Making handmade tires is a difficult process and we pay constant attention to each step and detail along the way. Nevertheless, rare situations may occur that are imperceptible during production and that may also pass the QC (quality control) inspection. The tread is applied manually and as with any manual operation slight, involuntary human error may at times occur. These are rare cases that occur less than 1% of the time and we are constantly striving to bring that number to zero. The most common case is when the side of the tread isn’t properly adhered to the casing. This is a rare case of human error during the production process. If a worker touches the side of the tread improperly when applying it to the casing, his fingers may have taken off a spot of glue, causing adherence problems. In this event, the glue may appear well adhered in the QC check , but the problem becomes more perceptible later during use, because of that ‘weak’ spot.With three sets of tires here we are using three different test riders. The 30mm tires will be mostly tested on various paved surfaces, the 33 vulcanized versions are going to be tested on multiple surfaces, and I will be tilting the balance of the new 36mm versions toward gravel more than pavement. The 36mm versions are so new that they are not even listed on the Challenge website. We have weighed the 33mm and 36mm tires, and oddly enough, they weigh roughly the same, with all four tires coming in between 350 and 360 grams. (Note: We did not weigh the 30mm tires, but obviously, they are a lot lighter.) The Open Tubular tires we have are 260TPI for a super supple ride and you can expect to pay $70.00-$80.00 a tire depending on where you get them from Mounted up, both the 33mm and 36mm tires are at claimed width, or a tic wider. We will get in to the ride characteristics in our follow up post dubbed “Checkpoint”. Mounting of the vulcanized 33mm tires is fairly straightforward, however, the hand made, Open Tubular type tires require some special work to get mounted. Challenge Tires hand made Open Tubulars are actually flat hoops of rubber when you remove them from their packaging. Challenge recommends that you mount them by first slipping the flat tire over the rim with the beads hanging off either side of the rim. This will require some stretching, but fear not. The natural rubber the tires are made from stretches far easier than a vulcanized tire will. From there you set one bead, then insert a tube, and then set the remaining bead. It is a process that takes longer, but it isn’t hard to do if you follow Challenge’s recommendations. By the way, talc powder on the tube is highly recommended for ease of mounting and results in a safer, easier airing up of the tire. So Far……. Challenge Tires Hand Made Open Tubular Strada Bianca tires are a unique product in the marketplace and promise a smooth, supple ride. They are a bit fussy to mount up, but the natural rubber stretches to finally allow a good result. Stay tuned for ride characteristics and more in our next post in a few weeks. Note: Challenge Tires sent over these Strada Bianca tires at no charge to RidingGravel.com for test and review. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.
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