Does the Paris Roubaix classic inspire you to conquer your own Hell of the North? Or yesterday's Strade Bianche make you want to follow Wout van Aert and brave the snow in search of your own gravel "instant classic?"
Today we're revisiting a round-up of some of our favorite tires for your own mixed terrain fun.
There are countless "white road" and "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. Today in Italy, the amateurs get their chance to test themselves on the course and 50km of gravel. 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 or Strade Bianche 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. These don't need to withstands the sharp rocks of Dirty Kanza or Lost and Found.
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.
We hope they help transport you successfully to Siena or Roubaix, or your own gravel glory.
Five Top Pavé / Gravel / All Road Tires:
Challenge Strada Bianca Pro 36c Open Tubular
It’s hard to keep Challenge Tires’ model names straight, but the new 36mm Strada Bianca Pro open tubular is the company’s biggest knob-less open tubular and the one we’re most excited about.
Sure, the company offers a tire named after the Queen of the Classics itself, the Paris Roubaix (formerly Parigi Roubaix), but that model’s width, at 27mm, is quite narrow even by today’s road standards. The newly-released 36mm version of the Strada Bianca Pro (formerly called Eroica) is named after the famed Strade Bianche race filled with 50k of dirt roads—likely surfaces conditions closer to what your own spring classic will include.
The Strada Bianca is available in tanwall or black. Our 36mm test tire measured out to be 34mm on a 17mm rim (35 psi). Although a tad undersized, that generous volume, paired with the open tubular, 260 tpi construction, makes for a comfortable ride. When you hit the bumps or cobbles, the high volume tire transforms into what’s best described as a “muted” ride. Bumps and road noise fade away.
The herringbone tread has little to offer for grip on loose gravel or wet surfaces, but it’s similar to what many professional classics hunters use. With lower tire pressure, you’ll find grip is surprisingly good. Pair with a latex tube for lower rolling resistance and pinch protection.
Our test tire was 20 grams lighter than spec at 353 grams.
Challenge Strada Bianca Pro 36 Open Tubular Specs:
Width: 36mm list, 34mm actual on 17mm internal width rim at 35 psi
Width Options: 30c, 36c
Weight: 36c: 375g list, 353g actual
More info: challengetech.it