|The Chinook Pass tires on my King of Mercia. They have a great|
look on a retro-grouchy bike. Natural tan sidewalls, a traditional
file tread, and the label is small and subtle. Useful tip: always
line up the tire logo with the valve stem.
Most of the Compass tires are available with either a black or natural tan sidewall. I always opt for the natural tan for my vintage-styled bikes. People with more modern rides might choose the black sidewalls if that suits their style better. All the different tires use the same traditional file pattern tread, and are available with one of two casing options: Standard, and Extralight. The Extralight is a little thinner and is supposed to be even more supple than the Standard casing, but it adds nearly $20 to the price. I opted for the Standard casing Chinook Pass for $57 -- not inexpensive, but that does appear to be the going rate for high-quality, high-performance clincher tires these days. Panaracer Pasellas sell for less, but they have a noticeably thicker casing and tread. I would not consider them a high-performance tire (that's not a criticism - it's just a matter of different tires for different missions).
The previous tires I had used on my Mercian King of Mercia were the Challenge Paris-Roubaix tires. I have to be honest in saying that, from a performance standpoint, those are tough to beat. The Paris-Roubaix is billed by Challenge as an "open-tubular" -- not just a "clincher" tire. That is, they use the same exact casing as their tubular tires, but instead of sewing the casing around the tube, they use the wire bead of a clincher. Okay - that's just a matter of semantics, or marketing-speak. But the tires were wonderful - springy, fast, and comfortable. The only criticism I've seen against them is that some feel they are a bit too vulnerable to flats. However, I rode mine for several years and wore the tread down completely and only suffered one flat in that whole time. The price on the Paris-Roubaix seems to have gone up since I last bought them. I'm certain I didn't pay more than about $55 each ($60 at the very most), but checking around lately, the going rate seems to be about $75 each. Gulp!
Hoping for a similar riding experience, I got the Compass Chinook Pass when the Paris-Roubaix finally wore out. I got the new tires mounted with no difficulty. I was able to pull the bead over the edge of the rim all the way 'round with no tools. A little pulling here and pinching there, and I was able to get them mounted perfectly straight and even as well. They seem very well made - a quality product.
I've gotten out for several rides on the new tires. They do live up to the advertising in that they do feel fast, and comfortable. Handling around corners is good, and on chip-seal paving (really common on rural backroads in my area) they do a good job of keeping the "buzz" to a minimum.
It's way too early to tell about long-term durability, but I don't expect any problems. I've had excellent experiences with Panaracer-made Rivendell tires like the Roly Poly and the Jack Browns, as well as Panaracer Pasellas. I will be interested to see how the lighter, more supple casing affects the durability on the Compass tires. Certainly, as I get more miles on these, if I observe anything that would change my long-term impressions, I'll post something. I should note, however, that the tires specifically do not have any kind of extra puncture resistant measures in their construction. Adding extra puncture resistant layers and belts can cut down on flats, obviously, but such layers also make for a stiffer casing and add rolling resistance. Though Heine mentions in his articles that they use the Compass tires over all kinds of roads without issues, I might suggest that if someone is really concerned about punctures on their heavy-duty commuting bike that they ride over roads strewn with broken glass or goat-head thorns, they are probably not in the market for a lightweight performance tire. Just getting that out there.
So far, though, I'd say that if riders are interested in a light, fast, performance tire - especially one that looks right on a classic-styled bike - then the tires from Compass give us several more options and in a nice variety of available sizes.