Compass 26″ x 1.5″ Tires

We now offer the Compass 26″ (559 mm) tires in a slightly narrower 1.5″ (37 mm) width, in addition to the popular 1.75″ (44 mm) model. These tires are great for an existing mountain bike, touring bike, or 26″-wheeled tandem. Compared to all other improvements you can make to your bike, great tires will make the biggest difference in the feel and performance. The wider 26″ tires also are a great choice for a new custom bicycle that is designed to handle really rough gravel roads.

Both Compass 26″ tires are made by Panaracer using their Pasela molds. However, what goes into the mold is very different from a Pasela: We use a high-end casing and ultra-grippy tread rubber – in fact, the same materials as for the Grand Bois tires. The result is a 26″ tire that offers the ride and feel of a high-end tire, which is very different from the common 26-inch “slick” tires that are made with sturdy casings and mediocre rubber.

If I were to travel around the world, I probably would chose a bike equipped with the 1.75″ Compass tires. I would enjoy the speed, comfort and road feel of a great tire, and if I ever needed a replacement, I would find one easily, since 26″ is by far the most common bicycle tire size in the world today.

Even if you don’t travel around the world, the 26″ wheel size makes a lot of sense. Whereas a 41 mm-wide Grand Bois Hetre is about the widest 650B tire you can fit on a performance bicycle with fenders, reducing the wheel diameter gives you clearance for even wider tires.

Our testing found that for optimum handling, wheel size should correlate with tire width, to keep the rotational inertia of the wheel constant. It is no coincidence that French constructeurs used 700C wheels for narrow tires (up to 32 mm) and 650B wheels for wider tires. Our testing showed that beyond 42 mm, 26″ wheels result in the best handling. For serious gravel-road riding, 44 mm-wide 26″ tires would be an excellent choice.

Click here for more information about these tires.

Further reading: Wheel Size and Bicycle Handling, Bicycle Quarterly Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 14.

About Jan Heine

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Rene Herse Cycles, that turns our research into the high-performance components we need for our adventures.
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37 Responses to Compass 26″ x 1.5″ Tires

  1. Rich Freeman says:

    Thanks for another good 26″ tire, but aren’t you going the wrong way? After saying that 26″ is best above 42mm, you should be trying to make the best 26×2 tire now, not a skinny one. It’s hard to find a light & fast 26×2 – the Schwalbe Kojak is the only one that comes to mind. How about a Compass fatty next?

    • You are right, a Compass 26″ x 2.0″ (50 mm) tire would be wonderful. For now, we have to work with existing molds – the market for high-end 26″ tires is very small. The new tire is an attempt to build that market, and then we can make new molds and make something like a 26″ Hetre, but 20% wider.

  2. Paul Glassen says:

    Now you have got me thinking again about whether on not there might be a poor man’s rough road randonneuse cycle out there based on a converted MTB or other 26″ wheeled model. I have all these 700c bikes but nothing that will take more than 35mm and most a good deal less.

    • If you start with a high-end model that has a thinwall frame, and get a new fork with a rack, you are most of the way there. Our contributor Hahn did something similar with an old Bridgestone MB-1, except he converted it to 650B while he was at it.

      • Daniel A says:

        I think that’s a great idea: a high end mtb (maybe with the “NORBA” geometry; although the 71* HTA would be a little slack) and a custom fork could make a cool budget rough road rando. The keys would be picking the right donor frame and spec’ing/building the fork “just right.” Maybe the Handsome XOXO would fill the bill

        I’d love to see a low trail 26″ commuter hit the market. The 1.75″ Compass tire would sell me on that bike. I think that’s the direction Kogswell was heading before they closed up.

      • You might consider some of the high-end aluminum hardtails of the 1990s. They were very light, and probably planed very nicely, and with everybody going to full-suspension, they might be available for little money. Also, since they were made for tall suspension forks, using a shorter fork would increase the head angle a bit – as long as the seat angle doesn’t get way too steep…

  3. mazonowicz says:

    I have a set of the 1.75″ version of these tyres, fitted to this bike – and found them to be lovely to ride on. The only problem I’ve had, is that because they are so fast & supple, I have succumbed to the temptation of running them at low pressures; then I’ve blundered in to a kerb & got a pinch flat. Out of curiosity, sometime I’d like to do a speed test with them versus the Schwalbe Super Motos I used to have on there, which were also very nice. Cheers Mr Heine.

  4. Simon jackson says:

    I put the 26 x 1.75 compass tyres on my 26 surly lht. The bike works well, is comfortable and fast.

  5. Sascha Regensburg says:

    Great contribution. What keeps me from ordering a pair is that I am reluctant to order from the US because our local customs office does not know what to think about bike parts. Result: I always end up waiting two ours at the customs office to get my deliveries from the US. Do you have an distributor inside the EC to avoid this inconvenience?

  6. Christian Bratina says:

    What is the roll down speed of these tires? I considered them for my Ritchey rigid (originally mountain) dirt road bike, but decided the Schwalbe Furious Fred had a better 50 mm width, a faster looking tread, and at 315 gms were significantly lighter than the Compass 440 gm. The Furious Freds are incredibly fast on both dirt and pavement, but I have had one small sidewall cut so I would love to know how they compare.

    • We haven’t tested these tires, but we have tested the Grand Bois Hetres, and they performed as well as very good racing tires. Only hand-made tires were faster. Considering that the Hetre has much more tread, a somewhat worn Hetre should be faster yet.

  7. Zeb Beddee says:

    Regarding : 26″ is by far the most common bicycle tire size in the world today
    Do you have any data ? I was thinking 650A would be the the most common bicycle tyre size, being fitted to the majority of bicycles sold in China and Japan ( the two biggest markets, with Japan alone accounting for 12 million sales a year, mostly on 650A ).

    While 650A is uncommon in western countries, the world is wider than the predominantly English-speaking blogs might have you believe…


    • I was thinking of “most common” as in “available in the most countries.” If you travel around the world, and need a tire in a random country, 26″ is the size you will almost certainly to find anywhere, from Bolivia in South America to central Africa or Asia.

      You may be right that as far as counting bicycles, the most common tires may be 650A, but when you are stranded in rural France, the fact that there is a billion 650A bikes in China doesn’t help you much, if there are next to none in France, and no French distributor, much less bike shop, has the tires you need.

  8. Peter says:

    Jan, how much smoother / faster do you think 650B wheels with Hetres will be compared to 26″ wheels with the 1.75″ Compasses? Noticable? Only under certain conditions?

    • That is a good question, and we haven’t done any testing of the 26″ tires, so we can only theorize. The casing is the same on both tires, and the width difference (10%) probably doesn’t make much of a difference either. The 26″ tire has a slightly thicker tread, which should make it a tad slower. However, the tread is smoother than the Hetre’s, which should make it a little faster, at least when new. So my best guess is that the speed is about the same.

      Both tires will get faster as they wear, because they have a significant (but not excessive) amount of tread. Both will last a very long time.

  9. Paleo Velo says:

    These look great. I think there would be a pretty good market for a 44mm 700C version of this or the Hetre tires as all the Schwalbe tires in this size range are far from supple. If I understand correctly, Jan, you think 700C tires in this size are not optimal. Whether or not that is the case, there are a lot of people who would be thankful to you for bringing a 700C Hetre-esque tire to market!

    • You are right that such a tire would serve many people. For us, it’s a question where we allocate our scarce resources. Do we develop products for sub-optimal bikes, while many products needed to make great bicycles are still unavailable (for example, forged centerpull brakes)? Hopefully, we’ll eventually be able to do it all, but right now, we have to prioritize.

  10. Willem says:

    I have the 26×1.75 on my loaded tourer (with thinwall tubes), and I like them. They are fast, comfortable, and the mild tread pattern gives pretty decent grip on gravel roads, trails etc. That is important because that is precisely where you use a tyre in this size. So no 26x.2.0 Kojak for me, even though I would indeed prefer a wider tyre. Another reason for a wider size would be that most other 559 tyres are 45-48 mm. I like to change my tyres depending on the conditions, and it would be nice to have a fast tyre in the same size as the ones for rough offroad riding (Marathon Extreme), heavy duty use (Marathon Mondial), winter riding (Conti Topcontact Winter II) etc., to have a matching fender line.

  11. Ben Van Orsdol says:

    Wanting a wide supple tire for a 700C bike is something I expressed toMr. Grand Bois (sorry I didn’t catch his name) at last weekend’s Tokyo Bike Mode (awesome bike show!). He blew it off saying that 650B is the perfect size, and although that may be true, it doesn’t answer my question, nor does it help me get some fast tires on my bike. Jan, your last post was inspiring to me, and reminded me that although I dream of putting a custom 650B rando underneath my tookus, I should ride the bike I have. But in response to this post, you question the need to develop components for ” sub-optimal bikes.” These two comments are at odds with each other. I own a very nice hand made sub-optimal cyclo touring bike, and would love to experience fast, wide, supple tires. You have repeatedly stated that, among components, the biggest single improvement in speed will come from faster tires. I understand that a small company… And also that priorities… But I think that selling a fast, wide, supple 700C tire would benefit lots of sub-optimal bikes. I have learned so much from this blog, and BQ, but for now (until I have a few hundred thousand disposable Yen) I can only read about what these tires are like. ION: the bikes at Grand Bois were incredible! Gorgeous, well-integrated, and elegant. They also had a vintage Rene Herse (60’s?) and an add for your new book! And the wonderful people at Cyclo Tourist were selling Japanese editions of your books as well. I only wish that their awesome magazine was available in English!

    • You have to understand that Grand Bois’ main focus is to make wonderful bikes. They only sell components to get the numbers that make it worth while to make tires, racks, stems, etc. So for them, it doesn’t make sense to make components that they don’t want to use on their bikes.

      Grand Bois offers their wonderful 32 mm-wide Cyprès in the 700C size. I understand that you and many others would like a wider 700C tire, and we’ll keep that in mind.

  12. HalB says:

    Just finished building a bike for 26″ wheels. ( ) Great that there now are 26″ 1.75″ and 1.5″ Compass tires available but I ended up using the 26″ Pasela 1.75. The Paselas, although probably heavier and come from the same mold, are smooth, comfortable and reliable. You can feel they do loose smash more rapidly when encountering an uphill but their big footprint make them surefooted when stuffed into a corner! Must try the 1.75 Compas tires to see if they are lighter and faster.

  13. Paleo Velo says:

    It is interesting to contemplate wide, supple 700C tires as “non-optimal” in a thread about 26″ tires, a size many would also consider non-optimal.

    Of course, I agree it’s ultimately a strategic and business decision, but I’ll only add that with the increase in 29er, monster-cross, and gravel-grinder bikes, there have likely never been as many new bikes on the market that could benefit from (and fit) a wide, supple 700C tire as today.

    I do hope that some day I will be able to build up a 650B rando machine to experience some of the 650B magic, but until then I’m gong to keep enjoying my mixed-surface 700C machines.

    You’re bringing some great stuff to market, Jan. Looking forward to new and future products.

    • 700C tires are optimal, for widths up to about 30-32 mm. Beyond that, the rotational inertia becomes so much that the bike no longer changes its line with ease.

      650B tires are optimal from 30-32 mm until about 40-42 mm. Larger than that, you should go even smaller in diameter, and 26″ makes sense.

      So there isn’t any 650B magic, it’s just that for a lightweight 35 to 40 mm-wide tire, this size gives you a great combination of stability and nimbleness. With a suitable front-end geometry, these bikes hold their line well on the straights and in corners, yet you can adjust your trajectory even in mid-corner.

      Mountain bikes may be different, I don’t have much experience there, but from my perspective, it seems like 26″ is a great wheel size for mountain bikes. (I know this borders on heresy these days, when everybody is pushing 29ers or twentyseven5ers…)

      • Cris says:

        In your previous article titled “Mounting Tires with Deep Wells”, a reader wrote suspecting that the 650b Hetre tire bead would sit very well on a Mavic UST (tubeless) rim. I am very curious to try your Compass tire (the 1.75″ version) tubeless for both gravel grinding and on-road running low to medium pressures: 25-30 (off-road) 40-50 psi (on-road.) The tread on this tire seems to be perfect for such purposes. I have a 26″-wheeled all-rounder bike (touring/rando) that might benefit from this setup. I read somewhere, however, that the casing on the paselas don’t well with the chemicals in a sealant like Stan’s. Would you have any reservations using the much improved casing on the Compass on a tubeless (UST) rim with sealant? Hopefully, you know someone who’s gone tubeless with the Hetres or Compass tires and could report briefly on their experience. There seems to be a complete void in 26″ slick UST tires in 1.5″-2.0″.

      • Peter Weigle has run Hetres with tubeless setups, and he doesn’t appear to have any trouble…

      • Doug Peterson says:

        I must second Paleo Velo’s suggestion for a wide, supple 700C, having several years and perhaps 20,000 miles experience with 35 & 40 mm Schwalbe Marathon Supremes. While sub-optimal in your test, I’ve not found any downside to wider tires and enjoy the superior ride and increased reliability.

        The 1.5″ Compass looks ideal for my wife’s 26″ wheeled bike which is about due for fresh tires.

  14. Patrick Moore says:

    What is the approximate overall diameter of the new 37 mm 559 Compass tire? And do you have any idea how it might compare with the 559X35mm Kojak?

    • We’ll measure it soon, and put that information on our site.

      • Patrick Moore says:

        Another question while I’m at it: you’ve used good tubulars in racing, I assume. How do the Compass tires, the 26s in particular, compare in rolling resistance to those tubulars? And it would be interesting to compare them with Kojaks in the same way — I suspect that the K’s would be slower thanks to their belt, but they do roll very nicely all the same.

      • You can’t really tell rolling resistance by feel, but we did test the Clement Criterium tubulars in our big tire test (Bicycle Quarterly Vol. 5, No. 1). They didn’t roll as fast as they felt, because they were only 21.5 mm wide. The 28-mm-wide Clement Campionato del Mundo did roll very fast, though.

  15. Bill Spencer says:

    I use the 44mm model and they are the most comfortable 26″ tires I have ever used. They completely changed the ride of my Atlantis.

  16. Paleo Velo says:

    To my knowledge, stans sealant can cause problems with the compound in some tires over time because it has ammonia. There are, however, other sealant products that do not contain ammonia.

  17. Willem says:

    I ride an old steel cyclo cross bike as my fast bike. The tyres I use are 35 mm Pasela Non Tourguard. I guess it is a matter of taste and degree, but on this bike with light rims the 35 mm Pasela does not handle slow or lumpy. Also, I use the Schwalbe xxlight tubes, and they are significantly lighter. A 35-622 Compass based on the Pasela would be great for anyone who uses this kind of bike, but also for those who have bikes with the Tektro R556 brakes.

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