Good quality handmade tyre with a supple ride and good grip.
Challenge Criterium Open Tubular Road tyre
7 10

One of a select few tyres still available in a gumwall finish, the Challenge Criterium open tubular is a great choice for a retro bike, but the quality and feel of the tyre give it a broad appeal.

Open tubular? Similar to Vittoria's Open Corsa tyres, the Criterium uses the same hand-made carcass as Challenge's tubular tryes, but instead of sewing it up they add a bead to make it into a clincher. The carcass is cotton rather than nylon, at 320TPI (threads per inch) which is much higher than most clincher tyres (60-150TPI is normal). Challenge claim that this makes the tyre much more supple. Another big difference is that the tread is hand-glued onto the carcass, rather than the whole tyre being vulcanised, which affects the properties of the rubber.

Certainly the Criterium is much more supple than a standard clincher, you can easily fold the carcass and fresh out of the box it lies completely flat. Getting it on the bike first time around is a bit of a faff but once on and inflated it takes on a much more tyre-like shape the next time you have to pull it off.

Ride feel, and the grip from the file-pattern tread, is very good. The Criterium feels supple and there's plenty of traction when you lean the bike over, even in the wet.

Challenge don't claim the Criterium open tubular is massively puncture resistant and that would tally with what I've found, but it's no worse than other race-oriented rubber.

Challenge claim a 200g weight; ours weighed in at 220g each which is fairly light but not as light as they claim. Given that these tyres are hand-made you'd expect a little more variation.

Overall the Criterium open tubular impressed. The quality and ride characteristics are similar to the Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX which is the same kind of money and of similar construction.

At £50, it's not cheap, though. You can have them online for about £40 and sometimes cheaper, which still isn't a bargain considering there are some very good tyres out there for a fair bit less, but you might want to treat yourself and you won't be disappointed with the ride. If you don't want gumwalls the Criterium is available in black too, and also all-white.


Good quality handmade tyre with a supple ride and good grip.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Challenge Criterium Open Tubular Road tyre

Size tested: 23C

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Tubular version of Challenge's popular-for-racing Criterium tubular.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Corespun 320TPI cooton case, natural rubber tread, Kevlar bead, hand-made.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
Rate the product for value:

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Good ride feel, good grip

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Performs well, gumwall also looks good on the right type of bike

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

A bit pricey, puncture resistance not great

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? For the right bike.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 190cm  Weight: 102kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track


Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.


step-hent [725 posts] 4 years ago

Great tires, these. I found them really supple and smooth-feeling, and surprisingly hard wearing too - less susceptible to cuts than my Schwalbe Ultremos or the Veloflex I also tried. Look out for them at places like Planet X, as they often come up for around £25-30 each.

Mr Jono [102 posts] 4 years ago

These tyres are superb. I have them on my Team Motorola Merckx and they look perfect, just how the team bikes looked in the 90s. They're very smooth - I ran them at 135psi for the Etape Cymru last year and they felt great. No punctures all day when all around were getting them.

I picked them up on planet x for £60 for a pair, so keep an eye out.

dave atkinson [6304 posts] 4 years ago

yeah, at £60 a pair they'd be a proper bargain.

dubtap [17 posts] 4 years ago

PX have had them at £20 a couple of times before but the tread was glued a teeny bit wonky on the ones I got but no real world effect on performance.

Definitely a bit of tougher tread than Open Corsa CX but when paired with Michelin latex tubes fast and puncture resistant

Nickc78 [13 posts] 4 years ago

I bought 4 from ribble on special recently, two have exploded in spectacular fashion, one on a ride and the other on hot day with the bike left in the garden. On both occasions the sidewall split near the bead. So far the other two have been fine and for race tyres I would say they are quite hardy as I have had no punctures (just explosions), they are on a par with Vittoria open corsas but on balance I would say I prefer the Vittorias for obvious reasons.