You guessed it, the Challenge Paris-Roubaix Pro Series tyres are named after the most brutal race on the professional calendar, the cobbles of northern France requiring careful tyre and pressure choice. What works on the cobbles also works on UK roads: these are a good choice if you want a high-end premium tyre that will provide a very smooth and supple ride, but the trade-off is they are tricky to fit the first time, puncture resistance isn't amazing, and there's the hefty price tag.
- Pros: Smooth, fast, comfortable, supple, look great
- Cons: Not the best puncture protection, bugger to fit first time
How wide a tyre you go is a big topic these days, but it's largely determined by what your bike will allow. The pros lean towards 27-30mm tyres for Paris-Roubaix, and the former is a good width for dealing with typical UK road surfaces. The bigger tyre (compared to a skinny 23) lets you run lower pressures. I happily rode with 65-70psi for my 67kg body weight, resulting in a silky smooth ride over the rougher roads. At these pressures the tyres feel very fast with low rolling resistance.
Much of that smoothness also comes down to the exceptional suppleness that is a key feature of these tyres. Challenge makes them with a 300TPI (threads per inch) SuperPoly casing, and the construction is different to a normal tyre: the tread is in fact glued atop the casing and they're not vulcanised like regular tyres. That explains their flat appearance when you pull them out of the box and does make the first installation a little tricky as the tyre isn't naturally curved. Once on – which might take a bit longer than usual and might involve some mild swearing – they are just fine and dandy.
The upshot of your effort to install them is that very supple ride. It just feels like the tyre 'gives' more than some when it encounters a bump or hole, soaking up the surface imperfection rather than jolting your handlebar. They seem to do a better job than some other tyres I've tested of a similar width. Boshing around my country lanes on these tyres is a silky smooth experience, and they deal with sudden encounters with holes and cracks really well too.
The tread has a serrated herringbone texture that is there to deliver extra grip on slippery roads, but as we know tread pattern doesn't really make much difference on a bicycle tyre especially in the wet, tread compound is far more important. I found the tyres to deliver a reassuring feel through faster corners with patchy areas of wet and a smattering of horse poo and farmyard muck. You can push them pretty hard and they grip really well, giving you back decent feedback too about what is happening at the contact patch.
Tan sidewalls are hot right now. I'm a fan. They look crispy fresh when new, but you'll need to pay attention to them when cleaning the bike as they do get grubby over time. You can buy them with a black sidewall if you're not so keen on the tan wall.
There is a double layer puncture protection under the tread, but I'm not convinced it's up to the task and is no match for some tyres I've used, such as the Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite to pick one example. I punctured the first time out, which I thought was just bad luck, but then punctured on the second ride, and not on the same tyre. Both times thorns were the culprit.
Bad luck perhaps, but while they are tough tyres, and appear to handle holes and impacts well, they just don't seem to be as resilient to sharp objects as some other tyres with beefier puncture belts. I tested latex and butyl inner tubes as well and punctured both.
I guess that's a compromise you make for such a lovely feeling tyre with a competitive weight. It make them hard to recommend as a solid winter training tyre; instead I think they are a tyre best saved for better conditions when you want the smoothness and rolling speed, such as autumn and spring when the weather is generally a bit kinder. They're not a fit and forget tyre – at £56 per wheel (cheaper if you shop around) they're a bit expensive for that sort of treatment, and the wear rate is a bit high. All those factors suggest that they are, as the name implies, a competition tyre, so save them for special Sunday rides when you want the best performance and feel.
Very smooth and supple tyres but not the best puncture protection and not that affordable
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Challenge Paris-Roubaix Pro tyre
Size tested: 700 x 27mm
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 have a pedigree for success over tough terrain having supplied multiple Paris Roubaix and cyclocross world champions over the years. The Challenge Paris Roubaix Open Road Clincher Tyre 27mm is no exception to this high level of quality, with a fantastic 300 TPI construction and double PPS puncture protection"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Use: Road / Cobble / Gravel Racing / Big Rider
Tire Width: 27 mm
Internal Rim Width: 13-19 mm
Weight: 285 gr
protection: Double PPS
They are constructed in the same way as a tubular tyre, they're just not sewn up around an inner tube.
Once you get them on the rims, they perform very well. They feel very fast and smooth, with good grip through the corners and they deal with rough roads well.
Durability has been good, in so far as the tread hasn't been cut up badly. The tan sidewalls have faded and got a bit dirty, so if you're worried about that the black sidewall option might be preferable.
They're a reasonable weight for the width.
I found them very comfortable, helping to smooth out the roughest roads.
They are expensive, and my concerns with their puncture resistance and reasonably fast wear rate would lean me to saving these for best rides; they're not an ideal fit-and-forget, ride-the-entire-winter-on-them choice.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They do a very good job of providing a fast and comfortable ride.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Very smooth and supple ride feel, and quick rolling too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Seem to puncture a bit too easily. And my god they are difficult to fit.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There aren't really any direct rivals because of the unique open tubular construction, but you could look at a Compass, Vittoria or Clement for a similar level of performance and ride feel.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
For spring and autumn riding in mostly dry weather on rough roads and cobbles, these are a very comfortable and quick tyre, but they are an expensive choice, without the puncture protection you'd want for a reliable winter tyre.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 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, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.