Challenge's Strada Pro Open Tubular is a super-supple tyre designed for racing on rough roads. It's not the quickest tyre I've ridden, but for the battered B roads of Somerset these are ideal for racing, fast riding and even as a summer training tyre.
- Pros: Brilliant ride thanks to the supple casing, they sit really wide for larger riders and rough roads
- Cons: Expensive, and tan sidewalls will discolour over time
As they arrive flat with zero shape, open tubular mounting is never great fun and these are a bit of a pain to get on the rims. Once on and inflated, they form into shape making subsequent tube replacements easy. I did employ the help of the Challenge Tyre mounting tool (separate review to come). It's not essential and only really helps with the last bit so two strong thumbs or careful tyre lever use will suffice.
The ride feel is fabulous and is the reason I'll always choose these supple tyres over a vulcanised tyre, such as Continental's GP4000S II, which can be harder. A vulcanised tyre – improved, some would say, by a chemical process using heat and pressure – might be slightly faster and harder wearing, but I prefer the softer feel of these Strada tyres. They simply float over rough roads, of which I ride plenty.
Part of this is down to the size of the tyre. These 25mm versions sit much wider than the Veloflex Master 25mm they've replaced. Even mounted on narrow Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels, these provide a fat patch of rubber on which to sit.
The other part is down to the casing, which has a higher thread count (300tpi) than a tyre like the GP4000S II (110tpi). This means it will conform over road imperfections, giving that smooth feeling. My test set came with Challenge Latex inner tubes which further enhance the feel as they are again more supple than a butyl tube.
Cornering grip is, as a result, brilliant. I've been using these for training and also racing crits and I instantly felt confident to throw the bike into corners. The grip level is predictable in wet and dry conditions, although I do run slightly lower pressures on wet roads.
The rolling speed does feel just a touch slower than the Masters they replaced, though it's hard to quantify and certainly hasn't held me back in races. I'm not saying it's a slow tyre at all, it just doesn't feel the fastest.
Weight is also a slight compromise at 509g for the pair. That's not overly heavy for 25mm tyres, but you can get lighter. The Strada SC S, for example, is slightly lighter at 480g per pair. That bumps you up to a sealed 320tpi corespun cotton casing from the 300tpi superpoly casing on this Strada Pro. That will also get you a more supple ride, though the differences are small.
The puncture protection often associated with more supple tyres leads some to believe that these would pick up more cuts and flats than a regular tyre. I've not had any issues with these tyres, and after two months of riding they're cut-free. I seem to pick up more cuts in the Continental Gatorskins I use for winter riding, but they do see more debris. My riding features a good mix of main roads and lanes so I'm happy to say that the Stradas will last a good number of miles on normal UK roads. I'd also be happy to use these in the winter as they're much grippier than the Continentals in the wet. I'd buy the black sidewall for winter riding as tan walls stain easily.
That leads me nicely on to cleaning. If you go out in the wet with standard aluminium rim brakes, these will stain if they're not cleaned immediately post-ride. Carbon pads don't seem to be as bad, and SwissStop BXP pads are much cleaner for some reason. Disc brakes don't generate the same muck at the rim so it's a win for discs.
The price is what I'd expect to pay for a beautifully made tyre like this. I've been buying these tyres for a few seasons now and I go through one pair a year. I usually take the used pair and fit them on the winter bike, so they get a fair bit of abuse. At full retail, these are £4 more than the GP4000S II (£49.95) and 99p less than another excellent option, Vittoria's Corsa G+ tyres, but a quick look online will find the GP4000S II at £29.99 and the Vittorias at £36.99, compared to £42 for a Strada Pro.
Are they worth the extra cash? I'd say yes, they are. The ride quality and the look make it worth it.
If you're a rider who wants a beautiful tyre that can cope with UK roads, these are a brilliant option. The extra volume they provide along with an exceptional ride quality makes them near perfect in my opinion.
Brilliant handmade open tubular for UK roads, a fast and supple race tyre – just be prepared to pay for it
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Challenge Strada Pro 25
Size tested: 700 x 25mm
Tell us what the product is for
Challenge is aiming these at larger riders and rough roads. This is a tough road race tyre.
I've been impressed by their performance in the local races. They feel fast enough, with a supple feel that has kept me comfortable on some really dodgy surfaces. The grip in the corners and when laying the power down is also amazing.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Use: Road Racing / Big Rider / Rough Roads
Tire Width: 25 mm
Internal Rim Width: 13-17 mm
Weight: 240 gr
Flat protection: PPS
Unlike some handmade tyres, these are perfectly straight when you put them on. They look absolutely perfect.
The ride is smooth and fast. I've not had any punctures and there are no cuts on the rubber or sidewalls. Using these for crits has shown them to provide plenty of cornering grip too.
I've marked these down slightly but only because if you buy tan wall tyres and ride them in the rain a lot, they will stain.
The weight (shown per pair) is higher than a more race-focused tyre, but these have added puncture protection. There are lighter options for sure.
It's partly the casing, partly the compound and partly the lower pressures that you can use, but these are the comfiest tyres I've ridden outside of CX tubulars.
They're more expensive than a Continental GP4000S II, but if you're looking for a handmade option, these are worth the money.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These are designed as a fast tyre that can stand up to poor roads. They worked absolutely perfectly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The general ride is excellent. The comfort these provide while still being grippy and fast is excellent.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price. And as they aren't as common as some, they're not discounted as much.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, a brilliant ride.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes. My general riding takes in some shockingly poor roads and these have really helped.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, especially larger riders.
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a high-end tyre that provides a great ride on rougher roads. Pricey, yes, but worth it – near-perfect and fully deserving 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. Liam spends his time plodding his way through cyclocross races, very busy not winning. As an advocate for perfectly clean chains, he can be found cleaning his bike instead of training. A shop mechanic, Liam has many helpful skills, such as being able to identify 'cross tubs by the tread pattern alone. If you bump into him, he'll probably be eating.