Easier to fit than handmade Challenge tyres, and still reasonably fast and comfortable, but porous with poor grip in the wet
Handsome retro looks
Smooth over small stuff
Reasonable roll speed
Easier to fit than handmade
Slippery when wet
Porous pressure loss
Basic spec, medium price
Not hookless compatible
No additional puncture protection
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Italian brand Challenge is famous for its handmade tubular cyclo-cross tyres, but its premium natural rubber ‘open tubulars’ for road also have a cult following among comfort connoisseurs.
It spends a lot of energy saying how badly vulcanised machine-pressed tyres ride in comparison, but now it has produced some others of its own. So do the Strada Bianca V-TLR tyres prove this point, or offer a decent, retro-look alternative to the big brands?
And how do they compare to the best tubeless road tyres on the market? Keep reading to find out.
Design and aesthetics
Before you even get your chosen Challenge tyre you have to be prepared to do some serious detective work to piece together the exact model you might want from tubular, open tubular clincher, tubeless, tubeless ready and handmade or vulcanised construction. The packaging doesn’t help much either, and the only giveaway to identifying which tyre we were definitely testing was the fact it comes in ‘brown’ not ‘tan’. Even then, the ‘brown’ actually looks like a lot of tan walls until you realise Challenge’s ‘tan’ is more like a yellow.
Anyway, what we have here is the 120tpi Strada Bianca V-TLR for under £60 rather than the handmade natural rubber 260tpi H-TLR for around £80. Price isn’t the only advantage either, as for once with Challenge the slightly curved form of the vulcanised tyres (handmade tyres are totally flat) meant they slipped on relatively easily. However, they needed the valve cores removed and a high volume pump to get air in fast enough to bridge the loose rim bed seal and get them properly inflated. While they’re light for a 30mm tyre at 291g you’ll only get full width on a wider rim than suggested. They’re not officially compatible with hookless rims either.
Handling them shows they’re pretty supple, too, mainly thanks to a lack of puncture protection layer under the tread. The herringbone tread wraps a long way around the carcass and the high-pressure-high-temperature vulcanising process means they’re much less likely to peel apart if exposed to excess heat or sunlight. Once on, they roll reasonably well and the rounded carcass gives a smooth ride over small gravel and road roughness when run on wide rims halfway between the 45-65psi min and max pressures.
They can’t match the creamy cruise of Challenge’s handmade pieces or the best tubeless tyres from other brands though, and bigger hits still jolt significantly. You’ll need to top up air regularly as our samples are still both losing pressure and weeping sealant through the sidewalls after several weeks of use. The herringbone tread gives psychosomatic confidence and holds on okay on dry roads and light gravel or hardpack, and seems to be lasting well.
Despite concerns about the lack of puncture protection, we’ve ridden through a fair amount of hedge cutting debris without getting stung so far. Any sort of damp is a red flag for aggressive cornering though, as the hard rubber is a long way behind the blends of most well-known brands when it comes to wet grip. At nearly £60 (650 x 46mm are £62) it’s still pricey for a relatively simple single compound, unprotected tyre, too.
Tech Specs: Challenge Strada Bianca V-TLR 30mm tubeless tyres
- Price: £60 / €45
- Sizes available: 700 x 30mm, 700 x 36mm
- Colours: Brown, Black
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