If you want a very fast cyclo-cross tyre for dry race courses, the Schwalbe X-One Speed TLE is well worth considering. It could also be pressed into action as a gravel-lite tyre for bikes with limited clearance, or to give a cyclo-cross bike a bit more speed on road and gravel tracks.
- Pros: Fast if the conditions allow; reasonably good on gravel and road rides
- Cons: Pricey, not as grippy on mixed terrain with a dose of moisture
Schwalbe's growing range of tyres can be a bit tricky to get your head around. The X in the name stands for cyclo-cross and the Speed denotes a tread pattern designed for fast conditions. If you're racing cyclo-cross and the ground is hard and dry, this is a good choice. For muddier conditions have a look at the X-One Bite which has a knobbly tread pattern. There's also the X-One Allround which slots in between the two.
The X-One Speed's tread pattern certainly backs the tyre into a small window of perfect riding conditions here in the UK, but during the test period we had some splendid weather and so it got a lot of use, on cyclo-cross courses, in training and more exploratory adventure rides.
The rows of small dimples are reminiscent of the bigger G-One Speed and work similarly well. Just like its bigger cousin, this tyre works well on the road – there's a good case for it being used on some of the latest endurance bikes that might accommodate such a wide tyre – but it's aimed at cyclo-cross where, given the conditions are dry and firm enough, it excels.
Fitted to a CX bike, the X-One Speed lives up to its name. Zipping and zooming between corners, it delivers impressive pace on hardpacked dirt and hard and dry grass. Lean them over into a corner and those slightly raised oblong blocks give a bit more purchase, though if you really take liberties they will break away. That said, when the limit of traction is reached the transition to sliding is fairly smooth and controllable.
It's surprising just how fast and hard you can push the tyres on mixed terrain, but you can get caught out if you encounter a damp patch or slippery surface: there's simply not enough tread to deal with anything sticky. You don't quite have to tiptoe around such obstacles, but you do have to ride with a hint of caution.
The tyres are clearly aimed at cyclo-cross, but can they be used for gravel? Without a doubt, they work well on mixed surfaces, but they are on the narrow side compared to the trend for a 38-42mm tyre for 'proper' gravel riding. If your bike has limited clearance or you want to throw your cyclo-cross race bike into the wilderness then the tyre is more than capable, provided you remember there's a lot less cushioning from a 33mm tyre compared with a 42mm and adjust both your tyre pressure and riding style accordingly.
There are two versions of this tyre available. This is the Evolution line with a TL (tubeless) Easy and Microskin casing construction. There's also a cheaper Performance line version which isn't tubeless-ready. This range-topping Evolution model uses a 127tpi (threads per inch) nylon casing construction, the Performance line 67.
Installing the tyres was a breeze. They are tubeless-ready and fitting them to a set of DT rims was a straightforward affair, as per my experience with other Schwalbe tyres. I did use a Lezyne Digital Pressure Over Drive Tubeless track pump to get them to pop up and seal.
The tyre pressure you choose will depend on your weight and the demands of the course and trail conditions. Schwalbe recommends a pressure range of 40-70psi which is a good starting point.
How low can you go? I experimented with pressures as low as 25psi but 30-35psi felt better, with more stability in the tyre carcass preventing unwanted flex and squirm when riding through fast corners. I find in dry conditions higher pressures worked well, and so it was with these tyres.
Away from the tape of a cyclo-cross race you'll want to go higher to stave off smashing the tyre into the rim on gravel tracks and rocky descents; for more road use, running the tyres at 50-60psi gives a very good rolling speed.
I had no issues with the tubeless setup during testing and while the sidewalls feel worryingly thin between the fingers, I've not had any problems so far. I have previously ripped the sidewall on an X-One Bite when hammering down a local gravel descent but that is outside of the design brief for these tyres, and all riding within the tape of a 'cross course resulted in zero issues.
For typical UK conditions the Schwalbe X-One Allround or Bite is probably a more suitable choice, as you're likely to have mud to deal with, but if it's a dry winter or for more mixed-surface gravel-lite riding these are certainly worth a look. They would also make a decent commuting tyre, giving your cyclo-cross bike extra purpose during the week.
Fifty quid sure isn't cheap for a tyre, and you could pocket a tenner and plump for the equally impressive Specialized Trigger Pro 2Bliss tyres, which I've ridden on various Specialized test bikes and VecchioJo gave them a good review a couple of years ago. The Schwalbes are a tenner cheaper than the Continental Mountain King CX, though, which have an rrp of £60 (though you can find them for £40 online). These have a more aggressive tread pattern so better grip in the mud, but aren't tubeless-ready (nor are any Conti tyres) so that might be a deal breaker.
A good fast cyclo-cross race tyre for dry conditions and for commuting
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Schwalbe X-One Speed TLE
Size tested: 33-622
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?
Schwalbe says, "The new X-One Speed completes the One Cyclo-X series. A real Speed-Miracle. The flat round knobs are supported by novel 'Multi-Rip'-Blocks for good traction on dry tracks. Vertical side knobs give stability when cornering.
"The Schwalbe X-One Speed Microskin TL-Easy tyre features a tread pattern designed specifically for 100% speed. Completing their series of cyclocross specific tyres the Speed is the tyre perfect for dry hard-packed conditions when you're racing or riding on mixed surfaces. With a central channel featuring minimal flat round knobs to allow the tyre to roll fast combined with Schwalbe's side knobs on the tyre edges to give enhanced grip on loose corners the Speed tyre is ready to perform during summer cross races, in early season cyclocross racing or simply as a general all-round tyre on your gravel bike."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
700 x 33mm
MicroSkin folding tyre
For maximum speed on dry and hard courses these are easy to recommend. Also pretty decent on the road as well for commuting or more varied adventure riding.
So far they've been just fine but the sidewalls do feel very thin, which helps with the low weight but limits their appeal for gravel riding.
For cyclo-cross racing they're as comfortable as you'd expect.
They are pretty pricey but shopping around always reveals some decent discounts.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For racing and riding in dry conditions and on hardpacked ground these are a very fast choice.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Roll fast on hard ground and also nippy on the road.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The trade-off for that speed is they lack grip in slippery conditions, which does limit their appeal here in the UK.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They're comparable to other tyres in this market.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
A good tyre for fast cyclo-cross race courses but probably not as useful in varied terrain and conditions as the more butch X-One Allround or Bite.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 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, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.