Transcontinental Race on Compass Tires

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Congratulations to Andreas Behrens of LaFraise Cycles for completing the amazing Transcontinental Race. Riding unsupported for almost 2,400 miles (3900 km) over a course that traversed all of Europe, Andreas completed the non-stop race in 15 days and 12 hours.

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The course traversed the highest mountain ranges of Europe – above the view from the Grimsel Pass to the Furka Pass in Switzerland. All in all, Andreas climbed more than 40,000 m (130,000 ft).

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Andreas builds bikes himself. The one he rode in the Transcontinental Race was equipped with Compass Loup Loup Pass Extralight 650B x 38 mm tires. After the finish, he sent us photos of his tires:

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Even after 4000 km, the front tire still has plenty of life left.

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The rear tire is a bit more worn. The wear is almost entirely in the center of the tread – an indication that Andreas is running slightly higher tire pressures than we’d recommend. He might be more comfortable and even faster if he let out a tiny bit of air.

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When he dipped his wheels into the Dardanelles at the finish in Turkey, he hadn’t suffered a single flat tire!

Andreas isn’t a sponsored rider – he bought the tires with his own money. I asked him why he chose Compass tires. His response:

“I have a few bikes with wider tires, between 32 and 42 mm. From experience, I knew that on these bikes, I wasn’t any slower than other riders on their racing bikes. In the past, the tires from Panaracer and Grand Bois always felt a bit stiff. When I visited JP  at 2-11 Cycles [Compass’ French importer], I had the opportunity to test the Compass tires. I liked the ride very much and decided to use the 38 mm version on my bike for the Transcontinental Race.

“Of course, it also was a test to see whether the Compass tires would survive the race. I only recommend products to my customers that I use myself. My experience confirms your testing: the tires reduce vibrations and fatigue. Of course, it wasn’t only the tires: The steel frame, custom geometry, comfortable saddle and ergonomic handlebars helped me finish the race without soreness or injury. No saddle problems, no numb hands, even though I mostly rode without gloves. I credit the comfort of the bike.”

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Riding from Belgium to Turkey, all the way across Europe, without any major aches and pains – that is truly inspirational. Congratulations!

Click here for information on Andreas’ bikes: LaFraise Cycles.

Photo credits: Andreas Behrens (LaFraise Cycles).

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. Bicycle Quarterly's sister company, Compass Bicycles Ltd., turns the results of our research into high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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24 Responses to Transcontinental Race on Compass Tires

  1. Rick says:

    Congrats to Andreas for a wonderful accomplishment. I see your bike is equipped with a 1x drive system, I’m interested to know the details of it.

    • Hi Rick, the drive train is a SRAM Force CX1 1×11 (42 / 11-42) set up. I got a few questions and comments about this before and during the race. Some riders were wondering how I would make it up the mountains with only one ring in the front … and then they noticed the big one in the back🙂. The gear range is in fact not different from a regular 2x compact set up. I got a 1 to 1 option which gets me up any mountain and at 42×11 I could still comfortably pedal up to 45km/h. Anything faster I’d just let it roll. I chose this set up a) to eliminate one source of potential trouble, the front derailleur, and b) to simply just conserve energy – there is a significant amount of shifting going on during a 4000km trip. Before, I always got frustrated especially in rolling terrain when you’re constantly in mid-range gears, going back and forth between the two rings in the front, shifting left and right. With the 1x set up you control it all with one finger. A nice side effect is that you can eat a sandwich while riding and still keep shifting. Occasionally, in the flat sections it would have been nice to have smaller transitions between gears but nothing that would really put me off using it again. I really liked the set up.

      • Marco says:

        1×11 looks very interesting for an endurance/randonneuring bike.

        What about the brifter? I guess they’re quite reliable today and you hadn’t any trouble, but shouldn’t an endurance bike have the most durable and roadside-repairable components? (e.g. the choice of metal frame and cantilever brakes).

      • Hi Marco, the SRAM Force CX1 is a cyclocross group. It’s super-robust. I agree, there should be only the most durable/easily repairable or replaceable components on a long-distance bike. Hence e.g. the choice of brakes. I build bikes and I wanted to use this opportunity to test a few components. The transmission definitely passed the test. Just like the tires (even though there were a few competitors who didn’t think the extralights would make it all the way).

      • What most people don’t realize is that wider tires suffer much less wear. A 23 mm tire has to be super-thick to last 4000 km, but even a relatively thin and supple 38 mm tire will easily last 4000+ km. Of course, we also added a little rubber in the middle of the tread, so that Compass tires last a lot longer than most other “high-performance” tires. It adds about 30 grams in weight, doesn’t make the tire less supple or slower, but it almost doubles the life expectancy. The only downside is that we sell fewer tires, because they don’t wear out quickly.😉

  2. Sebastian says:

    I was visiting La Fraise Cycles in Roubaix on may back to Berlin after a weekend in Paris for the Tour de France final. He invited me and my girlfriend to his workshop and a short loop through Roubaix with its famous velodrome(s) and final kilometer of Paris-Roubaix. It was a pleasure to be shown around. We saw a lot of his work displayed in his workshop (including the “concours de machines” bike) and got a detailed insight into his frame building skills.

    Looking forward to visiting Roubaix again soon, hopefully for a frame and fork to be built.

    His Transcontinental Diary on Instagram and the tracking through transcontinental.cc became a daily routine at breakfast during the whole race.

  3. david morgan says:

    I had awful ?luck? with the 26×2.3 (standard casing). After buying the tires and then having to change fenders (time and more money) from my current 1.4s used for my commuter, I got a flat in my FIRST FOUR MILE TRIP! same commuting route I have used for years-a puncture, not snakebite nor pinched tube. I took them off months ago, (am still too bummed to even look at them) put back on original fenders and 1.4s. Expensive experiment-and possibly would not have gotten another flat for many miles, and you do report that others do well, but this experience ‘deflated’ my trust in Compass tires. Ironically, my favorite tires are Panaracer Paselas with TG/PT belts-despite my 220 lbs., I ride successfully a mixed fire road/paved route with 28mms (going to try 32s when the 28s wear out). 

    • I am really sorry you had such bad luck. A single flat really is just that, bad luck. Statistics tell you that if you get one flat per 10,000 miles, you have the same chance to get that flat in mile 1 or mile 10,000. Of course, that isn’t much consolation when that flat occurs so early and spoils the fun of the new tires before you’ve even been able to enjoy the supple ride and speed.

      Ironically, I had the same experience with Paselas. I was visiting Grant Petersen when he just got a shipment of these in. We put them on my bike, and about two miles from his house, I ran over a huge nail that punctured the tire. Same as your case, just bad luck.

      I’d give the Compass tires another try. If you have good luck with much-narrower Paselas, you probably will find that your flat was just bad luck. If you don’t want to do that, at least you can recoup much of your investment by selling your almost-new tires online.

  4. CogWheel says:

    That’s a great read. It’s I interesting to see that you used a 1x setup. I use it myself for a CX-do-it-all bike.

    I was curious thing what type of a saddle is this that you are using. I’m striving to find a good one. I have a 143 specialized phenom but it feel a bit tough to the contact area. I like though because it has a groove in the middle and I found the width I need.

    • The saddle is a Brooks Cambium C15 with a groove in the middle. This model fits best for me. There is a larger version, the C17, and they also exist without groove. The Cambium series is made from natural rubber with a cotton layer on top. To me the perfect long distance saddle.

  5. Harry Watson says:

    I had a very similar wear pattern to my tyres after the 3000km Tour Aotearoa (I used standard casing Switchback Hills), and high tyre pressure was certainly not the cause for me. Skidding on rough dusty single-track switchbacks might have been it though 😊. I suffered only one puncture and it was from an extreme event. Andreas’s experience inspires me to try the extralights when my current tyres wear out!

    • Skidding under hard braking is the one thing that can damage the Extralight casings, because it generates sudden high loads between tread and rim. In that case, the standard casing may be better.

      If you skid because you have little grip, that is less of an issue, because the forces between road surface and rim are low.

  6. Jack Whorton says:

    I started using Compass tyres this year and have done c 3,500 miles on 3 different bikes (one with 32mm 700c, one with 28mm 700c and one with 38mm 650b – all are the extra light casing) and I have had one puncture which was a pinch flat in that entire time. The 32mm 700c tyres has done at least 2,800 of that and has plenty of life left in them. I will never go back to another tyre brand, forgetting the durability, they just feel faster and more comfortable than any other clinchers I’ve tried. Only downside now with the pound tanking they are becomming more expensive!

  7. Mark Schneider says:

    Just got my 1st flat on my Babyshoe Extra’s, the culprit was a piece of metal wire that would have taken my old Schwalbe Marathons down. The tire is at the point where I was going to replace it soon anyway, so I got over 2000 miles on it, on mostly chip seal and gravel!. I also just equipped my old Bontrager Race Lite with the new Rat Traps, I’m amazed how well they work on dirt and gravel, I always used mt bike tires off road and I just assumed the Rat Traps would require a compromise off road, especially on the loose gravel climbs, and steep corners. I continue to be amazed at how much you can do on these tires.

    • I am glad you enjoy the Compass tires as much as we do. Yes, those steel wires are pretty much the only punctures I get these days. The only solution is avoidance – I try not to ride on the shoulders of busy highways where those wires accumulate. On backroads, they get picked up by passing tires again and again, until they end up in the ditch.

      As to traction on gravel, tire tread makes little difference, because you have gravel sliding on gravel, not rubber on rock. That is why rally cars used to run slick tires on gravel roads, before the rules changed. (Slick tires were banned for different reasons.)

      Tread makes a big difference in mud and on snow, because there, you have a slippery surface, and being able to dig into that surface gives you more grip. (At least until your tire clogs up with mud, and then you have mud on mud or snow on snow again…)

  8. David T. says:

    Congratulations on a great ride.

    What kind of places did you stay in along the way?
    Did you have any trouble getting enough food and water?
    How were the aero-bars? Would you recommend them for someone touring if not racing?
    Did you enjoy the scenery and places you passed through or were you pushing too hard?

  9. steve says:

    How wide it too wide for a bike with 700C wheels? I think I read on this site that 32 was the sweet spot. If you ride primarily pavement & smooth gravel is there any reason to go wider? I guess there would be a reason if you were doing something more extreme?

    • We do think that 32 mm is the sweet spot with 700C wheels, at least with lightweight tires. This is due to the rotational inertia of the front wheel. A wider (and heavier) front tire makes the bike too stable. It becomes hard to adjust the bike’s line in mid-corner.

      However, 32 mm is a bit narrow for riding on gravel. You’ll risk a lot of pinch flats, and you’ll be much slower than you would be on wider tires.

      The solution is obvious: Smaller wheels and wider tires. You get the same handling with 42 mm tires on 650B wheels, or 50 mm tires on 26″ wheels. The big question is: What are you giving up on smooth roads when going to tires this wide. In the current Bicycle Quarterly, we report on the first in a series of tests that address that question.

  10. Mike says:

    On my Waterford 35mm tires are indeed more stable than 32mm. I think that is why I like them. For the stability. Old, slow and steady.

    • There definitely are personal preferences. For example, some riders like a bike that corners “as if it was on rails”, while others prefer the ability to adjust their line in mid-corner, for example, to avoid a pothole or to tighten their line if the radius of the corner decreases. In the end, what matters is what works for you!

  11. steve says:

    “Too stable” sounds like my bike which is a Kona Dew Drop………….heavy, stout, aluminum bike with steel fork & 40 mm Clement MSO tires (120 tpi). At least it’s finally somewhat comfortable since I keep lowering the pressure……………must be close 50 psi now. I used to keep it closer to 70 psi & even 80. I can’t be certain, but it seems like it has only gotten faster with the lower air pressure; it’s definitely not any slower. I was thinking of trying some Compass tires in the 700C size, maybe the Bon Jon Pass or Stampede Pass. Would these be just as comfortable as my Clements even though they are narrower?

    • Lowering the air pressure shouldn’t make you slower. Of course, it depends on the weight of your bike (with you on board), but for most riders, 50 psi still is plenty.

      As a tire to replace the Clement, perhaps you can fit the new Snoqualmie Pass 700C x 44 mm, which we just introduced today. It’s lighter than the Clement by a good margin, so the bike will be more nimble. If the existing tires already max our your clearances, then the Barlow Pass (38 mm) may be a better choice. It’ll be at least as comfortable as the Clements, despite being 2 mm narrower.

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