07 April, 2009

Challenge Tires

We've decided to start stocking two models of Challenge tires. As you may know, Challenge is among the last companies producing hand made tires. Dugast, Veloflex, and one model of Gommitalia are the only others I'm aware of. Andre Dugast makes some nice wide touring tubulars that cost a fortune. Veloflex makes a selection of expensive racing tires and Gommitalia makes a well regarded racing tubular. So for the randonneur or cyclo-tourist who wants clinchers, the two models of Challenge are about it.

Hnad made tires are said to offer a superior ride, lower rolling resistance, and very high quality as compared to production tires. Of course hand made tires are expensive; some cost well over $200; the two models we sell are a fairly reasonable $65

The Parigi-Roubaix model is a clintcher, nominally 27mm wide, though it sits 1-2mm wider on many rims. It weighs around 280g, has a 260tpi casing, and is said to have very low rolling resistance.

We are also stocking the 32mm wide Griffo XS in both traditional and white colors. The Griffo is intended as a tire for hard packed cyclo cross courses, but it's also a great tire for cyclists who ride both on pavement and on dirt and crushed stone trails

Both models share the following:

  • All Challenge tires are completely hand-made.
  • Tread is glued onto fully-inflated casing to achieve a neutral tread state when tires are in use
  • Casing fabric is woven from thread spun at the Challenge manufacturing facility
  • Reinforced polyester casing provides added resistance to moisture damage
  • 260tpi reinforced polyester casing for excellent moisture resistance and durability
  • Anti-puncture strip included in tire casing
I'll be putting the Parigi Roubaix tires on the VO production Rando frame tomorrow and hope to offer a full ride report in a few weeks.


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid those would just hop right off my wheels in disgust. They look really nice, though.

Jerome said...

You guys continue to amaze me. Great job you are doing. I'm so stoked that you are bringing the type of bicycle parts that you bring. Well done, keep up the great work.


Horrible Old Man said...

how do these compare to the grand boise (not a fan to easy to puncture) or conti 4 seasons?

Unknown said...

Excellent news. I'll be ordering a pair of those 700x27 tires at some point.

Old Man - just in case you weren't aware - the conti GP 4 season doesn't come close to measuring true-to-size. I have a couple of pairs that are marked as 700x28 but in reality they're between a 25 and 26 - a substantial difference in my opinion.

Horrible Old Man said...

on my rims the 4 season in 28 measure 27, so I'm not that worried. It's very common for tires to be a bit smaller then advertised.

Pandorazb Ox said...

I would love to try some of the following for free and submit my review. I am sure I could generate a lot of sales for VO iffen I be liking them

Pandorazb Ox said...


George Swain said...

Nice tires. Question, though. My Conti GP 4000 say "Handmade in Germany" on the sidewall. Is this not true?

Just curious about the state of handmade tires these days. I'm pretty happy with the GP 4000s in 25m but I'm looking for something wider for LEL this summer.

Jonathan said...

I ride on the Roubaix tubulars, and they are some of the best tires I have ever ridden. They are definitely a wide tire (none of that size-changin' goin' on.) and very supple. Just soaks up the road.

Haven't ridden the clincher versions, but if they're even half as good as the tubulars, then that's still a great tire!

Anonymous said...

Great tires, now if they could make the 27mm Roubaix in solid black or white with black like the Grifo's XS. Can you put in a request for this ??????

I love the Grifo's but unfortunately they won't fit my frames. I really really miss the old style Vittoria Cross XN (non-pro) that is no longer being made but the Challenges are better tires.

These tires will make your frame feel like a million dollars.



james said...

Do you have any photographic evidence of the handwork? I have never seen a single photo of the process.

Harold Harque' said...

I found a very interesting ( IMHO anyway) blurb on the topic at hand : http://www.bikeman.com/content/view/1682/2/

Unknown said...

Please explain what "Handmade" specifically means in this context. I see this distinction mentioned often enough with tires, but I truly don't understand much of the manufacturing of them. 1) What exactly does an operator or builder do when making a tire; 2) How does this differ from automated practices; 3) Or, simply, does the manufacturing remain the same; but a single operator begins, follows to completion, and inspects each tire individually as it is produced?

Unknown said...

The following was written by Jan Heine, editor of Bicycle Quarterly. I had forwarded my above comment from this blog. He remarked that it would be okay for me to post his reply here:

"Handmade used to imply that the tread was glued onto the tires casings by hand - like Chris K. describes in his blog. However, the Challenge P/R tires now are vulcanized like many other tires. This eliminated some quality control issues that occurred with their earlier tires. They still call them hand-made, which means that the distinction between hand-made and not is beginning to blur. And Chris K.'s obviously has not been updated to this change made by Challenge last summer.

"Many believe that a true "hand-glued" tires had a lower rolling resistance and better comfort. We haven't been able to test this yet...

"I would love to do an article on tire manufacture, but all the makers don't want to publish photos of their secret manufacturing processes.

All the best,

Jan Heine
Bicycle Quarterly
140 Lakeside Ave #C
Seattle WA 98122

Unknown said...

I've used both their racing clinchers and Grifo clinchers and tubulars. They are great tyres. I like them a lot. I've found the Criterium to be a good tyre as regards punctures as well. Running Grifos at CX tyre pressures on the streets will get you punctures though. They are better at higher pressures and ride very predictably for a knobby. They seem to wear ok as well, and they really light up when you hit a gravel road :)

Dad said...

I believe that under optimal conditions, there may be a slight advantage to handmade tires when using very light racing tubulars, because they are .0002% suppler, last a bit longer and often are much easier to re-sew (if anyone actually does that any more). But I am dubious that there is any perceptible or measurable advantage whatsoever with clinchers, particularly when dealing with middleweight tires of the type we generally discuss around here.

To Arthur's post: I'm not totally up to speed on VBQ, but the product reviews I've read in there seem to be based on Ouija rather than any reasonably scientific test. Ever since the whole "planing" thing came out -- which I personally regard as the utterest bs -- it's hard to take that publication at seriously. That being said, they certainly have pictures of gorgeous bikes.

To Anonyme's post: I too prefer all black tires.

Unknown said...

My inquiry to Jan Heine was due to the fact that he both sells and--correct me if I am wrong here--is the wholesale distributor of the Challenge tires in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

There are several distributors for Challenge tires in the US, but Jan does not appear on the list. He probably just sells a few tire to make end meet.

Anonymous said...

I also find it hard to believe that "hand made" makes a difference.

Having said that, I have the Parigi-Roubaix tires on my bike and the ride is very smooth. They are about the largest tires that will fit my frame. The size probably has a lot to do with the smooth ride, and I haven't compared them to other tires of the same size.

I like the looks, I like the ride, and I will buy another pair when the current pair wears out.

--Wayne Jacobsen

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

It's not like there's a guy hand ironing a strip of black rubber onto a cotton casing on a workbench with Django Reinhardt playing on the Victrola in the corner, then retiring to the vineyard to pick some grapes so he can make next years wine.

It's a fairly filthy process with huge machines compressing the tread and casing at high temperatures and pressures. There are humans placing hotpatch logos in the molds, and removing the finished tire from the molds, and doing QC check. Sometimes humans they are cutting the casing and bead to size or shaping the pre-vulcanized tread to fit.

Francoiz Breut said...

If it isnt made by old guys who knew Django Rheinhardt them I am not interested.

Anonymous said...

Mis a part les pneus, vous etes francoiz Breut la dame qui chante si bien ?

Hank G. said...

Well if you want handmade European tires you can get Dugast or FMB tubulars for $100+ to $200+ per tire. Short of that the Challenge clinchers are as good as it gets.

The Parigi-Roubaix 27 winds up at around 28-29 installed. Anyone know what the Griffo 32 size is on a rim?

Tom said...

But, what is 'Dugast' doing by hand? The Man, Andre Dugast retired 6-7 years ago. The new owners of Dugast are buying tread and cord from Hutchinson. Are they hand knitting the carcass? Cutting the tread with scissors? pressing a button on the hydraulic vulcanizing press?

Jan Heine mentions that Challenge improved their tires from automating some of the process. So it must be true.

Tim Hyde said...

I have tried a lot of tires recently as I'm making a decision about what kind of clearances I want on a new custom frame. I weigh 150lbs and ride a Bianchi San Jose single speed cross bike. I have spent the last year riding Continental GP 4 season 28mm, Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 32mm, and the Challenge Paris-Roubaix 27mm. On my Velocity deep V rims, the Continentals measure close to 25mm, the Schwalbes are just a bit over 30mm, and the Challenge tires measure just about 30mm.

I live in New York City and ride a lot there (and elsewhere) so all the tires get tested on rough unpredictable pavement with all kinds of nasty bumps and potholes. Dry roads, wet roads, freezing roads. What I have decided is that the Contis are the fastest tire and are very flat resistant. I didn't get a single flat in almost a year of hard use. They also ride really well in the wet and even in snow. They really stick nicely, and cornering feels much more secure than on most other tires. But they are just too narrow for me. They measure 25mm when mounted, and when I hit a rough stretch of pavement, it hurts. The Schwalbes are sticky and very tough. They do very well in the wet, and I never had a flat. The ride quality is unremarkable, and almost hard. The tough material doesn't make for the smoothest riding, but if I was touring and didn't want to deal with flats, they would be a good choice. I put on the Challenge PR tires two months ago, and I haven't taken them off. Regardless of all the hoopla about which tires are handmade and which aren't and what that means, I'll tell you that the ride quality of the Challenge tires are better than anything I've ever ridden, for two reasons. One, is that they are smooth and they really do smooth out the bumps in a good way. They hold the road and feel fast while at the same time easing out the vibration and road shock nicely. They also corner better than any tire I've tried. They mount onto the rim perfectly round, which is unusual. There is no lurching going in or out of a turn, which I assume is the result of the roundness of the tire at all points of contact with the road. However, the Challenge tires are not as resistant to flats as the others tested. I just had a flat last night from a very small piece of glass that probably would never have punctured the Contis or the Schwalbes.

So in sum, I love the ride quality of the Challenge tires so much that I'm going to keep riding them, but I'll probably have to start carrying around my pump and patch kit, which I haven't felt the need to carry for years of riding the Contis and Schwalbes.

Given our different body weights, bike geometries and materials, ride surfaces, and priorities, there is probably only so much of someone else's ride report that will be relevant to anyone else, so why not just buy a few different tires from well-respected sources (like Velo-Orange) and try them out for yourself! Tires make such a huge difference in ride quality, so it will be money well spent. And then you'll know what you like.

Aaron said...

For anyone that's interested, I have the Grifo XS mounted on Mavic A719 rims, and it measures out to 34.9mm wide. Pretty chubby for a "32"! They ride smooooooth, you'd never know they were somewhat knobby,

Anonymous said...

Where are Challenge tyres made?