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  1. #1
    Chainstay Brake Mafia
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    Review of Compass Tires 26 x 1.75

    Compass Tires sells what may be the worlds most expensive slick tire for 26" wheels. Jan Heine has done an excellent job marketing the tire, though at $60/each, which is nearly twice the next commonly compared tire, one is left wondering: are these tires really worth the money?.. especially on a 26" wheeled bike, which commonly sell used for less than the cost of a single Compass tire?!

    Being someone who loves 26" fat tires, but doesn't spend much time off-roading, I've been interested in trying various street slicks. Until now my preferred tire has been the low price Kenda K838 tires. The K838 are labeled as 1.95" but they are over 2.1" wide due to the motorcycle tire style "lip" they have. I find the K838 to offer good traction and very little rolling resistance (at least compared to knobbies). I have them on two of my bikes and have only gotten one flat in over the two years I've used them. For the money I think the Kenda K838 are an excellent tire. But they do weigh a lot: close to 750 grams, and at higher speeds and longer riders, you can feel the effort it's taking to keep the tire spinning. After they break in it's not quite as bad, but you can still tell they are a stiff tire. They are best for short city rides, which is the primary type of riding I do.

    Not many 26" slick tires are marketed for performance. Especially with mountain bike moving away from 26" wheels, it's pretty much heavy city tires like the K838s which dominate the market. Schwalbe Big Apples are some of the more highly regarded "fat tire" slicks, but the high end Big Apples are 3x the cost and only weigh 100g less than the K838s, and the cheaper Big Apples weigh about 200g MORE and still cost 2x as much.

    When shopping for other tires, I've lusted after the Compass tires, but never been willing to take the $120 plunge for a pair. Panracer Paselas look and weigh almost the same, and are also made by the same manufacturer. Many people who have shown interest in the Compass tires express that they have been happy with the Paselas instead.. though it seems most haven't tried the Compass tires. The Pasela is about half the price so it's understandable. I prefer a completely black tire over skinwall, so I haven't looked deep into the Paselas, though I'd like to try them out, if anything simply to compare them with the Compass tires.

    So.. recently I was in the lucky position of being able to pick out a gift for myself, and I decided to choose something I would probably never spend my own money on: some Compass Tires in the 26x1.75" size. I received them, along with the Schwalbe presta tubes recommended and sold by Compass.



    This was my first time installing folding tires and it was a tiny bit different, but mostly because the tire wasn't really in the shape of a tire so you had to do a little more work to shape it on the rim. The tire was clearly more "supple" and flexible than other tires I've owned. It wasn't a problem getting it on the rim, though the tubes are a bit strange since they are labeled for 26" or 650b.. i had to inflate them a little bit before I finished mounting the tire so they wouldn't fold over inside. I found having the tube partially inflated actually made it easier to get the tire on, though I did need to deflate it a little to get the final portion over the rim.

    My immediate impression with the tires was that they looked nice, though skinnier than I was expecting for 1.75". The Compass website says the 1.75" tires are 44mm, but the package and the tires both say 42-522, and my calipers also indicated they were 42mm wide, which is 1.65". For comparison, I measured my girlfriend's 26x1.5" Geax Roadster tires, and they were actually a touch wider.

    I forgot to weigh them, but the Compass tires are lighter than the K838s by about 300 grams, and overall the bike lost 1.5 lbs, falling to 28.5.. a noticeable difference but not hugely significant at this weight point. But 1.5 lbs off the rolling weight has got to do something..

    Before riding I decided I liked the look of the K838s better on this particular ride.. mostly because the frame is a close color to the skinwall, and also I like the "aggressive" look of the fatter tire that resembles motorcycle tread more than a road bike. But how would the tires actually ride?

    1988 Univega Alpina Pro with Compass Tires 26x1.75"




    How do they ride? They ride pretty nice. I don't know if they ride $60 nice, but there were some definite advantages compared to the K838s. The most obvious advantage is SPEED. It seemed much easier to get up to and maintain higher speeds with these tires. The suppleness of the tire means that less energy is spent on causing it to deform as it rolls, and so it rolls faster. You can definitely feel this. I usually ride in the smaller ring when I'm going around town, but I found myself quickly shifting into higher gears and comfortably maintaining them, where as before I would tend to just stick in a moderate gear.

    Even though the tires were so skinny compared to what I'm used to, they felt very grippy and cornered well. I did some (very) light off-roading on grass and other non paved city surfaces and didn't feel any concern about traction. At high speeds, rough roads and off road seemed to be smoothed out, which led to increased confidence.

    The main downside I noticed was less comfort at low speed. When just cruising around, rough pavement, tiles/bricks/"cobblestones", etc were more noticeable. It seems at lower speeds, the suppleness ends up transmitting more road feel, while at high speeds it tends to reduce it. I started out my ride with the tires pumped up to ~65-70psi, which was the maximum listed on the tire, but it wasn't long before I let some air out in hopes of improving the ride. I didn't check the PSI afterward but it did help a little.

    The other negative thing I noticed (which I've heard goes away) is there was a subtle vibration on completely smooth surfaces that seemed to be caused by the tread of the tire. This wasn't huge, but I love the smooth as glass feeling of the K838s. I hope this vibration goes away as the tread breaks in.

    Overall I was more impressed with the tires than I was expecting. The increase in speed and ease of maintaining it was substantial. I haven't tried other tires with similar weight, so it's hard to say if they are a good value, but they are definitely a nice tire. If they made one in a size closer to 2" and with a black sidewall, I'd order another pair right now.

    Since the biggest benefit seems to be speed, along with increased comfort at speed, I would especially recommend this tire for commuters and tourers, basically anyone who's going far and would like to get there more quickly. If you're just tooling around the MUP or running errands around town, a lower priced tire may be more suitable and possibly even more comfortable.

    I plan to continue riding these tires on the Univega for a little while, at least until I finish up with another one of my builds (89 Jamis Dakar). I think these tires deserve a lighter frame, and I was happy with the fat tire "city bomber" look of the Univega. I will provide more feedback as the tires get more use.
    Last edited by frantik; 04-13-13 at 06:56 AM.
    1986 Diamondback Apex ~ 1988 Diamondback Ascent EX ~ 1989 Jamis Dakar
    1993 Diamondback Axis Team Titanium ~ 1995 Diamondback Apex ~ 1996 Diamondback WCF 6.0

  2. #2
    Senior Member Michael Angelo's Avatar
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    Nice write up, you've helped me make my next 26" tire purchase decision. I'm getting these..Continental Sport Contact 26X1.9

    http://www.conti-online.com/generato...ontact_en.html

  3. #3
    Chainstay Brake Mafia
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Angelo View Post
    Nice write up, you've helped me make my next 26" tire purchase decision. I'm getting these..Continental Sport Contact 26X1.9

    http://www.conti-online.com/generato...ontact_en.html
    Glad i could help you make your decision I got a pair of those Continental tires on a mtb than I picked up the other week.. been meaning on swapping them onto a different bike so I can test ride it with slicks.. maybe I will try them on the Univega too. though I don't think I feel like doing that much tire swapping
    1986 Diamondback Apex ~ 1988 Diamondback Ascent EX ~ 1989 Jamis Dakar
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  4. #4
    Cisalpinist Italuminium's Avatar
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    Nice post, Frantik! Have you tried calculating the tire pressure with the method Heine provides?
    Pass the Dutchie on the non-drive side.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Italuminium View Post
    Nice post, Frantik! Have you tried calculating the tire pressure with the method Heine provides?
    Thanks I've seen Heine's tire pressure math but his tables only go up to 175lbs in the extended version, and I think you're supposed to include the bike weight in that figure

    using the formula on this page: http://www.biketinker.com/2010/bike-...-for-bicycles/, the apparent tire pressure for a 195lbs person on 42mm tires should be 75psi (if I don't include the weight of the bike) or 87psi if I add 30lbs for the weight of the bike.

    Maybe Heine should put a disclaimer that he doesn't recommend these tires for people over 180 lbs

    edit: oops.. i never looked at the tables carefully enough before, but it seems you're supposed to calculate the psi per wheel based on weight distribution, so the recommended PSI is 40 assuming 50/50 weight distribution of 195 lbs rider + 30 lbs bike. Seems like that is verging into pinch flat territory on a skinny tire, but i'll check the psi next time i go out for a ride
    Last edited by frantik; 04-13-13 at 06:51 AM.
    1986 Diamondback Apex ~ 1988 Diamondback Ascent EX ~ 1989 Jamis Dakar
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  6. #6
    one life on two wheels cobrabyte's Avatar
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    Nice write up Frantik, thanks for taking the time. I'm planning to buy these tires in the 1.5" size for my Kogswell (built for 26" wheels)

    I've got a fair amount of experience with 26" slicks. I really think, for me at least, 26" is the best all around tire size. My current favorite 26" tire is the WTB Slicks in 26x1.5 I've used them on my Rockhopper drop bar conversion for everything from commuting to long distance touring and they just rule all roads thrown at them...dirt, gravel, brick, paved. The thing I really like about them is the ease at which I can keep a good speed. No flats after at least 1000 miles and they show very little wear


    I've used the Kenda K838s on my Renegade which I used as a porteur bike for a while, and I have to say they have been my least favorite tire I've used. The ride just feels sluggish, they feel heavy and it's tough to stay at speed, even slow they feel like they require more work to keep going. The stiff side walls don't offer a very plush ride either...they do look cool though I'll give them that, but I persoanlly won't use them again.


    For a fat tire, I much prefer the Ritchey Moby Bite 26x2.35 tires on my Ross. They roll over anything, I've even used them off -road and they are supple enough to absorb even the worst cobbles and bricks. Very little rolling resistance on paved roads. They don't offer much in flat protection though.


    My new favorite fat tire though is the 26x2.35 Schwalbe Fat Franks on my Lotus. Now THESE are great fat tires! Supple, low rolling resistance, and awesome flat protection. Reflective side walls to boot.


    I'm excited to give the Compass tires a shot, as far as a skinny road slick in 26" they really seem to offer everything I'm looking for on my Kogswell, which will basically be a rando/long distance touring build. I'm interested in how they will compare to the WTB's

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    Thanks for the tip on the Compass tires.

    I'm building our family Stumpjumper into a market bike and they sound just right from your highly detailed review.

  8. #8
    Chainstay Brake Mafia
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    Quote Originally Posted by cobrabyte View Post
    Nice write up Frantik, thanks for taking the time. I'm planning to buy these tires in the 1.5" size for my Kogswell (built for 26" wheels)
    cool.. i'd double check before ordering about the exact size of the 1.5

    I've used the Kenda K838s on my Renegade which I used as a porteur bike for a while, and I have to say they have been my least favorite tire I've used. The ride just feels sluggish, they feel heavy and it's tough to stay at speed, even slow they feel like they require more work to keep going. The stiff side walls don't offer a very plush ride either...they do look cool though I'll give them that, but I persoanlly won't use them again.
    I wouldn't disagree with your description of the K838s as far as sluggish and requiring more work to stay at speed. This improves as the tire is broken in, but it's still significant. I feel invincible when riding on them in the city though, and with intersection every hundred yards or so and most trips less than 2-3 miles, it's not a big issue for my regular riding. But when I go on longer rides or try to keep up with road bikes, I definitely notice the difference.

    I'm sure I'd notice speed improvements with a lot of tires, though I still am a fan of the k838s.


    Thanks for your quick reviews of other tires.. those WTB slicks sound like what I'd like.. to not worry about flats and still have good speed. The fat franks look pretty sweet too..
    1986 Diamondback Apex ~ 1988 Diamondback Ascent EX ~ 1989 Jamis Dakar
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  9. #9
    Senior Member JAG410's Avatar
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    I'm a big fan of the Big Apples and Fat Franks! Then again, all of my bikes have obscenely large tires on them in comparison to "stock".

  10. #10
    one life on two wheels cobrabyte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frantik View Post
    cool.. i'd double check before ordering about the exact size of the 1.5
    I actually wouldn't mind if they're a little skinny as I'm using 50mm Berthoud fenders. I've always got the fat bikes to stomp the road with lol.

    I hear ya on the Kendas, no flats to speak of when I used them and bomb-proof on any terrain. For shorter trips that's really all that matters.

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    Thanks for the review. After about a year of lusting for the Compass tires, I decided against them. I wanted more flat protection, which may be irrational, since I haven't had a flat out riding in 20+ years on this bike. But I end up on some rough dirt roads, and didn't want to risk blowing out the tire on a sharp rock. I bought the Soma Xpress tires instead. I don't know how they compare to the Paselas in either version or the Compass tires, hopefully somewhere in between, decent performance and decent protection. They come with black walls though. Too cold and rainy to have really tested them out yet here.

    http://store.somafab.com/soma-new-xp...uot-tir26.html

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    Nice write-up!

    I'm currently loving my Michelin Country Rock tires in 1.75. I have the wire-ons but I believe there's a folding version too. They are fast, comfy, and NINJA QUIET. This bike is super silent with the coaster brake, no ticking of a freewheel, and the tires are so smooth it's kind of eerie. They dont look super C&V but they are quite at home on what was my winter bike and is now my short haul single speed.

    Sorry for the instragram shots, it's all I've got for now : http://instagram.com/p/XOMAQwqw1I/ && http://instagram.com/p/X0xUuRqw3F/

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    omg yes!


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    Sometimes, when you upgrade tires, you notice that they're better than your previous tires but you don't appreciate the new tires fully right away. Your appreciation might grow over time. I say that without using the tires you're speaking of, but it's a trend I notice.
    I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter. --Blaise Pascal

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  15. #15
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Thanks for the review and pics!

    Quote Originally Posted by frantik View Post
    Maybe Heine should put a disclaimer that he doesn't recommend these tires for people over 180 lbs

    edit: oops.. i never looked at the tables carefully enough before, but it seems you're supposed to calculate the psi per wheel based on weight distribution, so the recommended PSI is 40 assuming 50/50 weight distribution of 195 lbs rider + 30 lbs bike. Seems like that is verging into pinch flat territory on a skinny tire, but i'll check the psi next time i go out for a ride
    Based on 225 lbs total and assuming a 45/55 weight distribution, I get recommended pressures of 45 and 55 psi on 37mm tires -- as your tires are 42mm, you could almost treat these as a maximum. Frank Berto's original article discusses minimum MTB tire pressures, and I get 31.5 and 38.5 psi for 26" x 1.6" tires there. (Sorry if this comes across as meddlesome, but I really like to geek out about tires. )
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    Sometimes, when you upgrade tires, you notice that they're better than your previous tires but you don't appreciate the new tires fully right away. Your appreciation might grow over time. I say that without using the tires you're speaking of, but it's a trend I notice.
    Yes, I am interested to see how I feel about these tires over time. I'm also interested to see if I may appreciate them more once i swap the old tires back on. After the test ride on my Alpina, I went to the grocery store on my 86 Apex which has cheap K838 tires on it, and I was noticing the difference in the ride and thinking it'd be nice to try them on that bike to. I just wish these tires were a little bigger.. I think that would help with low speed comfort more

    Sorry if this comes across as meddlesome, but I really like to geek out about tires.
    i think a tire review thread is the appropriate place to geek out
    1986 Diamondback Apex ~ 1988 Diamondback Ascent EX ~ 1989 Jamis Dakar
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    Chainstay Brake Mafia
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    Quote Originally Posted by Italuminium View Post
    Nice post, Frantik! Have you tried calculating the tire pressure with the method Heine provides?
    i did the math and for me it should be 30psi front/50psi rear.. 50 in the rear doesn't sound bad but 30 up front i'm no so sure about. I may try something closer to that though, for fun if nothing else
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  18. #18
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    Thanks a lot for this review.

    I put a lot of thought into tires for my honey's drop-bar MB2 "road bike". The Compass tires were near the top of the list, but cost won the day and the bike got non-TourGuard 26 x 1.5" Paselas instead. I was impressed by how supple (i.e. plush and fast) the 26 x 1.5" Paselas are. They feel almost as fast as the Challenge tires I run on my road bike.

    Next, I wanted some road tires to let my Rockhopper winter bike do summer duty for shopping/commuting/locking up in public. It's built up with North Road bars and a Rhyno Lite / Dynohub / 2-speed coaster wheelset. Again, the Compass tires were considered and rejected on cost. This bike got 26 x 1.75" non-TourGuard Paselas and again I'm impressed with how fast and comfortable they are. I'm running about 40PSI at about 200# combined bike and rider weight.

    You've convinced me that the Compass tires are the perfect tires for a fast road bike with 26" wheels. Since the upright position of the Rockhopper is so inefficient, I'm not sure the extra speed or plushness of the Compass tires would be noticeable anyway.

    When I emailed Jan for more information about them, he described them as basically "Grand Bois Hetres made to fit on MTB wheels". They look like Paselas because the cost of a custom mold is *really* high -- it would probably not be affordable to commission custom tooling for such a highly specialized niche tire. Most folks that are willing to pay top dollar for snobby tires want them in 700c or 650b, not ISO 559.

    If he ever manages to wear out the Paselas on the MB-2, I think I'll replace them with the Compass tires.

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    I'm curious about what the SOMA Xpress tires weigh. Didn't see it on their site.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrEss View Post
    I was impressed by how supple (i.e. plush and fast) the 26 x 1.5" Paselas are...
    If he ever manages to wear out the Paselas on the MB-2, I think I'll replace them with the Compass tires.
    I'd love to hear a comparison of those two tires... nobody complains about the Paselas that i've seen
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    NT... Big Difference...
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrEss View Post
    I was impressed by how supple (i.e. plush and fast) the 26 x 1.5" Paselas are.
    My wife had these 1.5" Bontraeger tires on her old bike. When I got a set of the 1.5" Paselas for mine, I was shocked at how small they seemed next to the Bontraegers. The 1.75" Paselas were much closer than the 1.5" version.

    I'm actually torn as to which I like better.
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    So I was wrong about the compass tires being the most expensive road slicks for 26".. the Schwalbe Marathon Racer is $80/tire! Their 26x1.75 tire is listed as 47-559 which appeals more to me than 42mm..

    http://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_ti...thon_racer_429

    and the Marathon Supreme in 50mm width is $85.. jeez
    Last edited by frantik; 04-15-13 at 05:03 AM.
    1986 Diamondback Apex ~ 1988 Diamondback Ascent EX ~ 1989 Jamis Dakar
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    Butting in to recommend the Michelin Tracker Pilot. They're $22 in a 1.85 (true to size) and heavy, but great on road and off with very low rolling resistance. I've been riding them in the snow, light singletrack, and everyday to work.
    commuter turned bike mechanic turned commuter (also a Velocity USA employee, but this is my personal account)

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    ^ thanks, keep the recommendations coming

    i took another (brief) test ride tonight.. I had just spent hours pedicabbing, and had taken a bike with some cheap tires to work. my legs were tired and the short ride home wasn't super fun. but i was hungry so i decided to go back out and grab some food, taking the Alpina with the Compass tires this time. I found myself actually enjoying the ride, going fast and not even feeling that tired. These tires make it a pleasure to go fast, where with the K838s you have to work hard to go fast and the ride isn't nearly as smooth.

    I still really don't like the skinwall with the Alpina, but I'm pretty sure if I want to go back to the cheapo Kendas either. These Compass tires are motivating me to finish up my Jamis which I think will look great with them. I'm also considering getting another pair for my grocery getter 86 Apex, though I'm not sure (mostly concerned about puncture resistance..). I do know that being exposed to quality tires has definitely made me realize what i've been missing. I didn't know there could be that much difference in ride quality from one tire to the next. I've been riding for a few years now on klunky tires.. but NO MORE
    1986 Diamondback Apex ~ 1988 Diamondback Ascent EX ~ 1989 Jamis Dakar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frantik View Post
    mostly concerned about puncture resistance...
    Jan rides a lot more miles than I do (remember that he's the only person to have ever worn out rootboy's brass-wired tire savers) and is of the opinion that lower tire pressure *is* a method of achieving puncture resistance.

    For example, he talks about getting 5000 flat-free KMs out of a pair of Grand Bois Hetre tires; the Compass tires are meant to be "Hetres that fit mountain bike wheels" so I would expect similar performance.

    I still wouldn't commute on the Compass tires or any nice tires if you live in a scrap-metal yard, glass recycling center, or other pathological location. (Does Goathead Thorn country count as pathological?)

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