A Long Term Look at the Challenge Strada Bianca
The Challenge Strada Bianca has a rich heritage in Europe but can the tire make it through the Flint Hills of Kansas? We put the tire through everything you could expect to see at Unbound Gravel so you won’t have to wonder if it can make it.
We have been riding the Strada Bianca Pro TLR, along with a collection of our athletes, for over a year putting them through the roughest of the rough roads in Kansas. The general consensus is these handmade tubeless tubulars are the fastest and most comfortable tire any of us have every ridden with one major issues. Constant flat tires.
Challenge Strada Bianca 700x40mm Rating
- Incredibly soft and supple ride
- Faster than any other gravel tire
- Shockingly short life span
- High price compared to how long they last
- Hard to setup tubeless, especially for the average at home mechanic
When you first get the Strada Bianca tubeless handmade tires in your hands, you will notice is they are flat, as in they lay flat and have no round shape. The hand-assembled fabric and natural rubber give this tire an incredibly soft feel, even with the addition of puncture protection layers. The average home mechanic is going to have a VERY hard time getting these tires on the rim and is likely to end up at the bike shop begging for help. Chances are high that when the shop begins to assist you, they aren’t going to be thrilled getting them set up either.
Getting them set up requires an air compressor. You will need to fully mount the tire, then remove the valve core to add your tire sealant. If you attempt to add the sealant with one of the beads off of the tire, you will end up with a serious mess everywhere. Pro-tip, start mounting the tire opposite of the valve stem.
For those weight-conscious riders out there, they tipped our scales at 460 grams which is about average for this size of tire.
Ride and Impressions
The Strada Bianca Pro TLR are Challenge Tires race day gravel tire and not to be considered an everyday training tire, our words, not theirs. This can be off putting to gravel cyclist simple because most gravel cyclist want a tire they can put on their bike and forget about.
You will immediately notice a marked improvement in the ride quality of your bike from the high thread count, no vulcanization and light weight tire. The very first time we took a Challenge hand made tire off road, years ago, with the then 36mm Gravel Grinder, we had to stop multiple times to make sure something wasn’t off with the bike because it is that noticeably different. The Strada Bianca in the 40mm will be noticeably faster and smoother than any other tire you have ridden. While we have no data to truly back this up, you can expect to see a .5-1.0 mph increase in your average speed on gravel.
But, and this is a big but, you are going to trade speed for reliability. You WILL GET FLATS with these tires. The question is “is your event short enough to get you to the finish fast enough before bad luck strikes?” The shocking part for us, and other testers of the tire, is not that they cut in deep rough sections of gravel, but more at random times at high speed. Personally, I credit this to riding the tire much more attentively through rough sections because of the lack of more rubber.
Improvements of the Strada Bianca
Since we began testing, these tires has had changes in the construction. We were part of the R&D of this tire along with a collection riders located in the Flint Hills region. We rode a variety of prototypes of the tire before the current production version hit markets last year, and we did not pay for any of the tires.
Since we began riding the tires, the durability has improved dramatically but still not to the point where I would let an athlete use them for a race longer than 30 miles. The version of the tire you can get now has an additional protection layer, the PPS2 as they call it. It dramatically improved reliability compared to the first generation that wouldn’t last more than 20 miles in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Challenge also says you can now use a plug on the tires to help fix flats without having to worry the tire would fail, a welcome sign to any racer.