Does the Paris Roubaix classic inspire you to conquer your own Hell of the North?

Waking up to cobbles could be the best medicine for a cold. © Elle Anderson

While Americans may not have sectors of cobbles, we’ve got plenty of classic mixed terrain rides with their own tire demands. photo: Belgian cobbles by Elle Anderson

There are countless “Roubaix” type classic rides here in the States, including yesterday’s Boulder-Roubaix, Michigan’s Barry Roubaix, the upcoming Paris-to-Ancaster, the Amish Country Roubaix, Hilly Billy Roubaix and the list goes on. While the U.S. doesn’t have many extended cobbled “secteurs,” many of these rides substitute in dirt or gravel roads to break up the pavement.

You certainly don’t have to pay an entry fee to experience your own Hell of the North on wheels. However, unless you’ll have your custom Dugast or FMB pavé tubulars, your own follow vehicle and Mavic neutral support close behind, you will probably need some fast, supple, high volume yet durable tires that can withstand the hellish conditions and yet keep you floating over the rough stuff like an angel.

Yes, gravel bikes and tires have gotten bigger and bigger, and the line is starting to blur between high-volume gravel tires and mountain bike tires. But today we’re focusing on fast-rolling tires that won’t get you dropped on the pavement and that you can fit in any cyclocross bike and some road bikes, without issue.

Here’s five of our favorite “American pavé” clinchers, going from biggest to smallest, that roll well on pavement, can handle some dirt, gravel and cobbles, and aren’t so fragile you’ll be climbing in the broom wagon. Some are even tubeless.

See you at the velodrome.

Five Top Pavé / Gravel / All Road Tires:

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Soma Fabrications 38c Shikoro Tire

Soma Fab Shikoro 38c road/gravel tire offers a brown sidewall, with bead-to-bead polyamide belt protection underneath. © Cyclocross Magazine

Soma Fab Shikoro 38c road/gravel tire offers a brown sidewall, with bead-to-bead polyamide belt protection underneath. © Cyclocross Magazine

A 38mm tire might sound overkill for your own Roubaix play day, but keep in mind two things. First, 28mm is pretty much the new normal on the road, and the Shikoro is a bit undersized compared to listed width. Its 35mm-wide casing should fit just fine in any cyclocross bike built in this millennium, and the tread has no real side knobs to pack up with mud or scrape your frame or fork.

The Shikoro is a favorite due to its volume and durability. The bead-to-bead polyamide belt has been impressive—no flats over a few months of testing—and yet it doesn’t feel like you’re riding on solid rubber like with some other armored tires.

Soma Fab Shikoro 38c road/gravel tire features a minimal but directional tread that reverses for rear use. © Cyclocross Magazine

Soma Fab Shikoro 38c road/gravel tire features a minimal but directional tread that reverses for rear use. © Cyclocross Magazine

On pavement, the Shikoro rolls as smoothly as any road tire, and offroad the big footprint aids with traction. We’re not completely sure if the intricate siping or textures do all that much for grip, but at lower pressures (high 20s psi, for 155-170 lb testers), it’s been plenty grippy on all but the loosest gravel or steepest climbs.

The Shikoro comes in five widths, with a 42c being the one option that’s bigger than our test tire. The 38c Shikoro is the biggest and heaviest tire in our picks, but it’s to be expected from a tire named after a part of a samurai helmet.

Soma Fab Shikoro 38c road/gravel tire is a little undersized on a 17.5mm internal width rim at 35 psi, but still bigger than your average cyclocross tire. © Cyclocross Magazine

Soma Fab Shikoro 38c road/gravel tire is a little undersized on a 17.5mm internal width rim at 35 psi, but still bigger than your average cyclocross tire. © Cyclocross Magazine

We dig the brown sidewalls, love the durability and are impressed with the ride quality at lower pressures.

Soma Fabrications 38c Shikoro Specs:

MSRP: $59.99 ($49.99 steel bead)
Width: 38mm list, 35mm actual on 17.5mm internal width rim at 35 psi
Width Options:
23c, 28c, 33c, 38c, 42c
Tubeless: No
Weight: 38c: 430g list, 464g actual
More info: somafab.com

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