Reviewed by: Chris Hubbuch
Product: Challenge Strada Biancha clincher
If I had any doubt about my decision to run Strada Bianca from Challenge, they were dispelled at the bottom of the first big descent of the Almanzo, a 101-mile race over the gravel roads of Southeast Minnesota.
Less than 9 miles into the epic, the road was littered with almost as many riders changing flats as sharp rocks.
Not that I had any complaints about these 30mm slicks, which rolled over pavement almost as easy as my usual 25mm trainers while providing enough cushion that my aluminum CX frame didn't rattle all me teeth.
In the past my gravel tire of choice was usually a file tread, but Mark (Brone) convinced me this would be the best rubber to wrap my HED Ardennes rims. Flexibility is not my strength, but I decided to trust him and bought a pair.
Everything was great until I tried to mount them. The tires were shapeless, more like a fan belt than a clincher tire. Getting them onto a rim was easier than nailing jellyfish to the wall. I finally had to call for help. Fortunately Mark was up late and in a helpful mood. He tipped off to the secret: put some air in the tube (more than the mouthful you'd typically use) and squeeze the tire around it so it has some shape.
Aside from the initial challenge - true to the brand! - these tires were like butter, cushy at 60 to 70 psi and offering little rolling resistance on pavement. Not quite slicks, they have a fine chevron tread pattern, which gives them plenty of grip on wet pavement, gravel or chipped limestone. They would not be my first choice for mud, but for rides like Almanzo - or the Italian streets for which they're named - they're just about perfect, floating over most of the loose stuff.
The high thread count and glued on treads makes for a supple ride, while the thick red puncture protection strip kept the air inside even in the presence of sharp rocks and whatever else was strewn along the path.
As if all that wasn't enough, after gathering my composure at the finish, I rolled past a Challenge tent to offer a thumbs up and the rep was kind enough to hand me a cap just for running their tires.
The only downside was that I couldn't blame a flat for getting dropped.