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The Compass Bon Jon Pass TC Extralight is the lightest and narrowest of its tyres that can be set up tubeless. It's good. Very good. Compass calls it its 'Goldilocks' tyre, and for going fast or far on rubbish British roads or gravel, in all weathers, it is indeed Just Right.
Compass has its handmade tyres manufactured in Japan by Panaracer, but the process and materials are unique to Compass. These tyres indeed cost a pretty penny, but if you want the pinnacle of real-world performance over varied surfaces, they're worth the cash.
At the end of 2017, Germany's Tour magazine rated the Bon Jon Pass as one of the five fastest tyres in the world – but that was the 355g standard casing, not the more supple 300g extralight version reviewed here. Also, Tour's testing ignores the single largest benefit of large-volume tyres: reduction in suspension losses. That's the energy you lose when you and your bike get bounced up and down over a less-than-perfectly-smooth surface.
You know that energy- and speed-sapping feeling when riding off-road, hitting a section of farm track that a tractor has driven over? Each and every bump up and down is lost energy, and you need to push harder to maintain forward momentum. While testing tank-driver seats, the US Army found that the human body could absorb up to 2,000 Watts of vibration energy as your muscles, bones and organs rub against each other. So every millimetre of vertical movement passed from your tyre to your rim to your hubs, up through the frame to your saddle, pedals and handlebar, is robbing you of speed. Large-volume, supple tyres at low pressures can remove some or all of that vertical movement, as the sidewalls deform and reform over uneven surfaces.
Another very important factor is the cumulative fatigue and discomfort that only comes after many hours out battling rough roads – sore back, arms, neck, wrists and arse. It's fair to postulate that if you tried riding any of the four other tyres in Tour's top-five review, you'd be shaken to bits or spend a lot of time repairing punctures on your average austerity-Britain 'road'.
The Compass tyre range is pretty simple to understand. There are two tread types: a slick herringbone pattern and a properly-chunky square knobbly. There are 700C, 650B and 26in diameters, widths from 26 to 55mm, and a mixture of either standard or extralight casings in black or tan sidewalls.
The logical competition for the Bon Jon Pass is the 35mm Schwalbe G-One Speed, which weighs in at 450g and includes a butyl liner in the sidewalls so it can run with non-latex-based sealants like Slime Pro. The G-One Speeds are £62 RRP but as often happens with large brands, they can be had cheaper. What you're paying extra for with the Bon Jon Pass is considerably lower weight and, critically, a more supple sidewall.
That 300g you're saving over a pair of Schwalbes equates to half a water bottle. Compared against the road.cc Hairsine Ratio at an average of 1.91g lost per pound spent to save weight, choosing the Compass Bon Jon Pass Extralight over the Schwalbe G-One Speed was 'worth' £157 of savings elsewhere. Ergo, at £67 RRP, the Bon Jon Pass is a ridiculously cost-effective weight saver.
Setting up the Bon Jon Pass tubeless requires a latex-based sealant, Compass recommending Orange Seal. I only had enough Orange for the front tyre, so used Stan's on the back. Over a period of days the sealants bubbled through the sidewalls of both tyres, and kept coming. Compass's UK distributor replaced the tyres and on the second setup everything was fine. In their own words, 'It's quite possible that the pair you got could have slightly too thin of rubber. Our tires are all handmade and the application of rubber can vary slightly. Typical we'll see tires seal up just fine after a week or two, so I imagine you received a particularly thin set.'
Personally, I'm okay with this – we are at the cutting edge of lightness/suppleness, and with good customer support it's a slight annoyance and a few days' delay; you may want to blag a bottle of sealant into the process too, if you've lost a bit or can't work out how to swap it over between tyres (the fabulous MilKit system sorts this out).
Across t'internets the consensus is that the extralight Compass tyres do take a bit more curating to get properly sealed, but nothing major. Maybe leaving them lying on each side for a day, a bit more shaking, a bit more air – that sort of thing. I found them to be a bit looser than other tubeless tyres I've had on the same rims, another layer of rim tape doing the job of seating the beads. This being a tubeless-related review, of course There Will Be Letters. Suffice to say, as ever, even a considerable faff at setup is more than recompensed by every single second of subsequent supple, fast, comfortable, grippy, puncture-free rolling, for many thousands of miles of smiles. Correspondence will be entered into, if only to restate the above.
Size-wise, at 50psi on a 17mm rim they measured 36mm, that width only dropping by 0.5mm down to 35psi. So no stinting, but if you're running wide rims with not much frame clearance, be aware.
I've done quite a few tubeless setups over the years, and have a pretty good eye for ballpark pressure. With the Bon Jon Pass I opted for 35psi front and back at the outset based on my Thumb-O-Meter and 75kg weight, and on my first run I found at high cadences I got a wee bit of pedal-induced bounce. On my next ride I went a few psi higher in the back and the bouncing disappeared; when dealing with large tyres, even a few psi can radically change how they feel and perform. Experimentation is the key here, to dial in your preferred characteristics.
Out on very mixed surfaces the BJPs excelled. I hardly noticed broken patches of chip seal, or small gaps and lips of manhole covers. I found myself thinking up tests for what I could and couldn't feel through the bike's contact points. Riding in a small bunch, I realised I wasn't signalling road surface irregularities as much as I should be to my sub-30mm-shod brethren following behind. And when our return route included a mile or so of gravel track I had to slow noticeably and pop to the back, lest my unfettered ability to grip and speed over the surface left everyone forlornly lagging.
Of course, people have been riding much, much faster and further on narrower tyres for a century – 2018's Paris-Roubaix was won by Peter Sagan on 28mm tubulars. But that's to miss the rather significant points that pros are paid to suffer, they are followed by team cars, and flats generally don't make that much difference outside of the last 50km. Also, increasing numbers of even pure-road bikes now include some form of suspension in the head tube, seat tube or seatstays to reduce vibration. For you and me, adding a few mm of tyre suspension can and will make a significant difference to everyday comfort, speed and grip.
And speaking of grip, at around 35psi the BJPs couldn't be faulted – even descending steep, twisty, slick roads washed with a thin layer of farm detritus. I haven't yet found the limit of their grip, but I imagine it's a fair hike outside of my personal performance /risk-averse envelope.
Compass recommends not going as low as 35psi because of the chance of possibly damaging the fibres in the sidewall through excessive flex, leading to a loss of sealant/pressure. Signs of premature wear are increased visibility of the crosshatching in the sidewall itself where the microfibres have broken. By how much such abuse would shorten the life of the tyre is an open question, and whether any performance benefit was worth it would be entirely up to you.
Back in February I reviewed the Compass 38mm Barlow Pass in the standard casing, and was blown away. At the time I noted the BJPs as being my target tyre for my Merida Ride 5000, and now I've tried them I feel validated in spades.
Everything I noted in the Barlow Pass review applies to the BJPs, and they're lighter/more supple to boot. What you may lose in going a few psi higher to reduce pedal-induced bounce, you get back in lightness and feel. I can't quantify it, suffice to say I'm hanging out for a truly dry Highland summer's day when I can put some serious effort into cornering the bejesus out of these down a few glens.
An exceptional tyre that will make you faster and happier
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Compass 700C x 35 Bon Jon Pass TC Extralight
Size tested: 700C x 35mm
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?
They are for anyone who can fit them, who wants a faster, more comfortable ride.
Compass says: "The Bon Jon Pass is our Goldilocks tire: at 700C x 35 mm, it fits bikes that have extra clearance around the Stampede Pass (32 mm), but not enough space for a Barlow Pass (38mm). Bon Jon Pass is accessed via a relatively smooth gravel road on the Olympic Peninsula. The moderate gradient allows you to let your bike fly, and these tires are perfect for surfaces like that.
On pavement, the Bon Jon Pass will outcorner narrower tires thanks to its greater width and its lower pressure, both of which keep more rubber in contact with the road surface. The Bon Jon Pass will glide over chipseal where narrower or less supple tires will chatter. If your bike can fit this tire, you won't be disappointed.
The Bon Jon Pass is tubeless-compatible in both standard and extralight casing.
When used with tubes, we recommend the SV17 or SV18 tubes.
Made in Japan."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Clincher, folding bead
Low rolling resistance
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)
as "Standard" model, but with:
Ultra-light, ultra-supple casing
Choice of black or tan sidewalls
Further improved comfort
Ultra-low rolling resistance
The look and feel of the tyre off the rim is perfect – for a handmade tyre they are beautiful and consistent.
These are fast tyres, period. World-beatingly fast.
Those on test have an 'extralight' casing, but if you aren't riding through rocks that shouldn't affect the longevity. Reports from the internet show BJP's lasting many thousands of miles.
These have to be the lightest tubeless tyres of their size in the world.
At the usable pressures, they are very comfortable.
At £67 each these aren't cheap, but it's not outrageous for a top-end tyre (you can certainly pay more) – especially for the performance.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These are designed to make you faster, and they do exactly that without compromising ride quality.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The comfort and grip afforded.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The setup faff.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Compared with other world-beater tyres, the price isn't bad. Roughly on par with other large volume quality tyres.
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
I'd love to give these tyres 5/5, I really would, but taking price into account, at £67 and unlikely to be discounted, the BJPs are one of the most expensive clincher tyres you can buy and that holds them back half a star. Though I believe they are worth every penny.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is: Velocite Selene
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, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling.
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.