The Challenge Strada Bianca Pro TLR is a high quality, big chamber slick that's ideal for a mixture of tarmac and well-graded gravel. It was surprisingly easy to set up and offers a supple ride, especially on well-made gravel roads.
The Challenge Strada Bianca is no stranger to road.cc, and the reviews of it chart the progress of tyre tech over the last six years. Back in 2014 we tested the 30mm version, and that was a big old tyre back then. Then in 2016 we had a go on the 33mm vulcanised version and that was a hit too.
Skip forward to now and the Strada Bianca is available in widths up to 40mm, and you can even run them tubeless. How very modern. But for all that modernity in terms of size and tubeless compatibility, this is a very traditional tyre in terms of its build: an open tubular, using a high quality 260TPI SuperPoly casing with the thread glued on, and a puncture protection layer sandwiched in between. That kind of construction requires a bit more human involvement in the production process than vulcanising them in a big press, which goes some way to explain the salty price tag: £75 for this 36mm tyre, or £83 for the 40mm version.
The Strada Bianca Pro isn't vulcanised, so it isn't tyre-shaped when you rip it from its packaging: it lies entirely flat, and has to be coaxed into a tyre shape. I've had some fairly lengthy and sweary sessions fitting tyres of this ilk, even with an inner tube in, so I was expecting to have to block out a weekend for getting these up and running tubeless. But to my surprise and joy they were simple to fit, sufficiently so that the rear didn't even require the Airshot, it just pumped straight up with the track pump.
I fitted them to some Reynolds AR41X carbon wheels and some Mavic Aksium Elite alloy rims with nary a single swear, and they stayed up well too. The carcass is thin, and not entirely air tight, so you need to be reasonably generous with the sealant, but once they're sealed they're impressively impermeable, and a quick check of the pressures before you head out is all you need.
These are light tyres for a 36mm. Weighing in at just 380g an end (plus 40ml of sealant), they're much lighter than most comparably sized tyres; something like the IRC Boken is about 100g heavier. That's down to the lack of vulcanisation and high-thread-count casing, which also gives these tyres a very supple feel over all kinds of surfaces.
On the road they roll extremely well: they feel like road tyres, even though I generally only had them pumped up to a maximum of 55/50psi front and rear. For mixed surface riding I ran them at 45/40psi and at that kind of pressure you can tear along well-prepared gravel trails with almost magic carpet levels of comfort. On the graded stuff these are really, really good.
When things get technical the herringbone grip isn't going to hang on to anything too gnarly, and there's no shoulder tread to hang on to off-camber sections. They're not the absolute best on wet roads either, though they're okay: I could make them slip out at the rear putting the power down on greasy road climbs, but they felt surefooted enough coming down stuff. However, for the better-surfaced end of the gravel spectrum they're hard to beat. There's enough air chamber that you can get away with the odd bad line choice at speed, and from time to time I bumped them against the rim on an exposed rock or through a hidden pothole, but a check of the tyres hasn't revealed any damage.
The non-vulcanised sidewalls aren't going to be as sturdy as a heavier tyre, so if you live somewhere that's full of sharp flinty bits waiting to cut a hole in your tanwalls, that's something to consider. Anything poking through the tread should get sealed just fine though, and during testing I've not managed to put any kind of hole in them that's caused them to lose pressure. That's more by luck than judgement.
They're expensive, no doubt about that. Lots of good tyres are, though, and at RRP they're not massively more than something like a Schwalbe G-One Speed, which now comes in a 700x38 size and is probably the most direct competitor; the WTB Byway also comes in 700x40 and is good for a similar range of surfaces. Of the big-chamber slicks, the Compass/Rene Herse Barlow Pass TC is probably the pick right now, although they can be difficult to find.
The Strada Bianca is a very good tyre though, and if you've got room in your frame it'll transform your bike in terms of comfort and remit over a stock 28mm tyre.
Fast-rolling, comfortable big-chamber slick tyre for tarmac and well-dressed gravel
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Challenge Strada Bianca Pro TLR
Size tested: 700x36
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?
Challenge says, 'Race it hard or just head off the beaten path. The Strada Bianca takes the proven construction of the Paris-Roubaix and adds volume to take you comfortably over less-than-perfect surfaces. This is your tire for rough roads, packed dirt, and most gravel surfaces.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-260 TPI SuperPoly casing
-PPS2 puncture protection
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Surprisingly easy to set up tubeless, hugely supple.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Expensive, grip on tarmac not the best, sidewalls more vulnerable than some.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's comparable to other high-spec big-chamber slicks, which are mostly in the £65-£75 price bracket.
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
A big outlay, yes, but moving to these tyres from something like a stock 28mm/32mm vulcanised tyre can transform the feel of a bike.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.