Zipp has overhauled its tire line. By all appearances, they started from scratch. Now that there is a body of evidence that has demonstrated how wider tires can cut rolling resistance, Zipp has joined the movement. They’d already released a 25mm-wide tire, but now they have added two 28mm offerings and even one at 30mm.
I’ve been riding the Tangente Speed R28. This is a 28mm-wide tire with a 220 tpi casing. If there’s been one complaint that I’ve had about most of the 28mm and wider tires that I’ve seen, it’s that they use a 60 or 120 tpi casing more common to training tires than high performance ones.
It’s maddening to look over a bunch of high-quality clinchers in 23 and 25mm widths only to find out the 28s and larger (if there is a larger) have a 60 tpi casing. While a 120 tpi casing can be reasonably supple in a larger volume tire, the smaller the tire, the higher the thread count needs to be in order to keep the tire pliable at higher pressures.
The old tread pattern is gone and the tires are now largely slick with side sipes to channel water should you be riding in wet conditions. The compound has a super grippy 60A durometer. That’s pretty soft by bike tire standards, meant for anyone looking for optimal grip and willing to sacrifice a bit of long-term durability.
I’ve been doing a fair amount of mixed-surface riding on these tires, everything from smooth asphalt to gravel-covered fire roads. The particular genius of this tire doesn’t come through on unpaved surfaces. Sure, it feels nice enough, and it’s big enough to provide a fair amount of traction on those looser finishes, but I most like this tire, most appreciate, it on asphalt.
There’s a feel that comes from high-quality clinchers that simply isn’t achievable with low-thread-count clinchers, even at lower pressures. I’ve noticed that when I try to run a cheap tire at lower pressure, it feels slow, makes the bike handling heavier. Part of that, I’m sure, is the heavier tire, but it’s also true that simply reducing pressure doesn’t overcome the greater stiffness at the sidewall.
I’ve been running the Speed R28 at 90 psi, generally, which gives the tire enough pressure to roll well, but terrific grip over some roads that don’t much deserve the accolade of being called a road, so dilapidated they are. The roads where I live are rough enough that I don’t even consider running 23s anymore, but I’m still new enough here that I’m still searching for the right tire at the right pressure. The Speed R28 is another great option.
To be clear, Zipp considers the Speed series tires to be event-day tires, not everyday training tires, but with a suggested retail of only $10 more than the Course series tires ($65 instead of $55), to run these tires daily is not exactly golden toilet extravagance.
Final thought: With the way our infrastructure is going, 28 is the new 25.