Tubeless 700C x 31 Orondo Grade
The new Rene Herse 700C x 31 mm tubeless-specific Orondo Grade road tires are now available. As true road tires, the Orondo Grades are designed to handle high pressures of up to 90 psi (6.2 bar) whether you run them tubeless or with tubes—enough for heavy riders and those who like a firm feel to their bikes.
Why a new tubeless road tire? At Rene Herse Cycles, we never make anything that others already offer. We prefer to put our limited resources—we’re a small company—into addressing some real needs for our own riding. These days, we’re best known for our all-road, gravel and bikepacking tires, but road cycling has always been close to our hearts. After all, I raced on the road for ten years, and even today, much of my training is on a road bike—my beloved OPEN MIN.D.
There are many tubeless road tires out there, but they are usually heavier, stiffer and slower than their tubed counterparts. None offer the speed, light weight and comfort that we want in our tires. (Some big pro teams seem to think the same. For example, Soudal-Quickstep continues to use tubed clinchers, even though their tire sponsor would love to see them run tubeless.)
So we set out to make a tubeless road tire that performs and feels like a real Rene Herse tire. To make this possible, we had to completely redesign our tires. High pressures can force sealant through the thin casings that we use on our ultra-supple tires. They also require a special bead to keep the tire securely on the rim. We’ve worked hard to find a solution without giving up the effortless speed, light weight and superior comfort that our Rene Herse tires are famous for. We were determined to release our tubeless road tires only once they were indistinguishable from our other tires—on the road, where it matters.
This project has taken several years. We’ve tested various beads until we found one that keeps the tire on the rim securely at high pressures, yet is not too difficult to mount and remove. We’ve worked on creating a liner that makes the tire airtight, yet doesn’t rob the casing of its suppleness. We’ve made dozens of prototypes and tested them over many thousands of miles in real-world scenarios—durability, rolling resistance, ease of mounting, and how well they retain the sealant over time. (One test was to put the wheels aside for a month and then check that the sealant had not dried out.) We sent prototype tires to riders like Ted King and Brennan Wertz to get their input. Once our test results showed what we wanted to see, and once everybody on the R&D team was completely satisfied, we finally approved the new tires for production.
Now they are here! The new tires measure between 31 and 33 mm wide, depending on the casing you choose, the width of your rim, and the pressure you run. They are available as Standard (tan), Endurance (dark tan) and Extralight (tan or black). That way, you can choose the right casing for your riding style and road conditions. They are all super-fast. The Extralight is the speediest and most supple. The Endurance is extremely durable—a great choice if you ride in places with lots of debris that can cut a tire sidewall. The Standard falls in between the two. It’s also our most affordable option.
All versions of the Orondo Grade are significantly lighter than comparable tires from other manufacturers, without giving up longevity: Like all Rene Herse road and all-road tires, the tread is a little thicker in the center. This effectively doubles your mileage before the tire wears out, without affecting the tire’s speed. How light are the Orondos? The Extralights come in at 270 g, the Standards at 300 g, and the Endurance at 320g. Compare that to a Vittoria Corsa Pro at 320 g or a Conti GP 5000 S TL at 350 g. (All tires in 700C x 31/32 mm size.)
We’re not chasing light weight at the expense of durability, but thanks to top-quality materials and innovative technology, all Rene Herse tires are among the lightest in their categories. The new road tires continue that tradition.
Now that the final production models of the Orondo Grade are here, Ted King has been putting them through the wringer. In just one week during a trip to Tucson (Arizona), he clocked 1,000 km (650 miles) on his Extralights. He commented: “Good ol’ Tucson has no shortage of road shrapnel. It is nice to confidently ride through the endless stretches of shattered glass with the new tubeless.”
Back in Vermont, Ted is running the Endurance version on his be-fendered winter bike.
Meanwhile, Brennan Wertz (middle) has been running the Endurance on the Coast Ride in California. That’s been a wet and muddy adventure, but the tires shook it all off, as expected. Brennan commented: “Wow, the new road tires are awesome!”
Perhaps you’re wondering about the name of the new tires? What is the Orondo Grade? We name our tires after the roads that inspire them: The Orondo Grade is a 7-mile 10% climb up a side canyon of the mighty Columbia River. At the top is Waterville, the highest town in Washington State. If you continue east, there is a 40-mile stretch with no houses, no water and a giant canyon the locals call ‘Sulphur Canyon,’ which would make a perfect backdrop for a Western movie.
The Orondo Grade was the half-way point—and often decisive climb—of the now-defunct 285-mile cross-state race, S2S ‘Seattle-to-Spokane.’ Together with its sister race, Cannonball, the ‘outlaw’ cross-state races were a big thing long before bikepacking and ultra-racing became popular. (The photo above shows me leading the race after attacking at the base of the Orondo Grade, in the early 2000s). That is a story for another day…
Back then, I rode on 21 mm tubulars, later on 25 mm clinchers. In hindsight, I wish I had the new Orondos back then, as they would have been faster, more comfortable and more reliable. (One year, I had three flats and only two spare tubulars. I had teamed up with Alan Larsen, who won RAAM the following year, and we still managed to hang on to win.)
All models of the Orondo Grade tires are in stock now at Rene Herse Cycles, and coming soon to your favorite bike shops:
- Supple casing
- Tan sidewalls
- 300 g
- Ultra-light, ultra-supple casing
- The ultimate in speed and road feel
- Black or tan sidewalls
- 270 g
- The same ultra-fine threads as our Extralight casing, but in a denser, stronger weave
- Protective belt under sidewalls and tread
- Ideal for tough conditions and riding on debris-strewn highway shoulders
- Dark tan sidewalls
- 320 g