t get mixed up with their Randonneur and Randonneur Pro,which are completely different tyres to the Hyper.

    June 16, 2014 at 12:41 pm

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