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Although not the fastest on tarmac, the tubeless-ready CST Pika offers good durability and puncture protection, strong grip on loose gravel, and is rugged enough for rocky terrain. More expensive tyres can offer a more supple ride, but for year-round use the Pika is good value for money.
You may not have heard of Taiwanese brand CST (Cheng Shin Rubber) before, but it turns out it's actually the ninth biggest tyre manufacturer in the world – and the parent company of Maxxis. Who you may have heard of...
While the Pika has been part of its lineup for a while, it was only in wire bead form and skinnier sizes. The new Pika comes in either 38mm or 42mm (the version tested) with a folding bead, is tubeless ready, and weighs in at 550g. That's not too bad for a gravel tyre of this width; for example, it's lighter than the more expensive 42mm Specialized Rhombus Pro.
Fitting proved little issue on a set of Roval Rapide C38 rims, and with their 21mm internal widths the Pikas came up slightly wide at 43.5mm. On a 19mm internal width rim, they measure 41.5mm.
42mm may sound like a slightly random measurement for a tyre, but personally I'm a fan for the simple reason that they're the largest that will fit in my frame. It also seems a size the majority of gravel frames will take.
On smooth asphalt the Pika isn't quite as quick as some gravel tyres I've used, such as the Michelin Power Gravel or Schwalbe G-One; instead it's about the same as the G-One Ultrabite. On high-speed descents they're a little noisy, too, which does indicate that they're not the fastest rolling – that's potential energy disappearing as sound (and heat) instead of acceleration.
As the ground gets looser, the performance gets better. On fine, loose gravel climbs the ramped knobs provide plenty of traction, and cornering is also good thanks to the U-shaped knobs towards the shoulder.
On rockier terrain the Pika also performs well. The sidewalls proved robust after a few scuffs, with rocks unable to do any serious damage despite a fair bit of abuse. In fact, I suffered no punctures while testing whatsoever, despite overgrown trails and hedge trimming; sure, that's partially down to luck, but it does bode well.
The Pika features what CST calls an EPS layer, which stands for Exceptional Puncture Safety, and it certainly seems to work.
Comfort is reasonably good, although these aren't the most supple tyres thanks to that (effective) puncture resistance layer. The compound also feels quite tough and hard-wearing, and after more than a month of testing (including a fair few road miles and commutes) there is negligible wear.
At €32.95 (roughly £28 at the time of writing), the CST Pika is cheaper than many of the gravel tyres we've tested recently – especially the tubeless ready ones. The Specialized Rhombus Pro 2Bliss Ready is a similarly good year-round tyre, for instance, but is £42. The Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite mentioned earlier is just a penny less at £41.99.
While the CST Pika's performance on tarmac isn't the best, not everyone wants to go everywhere fast, and on gravel it proves usefully robust, grippy and dependable. It should last pretty well too – it's a great tyre for the money.
Good value tubeless-ready tyre which, although not the fastest on the road, is excellent on gravel
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road.cc test report
Make and model: CST Pika gravel tyre
Size tested: 700x42mm
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?
CST says, "Before the Pika, gaining traction on gravel roads was a true feat. Now, it's child's play. Ramped center knobs roll fast on loose gravel, and u-shaped shoulder knobs dig in on the turns." I agree that it grips well on gravel and cornering is also good. This tyre is good for anyone looking for a value-orientated year-round tyre that is prepared to sacrifice a little speed on the road."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
EPS puncture protection
Available in 38/42mm sizes
Max Psi - 75
Also available as wire bead tyre
Average – the puncture protection layer does seem quite stiff, and not as supple as some.
Very good value, especially if speed on tarmac isn't a priority.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Well. It gives good traction on gravel and confident cornering, plus a decent road feel – though it's slow on tarmac.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I had no punctures...
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slow and quite noisy on tarmac.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
As mentioned in the review, it's cheaper than most tubeless folding gravel tyres, especially the ones we've tested recently.
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
It's really good value – at least £10 cheaper than most tubeless gravel tyres – and although not the fastest on tarmac, it's grippy on loose gravel, can cope with rocky descents, and can be used year round. It does a great job for the money.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 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, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...