Over the last year, we’ve noticed a trend at the trade shows. The bike industry decides a color is hot, and everyone jumps on board:
Last year, it was clear it was a variation of aqua / sea-foam green / teal / celeste / turquoise. Everywhere we looked at the Sea Otter Classic, we saw frames, bikes and accessories offered up in this color, making it easy work (although expensive) to be decked out head-to-toe-and-bike in the trendy color.
While we’re unclear on the staying power of teal, another pigment-based trend we’ve noticed over the last few shows appears to have some staying power. Nearly every tire company now has spent time in the tanning booth. Walking around Sea Otter and Interbike, we couldn’t help but notice that most cyclocross and gravel tires come in a tanwall option.
It’s particularly fitting for gravel tires, as many of these new gravel bikes feature geometry identical to 1980s sport touring and road bikes, when tan tires were the norm.
Affirm a Term
Some might call this look to be skinwall or gumwall, but we’ll call it “tan wall.” The term “gumwall” is typically used to describe older, cheaper tires that have a thick rubber coating from bead-to-bead over the casing, as often seen with fractional width 26″ tires.
Skinwall is a commonly used term for this trendy look and coloration, and we’ve been guilty of using the term over the years. However, the world is thankfully blessed with many different skin colors, and we’d rather not make assumptions as to a reader’s perspective on what “skinwall” suggests.
Thread, fabric and rubber all come in different colors. While tan or brown-colored tires are often associated with a lighter and more natural, supple tire, it’s cosmetic assuming the same construction and materials. You can have a supple blackwall tire, and a harsh tanwall tire.
Tanwall tires conjure up images of specific color, classic bikes and offer up a retro look. We’re fans of it. There’s also the added benefit that it makes it look like you’ve ridden 100 gravel miles on your blackwall tires without a pedal stroke.
But it’s just a look unless a company alters its casing materials when creating its tanwall version (as with Schwalbe’s non-tubeless tanwall X-One), or you want to debate the impacts of black rubber additives like carbon black.
50 Shades of Tan
Certainly, some tire companies have created their own variations on the trendy sidewall color. Here’s a round-up of some of the latest fashion show entries we’ve seen.
WTB offers a copper brown that’s relatively unique:
Panaracer’s popular Gravel King tires come in a similar shade, but with less red than WTB:
VEE Tires has unveiled black pattern on a light tan casing on the new Zilent Sports gravel tire that mimics a course thread:
Islabikes offers its VEE-made supple tubeless Greim cyclocross clinchers in a light tan that’s easily confused for a Dugast tubular:
Kenda is soon to unveil its gravel and cyclocross tires in a brown tanwall option. We spotted these early versions of a 47mm (29 x 1.75″) tanwall Small Block Eight tires on the Mongoose Guide gravel bike at Sea Otter, and brought you a sneak peek of the new tanwall Flintridge earlier in April.
Maxxis has a yellow-hued tanwall coming to its line of gravel offerings, and even its more affordable CST is ready to show off its time in the tanning booth:
Schwalbe has non-tubeless versions of its X-One cyclocross tire and G-One gravel in a tanwall with an orange hue:
SOMA Fabrications mixes it up with different tanwall colors for different models. Its Shikoro road tires come in a dark brown casing, while the CXM-favorite Cazadero is much lighter in color despite being heavier on the scales.
Of course QBP is aware of consumer trends, and its Teravail tire brand is now showing off tanwall editions of its tubeless ready gravel line:
That’s just some of the new tan options on offer for the cyclocross and gravel world, with certainly more to come this year, and perhaps 30 years from now when the cycle continues.
While all the tanwall color options may not offer reduced rolling resistance or save weight, go ahead, show off your tan if that’s your thing. If you’re happy with the look of your bike, you might just pedal a bit faster.