With a name inspired by the white gravel roads of Tuscany, and the race of the almost same name that just was ridden this past weekend, the Strada Bianca is a fat 30mm mixed-surface tire ready for any road surface. The Paris-Roubaix, named for an even more storied race, is a bit thinner at 27mm and a bit more supple for a racier ride that is still up for anything.
Produced by Italian tire maker Challenge in both tubular and open tubular (read: high-end, supple clincher) variants, they deliver a solid option to glue something to your tubular cyclocross wheels for the warmer months or a year-round tire for the growing crop of wide clearance adventure road bikes.
We’ve been riding both since the fall, so roll past the break to see how they have carried us over some rough roads…
The casing of both tires is made of a SuperPoly cotton-polyester blend, with thread counts similar to other mid to high-end Challenge products, 260 TPI for both tubular and open tubular versions of the Strada Bianca and 300 TPI for the Paris-Roubaix. Both tires are also made in two color options, tan for a classy look and a more stealthy black, making it easier to color coordinate with the rest of your modern bike.
Moving from threads to treads, both sport a subtle shallow herringbone pattern in their siped rubber from center across the shoulder. While the minimal tread isn’t needed on smooth or wet surfaces, it does offer a bit of well needed extra grip on rough asphalt roads and through turns littered with washed out sand and grit from the winter. Plus, with appropriately low pressures all of those tiny edges provide enough bite for smooth gravel and dirt, when it’s dry.
Challenge’s data sheet list the Strada Bianca at 355g per tire, but out pair weighed in at just 318 & 321g. The Paris-Roubaix is claimed at 330g, while our set were 312/313g. Pairing them with Challenge’s latex inner tubes (of which ours run from ~55-75g a piece for both smaller and wider variants) makes for a fairly lightweight setup in the adventure road category, with a pretty smooth ride. Both tires have a retail price of about $75/70€ setting them in the premium camp, although we’ve seen them sold often for less than that.
While Challenge claims 30mm and 27mm for the tire widths, the actual size for the open tubulars we have on test has varied a bit but always was wider than claimed. Of course width depends on the rims you select, but mounted on a set of DT Swiss R23 clinchers with an 18mm inner width, the Strada Bianca actually measure 31.6mm, and the Paris-Roubaix 29.2mm. Even dropping down to an old-standard 15mm internal rim, only knocked off about 1mm of width, so keep that in mind if you are trying to stuff a new wide tire on your current steed (or L’Eroica vintage steel stallion).
And speaking of mounting, because of their layered construction, the open tubulars are packed flat, like totally flat, out of the box. Since they are not precurved to their inflated shape, the first time you mount them, they don’t hold a rounded profile well and can be very difficult to hook onto the rim, especially the second bead after putting a tube in them. Once they are seated, however, with the inner tube inflated, they stretch nicely into shape so the issue goes away. No need to worry about fighting with them on the roadside while fixing a puncture. Although that’s not likely to be much of a problem anyway. The red double puncture protection strip (PPS) on the inside of the tire does an admirable job of keeping you inflated.
Riding the tires for more than 6 months this fall and winter under four different riders out crunching long base miles on the wet, salted roads of Europe covered in grit, we suffered exactly zero punctures in over 3000km. The Strada Bianca’s have seen better than 2/3s of that riding, yet their tread shows just a bit of wear on the central sipes, with just the odd tiny cut here and there. They also did their job well under our women’s testers during last year’s Rapha Prestige Dolomites, where both Strada Bianca and Paris-Roubaix clinchers carried them through the mountain passes and across a couple of rough dirt, gravel, and cobble sections thrown into the mix for good measure.
Challenge officially recommends riding the fatter tires inflated to 6-9 bar (90-130 psi) and narrower (and more supple) ones at 5-12 bar (75-175 psi), but when we talked to them in person it was clear that was more a suggestion for safe upper limits. That does seem overly excessive to us and would provide for a very rough ride overall on all but the smoothest surfaces. We’ve never put more than ~65 psi into either set, and only when expecting smooth roads ahead. More often than not, having the pressure between 45-50 psi suited each of our light test riders (most weighing between 50-70kg/110-150lbs) over a mix of surfaces. For those who ride on especially rough gravel (our stones tends not to be too big or sharp) or just need tires to perform better in the wet off-road, it might be better looking to Challenge’s wider and knobbier 33mm Almanzo (formerly known as the Grifo XS) and 36mm Gravel Grinder.
After spending the better part of the wet autumn and winter on these tires, we are looking forward to keeping them on the cross bikes over the spring and summer months, eating dust exploring field and forest roads, with the occasional single track and asphalt connectors in between.