Road.cc Reviews the Compass Switchback Hill

Road.cc tested another Compass tire. After the Barlow Pass and the Steilacoom dual-purpose knobbies, they had a go with the Switchback Hill 650B x 48 Extralights. This time, they used a different tester, Dave Atkinson. He liked the tires just as much…

His conclusion echoes ours: “At a time when people are doing roll-down tests to see if it’s worth switching to 28mm tyres from 25s, my advice would be to skip a few sizes and fit a pair of these, if you can. They’re great.”

I smiled when I read that in group rides, he had “to remember to point out holes and other imperfections that you can glide over on 48s but might easily pinch-flat a 25.” I remember that from the days before my friends switched to wider tires, too…

His conclusion: “There really is no downside to a big tyre like this.” But rather than retell his story, just read his review for yourself!

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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12 Responses to Road.cc Reviews the Compass Switchback Hill

  1. Peter says:

    I did ride the 300km “This is not a Tour” brevet in Wales (http://tinat.cymru/2018-rides/300km-br/) on these and they were excellent. Was a little apprehensive about using the EL version as the guy who did the reconnaissance ride slashed the sidewall on a sharp rock (some of the gravel paths were steep, rocky and technical, at least for me) but no harm came to them.

    Still have a pair of Hêtres that will be good for another 3000km but after that the EL Switchback Hill will be the tyre of choice on this bike. They combine well with the 50mm 700C Velo-Orange mudguards btw.

  2. SteveP says:

    Great info. People are so stuck on style and The Rules sometimes they don’t believe their own eyes and experience. I suppose it is like car buyers who opt for the cool and expensive huge wheels and low-profile tires and then complain about the ride quality being totally destroyed. “But it’s what the racers use!” Exactly

  3. Matt Allison says:

    Jan, I’ve been using Marathon Supreme’s for my commuter for a while now(27 miles roundtrip daily on very gritty Philadelphia city streets). It’s been the best in terms of weight, width, and flat protection, but they’re starting to wear out so considering making a change to compass. Would I be losing anything in terms of flat protection with this tire or the 42 cm model?

    Thanks!

    • If you get flats on your Marathons, then high-performance tires probably are not a good choice for your riding environment. But if you don’t get flats, give them a try! Generally, wider tires run at lower pressures, so they get far fewer flats, because the tire simply rolls over debris that would be pushed into a harder tire. For the same reason, supple tires aren’t as flat-prone on real roads as they appear in the lab – the supple casing easily deforms around debris, where a stiff casing doesn’t.

  4. Timothy Nielsen says:

    Twenty years ago or so, I took to shaving off the remaining tread of my hi-zoot Tufo cyclocross tires. It became a post-season ritual. They were amazing descenders, and even bald still allowed me to take gravel trails to avoid certain sections of highway between towns. I believe they were 32mm. They fit on all my bikes. Now I have converted to clinchers, and the Compass line of tires has made me rejoice.

  5. Mike says:

    I concur with the reviewer’s observations regarding potholes. I rode a group larger than 2 for the first time last week, and where other riders on their skinny tires would doge every little hole (sometimes moving over quite a lot at the last minute), I rolled over the rough stuff without issues. Given that my reason for joining that ride was to learn how to ride in a group and pass signals up and down the line (as with road debris and potholes), perhaps I chose the wrong tires for the ride… Just kidding. Don’t ever take away my Compass rat trap pass extralights!

  6. “At a time when people are doing roll-down tests to see if it’s worth switching to 28mm tyres from 25s, my advice would be to skip a few sizes and fit a pair of these, if you can. They’re great.”

    Skip a FEW sizes? More like skip ALL the other sizes? Kind of a funny thing to say about 48s! Love my 42s, but that was all Compass had at the time. I have no desire to ever ride anything narrower, that’s for sure.

  7. Craig Dempsey says:

    Is there a 650b version of the 55mm Antelope Hill in the near future?

  8. Stuart Fogg says:

    I’ve been very happy using 38mm and 42mm tires on the road. I also tried 48mm but they felt a bit unsteady at 45psi. Perhaps my 21mm (inside) rims are too narrow. I’d love to hear about experiences with 48-54mm tires on 27-30mm (inside) rims. I suppose wider rims would reduce wobble at lower pressures but I’m not ready to purchase new wheels just to find out.

    • Rim width doesn’t make a big difference with supple tires. The sidewalls are too supple to hold up the bike, so you just run a slightly higher pressure – and yet the tires still are more comfortable and faster than stiffer tires at lower pressures.

      An extreme example of supple tires are tubulars. In that case, the tire is completely round, and how far the rim extends to each side doesn’t affect the handling at all. Mountain bike pros used to run 20 mm-wide 650C rims (intended for triathlon bikes with ultra-narrow tires), since those were the only rims that approached 26″ in diameter. They used custom-made 58 mm-wide tubular tires, with no apparent problems.

      From personal experience, I run 42 mm tires on 20 mm rims (outer width) and 54 mm tires on 25 mm rims, and the handling is the same as with wider rims. What does change is the tire width – tires are wider when mounted on wider rims.

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