Strada Bianca Open Tubular (14)
Barreling down the white chalk and gravel roads of Tuscany – the strade bianche – you want tyres that are up to the job. And cycling the rough tracks and back roads (or even plenty of A roads at the moment) of the UK, a similarly tough set of treads are very welcome.
Highs: Smooth, flexible and tough
Lows: Size limits compatibility
Challenge’s Bianca, named after those famous white roads, is designed to be tough enough to withstand the roughest surfaces and the cobbles of Belgium and France. The tyre measures up to a huge 30mm, but actually when inflated runs closer to 32, so it’s not going to fit on many carbon race machines. If you have a ’cross bike, though, or an urban machine you’d prefer to be running on faster boots, these may well be the answer.
Like all of Challenge’s tyres these are handmade, and different to most clinchers. They’re made like an expensive tubular (and the same as Challenge’s Strada tubs), but instead of being sewn to a base tape with an inner tube inside, they have a light, flexible aramid wire bonded to them, with the edges rolled to cover the aramid and create the bead.
The material is super-supple thanks to its 260tpi thread count in high quality cotton. The main tread surface has a tight opposed-file pattern that’s backed up with a double depth puncture protection strip. The Stradas aren’t the lightest tyres – ours weigh in at 350g – but their huge volume and supple casing produce a super-smooth ride, with a gummy surface and decent tread adding limpet-like grip in corners.
Although the tyre is noticeably more flexible than traditional clinchers, the bead itself is a tight fit. Once in place, it’s pretty much immovable; we ran the tires as low as 65psi and couldn’t get the bead to unseat itself. This is a tyre that has taken some serious abuse and still rolls on strong.
The 30mm width does limit compatibility, but Challenge offers the Strada in a 27mm option too. Whichever size you choose, you’ll find one of the best-rolling and smoothest tough tyres around.