Steilacoom Tire Testing


We thoroughly test every Compass product before we release it. We also seek unbiased evaluations from experienced riders who weren’t involved in the development of the products. For the new Compass Steilacoom cyclocross tires, we gave them to a number of cyclocross and gravel racers. Two of them have reported back in detail, and we are happy that they like the new tires even more than we do. Matt Surch (above) is one of the fastest gravel racers in Ontario. Wade Schultz (below) is a Category 2 ‘cross racer from Seattle.


Both liked the performance on damp surfaces and mud – Matt commented: “The grip is fantastic, allowing extreme lean angles” – but that was to be expected on a tire with big, widely spaced knobs. What surprised them both was the excellent performance on pavement.


Wade: I expected these tires to be appropriately slow on smooth pavement, but was frankly surprised by how well they did. Their rolling resistance is lower than other pure mud CX tires (tight center knob spacing helps). I love the excellent transition from center to side-knobs. I did not experience any on/off traction vagary on corner lean initiation.

Matt: My Woven rims have a very good tubeless bead shelf and inner ridge that holds the bead in place. They mounted easily, and I went out for a cx rip. Wow! Seriously, I didn’t expect this tread to roll so well. Yes, it’s pretty close to linked in the centre, but with so much open space, I thought they’d feel slow on pavement. Nope. Instead, they just feel like they roll sort of crazy fast, like faster than they should.

This isn’t a complete surprise – much thought and development went into the spacing of the knobs. We didn’t want to space them so close that they’d clog up and no longer grip on mud, but we alternated them in a way that keeps the tire supported, rather than have it bump up and down as the knobs pass underneath.


The other question is what tire pressure is ideal for these tires? Matt tested the absolute minimum he could run:

Matt: I took pressure down to 27, which was low enough to fold the rear on off cambers and fold the front on some soft to hard transitions. This is the same sort of folding I’d expect from my tubulars, and I figure if I can get a tubeless tire to fold but not burp, I’m good. I lost no pressure at all after 40 minutes of trying to get them to burp. And this is minutes after mounting.

A minor note of caution: Running your tires at pressures this low gives you the ultimate in traction for cyclocross racing, but it can reduce the life expectancy of the tires, as the casings are under a lot of stress when they fold over.


Matt raced the tires in the first races of the season. He reported after the first one:

Matt: My experience through the 60 minutes of racing was overwhelmingly positive. I didn’t feel at 100% physically at the start, yet I had my best cx race I can remember, finishing closer to a few adversaries than ever before, for 4th overall in the Senior / Master 1 race.


It’s exciting that the tires work as well as we had hoped. A lot of thought went into that tread design – it’s much more than just a few widely spaced knobs – and we are glad that the tires offer the on-pavement speed and smooth cornering that we wanted to achieve. Here are the final words from these two experienced racers:

Wade: Is my satisfaction with this tire linked more directly to the casing volume (vs traditional cx tubulars) or the tread design? [I suspect the answer is: Both.]

Matt: I am extremely happy with them. Congrats on making an awesome tire.

Further info:

Photo credits: Andrea Emery (Photos 1, 4, 5); Heidi Franz (Photos 2, 6) Alain Villeneuve (Photo 3).

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into high-performance components for real-world riders.
This entry was posted in Testing and Tech, Tires. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Steilacoom Tire Testing

  1. Rider X says:

    Any thoughts of putting out a tubular version? Not sure whether or not tubulars are dead yet…

  2. Michael says:

    Congratulations on the new tires! And thanks for making great tires especially wide 650 B. Just yesterday I was riding a 700 C bike. My skinny tire got caught in a road crack. I fell off the bike and broke my arm. Maybe six weeks until I can ride again so I’m going back to my 650 B 38mm bike and the 700c bike I will hopefully convert to 42mm 650 B. I will not ride on narrow tires again. I’ve had a history of narrow tire bikes falling into cracks. Nothing narrower than 38 mm for me from now on if I can help it.

    • I am so sorry to hear about your accident. I hope you heal quickly! I started reading your comment and was very happy you like our tires… When I got to line 3, I exclaimed “Oh no!” and startled everybody around me. I am glad you are keeping a positive attitude.

      You are totally right, cracks in the road can be very dangerous. Usually, you see them, but sometimes, something else requires your attention… Wider tires just allow you to relax a bit more. 42s don’t even fall into Seattle’s streetcar tracks, unless they are perfectly parallel. (I tested this at low speed…) Of course, we always should watch where we are going…

      • Michael says:

        Thanks Jan!

        Yes sometimes a skinny tire will get hung up on a lip or crack in the street either because I didn’t see it until the last second or I didn’t see it at all or I had no out to avoid it.

        When I started riding 650 B with wide supple tires I found that in those instances the tires just rolled through the lip or never went down into the crack. They just rolled over everything nicely. So the trouble I had with 700 C skinny tires stopped at that point. I only recently started riding a 700 C skinny tire bike again and started to notice the old problems with the skinny harder tire . Unfortunately this last time it happened was one time too many and I fell. Shoulda gone back to 650b while I was ahead.

        So I decided 650 B x 42 mm from now on since I experienced better safety and handling with the wide supple tires. I never had one of those lip or crack incidents while riding the supple wide tires . I always try to avoid hazardous situations on the roadways and try to ride around or perpendicular to those cracks to avoid trouble but sometimes they can’t be avoided.

        I know that Compass talks about the speed and comfort of the wide supple tires a lot but the better handling and safety they provide is an even more important benefit. Can’t wait to get back on my 650b bike and covert my 700c bike.

      • HaloTupolev says:

        The closest I’ve come to crashing on railroad tracks wasn’t from getting caught in the cracks, but rather from the handling to avoid that. The tracks were wet, and I was a bit too aggressive in angling my bike for them, so the wheels were still partially in the process of cornering when the tires hit the metal. I felt them slip but managed to stay upright, safe but definitely shaken.

        I’m not sure that wider tires would have any grip benefits on the smooth wet steel, but I probably would have angled the bike less to begin with.

      • The slipping due to trying too hard to angle the bike to be perpendicular to the tracks seems to be a major reason people crash on railroad tracks. We talked about how to cross tracks safely in this blog post.

  3. Cyclosomatic says:

    Regarding a tubular version of this tire, and having experience with lots of tubulars and now these tires in tubeless, I can’t see myself piling on to request a tubular version. The performance coming out of the tubeless format is far too good for me to justify a tubular version. For sure, a tubular will have a slight edge at really low pressures on off-cambers, but I don’t personally see that outweighing the work and general lack of usability from the format (for training). With such a supple tire like the Steilacoom, a puncture is inconvenient, but not a ‘Ugh, now this tire is trashed’ situation (yes, I know, Tire Alert can replace tubes, but how many people do that?). Even at a race, you could puncture the tire in training, add a tube, race. I was on my Dugast tubulars last weekend, and got a slow leak in one, rolled the other. They are primo tires, totally incredible construction, but they are also tubed and super supple, so they can’t really handle rocks well. I felt like an idiot for using them instead of my Steilacooms. Now I have to mess with tubulars to fix the wheels to get time on them before my next UCI race, which is a waste of time, ATMO. I came out of the weekend feeling like what I need is a couple sets of 33mm tubeless clinchers so I’m set for UCI races, and will use the 38s the rest of the time. So if antything, I’d push Jan for tires in that size, using the same renowned Compass supple casing, with an intermediate tread. But there are some 33s on the market already, so he’d need to see quite a bit of demand to justify such a tire, I’m sure.

    • Rider X says:

      Not sure why you aren’t using stan’s sealant when your tubular gets a flat. Quick fix. Vittoria even has sealant + co2 in one go. Anyway, I finally ran a tubeless setup at on the weekend CX race. Ran the pressure really low (for clinchers), no real burping or problems probably doubled the traction in the slippery off camber corners (in my mind at least). So I agree that tubeless are really closing the gap. I just have compare to some FMBs… then my life’s work will be complete!

  4. mark schneider says:

    I was thinking today as I rode my old Bontrager with the Rat Trap Pass tires how I’d love a Steilcoom tread pattern on a wide supple 26 inch tire for winter months. I have some WTB Velociraptors which are great in the mud, but they seem really outdated compared to your tires, which have definitely spoiled me.
    Thanks again for a great product!

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