I promised to update my experience with these Compass Elk Pass tires after riding them for at least a few hundred miles. Well, I’ve only put about 60 miles on these tires and I’ve already had my first flat. That experience led to some other important realizations about these tires and the Schwalbe tubes I purchased with them from Compass Bicycles, a few months back.
To say that I am in a good mood this evening, after walking my bike home (rather than repairing the flat on the road – to be explained later), and then spending nearly two hours attempting to repair my flat rear tire at home would be incorrect. First, though, I’ll talk about how these tires handled out on the road – before the flat.
These tires are lightweight – significantly so in comparison to the Pasela’s I had been using. That reduction in weight, and the nature of the tire’s properties led to an enormous increase in my enjoyment of cycling on my Terry, which features 559’s front and rear. The Elk Pass tires are fast and responsive under acceleration. Accordingly, I found myself riding more aggressively than normal (but maybe that’s not such a good thing). They are comfortable tires, and while narrower than their advertised width (32mm vs. actual 28 mm on my rims), the plush ride they provide feels like 38 mm tires or more.
The flat I had today occurred on pavement, and without any observed road detritus such as broken glass or thorns. Within seconds of hearing a strange noise while climbing, my rear tire was flat. This fortunately happened while I was cycling at low speed. The tire went TOTALLY flat – something that really can’t happen with regular clinchers that have more robust sidewalls. The sidewalls on the Elk Pass tires are so supple that once the tube lost air, the tire had nothing to support it. These tires are very much like a tubular in that respect. Since I was only about a half mile from my house, I tried inflating the tube to see if I could simply coast home before the air made its way out. No luck there. The tube would not hold air at all. So I removed my bags and walked the bike home with the rear wheel elevated, so as not to further damage the delicate sidewalls.
Once home, I examined the tire. I couldn’t see any obvious cuts or sidewall cracks. But, that’s not unusual when assessing a bicycle’s flat tire. When dealing with flats, I normally unseat one side of the tire’s bead, take out the tube and then inflate the tube to determine where the puncture occurred. That way, I can see where the tire is compromised, and if a projectile needs to be removed. This tube went flat so quickly as I tried to inflate it that I ended up removing the tube from the wheel and closely examining it for the source of the puncture.
I hadn’t used the tubes that Compass had recommended for these tires – Schwalbe SV12 tubes which are wide and heavy in comparison to the Conti 650c tubes which have worked well for the 559 Paselas I had been using on this bike. Since my existing tubes were good, I re-used them when installing the new Compass Elk Pass tires. Upon close examination, I determined the source of the leak and then searched the tire for that location.
And, voila, here is the tiny little cut in the tread area. Although very small, the cut bulged out once I had a new tube installed, so I booted this area with a folded dollar bill. This experience made me want to mount the heavier and wider Shwalbe SV12 26″ tubes which are recommended (and I think this is due to the delicate nature of this tire’s construction), but after hours of trying to make these too large tubes fit into my tire and rim, I gave up (and remember that I recently mounted at 700c tube into this rim, with success). The Compass recommended Schwalbe tubes are simply too large in diameter and too wide to enable them to work with this tire and on my Mavic X221 rims. I tried dousing my hands, tires and tubes with some carcinogenic talcum powder to see if I could get these tubes to flatten out and not bunch up inside the tires. NO SUCH LUCK. And now, I am probably radioactive…
I just checked: Compass recommends the SV11A tube specifically for the Elk Pass 26″ x 1.25″ (32 mm) https://www.compasscycle.com/shop/components/tires/650b/schwalbe-tubes-for-650b-tires/
Hi Steve, yes indeed I was shipped the wrong tubes for these tire’s!
Nola, I recently aquired an old rusty Italvega that I am refurbishing to ride this summer. It came with tubular Clement tires which need to be replaced. I have never used tubulars before and I am not sure that I want to start. I can install some tires on the wheels and simply switch out wheelsets with one of my other bikes when I want to go for a ride ( I have a couple of sets of period correct high flange Campys) or lace some clincher rims to the original hubs if tubulars are not worth the trouble/expense. I like your article on tires and obviously you have more experience with different tires than I do. Any help would be appreciated, Joe
Hi Joe, the tubular experience is definitely an acquired taste. I think if you want to make this bike practical I would recommend clincher rims. From there, many tire options are available and very reliable. Not sure what size wheels you’ve got, but Panasonic is generally a very good choice for a reliable and well performing tire.
Nola, I think that is the plan. I also checked with my friends at Classic Rendevous and your spot on. I will clean and install some tubulars on the original wheels but use the spare clinchers I have (1971) for most of my riding. They are 700c, I like 28 width which should clear the frame nicely. Thank you for your help, Joe
Chuck the talc – use corn starch instead.
My Compass tires ride eversomuch better than the Paselas (which I still like a lot) they replaced…with no puncture issues after many 100’s of miles…
I guess YMMV…
I’m late to the party as usual, having just now discovered your blog, but I thought I’d chime in with my own experience about the Compass/Rene Herse Elk Pass and narrow Schwalbe 26″ tubes.
First of all, your Terry is a lovely bike and looks perfectly proportioned with the 26″ wheels. I ride (in normal sizing for your preferred bicycle category) a 60 cm c-c frame, but I still like 26″ wheels, and have 2 remaining of 3 purchased Rivendell Road customs built for 559/650C wheels. Both remaining Roads now have 559 wheels built from light rims and shod with the Elk Pass, on which I’ve put several thousands of miles, and I commuted for several years on the 26 X 1.25 (non-TG) Pasela, so it is interesting to find your thread comparing the Pasela to the Elk Pass.
I ride and live in Albuquerque’s bosque area, the green belt of cottonwoods and silty river sand roads and trails on either side of the Rio Grande, in the midst of a dry, high desert region. Albuquerque is also a good candidate for the title of goathead capital of the world.
Before the Elk Pass, I used the Paselas described, then Schwalbe 559 X 1.35 mm (32 mm actual on my rims) Kojaks, and earlier, Fatboys, Tioga City Slickers, and a Ritchey 26″ X ~28 tire whose name I forget.
In my experience, leaving out the $83 Elk Pass, these tires rank as follows for rolling quality (“feeling” of drag or opposite; “perceived” ease of turning over a given gear in given conditions with the same cranks; sensitivity to pressure; harshness when overinflated):
Kojak (rolls about as well as the Pasela non-TG) but is less sensitive to pressure
Fatboy and City Slicker
(I forget the qualities of the Ritchey tire — Tom Slick, it was.)
In terms of puncture resistance:
Kojak by 1,000 miles
In terms of wear or longevity:
The Pasela has a thicker tread than the Elk Pass, and weighs 60 to 80 grams more (240-260 versus ~180), but the sidewalls deteriorate quickly, and the tread, although deeper, is fragile — I scraped off a 2″ strip when a falling saddlebag jammed my rear tire at the bottom of a hill; only about 25-28 mph, since this was a fixed gear bike.
What makes the Elk Pass even remotely practical in goathead country is modern sealants. I put ~1 fl oz in my 26 X 1″ tubes, and at 50-60 psi, that works well enough to let me enjoy these wonderfull tires. Yes, even modern sealants are messy and troublesome, but I’d rather fuss with them and clean up after them if it lets me ride a 26″ equivalent of the original 700C Parigi Roubaix. Even with the other tires, I chose Paselas over, say, Marathon Pluses with belts and horrible rolling feel.
Patrick, thanks for sharing this very helpful overview of tire choice options. I’ve given up on the Elk Pass tires but it’s interesting to hear about using a sealant to deal with the constant punctures.