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Solving for X

Although we're struggling with how best to make them easy to order on our current site, we've been selling a lot of tires to go along with wheels lately. We think this is a great thing for several reasons.

First, with all of the stuff we've learned about wheels - widths, depths, aerodynamics, tension drop, stiffness, spoking, and all of the etcetera - it's hard not to come to the conclusion that being wheel builders and wheel sellers is as much about selling "tire holders" as it is selling wheels. 

Wheels can certainly augment the appropriateness of a tire to a certain use case, while similarly a wheel can really be the wrong match for any given tire. "What tires do you plan to use" has steadily crept up the pecking order of questions we ask when discussing a wheel purchase with a client. And similarly, there is always the "oh man, yuck, why would you buy wheels that great and use those tires on them?" (looking at you, Gatorskins) 

After we get through the consult that lets us come up with a wheel recommendation, if you hadn't come in with a tire in mind, we've almost certainly got a strong candidate in mind for you. Which is the foundation of our "Solving for X" mindset. 

A small subset of the solutions for "x"

Solving for "x" is simply an approach where we apply what we've learned in seven years of unhealthy obsessing about wheels and everything related to them plus just plain too much awareness of what's on the market, which tires have the best rolling resistance/had the best puncture resistance/have good durability/corner the best/blah blah blah to the question of getting you on the ideal combo. 

Not everyone has the same mission. Maximizing performance in crits is different than maximizing road race or gran fondo or certainly gravel grinder performance. It's overall "performance" rather than any single compenent of performance that counts, and that's where we think we can be the most help. 

We're happy to share our recommendations with you, but having us supply the tires works even better. For one thing, when we supply the tires, your wheels will get a final adjustment with your tires installed on them. Not that there are enormous differences o be made there, but there are small ones. The tires that you put on a wheel affect the wheel, as well as the reverse being true. 

perfectly adjusted and ready to go (except apparently sideways)

For another thing, it's pretty nice to just pull your wheels out of the box and be able to inflate them to final pressure (we ship them with minimal pressure) and go. Tubeless tires bought with wheels include valve, tire and sealant installation, while tubed tires go set up for tubed use. We can of course also supply cassettes and rotors installed to make things really really ready to go.

The more we learn, the more we learn just how freaking important tires are and how much benefit there is to be had from them, and we're excited to keep pursuing a total solution approach.

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Reader Comments (14)

I'd love to get your take on Compass Tires with your unique scientific approach. I've used tons of Contis (GP 4000s, Four Seasons, etc), Schwalbes (Marathon, Big Bens, etc.), Specialized (various Armadillos), and I'm starting to experiment with Compass and their selling point is that they use extremely supple casing combined with lower pressure.

This allows tires to roll faster and feel more supple, but also be more puncture resistant, as the tires conform around debris, rather than have them cut through. It's this last point I am most skeptical of and concerned about, given they forego puncture protection casing.

Any chance you guys carry Compass Tires or compare them to other tires in the future? I would highly recommend reading their various writings on tire philosophy (they were one of the original proponents of wider tires, lower pressure, and 650b wheels).

March 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterChris K

You are not the only person to mention Compass to us in response to this blog! We have no direct firsthand experience with them, but we have reached out to them to see about working with them. My personal experience is that flats come in so many different shapes and colors from so many different sources that it's really difficult to figure out how to lab-replicate them in any way. I mean sure there's the "push a pin in at so much pressure and what happens" thing, but the tiny tiny little piece of glass that gets embedded? Or the stray steel strand from a truck tire that wiggles its way in?

As far as rolling faster, I mean I guess you have to take them at their word that they roll fast, right? Whether they're Vittoria Corsa G+ Graphene fast I can't say but they clearly aren't Gatorskins either.

March 30, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdave

I've just ordered their Babyshoe Pass Extralight (650b x 42mm) for $90.75 ($78 + shipping). Mind you this is for ONE tire...the most I've ever spent on a single bike tire. Hope it's worth it.

I've tried the Panaracer Pasela PT (480g/tire, sluggish to accelerate, ok suppleness), then Panaracer Gravel King (350g/tire, livelier and very supple), and these Compass Babyshoe Pass Extralight (362g/tire, also made by Panaracer) is supposed to be amazingly supple, so will be interesting to see.

Check out Compass / Jan Heine's blog:

March 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterChris K

Ok, your dislike of Gatorskins is apparent in your comments. I will shamefully admit that I'm currently running 28c Gatorskins on my year-round commuter bike, having replaced a set of Maxxis Re-fuse tires that had worn out. I do not have them setup tubeless...

I will say that I have not had a puncture with these tires yet, knock on wood, through all kinds of PNW nastiness. When these are done, and it seems likely that it should be soon, what is your recommended long wearing tire? Also, I'm interested in pulling the trigger on converting these wheels to tubeless (converted my cross set and it has been working great).

Thanks as always!!

March 31, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterScott Booth

I just have to say that if the tire ain't road tubeless, I ain't interested.
Sorry Compass, Challenge, Michelin, Conti, you're missing the boat with your "not invented here" attitude, just like Campy when they stopped making mtb groups and now they still haven't got disc brakes!

March 31, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterT. Guy

@T. Guy, Compass makes several tubeless tires and they are very durable and smooth-rolling tires.

April 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEddie

Scott - Yeah I just think there are better tires out there for solving that particular x. I'm fairly certain that GP4000s offer about the same level of flat protection as Gatorskins. I've done a lot of miles on GP 4 Seasons this winter and I'm not in love with them by any means, but they're a nice compromise between those two, and the grip is great. For a durable tubeless, the best for me had been Schwalbe One but that's gone now. Maxxis Padrone is a great balance of fast, supple, grip, and durability. New Hutchinsons have come out, so while my last foray into their road tubeless was Fusion 3 (don't love them at all for speed/feel, but they will not wear out - on the commute bike) at some point we'll need to reinvestigate what's up there. But for a now decision, Maxxis.

T Guy - Eddie beat me to it on the Compass. About to order some to give them a try, in fact. Of road wheel builds we shipped with tires installed this past week, clinchers edged tubeless by a small margin. My guess is that people are more willing to try tubeless when they don't have to set it up themselves. People are dominantly buying GP4000s with latex tubes for clinchers (again - latex may be a thing people are happy to have us help with) and Schwalbe Pro One has a huge lead in tubeless, with Maxxis Padrone the other one. And we've been sending out a bizarre number of cross tires, given that #cxiscoming but not any time soon.

In any case, we're definitely not "it's this way or the highway" on tubed or tubeless. We're happy to share experience and advice and clarify facts, but there are plenty of good arguments for both and there's a place for both.

April 1, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdave

It's true Compass has durable, smooth rolling tires, and some are tubeless, but nothing tubeless smaller than 32c. I really need 28c or 30c max. Or else a new frame!

I thought the previous Schwalbe One was outstanding, with great durability, and the new Pro One rubber is not as long wearing. Still I wear them out without any punctures

For me, at my weight, (150#) and on my current bike, Schwalbe Pro Ones in 28c take me the farthest and in 25c go the fastest.
Solution for x. QED.

April 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterT. Guy

So GP 4000s with latex tubes is a safe bet? What kind of mileage does on get out of them (barring tears/punctures)? Gatorskins may ride like crap, but I've got over 5K on one, and that was the rear that spent 2 winters on a trainer in addition to lots of outside use.

April 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Mike - GP4000s with latex tubes are a great bet. Can't quote mileage because it varies with road conditions, rider weight, inflation pressure, blah blah blah blah blah. I'm also pretty sure that if you use on a trainer, they don't really wear at all. I've got like I don't know 40 hours plus a couple hundred outside miles on a pair of Specialized fancy whatevers (not the cotton ones) that we bought to find out how big they are and you know we never let stuff go unused, and they look BRAND new. That's not at all unusual. Tires with glued on treads (open tubulars and fancy CX tubulars) get NUKED on a trainer but vulcanized tires do fine. I pump to 100 for trainer.

T. Guy - Yeah they don't do low volume tires tubeless at Compass. There are plenty of reasons that make sense with their whole product outlook, but that just makes them not a product for your X. There are tons of other solutions.

April 3, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdave

T. Guy - I just saw a blog post of Compass tires visiting Panaracer to discuss Tubeless tires. The comments sections are interesting. In short, Compass will likely go increasingly Tubeless but they're waiting for standards to be set and their challenge is making it work for their extremely supple casing.

April 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterChris K

dave- there are indeed tons of other solutions, that's why solving for x, and economics in general, is not really quantifiable.

Chris K.- great to hear Compass is expanding their line, I'm all about more (tubeless) solutions for x.

April 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterT. Guy

T. Guy - Agreed. Solving for x is a qualification, not a quantification. You take knowable and sometimes quantifiable parameters, toss them into the blender in quantities relevant to priorities, and you come out with either a great answer or a greenish brown mess.

April 6, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdave

Quick update on Compass Bon Jon Pass Extralight 650b 42mm tires after 150 miles of testing. The ride quality is amazing, the best I've experienced. Puncture resistance, not enough miles to say...hopefully it holds up.

April 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterChris K

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