New Compass Tires in Stock

New Compass Tires in Stock

The four new Compass tires are in stock now! They are the Rat Trap Pass (26″ x 54 mm), Switchback Hill (650B x 48 mm), Bon Jon Pass (700C x 35 mm), and Elk Pass (26″ x 1.25″).
The Rat Trap Pass (above) is the ultimate expression of our new Enduro Allroad tires. With its 54 mm width, it is incredibly plush on rough gravel, yet thanks to the smaller 26″ wheel size, it has the same rotational inertia as a medium-width 700C tire, and thus handles like a good road tire on pavement.
The Rat Trap Pass has already proven itself in this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris, where it provided wonderful comfort and security for a tandem team on the rough roads of Brittany.
At 48 mm wide, the Switchback Hill is our largest 650B (27.5″) tire yet. Named after the first major climb in the Oregon Outback gravel race, the extra floatation gives you more speed and security when the going gets really rough. 30% of the Oregon Outback is on pavement, so we designed this tire to roll as fast and grip as well as a good racing tire. With this tire, you truly have the best of both worlds. The Switchback Hill also can transform the performance of your 27.5″ mountain bike on gravel or paved roads.
The prototypes of the Switchback Hill tires have been in demand among BQ contributors. Fred Blasdel took Alex Wetmore’s Switchback Hills on an epic ride across the Cascades, and apparently he has no intention of returning them, since he likes them so much! (It’s OK, we’ll just have to give Alex a new set.)
The Bon Jon Pass is our Goldilocks tire: at 700C x 35 mm, it fits bikes that have extra clearance around the Stampede Pass (32 mm), but not enough space for a Barlow Pass (38mm). Whether smooth gravel or rough pavement, the Bon Jon Pass will make your bike fly!
The Elk Pass 26″ x 1.25″ tires (32 mm-wide) are superlight tires for bikes with 26″ wheels. If you are looking for the fastest, lightest 26″ tire ever made, this likely is it. Not only does it weigh just 178 g, but it uses the Compass Extralight casing and our ultra-sticky tread rubber for the ultimate in suppleness and cornering grip. It also is a great emergency spare tire for those traveling off the beaten path with 26″ wheels. The Elk Pass already has proven itself on challenging rides in the Cascade Mountains and in this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris.
Like most Compass tires, the new tires are available with “Standard” casings and tan sidewalls, as well as with “Extralight” casings in a choice of black or tan sidewalls. (The Elk Pass 26″ x 1.25″ is available only with Extralight casing and tan sidewalls.)
Click here for more information about the “Standard” and “Extralight” casings.
Click here for more information on the new tires or to order.

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Comments (54)

  • Gert

    Was so happy with the Stampede Pass EL I bought for P-B-P because the Bon Jon’s were not available yet, I would probably had been laughing all the way if they had been.
    But next Brevet season will be all smiles then.
    P.S. What is the weight of the Bon Jon EL?

    August 28, 2015 at 5:54 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Sorry, we just got them. Haven’t weighed them yet.
      Update: Theo weighed the tires and the Bon Jon Pass extralights are 303 g. All weights are now listed on the website.

      August 28, 2015 at 5:59 am
  • David

    Wonderful that these new tires are available! Will be ordering RTP pair for sure. Was wondering about the width of the Switchback Hill. In a previous post, you mentioned that the extralight version prototype grew wider than the expected 48mm width. Is the production standard casing version a true 48mm? That is, it’ll grow to 48mm or will start and get bigger. I have clearance, though small, for a 48mm tire, but if there is a chance it’ll get bigger I’ll go with the Babyshoe Pass.

    August 28, 2015 at 5:56 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The Switchback Hill Extralight most likely will grow to 50-51 mm once it’s been on the rim for a while. For some reason, making tires still is a black art, and it’s hard to predict how wide the tires will be when you make the mold.

      August 28, 2015 at 6:00 am
      • Matt

        I currently run hetres with 60mm fenders and have plenty of clearance. Would it be safe to try the Switchback Hill tires with fenders, or are they best run without? Thanks for making such wonderful products!

        August 28, 2015 at 12:08 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The Switchback Hill will be around 5 mm larger all around the tire. I like to have at least 10 mm clearance between tire and fender (15-20 mm is better), so you can measure and figure out whether the Switchback Hill will fit.

          August 28, 2015 at 12:12 pm
    • Fred Blasdel

      They are a true 48mm on normal 650b road rims with an 18mm inside width, and closer to 50mm on my carbon MTB rims that are 5mm wider.
      If you can safely fit Hetres with fenders you can absolutely fit these naked. I have a lot more room in my Elephant, and currently have them under Planet Bike 29er fenders.

      September 2, 2015 at 2:04 pm
  • Guy

    Brilliant 🙂 Bon John’s ordered; I am looking forward to riding these on the rough roads of Norway!

    August 28, 2015 at 6:15 am
  • Doug wagner

    Could you please list the minimum and maximum inflation pressures for the new tires

    August 28, 2015 at 6:43 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We don’t list minimum pressures for Compass tires, since those depend solely on rider weight. The maximum pressures are:
      55 psi for Rat Trap Pass (26″ x 2.3″)
      90 psi for the Bon Jon Pass (700C x 35)
      100 psi for the Elk Pass (26″ x 1.25″)
      55 psi for the Switchback Hill (650B x 48)

      August 28, 2015 at 1:32 pm
  • Michael

    Do you think handling degrades on 700c bikes with tires wider than 35mm?

    August 28, 2015 at 7:53 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Larger and/or heavier wheels make the bike more stable. So with very wide 700C tires, the bike feels less nimble and more “as if on rails”. However, lightweight tires partially compensate for this effect, so if you want your 700C bike to handle more nimbly with wide tires, use the Extralight version and lightweight tubes.

      August 28, 2015 at 8:02 am
  • Greg

    This is great! Thanks so much for the 26 x 1.25 EL (tan-sidewall) tire…..
    Now, the next one really should be a 27 x 1.25, EL, tan sidewalls, right???? 🙂
    Same logic as the 26, but way more bikes out there that can potentially use them! There just isn’t a truly high-performance 27-inch tire out there (that I am aware of). “Touring,” yes. Cheap, yes. Decent, yes (Paselas). High-performance? Not so much….

    August 28, 2015 at 8:19 am
    • charlie

      Loose screws has a 27 x 1-3/8 tire called the sand canyon that is probably the closest thing to what you want, it’s not as light weight as the compass tires but it’s only 34$ a tire so it’s probably more comparable to a pasela.

      August 31, 2015 at 7:35 am
    • Fred Blasdel

      The solution to that problem has long been to switch to from 27″ to 700c
      Your brakes can almost always accommodate the extra 4mm of reach, and the extra room for a bigger tire and/or fender is an immediate benefit!

      September 2, 2015 at 2:08 pm
  • stevep

    Are both the standard and extra light versions of these new tires tubeless compatible?
    The product listings don’t mention it, but an earlier blog post talked about it.

    August 28, 2015 at 8:27 am
  • Noel H.

    I used the Hetres for off-road riding but found they were a bit too narrow and that the sidewalls didn’t stand up to rocky terrain. The Switchback Hills are intriguing but I am concerned that the sidewalls would suffer the same fate as the Hetres. It seems to me that black rubberized sidewalls hold up better in general – but I notice they are only available on the lightweight version of the Switchback Hills, which may not be a good idea for my terrain. I wonder if either version these are worth a try…

    August 28, 2015 at 8:41 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The black sidewalls aren’t rubberized. What you see is the casing threads – they are black. Otherwise, the tires are the same as the tan version.
      Yes, rubberized sidewalls will be tougher, but also a lot slower, heavier and less comfortable. Generally, I’ve had no trouble riding even the narrower offerings on pretty rough gravel. It probably depends on the gravel and on your riding style. With a light touch on the handlebars, I suspect that the wheel and tire can deflect a bit more, rather than being cut by the rocks.
      Generally, the “Standard” casing is more cut-resistant than the “Extralight” versions.

      August 28, 2015 at 10:07 am
  • Chris Lowe

    Ordered a pair of extright Bon Jons for my new cyclocross bike. Should be perfect for the gravel roads out on the East Side.

    August 28, 2015 at 10:58 am
  • Michael T

    Hi Jan,
    I enjoyed riding PBP on my Stampede Pass tires, and noted that I was far from the only one riding your tires. Thanks for bringing them to market. I found myself at quite a few of the controls with the Santana Tandem equipped with Rat Trap tires. That grabbed my interest as I had already planned on getting them for my tandem, but was somewhat worried that such a large tire would squirm too much for a tandem. But seeing them on the Santana eases my mind in that regard. I did feel their tires and found they were running fairly high pressure, but I failed to notice if they were using EL or Std casing. For my tandem, which is more on the touring side (but with lightweight riders) which casing and what pressure would you recommend? All in, the weight of bike and riders would be about the same as the Santana.

    August 28, 2015 at 10:58 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The Santana team used the Standard casing for PBP. We figured it would be the best choice, considering how little experience we have with these tires and very heavy loads. The riders were extremely happy with them – maybe they’ll try the Extralight casings next time. They ran them at 42 psi, well within the 55 psi limit.
      Update: Previously, I wrote that the team ran their tires at 65 psi, but that was just the pressure they used to seat the tires perfectly on their rims.

      August 28, 2015 at 11:46 am
  • ben

    Would you expect the Bon Jon pass tires to last reasonably well on a tandem (@255lb or so rider weight)? We tried the ~31 Cypres a long time ago and they rode very well but were a bit to small and if I remember correctly the rear tire was almost worn out at 1k miles.

    August 28, 2015 at 12:05 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The Bon Jon Pass will last longer, because it puts more rubber on the road… Of course, the heavier and the more powerful the team, the shorter the tire life expectancy. I am glad you are getting in so many tandem miles!

      August 28, 2015 at 12:10 pm
  • B. Carfree

    I’m sure the folks doing the shipping are busy today and will be swamped for a while. I’m so glad my RTP tires just have to come a few hundred miles down I-5 to get to me; the wait is already getting to me and I just ordered them a few minutes ago.
    (Shipping tip for west coast customers: stuff the tires into a USPS regional A box for quick delivery for about $6.50.)
    Thank goodness we have rain predicted this week. Hopefully that means the lumber companies will ease their access restrictions to their awesome gravel roads so we can really put these to the test on our tandem. Up until the past few weeks, We’ve been riding them anyway with no issues from the employees I encounter, but with so many fires raging out of control I suspect that trespassing charges would be forthcoming if we persisted.

    August 28, 2015 at 12:47 pm
  • David Pearce

    In some of the photos above, the tires appear mounted on rims that have no spokes, while other photos show rims with spokes. Supposing that the lack of spokes is not caused by photo trickery like Photoshop, etc., is there any difficulty in mounting tires on rims that are not laced with spokes?

    August 29, 2015 at 12:12 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We just used new rims for photography… You mount the tires like you would on a wheel. Of course, it’s of limited use, unless you want to pre-stretch a tire before you ride it. With tubulars, it was common to keep new tires mounted on rims, so they held their shape, but you had to re-inflate them almost daily, since the thin latex tubes lost their air so quickly.

      August 29, 2015 at 12:23 am
  • Peter Hanchak (@hamtramck)

    Are any shops in Seattle carrying these yet or is a local pick-up possible? I’d love to have them ASAP and forgo shipping them a few miles.

    August 29, 2015 at 4:05 pm
  • Willem

    Is there any information yet on the real width of the Rat Trap Path? In a earlier blog post Jan mentioned 51 mm for the standard casing, if I remember correctly. That should be fine with decent clearance for anyone with a wide classic style Long Shen fork crown as used by many custom frame builders. However, the website now mentions 54 mm, and that is entering the danger zone. Or is that 54 mm for the extralight casing?
    I am really looking forward to these. This summer I toured (with pretty light camping gear) in the Czech Republic and Germany, and many bicycle paths/routes in the Czech Republic had extremely course gravel. My 26×1.75’s were challenged, and my hands still hurt.after a few weeks. Germany surprised once again with the quality of its long distance cycle paths and cycle routes. Part of their attraction is, however, that they too have long sections with gravel and the like. I would be so disappointed if these Rat Trap Pass tyres would be just that little bit too wide for most custom touring frames for 26 inch tyres.

    August 30, 2015 at 1:16 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The actual width depends a bit on rim width and how you measure. We expect the Rat Trap Pass tires to measure about 52-53 mm wide on 23 mm-wide rims (outside width).

      August 30, 2015 at 1:37 pm
  • Mark Min

    Hello, could you please explain rotational inertia and how you calculate or measure it? (Above you compare the new tyres to medium sized 700c tyres.) I assume total R.I. for a given wheel and tyre size would need to factor in the rim & spokes and where their weight/mass is distributed?

    August 30, 2015 at 2:56 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Rotational inertia is simple physics: radius squared x weight. The smaller wheel rotates faster for the same speed, so to calculate the rotational inertia of a bike wheel, you can simplify as radius x weight. You factor all the weights of tire, tube, rim, nipples, spokes at their respective radius.
      What we found is that the rotational inertia determines to a large degree how stable a bike is. Too much (extra-wide 700C tires), and the bike corners “like on rails”, making it difficult to change the line in mid-corner. Too little (small wheels), and the bike doesn’t hold its line well. Just right, and you get nimble handling and a bike that holds its line. Based on our on-the-road testing, we found that with lightweight tires, 700C x 30 mm, 650B x 42 mm and 26″ x 52 mm are our preferred tire/wheel combinations. When we calculated the rotational inertia, we found them to be very similar.

      August 31, 2015 at 12:19 am
      • Gert

        This as far as I understand must be relative to other factors, as total weight, centre of gravity, trail and wheelbase, so it also depends on the framesize/geometry=ridersize.So a taller rider with a long frame, woul feel the effect of the larger tyres less

        August 31, 2015 at 8:15 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The rotational inertia is independent of rider size and frame geometry. Frame geometry cannot compensate for lack of rotational inertia. If you increase trail, you get more high-speed stability, but also more low-speed wheel flop, and vice versa. The front wheel’s rotational inertia determines the resistance to turning the front wheel…

          August 31, 2015 at 9:18 am
      • craigsj

        By “rotational inertia” I assume you mean mass moment of inertia. That can’t be simplified to radius x weight.
        When comparing rolling wheels you need to look at kinetic energy as there is a linear and angular component and you can’t just sum them as inertias. It turns out that kinetic energies of rolling wheels have no radius component at all, they are strictly dependent on mass and linear velocity. An ideal hoop will have a total KE of mv^2 while a real wheel will be about 85% of that due to mass distribution.
        Moments of inertia do come into play in steering effort but that’s a different moment and a different angular velocity.
        If you look at your own tires and rims at the sizes you mention (and don’t consider hubs and spokes), you will find the rolling kinetic energies aren’t as similar as you think. The 26″ solution is about 14% greater than 700C and the 650B solution about 9% greater. The larger diameters will have lower rolling resistance as well.

        August 31, 2015 at 2:38 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          You are right that “radius x weight” is a simplification, but it’s valid. The speed of the bike is a given… Of course, the bike will react differently to steering inputs at different speeds, but that is a good thing, since you want smaller movements of the fork/front wheel at higher speeds. In that sense, a bicycle is a marvelous device that harnesses the laws of physics to its greatest advantage.
          We did the exact calculations, down to the spoke nipples, a few years ago in Bicycle Quarterly 31. When you calculated the rolling kinetic energies, which tires did you use? If you use Compass Extralights, the rim weight (which is at a smaller radius) becomes dominant…
          In any case, we all agree that wheel and tire size will affect the handling of the bike, and if you want the same handling with wider tires, you need to reduce the wheel size. A range of +/- 15% isn’t a big deal – we are also constrained by the commonly available rim sizes. It wouldn’t make sense to introduce a new wheel size just to “nail” the rotational inertia to the last percent.
          As to larger diameters having lower rolling resistance, we tested that, and found that if there were any differences, they were too small to measure, i.e., insignificant. We measured both on smooth roads and very rough roads, using the same tire models and pressures. We reported those results in Bicycle Quarterly 29.

          September 1, 2015 at 12:23 am
  • Mark Hudson

    Would you say the ride quality/speed of the 26″ x 52mm tyre/wheel is equal to that of the 650B x 42MM? I am having a custom frame built for mainly long distance road events, but will also venture onto gravel paths. I’d planned to go 650B, but now, with this new tyre option, and given the greater choice (certainly here in the UK) of 26″ vs 650B rim brake rims, I would definitely consider 26″.

    August 31, 2015 at 3:10 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Ride quality is better with the wider tires. Speed – we haven’t measured it, but testing the prototypes, I had no trouble keeping up with my friends on 650B. Bigger issues are fenders/mudguards – the tires are getting so wide that there isn’t room for a fender to wrap around the tire, if you want to use a “road” chainline. For general riding and smooth gravel, I prefer 650B x 42 mm. However, the 26″ x 54 mm is a great choice for a bike that mostly sees rough roads or gravel.

      August 31, 2015 at 3:20 am
  • Willem

    I keep feeling that the Rat Trap Pass’ dimensions have been just a bit too ambitious. Chain line with fenders will not be an issue for me, as my touring bike has a 135mm Rohloff hub (with the chain always in the centre, of course). Nevertheless, fitting the fenders will involve some tinkering, and in my case invites replacing the SKS fenders with the Gilles Berthoud ones, with their stays at the outside for probably just that little more room for the tyre. The Magura HS66 brakes may also have to be fitted in an alternative way, but again, that should be doable. However, the LongShen fork crown has an inside dimension of 59 mm, so here every mm will count. My Exal SP19 rims measure 23-4 mm on the outside, but I had hoped to move to a wider size next time I need to replace the rim.
    For a touring bike I think the ETRTO 559 size remains a good choice. It permits excellent frame geometries even for smaller riders, handling is perfect with tyres of around 50 mm width, and the choice of tyres is wide ranging, from ultra sturdy expedition tyres like the Schwalbe Mondial, and winter tyres like the Conti Topcontact WInter II, to now the very fast and light RTP. And every village bike shop will have at least something to get you home.

    August 31, 2015 at 4:34 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The goal was to use the widest tire possible for an Enduro Allroad Bike, while preserving a road chainline. Even 4 mm extra width will be appreciated on soft and/or rough gravel… We may offer a 26″ x 48 mm tires in the future, if the 54 mm is popular.

      August 31, 2015 at 4:38 am
  • mike

    I’m actually using Continental Race King 2.2 on my 1990 MTB with dropbar and barend shifters. This bike is so ugly, but makes so much fun. The Contis measure 54mm actually on Shimano XT wheels, so I ordered the Rat Trap Pass tires and cross my finges ….

    September 1, 2015 at 12:42 am
  • David Pearce

    Rat Trap Pass, ay? I’m sure they’re great tires, but I might just have to take a pass on the Rat Trap tires. And that’s not even their own name: They’re named after a mountain pass named Rat Trap.
    Why, you say? Here in the fashionable Georgetown quarter of Washington, D.C., many of us are fighting our own rearguard action against rats (the Norway, four-legged type, not the other ones…, of which there are also many here in D.C.).
    For me right now, the name is just too reminiscent of the real thing, somewhere between the sublime and the ridiculous, somewhere between Bill Murray chasing the gopher in “Caddyshack” and the rat sergeants, who I imagine are saying to their companies, “All right, you rats, listen up! The enemy has deployed a full spread of glue and traditional traps! We must learn how to fly over these traps, and complete our assigned rat missions!!”

    September 1, 2015 at 2:13 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Sorry to hear about your rat epidemic. The name of the pass is one of those quaint names that make up the lore of the West… and it’s a neat road that I hope to explore as soon as I have a bike with Rat Trap Pass tires.

      September 2, 2015 at 5:06 am
  • thebvo

    These tires look beautiful. I hope to try the rat trap pass tires soon.
    I also hope that as compass expands its product line, it’s sister company, which is cycling journalism at its finest, doesn’t lose track of other tires and competing products that are worthy of consideration for cyclo-tourists (who sometimes need a sturdier, yet quality tire for rough road touring). The Compass website page on tires is a good example of what I see as a slippery slope: what was once the king of tires, the Grand Bois Etres, is given just a few lines at the end of a sultry appeal to the Compass lineup. The tread is the only difference between the two, but Grand Bois tires seem to be already out the door. It’s cool to have favorites, and use what one believes is best of course.

    September 1, 2015 at 7:45 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Bicycle Quarterly will continue to evaluate all products honestly. We stand more to gain from a reputation of honesty and independence than from blindly promoting our sister company’s products.
      You mention previous favorites among tires. Some may still recall the Mitsuboshi Trimlines – they were great tires at the time. Then came the Hetres, which were far better. Then came the Extralight casings, which were yet another step up. Then Peter Weigle shaved the excess tread off some Hetres, and we got to ride those. And then we took everything we’ve learned about tires, and made the Compass tires. It’s a natural progression, and hopefully, we’ll make even better tires in the future.

      September 1, 2015 at 12:53 pm
      • thebvo

        Agreed! BQ is always fair and honest. I don’t think you are blindly promoting anything. I think that through awesome critical research and testing BQ has helped move the entire bike industry in a great direction. I ain’t trying to hate on ya, I just hope BQ continues to evolve. There are so many kinds of cyclo touring and so many solutions and products out there to satisfy a diverse population of needs. Hopefully there will be more tire tests in the future including tests of durability, and of course roll-down tests of the Extra Leger and Compass tires.

        September 2, 2015 at 5:01 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          There is much left to discover. Testing durability is a little harder. Flats are so random that testing flat-resistance is very difficult, especially with wide tires where even the most flat-prone average a single flat per 3000 miles or so. As far as longevity is concerned, again, if we test 10 tire models for 5000 miles each, it’ll take a long time.
          As far as the bikes we test, you’ll find that we are open to many different ideas and bikes. We loved the Jones, despite it being a 29er mountain bike – and I was rather pleased when I realized that not a single Compass part would fit on that machine. (Well, you could conceivably put some Barlow Pass tires on the bike, but there would be little point in it.)

          September 2, 2015 at 5:05 am
  • Ronnie Bryant

    I have several friends wanting a 700c x 42. I would also like to see a 650b x 32 or 650b x 35,

    September 1, 2015 at 10:09 am
  • Ronnie Bryant

    Just received my SwitchBack Hills. Mounted on Velocity Blunt Sl they measure 48. On Velocity Blunt 35s the measure 50, on WTB KOM i23 they measure 47. Pretty much what I expected. I am mounting them on my wife’s Salsa Vaya Ti on the WTBs. She will ride them Saturday on pavement and Sunday on Gravel. Will report next week how she likes them.

    September 2, 2015 at 11:46 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Like most supple tires, they’ll grow a bit over the next few weeks… Unless you do what riders on sewups tended to do, and deflate them after every ride.

      September 2, 2015 at 12:40 pm
      • Ronnie Bryant

        I was wrong about the WTBs, they are the i21 which is narrower then the i23.

        September 3, 2015 at 6:07 am
  • Joe

    Got my bon jon pass tires with the extra light casing today and mounted them up tubeless, they are amazing! Thanks!

    September 3, 2015 at 3:40 pm

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