Challenge_Paris-Roubaix_27mm_wide-adventure-road-gravel-race-tire_rear

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…

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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.

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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_Strada-Bianca_30mm_wide-adventure-road-gravel-race-tire_actual-weight-318g Challenge_Paris-Roubaix_27mm_wide-adventure-road-gravel-race-tire_actual-weight-313g

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.

Challenge_Strada-Bianca_30mm_wide-adventure-road-gravel-race-tire_actual-width-31-6-mm Challenge_Paris-Roubaix_27mm_wide-adventure-road-gravel-race-tire_actual-width-29-2-mm

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

ChallengeTech.it

30 COMMENTS

  1. Nothing but bad luck with both of those tires. Loved the ride quality, but at that price repeated sidewall blowouts at the beads of the open tubulars made me steer clear of them.

    • I see “MS” has a comment further down relating to a very similar experience from the sounds of it. Can you just clarify what you mean by “blowouts”? I usually take that word to mean that the sidewall of the tire failed creating a hole in the casing, but from the rest of your comment it sounds like the bead did not hold tight to the rim and instead it was more of a “blowoff”. Not trying to be pedantic, just hoping to understand the nature of the problem fully.

      • I bought some Strada Open Corsa 25mm last week and a mate bought Strada Bianca 30mm. I had the front blow off the rim, as in the bead popped off, not due to sidewall damage. My mate said his blew off his rims 3 times in one ride. The importer (Australia) refunded them saying there is quite an issue with rim compatibility with Challenge tyres. I’m just glad my front tyre blew off while riding straight at 15km’h instead of 50km’h around a corner ! Sort it out Challenge !

      • I’m going to add this because the question of competency in fitting the tyres might come up. Have been a bike mech for 15 years and my mate has been in the industry for as long. Writing that makes me sound like a douche but I hope it gives some perspective.

    • I have had repeated issues with Challenge beads. I have had two sets of Challenge Strada 25mm tires and, whilst the ride was superb, on both sets the rear tire failed at the bead, coming away from the carcass. I had the tires replaced under warranty both times, but have since switched to Vittoria Paves. Rim was a Pacenti SL23.

      I like tires; I love the feel of Challenge tires; I would have to think long and hard before I buy another set.

  2. Strada biancas are nice tires. Good ride. Bigger glass and debris will slice right through them though and leave a significant gash in the tire. Although it was an infrequent occurrence and total flats minimal.

  3. Been riding these tires on and off pavement for the last 6 years since they were called ‘Eroica’. I’ll get about 2-3k mi from a rear tire which is phenomenal for such a high TPI. All those years I’ve maybe had 2 flats. Best performing big road clincher around.

    • I had a similar incident. I rode my new bike (1 week old) 11 miles to work and locked it up. The tires were inflated to 120 PSI and everything was fine when I parked it. 2 hours later my co-worker arrived and both the front and rear tires had blown off the rims and of course the tubes were ruined. I took it back to the shop where I bought the bike and they replaced the defective Strada Bianca Challenge tires with Gatorskins. I have not had any problems with the Gatorskins.

      I noticed that in the review above they state “We’ve never put more than ~65 psi into either set, …” It seems to me that the review would be more helpful if they actually inflated the tires to the recommended pressure.

      • @CommuterTom. If fact, we did inflate these to around 110psi when we seated them to the rims and they were stretching into shape after first installation. But, we never rode them like that.
        There is no reason for our 55-80kg testers to ever ride a 30mm wide road tire at more than max 70 or 80psi. Anything higher than that and you miss all of the benefits of comfort and low resistance you get with these big tires. Even down to 50psi on normal roads the tires were predictable in corners, and we never had an issue with bottoming them out on road irregularities or debris.

        We know from speaking with tire industry folks that it is mostly liability that keeps them from listing lower pressure ranges for their tires, and even then the Challenge PR is recommended down to 75 psi, and the SB down to 60psi.

        Sure we can’t speak to them staying on the rim at 150 or 175psi for extended periods of time, but we would suggest trying to reap the benefits of lower pressures to start.

  4. Maybe not an apples-to-apples comparison, but I experienced the same issues as above with the Strada 700×25 with latex tubes mounted on Zipp 303 FC. Fortunately no blowouts/blowoffs while out on the road, but 5 times in a row the sidewall blew off the rim shortly after completing our ride. Love the feel and ride but no thanks!

  5. Give me a Vittoria Pave at 30-34mm, preferably a tubular – tubeless would be ok too if Vittoria would/could.

    The Pave’s cotton/kevlar 320tpi casing is just super tough on gravel roads or rocky semi-paved assents & decents. Love my 27mm pave tubs (and even my 24mm’s) but i’d like something significantly wider as i’ve got a new disc TI frameset on its way with room for 39mm to replace my 10 years old Merlin Works CR3/2.5.

  6. Hi Cory, from your pictures it seems that your callipers were pressing the tire walls a bit, which will have made the measured values slightly too low. I measure a full 30mm for the Strada Bianca on a 15mm rim.

    • hi Frank, they weren’t pressing at all, the Strada Bianca picture you see is with the callipers resting loose on the front tire, propped against the texture of the wall on the right so they don’t actually fall off.

    • Both pictures are without pressing much on the tire. Perhaps the shadows make it hard to tell. It does seem that both of these tires are a bit bigger than labelled. Their soft handmade nature also means there is both a bit of variation from one to the next, as well as the fact that they do stretch a bit after having been highly inflated for a while. We’ve also seen that even the shape of the bead hook seems to have upwards of 1mm effect on the width after getting different readings on two rims that otherwise had the same internal rim width. Key takeaway: variation.

  7. I’ve had the same problem with these Eroica/Strada Bianca tires blowing off the rim. First time I was driving to an event with the bike inside my car… scared the crap out of me. Second time was while jra at 24mph on a road ride. 60psi. The rear tire came off the rim causing the tube to shear in half and wrap around the rear brake… rear wheel came to an immediate stop thus shredding the tire and grinding the rim into the asphalt. That one cost me about $200 in repairs. Both times I was using a Stans alpha road rim. Now I’m using bontrager tubeless wheels with tubes and haven’t had a blowout yet. I don’t go over 45psi and remove the air from the tires when I’m not riding them. It seems like they tend to stretch a lot over time. Once my new tires arrive, I’ll be removing these promptly and never going back.

  8. i’ve experience rim blow off when using thick rim tape (velox cloth. Swapping to thinner tape / plastic rim strips removed the issue. And never had issues on rims that are tubeless ready. The woven supply casing doesn’t have the grip against a rim of rubber coated sidewall, so needs to be seated perfectly.
    used on Rolf, zipp carbon, pro-lite, and other alloy rims of varying widths, on two different bikes.

    The ride is worth the perseverance to get the wheel set up, imo.

    • They do ride very well but the risk is absolutely not worth it. A blowout at speed around a corner is not something anyone should be worrying about. I would not persevere with anything having that in the back of my mind.

  9. It is the same name. Strada Bianca means “(A) White street”. Strade Bianche would be plural, “(The) White Streets”.

  10. I originally got the Paris-Roubaix for the Rouge Roubaix road race last year (http://www.rougeroubaix.com/) and have never gone back. No flats, no blow-offs and great traction and am able to run them at 75 psi.

    Vitals: I’m around 160lbs and have them running on a frame rated for 28mm tires with an Enve 3.4 wheelset and got about 4000+ miles on the first set.

    Items to Note: Once they stretched out, they measured wider, about 31mm or so, but they tend to run flatter, so there were no clearance issues with the brakes or fork. Also, they were a beast to mount first time! However, the trick I learned was to mount the first side, then put a lightly inflated talcumed tube in to give you a form to push the tire around to seat the other side.

    My new pair went on smoothly last week and are ready to Rouge this Sunday!

    • I used the Parigi Roubaix version these tyres a few years ago. They where an absolutely lovely tyre that rolled like nothing else I have experienced. They where so supple that rough gravel roads felt like hot mix. I experience only a couple of flats in 10000km and no tyre blow offs mounted on my Mavic Open Pros and old MA40’s. There only down fall was that tread is hand glued and as such pieces would get chunked off on really roacky roads.

  11. I’ve loved my Challenge tires from the last 2 years, but several years back they had some issues with the tread coming unglued over time. It appears that they’ve tightened up QC and now these are some of the longest-lasting tires I’ve ever owned. I’ve put my Paris-Roubaixs through hell and they haven’t flinched.

  12. Similar experiences to those above – I’ve done 1,200 miles on a set of the Strada Bianca at reasonable pressures (70-90 PSI), had three punctures from glass/flint going straight through the tyre. At the weekend I put them up to about 110 PSI (as instructed by the manufacturer) and after 50 miles had a blowout (bang!) with the front tyre coming off the rims and the inner tube shredded. I suspect these tyres are safer at lower pressures than Challenege recommend.

  13. Challenge Strada Bianca – Italian Fopa

    I feel obliged to describe my experience since I bought these tires based on excellent reviews..

    My experience is very, I repeat very bad..

    It’s been a pain since a bought them and I didn’t enjoy one moment of joy.. only frustration..

    There are three main factors that contributed to me going and writing this review.. (otherwise I never bother to write reviews)

    1. Can’t handle higher pressures.. tire just pops out of rims with tube exploding.. this happened multiple times and now it’s just a regular occurrence even with low pressures.. first time it happened at 80psi.. now can’t even handle 70, so I have to ride on 60 and I worry all the time that it just happens again.. already spent a fortune on tubes

    2. Very bad on wet road.. be prepared that the bike doesn’t stop and just keeps rolling despite you brake as hard as you want..

    3. Puncture protection probably the weakest of all tires I’ve owned..

    So the main question i ask myself where does all these good reviews come from?

  14. Mixed experiences here…
    I have a PB pair coming…the plan is to ride them in 17i and 22,5i rims at below 60 psi (I’m 170 lb). I’m always fine with less air then Berto chart (https://janheine.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/tire-pressure-take-home/). Compass recommendation for 32 is 90 psi max. I don´t see the point to go so high with my weight. I run Conti 37 (actual 34) at ~50.
    Maybe you would like to see Enve “Recommended Max Tire Pressure for Given Rim & Tire Volume Combo on Gravel Road Surfaces” sugestions: https://enve.com/lp/g-series/
    I think wider rims can better support the tire sidewalls from blowoff too, I´m wrong?

  15. I wish I’d found the comments section of this review before I was convinced by my LBS to try some Strada Biancas. I had no trouble with blowouts or punctures because I couldn’t get the #$%* things on a rim—and I tried a few (I have many years experience with bikes so experience isn’t an issue). I tried for about 5 hours over two days (!) and could not get them anywhere near onto a rim. I’ve since read of other people having similar problems. After I’d given up I remembered that I’d tried some Parigi-Roubaix some years ago. I’d obviously blocked the experience from my mind because they were without doubt the worst tyres I’ve ever had (until these, I guess). Multiple punctures in the first week. Easily cut. Fragile & fast wearing. Rode like splodge and slipped in the wet. I persisted with them for two weeks by which time the rear tyre was square it had worn so much, and the front was nearly bald. C#$% tyres. I have no idea how Challenge get such good reviews. Jan Heine recommended them, then I read that he had a hand in their design (is it true?) which turned me off Compass tyres for a long time until I tried some 35 mm Bon Jon Pass XLs which are probably the best all round tyres I’ve ever had—supple, fast, long wearing. 32 mm Stampede Pass XLs are good too. I wouldn’t use Challenge tyres if they gave me a gold bar with each one. (BTW, they don’t respond to complaints on their online site.)

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