Reviews of Compass Tires

Reviews of Compass Tires

When you design a product, develop it, test it and finally bring it to market, you wonder how it will be received. Of course, you are confident that others will like it as much as you do – you wouldn’t have released it if it didn’t meet your high expectations. Still, it nice to hear from customers that they enjoy the product. Perhaps even more gratifying are independent reviews. These people have nothing invested in the product, and they usually have significant experience with similar components.
Recently, there have been two reviews of our Compass tires.
“These Tires Expand Your Riding Universe” declared Fred Matheny at after riding the 700C x 38 mm Barlow Pass Extralight tires. From somebody as experienced as him – he has been testing bikes for decades – it was particularly satisfying to read:
“The puffy tires rolled at my usual speed on pavement and handled the unpaved surfaces with plenty of traction in loose corners and surprising comfort even on washboard.”
You can read the full review here.
Mark Chandler at the Gravelbike blog tested both the Stampede Pass and Barlow Pass tires. He wrote:
“As good as the standard Stampede Pass versions are, the extralights are in a completely different league. Plush doesn’t even begin to describe how the extralights ride. The extralight Compass tires practically floated over chipseal roads and broken pavement.”
The full review is here.
Developing new tires takes a large amount of time, effort and money. It’s satisfying that riders and reviewers enjoy them as much as we do. Because that is why we made them in the first place: So we and others could enjoy riding our bikes even more!

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Comments (38)

  • niko

    It would be very nice if there were dealers, or even online places in europe. ordering from your website means additional taxes if ordered from the eu. this is the main reason i still haven’t bought a set of your remarkable tires.

    April 22, 2015 at 5:31 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I agree, and if any European dealers or distributors read this and are interested, please get in touch. The wide tire revolution is catching on in Europe as well, so I think there is a market…

      April 22, 2015 at 8:25 am
      • Jan-Olov Jansson

        Veloform in Gothenburg, Sweden import and selling Grand Bois, Compass Tires, and also selling another parts from Compass, and books from BQ.

        April 23, 2015 at 11:31 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          There is also M-Gineering in the Netherlands. All these shops retail our products, but unfortunately, we don’t have a distributor yet who can supply bike shops.

          April 23, 2015 at 11:45 pm
      • Hans

        Thank you for your excellent blog. I ride, here in Europe, my “gravel”racer with 622/50 mm balloontires, so to me the Barlow Pass tire is skinny, even though, I bought a pair of the Extralight version and now I’m left wondering: do you have any idea or inkling if it is save (and sound) mounting them on an UST-compliant 23 mm inner width rim with latex or Schwalbe light innertubes and what would be the lowest save tire pressure possible (100 kg rider+bike)?

        April 24, 2015 at 2:54 am
  • Oreste Drapaca


    April 22, 2015 at 5:54 am
  • Paul Ahart

    Nothing but rave reviews from both my customers who’ve tried them, and myself; I’m running Stampede Pass 32’s on my rando bike and 650b 38mm on my Blériot bike which is a tank! Performance increase was immediate, as was comfort. So far, no punctures. And they don’t really cost any more than other brands of high-performance tires. Your tires are truly great.
    Best flat protection? Don’t ride in big pacelines and stay out in the road as much as is safe.

    April 22, 2015 at 8:29 am
  • Edwin

    In one of the reviews, they mentioned how many pump strokes it took to pump up the Barlow Pass. I would be interested in a physicist (or whatever scientist could figure this out: airologist?) showing, with the same pump, how many strokes does it take to fill:
    700cx23 to 100psi
    700cx38 to 60 psi
    650bx42 to 50psi

    April 22, 2015 at 8:32 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Any interested airologist can submit their data, although I doubt we’ll be able to check and verify any time soon.

      April 22, 2015 at 8:39 am
      • Jason Marshall (@jmarshall312)

        While it might take more pump strokes to fill up a larger tire I find that the effort is much less than filling up a racing tire to a high psi.

        April 22, 2015 at 11:15 am
      • Jon Blum

        Being full of hot air, I wanted to take a shot at Jan’s question.
        Boyle’s law says the volume of air times the pressure is proportional to the amount of air in the tube. By amount, I mean number of molecules of air. (I’m ignoring temperature, assuming it’s a small variable here.) So double the volume or double the pressure is double the air. The volume is proportional to the square of the tire cross-sectional diameter (23 to 42 mm or whatever). Tire circumference also changes a bit with the tire diameter, again a small impact as long as the rim size is the same; 650B vs 700C might need to be figured in, though.
        Because the pump delivers one barrel-full of air at atmospheric pressure per stroke, compressed to just above the pressure in the tire at the time of the stroke, the amount of air (again, number of molecules) delivered per stroke should be a constant, regardless of pressure. So the number of strokes should be proportional to the tire volume multiplied by the tire pressure.
        I think this simple explanation is probably thrown off by the dead space of the pump. At the end of the stroke, there is some residual air in the pump, essentially whatever space is between the plunger and the tire. This volume will vary with the pump design. At higher pressures, the amount of air that is lost from each stroke (not pumped into the tire) would be higher than at lower pressures, because the dead space is a fixed volume, so at higher pressures it holds more molecules of air. So the higher the pressure, the fewer molecules of air you put into the tire per stroke, and the magnitude of this effect depends on the pump’s stroke volume and dead space volume. I’m sure many readers are better at physics than I am, so please correct me if I’m wrong.
        I think I will choose my tires some other way!
        Jon Blum

        April 22, 2015 at 12:23 pm
      • Gert

        There are so many variables involved: real shape of tire under pressure, side wall thickness, type of tube, well volume of rim, type of rim tape etc.
        Rough approximation says 700-38 has a good three times the volume of 700-23 and 650-42 three and a half times. That would give indicate that You would need 1.8 times the number of pump strokes to inflate the 38’s to .6 times the pressure of the 23’s and the 42’s at half the pressure 1.75 times the number of pump strokes.
        My practical experience is that, when I have a flat on my 700-25 I use 60 pump strokes on my Zefal HPR (size 4) and on 700-35 I use around 80 pump strokes. This leads me to believe the rough approximation is not all wrong.
        By the way appear to sell the tires in Europe
        I am waiting for the new 700-35 and hope to ride them for PBP

        April 22, 2015 at 3:19 pm
    • somervillebikes

      That would be like determining how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Charms Blow Pop. My kids would love to be able to verify any submitted data…

      April 22, 2015 at 12:56 pm
    • DanielW

      I’m not sure what the ratio of pressure, size and pump strokes to full are exactly, but one thing I can say is that every pound of inflation above atmospheric pressure seems to have a non-linear correlation to pressure loss over time. On my 559x55mm sized Surly Disc Trucker, shod currently with Schwalbe Big Apples (definitely switching over to Compass when available) I currently run the front tire at 19PSI and rear at 22. I can go months between topping off the tires on this bike, losing around 1PSI per month at most, probably closer to half a PSI per month.
      On my Nordavinden with 622x32mm Compass tires, inflated to around 3x the pressure of my Trucker, it loses pressure much more rapidly. I think I top off the Nord’ around once a week, otherwise the tires are lower than I feel comfortable running them. It’s certainly a combination of having far fewer molecules of air and a greater pressure pushing the air through the rubber tube and past the valve, but the narrower tire definitely requires topping-off far more frequently.
      Once the Compass 559x55mm tires are available, if they indeed end up being comparable in speed to 650bx42mm or 700cx32mm tires, I’ll likely make my next brevet bike in that size, for the extra comfort, stronger wheels, much greater flat resistance, and less need for topping off the air. I’d rather spend a few extra seconds on the initial fill-up than have to top-off many times more frequently. Plus my experience is that under 25PSI on 559x55mm tires is basically ‘un-flattable’. I’ve had “zero” flats on that size in over 20,000 miles; I had one, but it was after I had some work done at the LBS, and they inflated my tire to sidewall pressure (over 60PSI) and I’m 110% certain that flat was easily avoidable at a lower pressure.

      April 23, 2015 at 6:42 am
      • Tim Evans

        Here is a specific instance:
        650B x 42 mm Babyshoe Pass Extra Light tire
        Grand Bois 650B rim (new model)
        Schwalbe SV14A tube
        Lezyne Swivel Drive HP pump (no longer made – similar to the Micro Floor Drive HP but about 3cm shorter, and easily fits in handlebar bag)
        200 easy strokes from flat to about 40psi

        April 23, 2015 at 10:10 am
  • Robert

    What’s the best way to build up a Compass Tire bike on a budget?
    I’ve read nearly every Off The Beaten Path post with great interest, and I’m sold on wide, supple tires for a versatile-yet-fast bike I hope to ride a few dozen miles a week for ten years. Does anyone have suggestions for how to build such a bike for under $1000? Should I buy an old road bike, swap to 650b’s, cantilever brakes, and Compass tires? Should I buy a Bikes Direct cyclocross bike and pop on 700x38s? Should I build from scratch with a new groupset and a bunch of cheap Nashbar components? Should I allocate most of my budget to the frame? Groupset? Wheels and tires?
    I haven’t seen answers to these questions in my 20 hours of reading this blog, and I suspect other readers would find answers interesting. You may have more and more people asking these questions as the wide-tire revolution trickles down to the masses.

    April 22, 2015 at 8:59 am
    • Jon Blum

      Robert –
      There are a lot of ways to buy a bike, and I am not an expert on them all. Often, last year’s model or components group on sale is a good deal. You can’t buy a Superbike for $1000, but you should be able to find something reliable and fun to ride at that price. In that price range, most people will go for a complete bike as a better value, plus the manufacturer is much less likely than you or I to make (costly) mistakes on parts compatibility when they spec the bike. There are, however, a few parameters to watch.
      1. Most road bikes today have clearance for 25 mm tires, some up to 32 mm, but rather few beyond that. So unless the frame was designed for wider-than-usual tires (e.g., a cyclocross bike, or some older frames), 38 mm will not fit. If you’re committed to that size, you want to know in advance that it’ll work.
      2. Changing to 650B will cost you for new wheels and probably new, longer-reach brakes.
      3. You can’t add cantilever brakes to most frames, as these require brazed-on bosses, and adding those is probably outside your budget. Similarly, if there are cantis already, they won’t be in the right place if you change wheel sizes (not that you’d likely need to do that).
      4. Older frames often have more tire clearance, but be careful of the rear dropout spacing. Most new frames are at 130 (“road”) or 135 (“mountain” or “touring”) mm. Older frames may have 120 or 126 mm spacing, and may need to be spread (only if steel, don’t try this with other materials) to fit newer hubs. This is easy to measure with a ruler or calipers – it’s the distance between the inner surfaces of the rear dropouts.
      Good luck.

      April 22, 2015 at 2:41 pm
    • Eric Daume

      It seems like if you want to experience the full BQ Holy Trinity (supple tires, flexible frame, low trail), on a budget, your best bet is a old sport touring frame and then a 650B conversion. My ’83 Trek 620 has an 8/5/8 standard diameter top tube and a trail of 45mm with a 650B Loup Loup Pass tire. It rides pretty well, and cost me around $650 all told. I just wish the 650B tires didn’t look so goofy with my 25″ frame.
      Your other best avenue is to find a Rawland rSogn, Stag, or Nordavinden–they came with light tubing and low trail geo.

      April 22, 2015 at 3:52 pm
      • B. Carfree

        I was just deciding between two of my slightly older (late ’70s) Treks for exactly that conversion, although now I’m wondering if they can handle the soon-to-be-available 26″ X 2.2″ Rat Trap Pass tires. Coincidentally, my frames are the same size as yours.
        I’ll probably break with the crowd here and go with the Big Squeeze canti’s from Rodriguez; they’re great on my tandem and R+E’s frame building and repair prices are very reasonable for the post addition.

        April 22, 2015 at 6:16 pm
      • Robert

        That’s a helpful answer; thanks. Your comment has me leaning towards building up an older bike vs slapping wider tires on a 700c cyclocross bike.
        Can you give me a rough breakdown on how much you paid for different pieces to get to a $650 investment? It seems like I’d spend nearly half of that on wheels and tires, which doesn’t leave much room for a modern groupset.

        April 22, 2015 at 9:29 pm
      • Eric Daume

        Complete bike from Craigslist: $300
        Compass tires: $130
        Cheap wheels off ebay: $140
        Long reach brakes: $55
        That comes to $625. Everything else came from my pretty deep parts bin. You can see it here:

        April 25, 2015 at 8:38 am
    • ourizo

      You may want to have a look at the Eastway ST1.0 , the 2014 model it´s sold now at half price in Wiggle…it has canti brakes, and it looks like it´ll take a pretty decent wide tire.

      April 23, 2015 at 1:13 am
    • John

      Hey Robert, I have a Surly Cross Check that I bought used for $300. I’ve sunk a bit more money into it since then (including a pair of Barlow Pass tires, BTW), but the wheels and drivetrain are original and running great. Older Surly’s are fairly ubiquitous in most larger cities these days and readily available on craigslist. New ones come in a little over your $1K mark, but are still a good value. Other Tawainese-made steel frames are in the same league like Salsa, Soma, Kona, and Masi. Anyway, that’s what I did.

      April 24, 2015 at 6:31 am
      • Robert

        Wow, that is an excellent deal. Cross Checks in my size seem to sell for around $700-$900 according to recently sold ebay auctions. If I could get one for under $500, I would go that route.
        I am going to follow your advice most of the way, however. Bikes Direct sells a Cross Check clone (with identical frame dimensions) with mostly 105 5800 components for $800. I’ll probably put those same Barlow Pass tires on it.
        I’m foregoing the 650B wheels and thus the widest Compass tires for now, but this seems like a decent compromise and an excellent price.

        April 24, 2015 at 1:42 pm
  • Jimmy

    According to my calculations:
    700cx23 28 strokes
    700cx38 46 strokes
    650bx42 44 strokes
    Those might not be “real” numbers, but they were all calculated the same way so at least they may be useful for comparison. Of course with fatty tires at lower pressure you are free to use a pump with more volume per stroke, but in this test I “used” the same pump across the board, figuring 200cc of volume per stroke (somewhat WAG of frame pump volume).
    Tire volume was calculated using a perfect torus, and I used an online ideal gas law calculator for the hard math parts. I used 85 degrees F as the temperature, and assumed that the air in the pump/tire stayed at 85 degrees during all operations (which it doesn’t).

    April 22, 2015 at 12:52 pm
    • Gert

      Had not seen this, when I wrote my reply above at a later time, but my calculations were not totally crazy then

      April 22, 2015 at 3:25 pm
  • Jimmy

    PS -those stroke calcs are based on inflating to 100/60/50 psi as Edwin asked.

    April 22, 2015 at 12:53 pm
  • Robert Hoehne

    I’m still amazed that after thousands of km within Sydney that the Barlow Pass don’t even have a cut in them let alone had a puncture. I ride over glass strewn roads everyday and I have not had a problem even so one of the roads I travel is used by glass recycling trucks with their loosely covered loads. The rest of the roads are shared with people that throw bottles from vehicles and intersections with the typical amount of glass from motor vehicle incidents.
    40PSI is great and is all the puncture protection I seem to need.

    April 22, 2015 at 7:47 pm
  • David Pearce

    Dear BQ / OtBP / Compass Teams,
    I am very happy for you and congratulations! Thank you for doing something so nice and positive for the rest of us humankind. With all the strife and turmoil we see around us from time to time, it’s good to remember that good things come out of our labors too!

    April 22, 2015 at 11:23 pm
  • James

    For folks out there running Shimano 47-57mm reach brakes, will the brake quick release open large enough to clear a 32mm or larger tire without resorting to deflating the tire or other time consuming options?

    April 24, 2015 at 9:05 am
    • Jon Blum

      James –
      Whether the brake release opens wide enough depends not only on the tires and brakes but on the width of the rim. For example, my brake’s QR opens just enough to clear 25 mm tires on narrow Open Pro rims, but it could clear wider tires if I used wider rims.
      There are also some brake levers with built-in QRs that allow the brakes to open even wider. That’s an option to consider if you want to avoid deflating the tire.

      April 24, 2015 at 6:46 pm
      • Benz

        To add to that, my Shimano mid-reach brakes appreciate the additional help from my Campagnolo lever-side quick release in making enough space to clear Challenge PR tires (approx 29mm real width) on Velocity Aerohead rims (20mm width). I should also say that my brakes are set up so that the pads start touching the rims when the levers are halfway actuated (not a “hair trigger” setup) so my setup is already biased towards more tire clearance from the brake pads.

        April 25, 2015 at 9:21 am
  • Joe

    I am looking forward to riding on what will be my first pair of Compass tires as soon as I receive the 650B bike that I recently ordered (an Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer, which handles 42 mm with fenders). They will make my brevets and long rides more enjoyable.
    I understand the benefits vary with the type of road surface and with rider weight. Or would you recommend going for the widest tire your bike will fit (i.e. wider is better)?
    Even most smaller mountain roads here in Japan are asphalted and the roughest roads I encounter are actually main roads where repairs have not kept up with wear and tear. In case it matters, I weigh 68 kg (150 lbs).
    At the moment I am thinking of going for the Compass Loup Loup Pass EL (650B x 38 mm) or even Grand Bois Cyprès EL (650B x 32 mm), but would I benefit from Compass Babyshoe Pass (650B x 42 mm) tires with my riding? Is there a rule of thumb which of your tires work best for whom?

    April 26, 2015 at 12:11 am
  • Ford Kanzler

    Congrats on the great reviews! Certainly a demand for a range of tires used in between pure road and all-dirt.

    April 27, 2015 at 7:03 am
  • Conrad

    Thanks for developing these wonderful tires. I have a great road racing bike but I find myself riding bikes equipped with the Compass 38’s for just about everything these days.

    April 27, 2015 at 9:42 am
  • Willem

    As for pumps for these wider tyres, I think we need new designs. Old favourites like the Zefal HPX were designed to inflate narrow tyres to high pressures. Try them with really fat tyres like the new 54-559 Compass tyre, and after a puncture you will be at it forever. On my loaded tourer I have been using such fat tyres for years, and my solution has been to only use the frame pump for the first – minimally necessary – amount of air, and then head for the nearest gas station.

    April 28, 2015 at 4:41 am

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