New Compass Tires: Naches and Snoqualmie Pass

Compass Cycles is introducing two new models to its tire line. We’ve had many requests for 700C and 26″ versions of our iconic 650B Babyshoe Pass tires. Here they are!
We’ve added 2 mm to the width, because we found that 44 mm-wide tires will fit most bikes designed for wide 700C and 26″ tires. As with all our tires, we named them after the places that inspired them.
Most cyclists cross Snoqualmie Pass on the “Iron Horse Trail” that uses an old railroad right-of-way. Back in the day, the Milwaukee Railroad’s Olympian Hiawatha raced across the Cascades here. Today, it’s a trail that is covered with loose gravel in places. High-volume tires are key to an enjoyable ride here. Traversing the 2.3-mile tunnel right on the pass is an exciting part of the adventure.
The original Hiawatha trains were the fastest in the world – their streamlined locomotives were easily capable of 124 mph (200 km/h).* As befits a train named after an Indian legend “so fleet of foot” that he could outrun an arrow shot from his own bow. It’s nice to think of our tires in these terms: They are among the fastest in the world.
Our tires are not just “fleet of foot”, but also intended for some pretty rough “roads”. Naches Pass is one of the “secret passes” that cross the Cascades. The new Compass Naches Pass tires measure 26″ x 1.8″ (44 – 559 mm), making them perfect for many touring bikes with 26″ tires. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to chart an alternative cross-country route using only little-known byways, starting with Naches Pass. I am tempted…
The Naches Pass also is a great tire for small bikes, where 650B wheels make it difficult to avoid toe overlap and other design compromises. The nice thing is that you all the parts designed for 650B bikes fit 26″ tires as well: Compass centerpull brakes and rack, fork crown, etc. It’s a great way to go on a smaller frame.
The new tires are tubeless-compatabile. As with most of our tires, they come in several versions:

  • Standard casing: a supple casing that offers excellent durability and cut resistance. Available with tan sidewalls.
  • Extralight casing: an extra-supple casing usually reserved for hand-made tubulars. Compass Extralight tires offer the ultimate in performance and shock absorption. Available with tan or black sidewalls.

Click here for more information about Compass tires.
* Note: The Olympian Hiawatha apparently did not use the streamlined locomotives, and it certainly never reached 200 km/h. Those speeds were achieved on flatter routes in the Midwest.

53 Responses to New Compass Tires: Naches and Snoqualmie Pass

  1. arturolupitoni September 8, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

    I would check your source on speeds. The record for steam is nearly 126mph, set by the LNER locomotive “Mallard” in 1938 with a special train. I doubt that ordinary trains, even on flat midwest routes would be “easily capable” of 124mph.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 8, 2016 at 10:18 pm #

      The Mallard holds the record, but it wasn’t the fastest loco by any means. In the U.S., there were strict speed limits, so the official speeds were lower, but when a train was running late, those limits easily could be exceeded. We’ll never know for sure, but it appears that the Milwaukee Road’s Hudsons could indeed easily reach 200 km/h. We don’t know whether they ever did, because those who ran them that fast couldn’t tell anybody.
      This source indicates that as early as 1903, Amercian trains could run 199 km/h.

  2. John Duval September 8, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

    What is left? 20″ like the bike you rode in Japan? 16″ for folding bikes?

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 8, 2016 at 10:29 pm #

      We are exploring many things… but you are right, Compass now offers quite a complete program of high-performance tires.

      • Oreste Drapaca September 9, 2016 at 7:14 am #

        37-349 would be great for the Brompton enthusiasts – quasi a cult in urban environments.
        Regards –

      • Sam Carlson September 9, 2016 at 10:47 am #

        It’s amazing, what you have done to the tire landscape and my cycling experience. I now spend more money on tires than I do on frames (and design bikes around the tires), but your tires have opened my eyes to the truth, that tires matter more than just about anything. Echoing Oreste Drapaca, I’ll say that the lack of good (Compass) tires to fit 16″ or 20″ wheels is the reason I don’t have a folding bike. Maybe they’d be good on trailers too.

      • splitlevel2 September 9, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

        Yes please explore other sizes! Folding and recumbent riders would be all over Compass tires for 16″ 20″ and 24″ tires.

      • Bill Russell September 9, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

        Jan, I think you will find an unexpectedly large market for high-performance 20″ tires, much like you did with the 26″ Rat Trap Pass.

    • Sean H September 9, 2016 at 8:34 am #

      I came here to say this! 20″ 20″ 20″ !!!
      I am greatful for the offerings already available. A 20″ for my son’s bike and my piccolo would complete the collection.

      • Steve Palincsar September 10, 2016 at 3:57 am #

        When you say ’20″‘ do you mean 406 or 451?

      • Dave Thomson September 11, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

        Don’t know which Sean is asking for but my vote would be 44-406.

    • HaloTupolev September 9, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

      27″, obviously! A high-performance tire would have a monopoly. I’d buy a pair, and I’m sure five or six other people would too before the market dried up…
      I just looked at the sidewalls of the 27 x 1 1/4 tires on my Miyata, and it claims they’re 510g each. Oh my.
      I maybe should have done a 700c conversion when the old wheels were giving out*; the brakes have plenty of reach, and wide 700c tires could achieve similar total wheel diameter and still lose weight compared with the current setup. The polished aluminum on these replacement wheels is extremely shiny though, so it wasn’t a total waste!
      *Lesson learned: when buying a used bike, don’t assume spoke tension is decent just because the wheels are spinning perfectly true.

      • William Seville September 10, 2016 at 8:29 am #

        630 x 32 or, even better, x 38 please! As the OP said, you’ll own the category.
        Conti’s 630 x 32s are actually 28mm on most rims, leaving Panaracer Pasela as the only non-heavy weight option in x32. The only x38s or bigger are super-puncture-proof things suitable only for hot-dog carts.

      • William Seville September 15, 2016 at 6:31 am #

        I was thinking that 630 tyres should be easy to produce using an existing 700c “open tubular” casing. Just trim about 4mm from each side and sew in a 630 bead. You’d lose about 3mm from the (nominal) 700C width – the Bon Jon would become a 32mm

        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 15, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

          Interesting idea! Unfortunately, cutting the casing would make the tire too weak to hold the air pressure. The tires are made from a big piece of fabric that is folded around the bead and overlapped. You have three layers of casing overlaid to form the tire, but it’s all the same piece of fabric…

    • Gunther September 9, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

      I would prefer 18″ for a Birdy.

    • ThermionicScott September 9, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

      A supple and lightweight 650A (aka 26″x1-3/8″) tire would be nice, too, for all of the old 3-speeds and utility bikes still rolling around (I hear it’s a popular size in Japan, too.) The Panaracer Col de la Vie seems to be about the best you can get in that size, and it’s kind of an energy-sucker on medium to long rides. That said, a smart businessperson only goes where there is a market or where they can create one, so that may explain why said zippy 650As aren’t already available. 😀

  3. Stuart Fogg September 9, 2016 at 12:03 am #

    Great to see the new 44mm tires! A few questions:
    What are the ideal and permissible rim widths?
    What rim width gives the 44mm tire width?
    What are the maximum pressures?
    How did you get the 44mm Stampede Pass lighter than the 38mm Barlow Pass? Is it the higher elevation? 🙂
    Thanks, gotta measure my fork now.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 9, 2016 at 12:45 am #

      Rim width doesn’t matter very much for supple tires. With stiffer tires, the sidewalls significantly contribute to holding up the bike, so having the sidewalls close to vertical gives you more support. Supple tires rely on air to hold up the bike – you need somewhat higher pressures, but rim width isn’t important. The extreme are tubulars, which have a rim that only supports the bottom of the tire, not the sides at all.
      When set up with tubes, you’ll get a width of 43 mm with a 23-25 mm rim (outer width). Set up tubeless, they’ll 1-2 mm wider. Maximum pressure ratings are 65 psi. The weight varies from one production run to the next. Beyond that, we always try to make our components lighter, without affecting strength. The new tires are a bit lighter than previous series.

  4. Stephen Poole September 9, 2016 at 12:38 am #

    Can I make a plea for a 35-584 tyre? This would be potentially very useful for conversions where 38+ often won’t fit, and 32mm lowers the bottom bracket more than is comfortable.
    Otherwise, keep up the good work!

    • Harald September 9, 2016 at 5:27 am #

      I would be interested in that size as well. My Gunnar Roadie conversion currently is running Pari-Motos with a claimed width of 38mm, and they barely fit. I’m afraid that once they will have stretched to their final width, they may no longer fit. And going down to 32mm starts to defeat the purpose of the conversion.

    • Austin September 14, 2016 at 11:19 am #

      Loup Loup Pass tires on my 23mm rims measure 35-36mm at 35 and 40psi.

  5. Emil September 9, 2016 at 2:06 am #

    Wow! I wonder if they would fit my 50mm Honjo fenders, will have to take some measurements!
    I’m a big fan by the way 🙂

  6. Scott White September 9, 2016 at 4:52 am #

    Winter tires?
    I am running the Extralight Jon Pass for my commute in the UK as it was the largest that could officially be tubeless, so it is great to see the Snoqualmie Pass are as well. I love the comfort but am blown away by the grip, particularly fast corners. However, a little Autumn rain reminded me the Jon Pass are far more sketchy in the greasy wet. Is that just par for the course or would anyone recommend a different tire to take me through the winter? Do you go wider or narrower in the winter or take on something heavier to guard against punctures, (not had one yet in 1.3k km on the Jon Pass mostly in the dry). My commute is 37km each way, mostly on tarmac of a variety of qualities, some shocking, and a few short gravel sections. I do a couple of days a week.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 9, 2016 at 5:43 am #

      The Compass tread already has as many rib to interlock with the road surface as possible, so they grip better than most in the wet. But when the roads are wet and greasy after the first rain, there isn’t much you can do except slow down.
      I ride the same tires year-round, but in Seattle, it’s just wet in the winter. When it snows, crews spread freshly crushed gravel on the roads that has incredibly sharp slivers. If your tires are a bit worn, then these shards will puncture them. In that case, a thicker, more puncture-proof tire may be preferable. But if you haven’t got any flats, it appears that the tires should work fine for you even during the winter months.

  7. Jack September 9, 2016 at 5:10 am #

    Awesome. I think the 700c tyre will fit my Condor Heritage. Does anyone have experience of riding the great divide mountain bike route on a similar wide but non treaded tyre?

    • Stephan Doll September 9, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

      I just rode part of the Divide route (Montana to Colorado) on Barlow Pass tires. Not ideal–they are somewhat narrow for the job–but certainly doable. They don’t have quite enough traction on lose gravel and sink into soft sand. I also had all my luggage on the front wheel which lead to several pinch flats. Bike setup pictured here:

      • Jack Whorton September 12, 2016 at 4:18 am #

        Thanks Stephan, always good to hear from someone with direct experience. Your bike looks lovely and quite similar in setup to my Condor. Do you think it is primarily the width (in which case the new 44s should help to some degree) or the lack of tread? Also do you think maybe having your panniers mounted on a rear rack would aid traction?

  8. Frank September 9, 2016 at 5:43 am #

    Hi. Can someone in the internet who has a Ritchey Swiss Cross please check if these 44’s will fit? (I was just about to buy the 38 Barlow … but now I’m humming and hmmming). Thanks!

  9. ThermionicScott September 9, 2016 at 7:11 am #

    Fantastic! I’ve been running 26″x1.75″ Paselas on my commuter for years, but was holding out for an “optimized tread” version before making the switch. 🙂

  10. Jesse September 9, 2016 at 8:22 am #

    If I’m not mistaken, the Milwaukee Road route through the Cascades is notable for once being one of the few electrified mail lines in the US as well as one of the longest.
    For those who are interested, there are quite a few good websites on the history of the Milwaukee Road:

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 9, 2016 at 8:28 am #

      I never saw the big electrics run across the Cascades. They could run through tunnels without pollution. Now the capacity of the line is limited by how quickly the diesel smoke can get cleared out of the tunnels by huge fans.

      • Jesse September 9, 2016 at 11:02 am #

        BC Rail’s Tumbler Ridge subdivision was electrified for the same reason. However, the metallurgical coal mines it served became unprofitable and the line closed for a number of years. I believe one mine reopened because of increased demand for metallurgical coal but the trains are hauled by diesels now.
        Apparently, in addition to the long tunnels, the Milwaukee Road’s routes through the mountains had more curves and steeper grades because the easier routes were already taken. Ample supplies of copper and hydroelectric power plus the superior traction of electric locomotives in the mountains made electrification very attractive.

      • John Hawrylak September 10, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

        The CMStP&P Pacific extension is the “bridge to far” in railroads. Never really profitable and should not have been built. The electrics stopped in around 1980 when the road went bankrupt and loco’s were at the end of their life. They had 2 electrified sections, the Cascades and the Rockies in MT. They had the longest electrified RR in the US, but never the traffic to fully use it.
        In addition to earlier electrics, the Milwaukee used GE “Little Joe’s” electrics, built right after WW2 for Russia, but never delivered due to the Cold War”. The US gov’t practically gave them away to the CMStP&P, the South Bend RR in Chicago and a few to Brazil. One is preserved at the Northeast RR Museum in Northeast PA, just to the east of Erie PA and the GE locomotive factory. The GE folks at the museum are quite proud of it.
        Really enjoyed the Hudson photo. It really had a large boiler. Post WW1 US roads where not interested in speed per say, but in the ability to haul heavier trains at moderate to high speeds. The PRR T-1 steam locos (6-2-2-6 duplex drive) could easily hit 120 mph pulling very heavy passenger trains. But they had wheel slip problems, could not compete with diesels on economics and were scrapped in the 1950’s, well before providing their useful life. The NYC did an extensive comparison of diesels and steam, using modern 4-8-4 Niagara’s (built 1944) in the late 1940’s. The conclusion was operating costs were the same between steam and diesels in the same demanding service (NYC NY to Chicago passenger service) but the number of workers needed to maintain steam was much greater than diesels and the NYC went with diesels.

  11. davidmtest September 9, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

    Have been hoping you’d make a really large 700c tire. A couple questions:
    Does this get into the downsides and trade-offs you mentioned on the 650b 48mm tires, or is it still mostly upside at this size?
    What are some production frames that fit these?

  12. Daniel Jackson September 9, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

    What fenders would you recommend for the 700c x 44mm?

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

      We don’t offer fenders for the 700C x 44 mm tires. I cannot think of many bikes that have room for these tires and fenders with sufficient clearances (20 mm between tire and fender). If you want to run fenders, 650B wheels are a better choice. We recommend our Babyshoe Pass 650B x 42 mm tires.

      • Rider X September 10, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

        My AWOL has plenty of clearance running 700c x 45 tires with 700c x 60 fenders as I had that setup for a while. Right now I am running the 700cx38 Barlow pass tires with a 700×52 fender… wondering if I can squeeze the Snoqualmie Pass tires under this fender or if I will need to go back to the 700cx60.
        Either way I am keen on the Snoqualmie Pass tires tires, the Specialized fatboy tires (700cx45) I was using were dogs. The Barlow Pass tires ended up being 2-4kph faster on average! (I compared 3000 km under each tire under similar conditions). That is a lot to gain from simply switching tires!
        As an aside, the cockpit on the AWOL (long top tube with a very short stem) is interesting. It has no toe/fender overlap even with a 700c x 60 fender and moving the front wheel forward of the rider seems to give it reasonable front load handling characteristics despite having trail numbers on the higher side. I figured that moving the front wheel relatively farther ahead reduced the weight in front of the steering axis, giving it some front loading capacity. The bike handles quite well with a small front load (10- 20 lbs) and does surprising well even at a heavier front loads (i.e. 40 lbs).
        Thoughts on reviewing the AWOL? To me it just as interesting as the Diverge.

  13. Rod Holland September 9, 2016 at 6:58 pm #

    Jan, thanks for these, they were needed. I’ve ordered a pair of the 700×44. I expect they’ll fit on my old LHT. If they don’t, I see a BMC Monster Cross build in my future…

  14. Willem September 10, 2016 at 3:52 am #

    As for winter tyres, if you need them because of moderate snow and freezing temperatures, the Continental Top Contact Winter ii are a very good choice in my experience. They use car winter tyre technoly (special compound and winter tread) and do grip incomparably better on snow and ice without using spikes (you will still need those when things get really hard) without becoming unpleasantly slow, even if they are obviously not performance tyres. They run quite a bit narrower than specified, but they are fairly tall.

  15. Josef Kimmel September 11, 2016 at 12:21 am #

    Hi Jan, thanks for your tires. It began for me with a pair of Grand Bois 32 mm and I was amazed with the comfort. Your articles in BQ made me so curious that I had to try them out.
    (I recently tried a bike with cheap but wide schwalbes – no comparison)
    Next pair will be standard compass tires with 44 x 559 mm for my mountainbike.
    Why are the 26″ tires measured in inches and 27,5″ and 28″ in mm, just curious.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 11, 2016 at 1:21 am #

      Tire standards are really left-overs from the past. For Bicycle Quarterly, we also use the ISO standard: width – bead seat diameter. We then follow by the old wheel size in parentheses. So a 700C x 32 mm really is 32 – 622 mm (700C).

  16. Sam Krueger September 11, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Compass tires have been game changers for me. I can manage a 32mm EL in front with my Carbonomas fork and a 28mm in back on my steel Lemond Zurich. The speed and comfort difference is truly amazing, as is the cornering. I’m waiting for the 650B framesets to get sorted out and I will definitely jump in. I guess my question would be: is a 42-44mm tire going to feel significantly better on “normal” roads (and around here that means not great a lot of the time) or does the benefit of those really kick in on gravel and such? Since I’ve never tried nice tires in the wider widths, I just don’t know.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 11, 2016 at 5:21 pm #

      On really smooth roads, you won’t notice much of a difference going from 32 to 42 mm. But on rougher asphalt, you’ll notice the difference. And the cornering grip is noticeable even on the smoothest roads – that is why race cars and racing motorbikes have wide tires.

  17. Robert C Wiard September 11, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    Hi Jan, I like the idea of a cross country trail. There is the Transcontinental American Trail (TAT) and not to be confused with the race of similar name. It goes from Origon to North Carolina, around 4500 to 5000 mi on mostly jeep trails and such. Some folks who’ve done it took 4 months. More info can be found on the web.
    May have to get a set of those 44c X 700’s, they look good.

  18. Robert C Wiard September 11, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    Hi Jan,
    Oops my bad the trail name should be “The Trans American Trail”.

  19. steve September 13, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    For 700C wheels I’m confused.
    I read that the widest tire that will fit is best, but then I read that the preferred size for 700C wheels is 32C otherwise the bike becomes too stable.
    Should I get Barlow Pass 38mm or Stampede Pass 32mm?
    (Right now I have Clement MSO 40mm, but they are a little too tight with my fenders).

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 13, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

      A lot depends on the type of ride you prefer, and whether you are working with a bike you have, or getting a new one. On a 700C bike you have, I’d still get the widest tires that fits comfortably. The difference in comfort and grip between 32 mm and 38 mm is very noticeable, and the downsides of “too stable” are comparatively minor.
      However, if you are getting a new bike, I’d go for 650B wheels and 38 or 42 mm tires to optimize the handling.

  20. Michael September 13, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

    “However, if you are getting a new bike, I’d go for 650B wheels and 38 or 42 mm tires to optimize the handling”
    I second that emotion!

  21. Jim September 15, 2016 at 3:19 am #

    Jan, your article states “As befits a train named after an Indian legend “so fleet of foot” that he could outrun an arrow shot from his own bow. It’s nice to think of our tires in these terms: They are among the fastest in the world.”
    Would you be willing to put your money where you mouth is and send some samples for testing to:
    I’d be interested to see how your tires fare when compared to the Vittoria Voyager Hyper and 28mm (which usually measures close to 32mm) Continental GP4000S II.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 15, 2016 at 5:40 pm #

      We welcome any independent testing of our tires’ performance. However,‘s testing isn’t very useful. They test on a steel drum, and even a rough drum doesn’t measure suspension losses. Just look at their results: They show the tires rolling faster at 110 psi than at 80 psi. We have shown that on real roads, the opposite is the case.
      In those tests, tires optimized for steel drums will perform best. Most Continental tires are that way. The Vittoria Voyager Hyper also doesn’t appear to be a particularly fast tire. I compare our tires to the very fastest racing tires, not touring tires or mid-range mass-produced racing tires… We are working on more tire testing that will include some of the latest tires.

  22. steve September 15, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

    I would like a new 650B bike, but where on earth do you find one that is affordable & decent? Affordable for me is under $2,000. Decent to me……………..I have no idea. Every new bike I test ride feels about the same. Any recommendations? I’m in Portland, Oregon, so there must be a bike around here somewhere.