The Rene Herse 650x48 Juniper Ridge tyres have a knobbly tread that has been designed to roll well on the road too. I was sceptical, but to be honest they are pretty good, giving a boost to your average speed on those tarmac sections between the tracks and trails. They can feel a little fragile, but in use I had no issues whatsoever.
Heard of Compass tyres? We've certainly tested plenty and they've always performed well – models like the Bon Jon Pass TC or the Steilacoom TC. Well, Compass has gone through a rebranding exercise and become Rene Herse.
The Juniper Ridge is one of its new all-road tyres. It might look like a knobbly mountain bike tyre but it's been designed to work just as well on the road as it does off the beaten track. It has the same tread as the 700x38 Steilacoom mentioned above, but in a 650x48mm size.
The tread has been designed to place as much rubber on the road as possible and the result is a surprisingly grippy and fast-rolling tyre. There is a little bit of road noise once you get up to speed, but thanks to the soft compound and supple casing, they really do feel like road tyres.
Grip isn't as high as a full slick but it isn't far off, and with so much feedback coming through, you certainly know when you've reached the crossover point to loss of traction.
You're unlikely to be using these 100 per cent on the road, though, they are more a design for off-road surfaces that can also take on the bits of tarmac that string those off-road sections together, so all-out speed and grip isn't the be all and all.
Take to the gravel tracks and the Juniper Ridge gives plenty of confident grip, whether you are on the hard-packed stuff or the looser, shingle type, helped by a balance of the tread and their 48mm width.
The suppleness of the sidewall when fitting did leave me with a little trepidation about how they'd respond to potholes and sharp rocks, but with 35psi in them for a mixture of road and gravel use I had no issues whatsoever.
The majority of gravel tracks I ride are used by the military for transporting tanks and the like around, so they are quite smooth and well packed, with larger rocks and smaller stuff filling in the gaps. Cornering on this surface, the Junipers had just the right level of grip for the knobbles to dig into the gravel so you could blast round at speed.
Heading away from the hard-packed surface to the local single track through the woods and the Juniper Ridge impress here too, unless things are really wet and sticky. They grip well on soft mud and the tread doesn't seem to hang onto any dirt either, shedding it before it can become compacted between the knobbles. The only place it did suffer a bit was on wet, sticky chalk which could clog up the tread.
The Juniper Ridge can be run either tubeless or with tubes and it was reasonably easy to fit either.
Going tubeless was a bit more of a faff because of the suppleness of the sidewalls. They give a great ride feel but can be a little floppy when not inflated, so trying to get them to seal even with a good blast from the Beto Surge Tubeless Floor Pump wasn't happening.
Sticking a tube in to pop the tyre on, deflating and removing the tube while leaving one bead attached and then inflating again did the trick, with the Junipers making a defined snap as they sat against the rim of the wheel.
Rene Herse doesn't use a butyl lining on the inside of the sidewall, to keep that supple feel, which leaves it on the porous side so you need to use a thicker sealant like Orange Seal to close up all the little gaps in the casing.
After acquiring some, I set to work and everything worked as expected after pumping the tyres up, leaving them overnight and then giving them a top-up in the morning. After this initial setup you can use any sealant to top them up according to the mounting instructions.
I covered about 300 miles on the Junipers in a variety of weather conditions, from 35°C heatwave to huge downpours, and they never really put a foot wrong. I had no issues with durability or punctures throughout and they are still looking pretty new, with no cuts or marks.
The only thing I would say is that the rubber compound used is quite soft, and plenty of use on the road with them pumped up hard will probably see the knobbles wear quite quickly; I'll keep you posted.
The Standard version of the Juniper that we have on test has an RRP of £60, but you can also get a Lightweight version with either black or tan sidewalls for £74, and an Endurance version for the same money. Pricey, but not overly so.
The Donnelly Xplor MSO tyres have an all-round kind of theme to them and the size we tested are £65. They are available in 650B guise too.
The Junipers' ride quality on the road and off it reminds of the excellent Schwalbe X-One Allround. Again, we tested the 700C version which costs £66, but there's also a 27.5in (650B) x 1.3in for the same money.
Overall, the Juniper Ridge tyres are pretty darn good wherever you ride them and whatever the weather is doing. They'll be my go-to tyres for any 650B-equipped gravel wheels that come in for testing, that's for sure.
Work brilliantly on a full range of terrains and surprisingly tough for a supple tyre
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rene Herse Cycles Juniper Ridge 650x48
Size tested: 650B x 48mm
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?
Rene Herse says, "The ultimate 650B dual-purpose tire is designed for adventures where you don't know what lies ahead. It offers excellent performance and cornering on paved roads, yet its knobs dig into the surface when it gets slippery. The tread pattern is designed to increase the amount of rubber in contact with the road as you lean the bike into turns to maximize grip."
They are very competent tyres whatever the terrain.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Rene Herse:
Rene Herse tires combine the performance of high-end tubular tires with the convenience of clincher. The supple casings roll smoothly over surface irregularities. The knobs are large enough so they don't squirm, yet they are spaced far enough to clear mud. All models feature:
Clincher, folding bead
Maximum pressure with tubes: 55 psi (3.8 bar)
Maximum recommended pressure – tubeless: 55 psi (3.8 bar)
Ultra-light, ultra-supple casing
The ultimate in speed and comfort
Black or tan sidewalls
Our Extralight casing in a denser, stronger weave
Protective belt under sidewalls and tread
Ideal for rough gravel and tough conditions
Dark tan sidewalls
For their size and tread they're quite competitive.
Very supple, almost like a tubular tyre.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A great crossover tyre for riding a bit of everything.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great tread pattern, which works pretty much everywhere.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I didn't really dislike anything to be honest, but I'll be keeping an eye on the wear rate on road.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
You can buy tyres that have a few more compromises for riding tarmac and off-road for around the £40-£50 mark, but for the performance the Junipers aren't priced too badly against others such as the excellent Schwalbe G-Ones.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The tread pattern is very effective at tackling different surfaces, which is what makes the Junipers stand out against a lot of others out there, even if they are a bit of an investment.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!