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Verdict: 
A frankly amazing combination of off-road grip, control and speed that translates well to the road for mixed rides
Weight: 
870g
Compass Steilacoom TC tyre
9 10

The Compass Steilacoom TC tyre is a fabulously grippy, fast-rolling tyre off-road that displays frankly ridiculous speed on the hard stuff too. The performance comes at a price you'll forget the moment you hit the first transition from tarmac to gravel.

Pros: Stupendous grip over rocks, grass or gravel; roll on tarmac with unbelievable ease

Cons: Price, but on-par with the logical competition and you get way more than you pay for

The Steilacoom TC ('Tubeless Compatible') is the only 700C knobbly tyre from Compass Cycles, maker of artisanal-grade super-supple clinchers and many other items of high-end cycle kit. Compass has a strong relationship with Japan's Panaracer, and has its tyres made by Panaracer in batches to its own secret specifications.

> Buy these online here

The Steilacoom is only available in one 700C size – 38mm – and two casing variants: the as-tested Standard (tan only) and Extralight casing (saving you 50g per tyre with a more supple ride, in tan and also black). There's a 650B variant too – the Pumpkin Ridge TC – which is a plush 42mm wide with the same tread design.

Compass named the Steilacoom after a cyclo-cross course near Seattle, Washington. That's the roots of the tyre's origin: to provide the same ride as a 33mm cyclo-cross tubular, with the much lower cost and reduced hassle of a tubed or tubeless clincher. Compass reckons in order to achieve the feel of a 33mm tubular, 38mm is the way to go – and to hell with the UCI's 33mm limit – who races clinchers at UCI-sanctioned level anyway? If you're a contender, you have a mechanic to glue up your tubulars to cure in a basement ahead of the season.

Another nod to the cyclo-cross pedigree is the knob design, harking back to classic CX tyres with their round knobs. Compass has gone with rounded squares looking down, with sharp edges viewed sideways. The thinking is that the edge can bite into the dirt or grass, while the tread as viewed from above has no sharp edge to hold a cake of mud between knobs, thereby clearing much faster. The tread comprises two knob sizes – in the centre there's a row of alternating small knobs that become larger and wider-spaced at the edge.

Setup

As is often the case with a very supple tyre, tubeless setup wasn't without its nuances on the Miche AXY-WP rims on test at the same time. Failing to seat despite best efforts, I let them sit for a night with an inner tube in place, then removed just the one bead, removed the tube and everything then seated just fine. Possibly they would have seated immediately after fitting an inner tube with the one bead locked in place, but going overnight didn't hold up the process. Then 60ml of Stan's sealant, and after a quick test ride things stayed inflated for a month of rocky, gravelly thrashing. Noting as Compass doesn't use a butyl liner to airproof their sidewalls you'll need to go with Stan's, Orange Seal or another similarly specced sealant.

> How to fit tubeless tyres

For my 73kg weight I ran 30psi at front and 35 at rear both on and off-road; these may sound foolishly low, but it's all in the science, which I won't rehash here. Suffice to say, for a super-supple tyre, go wide and go low.

Performance

On my first long on-off-road foray into the Highlands, the Steilacooms provided amazing, genuinely confidence-inspiring grip. Out-of-the-saddle high-torque climbs up 20%-gradient short, wet grass presented no challenge – absolutely no slipping was felt, even leant as far over the bars as I could go to keep the front wheel planted.

The Tifosi Cavazzo test bike was the 'commuter spec', with a quite high 34x27 low gear requiring an unseemly amount of out-of-the-saddle muscling to clear tricky bits. Even over slick Scottish granite the Steilacooms stayed stuck, my legs failing long before the grip on hand gave up. This grip is what Compass built the Steilacoom to deliver z- as a CX race tyre it lives to keep you shiny-side-up through twisty, off-camber, wet, grassy corners.

Descending at speed, swapping lines and surface materials across 4x4 tracks there was simply no hint of losing traction. Hitting 55kph on gravel was nothing but fun – no sign of sketchiness, or even the slightest concern. The longish 1045mm wheelbase of the test bike helped, but be of no doubt: the Steilacooms make you a better, faster descender than you deserve to be.

This is evidenced by the fact that at the time of writing I hold the Strava KOM for an 8km rocky gravel descent above Dunkeld that I wasn't even pushing that hard on. Put simply, I was having too much fun to care about remembering to go fast. On a highly mixed surface varying from protruding rock to drifts of gravel, to compressed clay and grass median strip, the Steilacooms let me range far and wide, transitioning from surface to surface with complete confidence.

The final 10k of the aforementioned Big Day Out (80km/1600m climbing) was on tarmac, but it didn't feel like a buzzy, draggy chore. The spacing of the knobs is such that although you know you're riding a knobbly tyre, it simply doesn't feel like it. Compass has tweaked the layout so that as you lean into a corner there's always the same amount of knob surface in contact with the road, so there's no transition from 'smooth' to 'knobbly' as with many other hybrid designs that seek to be fast-rolling yet capable in mud or gravel. With a supple casing and the right design, you can have a fast-rolling, mud-gripping tyre that also works on the road.

For me the proof in the on-road pudding is the other KOM I bagged on the Steilacooms: a 61-second all-out flat sprint on smooth tarmac. Averaging 45kph for the dash after a 40km hilly ride, the Steilacooms made an awesome high-pitched noise as I fanged along the straight. Just to prove it wasn't a fluke, I went back the next week and recorded exactly the same time to the second, again after a decent hilly off-road ride beforehand.

What further amazes me is that I had only just recently bagged that KOM when out testing the Compass Barlow Pass, the non-knobbly 38mm version of the Steilacoom. A few months apart, with no 'training' in between, the knobbly Steilacooms were 2 seconds faster over the 700m dash than the slick Barlow Pass – its 35mm sibling already one of the five lowest-rolling-resistance tyres in the world as measured by Tour Magazine.

Adding to the growing collection of amazeballs was getting a longer 4km KOM on the same road that I didn't know existed.

Another stunner: at about 430g per tyre, the knobbly Steilacooms are about 30g lighter on average than the slick Barlow Pass and the Schwalbe G-One 38mm. Compass explicitly states in a blog post that the Steilacoom is not intended for road use and that 'Efforts to make a knobby that rolls really well on the road are futile'. If this is its idea of futile, I'll have more please.

> Buyer's Guide: Tubeless tyres – all your options

Now not everyone is into Strava-gasms, and of course they are only of use in comparing with your younger self – you have no idea if anyone else was riding in a group, with a huge tailwind, etc. But I believe the evidence is irrefutable: the Steilacooms are up there with the fastest tyres in the world, on or off-road. I'm a huge fan of Schwalbe's G-one 38mm tyres – especially when they're on sale – but for the £10 extra money at RRP I'd go with the Compass option every time.

My one caveat here would be longevity. Of course it's pretty hard to tell over a month or so test period, but the rubber on the Steilacooms feels soft, and if you're mostly riding on the road they'd wear quickish I'd imagine. In that case I'd go for the Barlow Pass, which is likewise a ton o'fun on gravel.

The Steilacoom is for getting properly muddy-grassy-rocky, while still being able to burn along sealed roads without feeling like you're towing a photocopier in a wheelbarrow.

I'm now planning to get a set of extra wheels so I can quickly pick and choose between the Barlow Pass and the Steilacoom depending on route, weather and frame of mind. These to me are the only two tyres anyone needs, to cover every possible drop-bar-bike route option. If you're considering an alternative to a tubular tyre for CX racing, or considering a mixed on/off-road commute, tour or adventure, the Compass Steilacooms really should be top of your list of tyres to try.

Verdict

A frankly amazing combination of off-road grip, control and speed that translates well to the road for mixed rides

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Compass Steilacoom TC Tyres

Size tested: 700x38

Tell us what the product is for

They are for people who want to race cyclocross without the faff of tubulars, or for anyone wanting to go really, really fast on-or off road, mixing up their commute, adventure or tour.

Compass says:

The ultimate dual-purpose tire offers excellent performance and cornering on paved roads, but has knobs that dig into the surface when it gets slippery. Unlike most mixed-terrain tires, the Steilacoom knobs are big enough so they don't squirm, but there is much space in between to clear mud. We distributed the knobs so that the tire always is supported by the same amount of rubber, whether it's rolling forward or leaning into a turn. This gives you uniform grip at all times – whether on a muddy cyclocross course or during a paved descent with ultra-fast hairpin turns.

Named after an iconic 'cross course near Seattle, the Steilacoom combines the supple Compass casing with a knobby tread designed for all conditions. The widely-spaced knobs clear mud as the tire rotates. This means that the Steilacoom works extremely well in real mud, where most 'dual-purpose' knobbies clog up and spin. Whether you race 'cross or head out for an adventure into unknown terrain, the Steilacooms will surprise you with their excellent performance on all surfaces.

Made in Japan.

The Steliacoom is tubeless-compatibe.

When used with tubes, we recommend the SV17 or SV18 tubes.

Compass tires combine the performance of high-end tubular tires with the convenience of clinchers and the width needed for allroad riding. Our supple casings roll smoothly over surface irregularities. They absorb less energy as they deform with each tire revolution. Compass tires make your bike feel alive. From the first meters, you will notice the difference.

Compass knobbies are true dual-purpose tires that roll better on pavement than most 'road' tires, yet offer tenacious grip in the muddiest conditions. How does this work? We made the knobs big enough so they don't squirm. Our proprietary knob pattern ensures that there is always the same amount of rubber on the road, not just when rolling forward, but also when leaning into a turn. The knobs are widely spaced so they don't clog up with mud. Using the same tire for a cyclocross race and a fast road ride? Try Compass knobbies, and you'll be surprised.

Available with Standard and Extralight casings. The Standard casings are an affordable option that also offers extra protection against sidewall cuts on sharp rocks. The Extralight casings take the performance, comfort and feel of your bike to an entirely new level. Once you have a set of Compass tires, you won't be able to go back to 'normal' tires!

What about the UCI 33 mm limit for the width of 'cross tires? Most of us don't race in UCI-sanctioned categories. In the U.S., this rule appears to apply only to the national championships. For the rest of us, the UCI rule is irrelevant, yet most 'cross tires are limited to a maximum width of 33 mm. If you ride clinchers, this is less than optimal. To obtain the ride of a tubular in a clincher, you have to increase the size by 10-15%. That makes the 38 mm Steilacoom clincher the equivalent of a 33 mm tubular.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Compass:

Standard model

Clincher, folding bead

Tubeless-ready

Tan sidewalls

Fast-rolling

Excellent grip

Superior traction

Clincher tires with the ride of a good tubular

Maximum pressure with tubes: 90 psi (6.2 bar)

Maximum recommended pressure – tubeless: 60 psi (4 bar)

423 g

Extralight model

As "Standard" model, but with:

Ultra-light, ultra-supple casing

Choice of black or tan sidewalls

Further improved comfort and traction

Ultra-low rolling resistance

378 g

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
10/10

Flawless build quality.

Rate the product for performance:
 
10/10

These tyres make you a better rider, going up or down.

Rate the product for durability:
 
6/10

My only concern, given the softness of the rubber.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10

That this level of performance happens at a weight that beats out slick tyres of the same size is stunning.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
10/10

Oodles of comfort. So plush at sensible pressures.

Rate the product for value:
 
9/10

£56 isn't cheap, but I cannot see a single competing product close to delivering the same performance. You can, however, pay the same or more for a heavier, less-grippy, slower-rolling tyre.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Can't fault it. Amazing grip and speed.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The floaty grip over gravel and rock at speed. So much fun it should be illegal.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Nothing.

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 performance is amazing, and the price at RRP is £2 cheaper than than the logical 38mm Schwalbe G-one competition – which is also 30g heavier and less supple. These are exceptional.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 44  Height: 183cm  Weight: 72kg

I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountian biking, Dutch bike pootling.

14 comments

Avatar
Yorkshire wallet [2204 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Bike tyres have got to be the biggest ripoff going in terms of miles of use per pound spent.

I used to think I was getting ripped off for sticky motorbike tyres that would only last a few thousand miles but nearly £60 a tyre on a bicycle and it's not even like you ask much of them compared to motorvehicle tyres.

Avatar
StraelGuy [1517 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

You're right YW, £60 will buy you a car tyre weighing many kilos, that contains a lot of steel AND will last 20,000 miles. Quite hard to justify an RRP of £60 for something that weighs a couple of hundred grams and last for 3,000 miles .

Avatar
hawkinspeter [2381 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

You're forgetting about the other factors.

Yes, car tyres are relatively cheap, but whilst using them you'd be breathing in lots of vehicle pollution and your cardiovascular system takes a hammering from the forced motionless sitting.

Personally I'm more than happy to pay a surcharge on bike tyres due to all the other benefits from cycling.

Avatar
KiwiMike [1372 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Bike tyres have got to be the biggest ripoff going in terms of miles of use per pound spent.

I used to think I was getting ripped off for sticky motorbike tyres that would only last a few thousand miles but nearly £60 a tyre on a bicycle and it's not even like you ask much of them compared to motorvehicle tyres.

Ignoring the many-orders-of-magnitude scales of economy between mass-market car/motorbike tyres, and artisanal bike tyres, let's say they only last 2,000 miles. That's about 5p per mile. If I go out for 40 miles, that's two quid. Or, 1/4 of the Cake and Coffee I stopped for midway.

Now I could spend maybe half as much on a very hard-compound, inflexible tyre that *might* last twice as long - thereby making sure that every_single_one of those 4,000 miles sucked, from the perspective of grip, speed, vibration, cornering, etc etc. 

Large-volume grip and low rolling resistance cost. Frankly I'll pay the £2 per ride thanks. Again. And again. Happliy. To enjoy a sport I love, and enjoy it to the max.

Avatar
BehindTheBikesheds [2300 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Why wouldn't they produce the wider 42m tyre in 700C? This all stinks to high heaven, if you want a wide mixed use tyre you have to have 650B or a 29er tire (which won't fit even disc braked road orientated bikes) or you're fecked.

Sorry but this is a marketing conspiracy by simply removing/reducing tyre choices in existing sizes and then matching sizes of the 'new' (resurrected) wheel sizes that manufacturers are telling us we all 'need' to have and reviewers falling in to line with that.

I have 700C non tubeless wheels that run with rim brakes, produce me a selection of decent tyres for what I already have frame/wheel wise and I will spend £50-£60 a tyre IF it's a top tyre (I'm not spending £45 on a run of the mill all weather tyre like the new Pirelli seems to be)

I don't need nor want to buy a 650B type frame or set of wheels and replace everything I already possess to be able to have tyre choices for differing terrains, just give me more tyre sizes in what already existed in common ETRTO sizes like 622 and 559!

This is a bit like the lack of slick/narrow 26" tyres BITD and indeed decent lightweight rims. 

I had a pair of MA40 559s hooked up to a pair of Mavic 500 series hubs, they were the absolute bollox on a Kona Lava Dome when fitted with a 25mm 26" tyre. handling and speed were incredible on tarmac. Now we lose the 559 for all but cheaper/low end bikes and then present 650B, the king of all things touring/gravelly.

Simply marketing bullshit! 

 

Avatar
fukawitribe [2548 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

Nah. None of that really.

Avatar
KiwiMike [1372 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Why wouldn't they produce the wider 42m tyre in 700C? 

Becuase the purpose of the Steilacoom is to be a ***CX TYRE equivalent to a tubular, but without the faff***. It's in the review. Safe to say Compass know a lot more about CX racing than I do. Or you, likely. They made it 38mm, because that then replicated the feel of a 33mm tubular. That's it. They weren't setting out to make a 42mm, then thought 'hey, I know, *MARKETING* we won't sell it, because we make 650B wheels and we'd rather FORCE the PUNTER SUCKERS into shelling out HARD REARNED CASH to buy them as well".

...except they don't sell 650B wheels. Ahem.

BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Sorry but this is a marketing conspiracy

No it isn't. Can I suggest a nice bike ride?

BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

I don't need nor want to buy a 650B type frame or set of wheels and replace everything I already possess to be able to have tyre choices for differing terrains, just give me more tyre sizes in what already existed in common ETRTO sizes like 622 and 559!

There's no such thing as a '650B type frame'. There are 700C frames that can accommodate 650B rims with clearance for fat tyres like the 42mm version of the Steilacoom, that then make like a 700C wheel outer-dimension / handling-wise, but have a shedload more rough-road absorbtion. IF you have the clearance, 700C tyres measuring 42mm wide are all over the place - 'Google' is your friend.

 

 

Avatar
jterrier [210 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Why wouldn't they produce the wider 42m tyre in 700C? This all stinks to high heaven, if you want a wide mixed use tyre you have to have 650B or a 29er tire (which won't fit even disc braked road orientated bikes) or you're fecked.

Sorry but this is a marketing conspiracy by simply removing/reducing tyre choices in existing sizes and then matching sizes of the 'new' (resurrected) wheel sizes that manufacturers are telling us we all 'need' to have and reviewers falling in to line with that.

I have 700C non tubeless wheels that run with rim brakes, produce me a selection of decent tyres for what I already have frame/wheel wise and I will spend £50-£60 a tyre IF it's a top tyre (I'm not spending £45 on a run of the mill all weather tyre like the new Pirelli seems to be)

I don't need nor want to buy a 650B type frame or set of wheels and replace everything I already possess to be able to have tyre choices for differing terrains, just give me more tyre sizes in what already existed in common ETRTO sizes like 622 and 559!

This is a bit like the lack of slick/narrow 26" tyres BITD and indeed decent lightweight rims. 

I had a pair of MA40 559s hooked up to a pair of Mavic 500 series hubs, they were the absolute bollox on a Kona Lava Dome when fitted with a 25mm 26" tyre. handling and speed were incredible on tarmac. Now we lose the 559 for all but cheaper/low end bikes and then present 650B, the king of all things touring/gravelly.

Simply marketing bullshit! 

 

Calm down and listen to yourself, Mr. Angry. You dont have to buy any of these things.

Avatar
Rich_cb [795 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

It's definitely a conspiracy.

Avatar
TypeVertigo [428 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Why wouldn't they produce the wider 42m tyre in 700C? This all stinks to high heaven, if you want a wide mixed use tyre you have to have 650B or a 29er tire (which won't fit even disc braked road orientated bikes) or you're fecked.

Sorry but this is a marketing conspiracy by simply removing/reducing tyre choices in existing sizes and then matching sizes of the 'new' (resurrected) wheel sizes that manufacturers are telling us we all 'need' to have and reviewers falling in to line with that.

I have 700C non tubeless wheels that run with rim brakes, produce me a selection of decent tyres for what I already have frame/wheel wise and I will spend £50-£60 a tyre IF it's a top tyre (I'm not spending £45 on a run of the mill all weather tyre like the new Pirelli seems to be)

I don't need nor want to buy a 650B type frame or set of wheels and replace everything I already possess to be able to have tyre choices for differing terrains, just give me more tyre sizes in what already existed in common ETRTO sizes like 622 and 559!

This is a bit like the lack of slick/narrow 26" tyres BITD and indeed decent lightweight rims. 

I had a pair of MA40 559s hooked up to a pair of Mavic 500 series hubs, they were the absolute bollox on a Kona Lava Dome when fitted with a 25mm 26" tyre. handling and speed were incredible on tarmac. Now we lose the 559 for all but cheaper/low end bikes and then present 650B, the king of all things touring/gravelly.

Simply marketing bullshit! 

 

Simple.

Compass is a much smaller operation than you think.

The fact that they have to work with Panaracer for custom tire batches, like SOMA does, already gives you some indication of the scale of their manufacturing capability (or lack thereof). They are definitely nowhere near the production capability of Continental or Michelin, or even Panaracer themselves.

It ain't marketing bullshit. It's just the reality of being a small, niche player.

Avatar
mike the bike [1098 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

 

It's a conspiracy.  I've recently read two articles that mention Compass tyres, a friend has been trying to decide whether to buy some and now this review comes along.  They seem to be everywhere I look, even though they are of no interest to me, as I never ride off God's tarmac.

In fact, the only reason I'm writing this is to alert people to the interesting website www.bicyclerollingresistance.com where you can study in some depth the characteristics of many bike tyres.  And they certainly aren't very keen on the road version of this rubber, the Bon Jon Pass; they find it fragile, not very fast and very expensive, but I'll let you read the report yourselves.

Avatar
fukawitribe [2548 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

OK, but I think most people on here will already know Jarnos site - it's very well known and gets quoted on here seemingly every other tyre review. As for the Bon Jon Pass, it gets recommended on there even though it's pretty fragile - it's faster rolling than the touring tyres and slower than the faster road tyres... pretty much where you might expect it to be really. The Steilacoom is a different sort of tyre, is tubeless compatible and the reviewer seems like its behaviour in the real world - which is something that bicyclerollingresistance don't claim to test or comment on - so i'm not entirely sure whether one is that relevent to the other. Each to their own though.

Avatar
BBB [482 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Only a complete idiot can complain about lack of choice or bicycle trade conspiracies. 

A decade ago we were limited to 23 and 25mm and sometimes 28mm if you wanted to go fast. Anything outside that range were heavy and slow touring/city tyres. 

These days we have more tyre sizes, tread patterns and compounds to chose from than any time before, thanks to the latest research on rolling resistance (incl. that of Jan Heine / Compass tyres) increased popularity of gravel bikes and disc brakes giving designers more freedom to design performance bikes with ample tyre celarance. 

As for Compass tyres, why would anyone be surprised that Jan Heine gets mentioned so often?

He has done more than anyone else to propagate the concept of wider, suppler fast tyres and to educate ignorant and mentally lazy consumers (usually die hard roadie sheep) about the role of pneumatic tyres. 

There's no question that his his tyres face competition from Schwalbe (G-range) and few other manufacturers but at the time when they were launched, there was nothing like that available. 

 

 

Avatar
jhwr [3 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
KiwiMike wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Why wouldn't they produce the wider 42m tyre in 700C? 

Becuase the purpose of the Steilacoom is to be a ***CX TYRE equivalent to a tubular, but without the faff***. It's in the review. Safe to say Compass know a lot more about CX racing than I do. Or you, likely. They made it 38mm, because that then replicated the feel of a 33mm tubular. That's it. They weren't setting out to make a 42mm, then thought 'hey, I know, *MARKETING* we won't sell it, because we make 650B wheels and we'd rather FORCE the PUNTER SUCKERS into shelling out HARD REARNED CASH to buy them as well".

...except they don't sell 650B wheels. Ahem.

BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Sorry but this is a marketing conspiracy

No it isn't. Can I suggest a nice bike ride?

BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

I don't need nor want to buy a 650B type frame or set of wheels and replace everything I already possess to be able to have tyre choices for differing terrains, just give me more tyre sizes in what already existed in common ETRTO sizes like 622 and 559!

There's no such thing as a '650B type frame'. There are 700C frames that can accommodate 650B rims with clearance for fat tyres like the 42mm version of the Steilacoom, that then make like a 700C wheel outer-dimension / handling-wise, but have a shedload more rough-road absorbtion. IF you have the clearance, 700C tyres measuring 42mm wide are all over the place - 'Google' is your friend.

There are plenty of 650b frames Mike. They may fit 700c, but they are designed for 650B. The most obvious high volume one is the Cannondale Slate.