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The Goodyear County Ultimate gravel tyre, which uses a specially developed Silica4 compound, offers a decent performance across road and light off-road, with good puncture resistance but perhaps a bit less suppleness than the best tyres of this type.
After Pirelli jumped back into the cycling game a while back, it got plenty of headlines, certainly helped by getting a pro-team or two running its rubber. Now it's been followed by Goodyear, which has worked with a US start-up called Rubber Kinetics to bring out a range of tyres including road, touring, gravel and mountain biking, all using proprietary rubber compounds.
Earlier this year Dave Arthur tested the Eagle, the road tubeless offering. The County is one of two treads developed for use across a range of terrain, together with the more aggressively treaded Connector. The County is best suited for rides that combine tarmac and some light off-road terrain, while the Connector is a little more off-road focused. Both are available in a couple of versions – the Ultimate and the Premium, for a tenner less.
Goodyear describes the County as "multi-surface", which could describe its intended use as well as its tread design. Goodyear has really crammed in all the different types of tread across its 35mm width. In the centre, across around 8mm of the tyre, it's fully slick. Either side, there's about 5mm of diagonal file tread, which then segues into a fine hexagonal stipple. The outer edge of the tyre adds some square tread blocks, designed to cling on when you're cornering on a loose surface.
It's a similar design to that used by WTB on its rather wider ByWay tyre, and is designed to offer a "best of both worlds" setup where you're rolling on slick rubber when going straight on the road, while the knobbly bits lend a hand off-road. And it works, mostly.
Progress on smooth roads is quiet and free-rolling, like being on large section slicks. My commute has some canal towpath and the shoulder tread made for greater security while cornering than if I was on a pure slick. On the road, it felt pretty secure when cornering on wet or dry tarmac, and because those corner knobs are only a couple of millimetres tall, there isn't much of the squirming feeling that you have on taller knobbles.
Of course, slimline tread like this will limit how far you can venture off the beaten track. To test how far, I headed onto some rooty, rocky bridleways, and found – unsurprisingly – that the centre slick section didn't grip all that well when trying to put power down over the bumpy stuff, and felt quite sketchy when descending. Let's be fair, this tyre isn't aimed at mountain bike terrain, and I am fairly confident that its sister the Connector tyre would have fared better here. I've ridden those trails successfully on a couple of gravel tyres, the Schwalbe G-One and the Clément X-Plor, neither of which has the fully-slick centre section as here.
A gravel tyre, rather like a gravel bike, is an attempt at balancing the ability to go quickly on the road and also have a bit of fun off-road. If your bias is more to the latter, then you more likely want a tyre without the centre slick section. If you're looking at road and a bit of fire-road or towpath then these will cope fine.
What of comfort then? Set these up as tubeless and you can run them at lower pressures without fear of a pinch-flat. Goodyear suggests a pressure range of 45-70psi, but if your ride is mostly off-road then you can certainly go lower than this. Running them at 50psi for mixed use, my feeling was they weren't as supple as some other tyres, with a less compliant ride over bumps. It's hard to be sure of this, of course, as you never ride exactly the same set of bumps, but I set up one of these tyres and a Schwalbe G-One at the same pressure (a lowly 20psi to make any difference more obvious) on two identical rims and applied the finger squeeze test, which did indeed suggest that this is a stiffer tyre.
There could be various reasons for this, including the type of rubber or the way that puncture protection is integrated. On that subject, I had no flats while testing these, and no evidence that the tubeless sealant was called upon to close up any small penetrations either. Goodyear uses its R:Armor puncture protection in these tyres which it describes as full protection, generally meaning that it covers the whole tyre bead-to-bead rather than just on the part which is generally touching the road, and on the evidence of my testing, it works very well.
I tested the Ultimate version of the County tyre, but for £10 less you can also get the same tread in a Premium version. I didn't have the opportunity to compare the versions, but Goodyear told me that the extra cash gets you up-rated puncture protection and casing durability. I was impressed by how little wear was evident on these tyres over the testing period. Because you spend the majority of time rolling on the centre of a tyre, this normally wears first, which can be obvious on a fully stippled or treaded gravel tyre. Here, the slick section seems to wear pretty slowly, and they should last well.
Overall then, the County Ultimate largely did what Goodyear said it would – it rolls well on the road, grips well in the conditions it was designed for, and seems to resist punctures and wear pretty well. Its price puts it up against some strong competition, with the Schwalbe G-One I mentioned above being the favourite among a lot of road.cc testers. The G-One is a little more comfortable, and will keep on gripping further off the beaten track, but it does wear faster. Journos who get test tyres for free might not worry too much about this, but most people will want their £120 set of tyres to last as long as possible. And these do pretty well in that respect.
Premium gravel rubber offering a good balance of speed, grip and durability
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Goodyear County Ultimate Tubeless Gravel Tyre 700x35
Size tested: 700x35
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?
Goodyear says: "Mating an efficient tread pattern with a high-volume and robust construction, the County is a versatile companion at home on any surface. Widely-spaced side knobs offer confidence on loose terrain while a smooth center tread minimizes rolling resistance. Goodyear's R:Wall sidewalls and Tubeless Complete construction ensure enhanced durability and fewer flats when the going gets rough."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The County is available in two grades, of which these, the Ultimate, are the more expensive and use a higher TPI casing, which should make them more flexible.
Uses Goodyear's "Ultimate / Dynamic:Silica4" compound.
Rolls well on tarmac, good grip in most circumstances.
Smooth centre section helps to slow down wear and make it less obvious than on stippled tyres.
Usefully lighter than the £10 cheaper Premium version, and well lighter than cheaper wired tyres. A similar weight to other high-end folding gravel tyres in a similar size.
If you're used to riding 23-25mm tyres then you'll find these very comfortable at the kinds of low pressure you can get away with when tubeless. I'm not convinced they are as supple as the best of their competitors, however. I've scored them by comparison with other gravel tyres rather than against narrower rubber.
They're not inexpensive tyres, on a par (in terms of RRP) with other higher end gravel tyres.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Generally fairly well – they roll well on tarmac and grip well on the roads and on loose stuff. If your off-road shenanigans extend as far as rooty or rocky trails then you'll find grip lacking, but that's not really what these tyres are for. Didn't feel as supple as I had expected from Goodyear's marketing talk.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Better wear life than fully stippled tyres. Decent grip in most conditions. Good speed on tarmac.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
They're pricey, and I think some other tyres are plusher thanks to more supple casing.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not – I normally want a tyre that can go further off-road.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
These offer a good blend of abilities for the right sort of rider. Assuming you bought them for a mix of road and light off-road, you will like the combination of good wear-resistance and grip. For me, I would prefer something a little more capable off-road, and hence would go for the Connector or a Schwalbe G-One. But I am not marking it down for lack of off-road grip as it serves its intended usage well and Goodyear offers a likely more suitable tyre for more off-road riding.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.