Not far beyond the television tower that crowns the top of the Waitakere Ranges, as you descend towards Titirangi, there’s a corner that sweeps to the left. It’s marked 25kph but, when the stars align and you pick the right line it can be done much faster. The bike leans low, and before you know it the speedo is in the 40s. I was dreaming of that corner as the Schwalbe team talked about the suppleness, or souplesse, of their new Pro One tyre at the small bicycle resort nestled in the Tuscan Hills. I hoped there would be a similar corner on the sunny roads around Massa Marittima.
As the presentation continued, I noticed they kept mentioning this concept of suppleness. It’s a totally new feel, they said. It’s a tyre with life, a tyre that rides like a tubular - but is in reality, tubeless. It’s a tyre that offers a ride so smooth it saves the rider energy whilst being more aerodynamic and faster than ever before, they said. My mind drifted off as the specifics were mentioned… once again I considered the corner, visualising its every bump, every fracture in the road surface, and how I would navigate my way around.
Shortly after the presentation we were riding. The road was smooth, almost suspiciously so, but I was promised we would be hitting rougher surfaces later in the day, to put the tyre to the test. The Pro One, with its 14mm puncture protection belt and Addix Race compound construction, felt devilishly fast, as if it wanted to spring off the tarmac and catapult itself down the road. The bumps, if there were any, felt inconsequential.
Not far beyond a climb that snaked its way up the side of a mountain, we reached a town adorned with a crumbling church and a few restaurants and shops that were open. The descent began through the town and I soon found myself racing at 60kph, leaning into bends with the utmost trust in the rubber that connected me to the road. The riders all regrouped at the bottom of the climb and I felt the tyre to check the pressure. I was running the 28mm version of the tyre at 90 PSI and it felt like I was riding on air.
Later in the day, one of the Schwalbe reps hit a corner with particular vigour. His front wheel skated out from underneath him and sent him sliding along the tarmac. Oil on the road, I was told, there was not much any tyre could have done to stop it, he said. I saw the other journalists furiously taking notes and could see the look in the rep’s eye, a look that said he wished he’d taken it a fraction slower.
Despite the crash, I was very impressed with the ride of the Pro One. They felt incredibly smooth and soft but also the feel was unrivalled in any tyre I’ve trialled. Schwalbe claim the tyre has 13% lower rolling resistance, 22% more cornering grip, increased puncture resistance, slower wear, and improved aerodynamics. At 245g for the 25mm version they are light as well. Based on their scientifically tested data, it’s clear that the tyre outperforms its predecessor in almost all fields.
I’ve always been slightly suspicious of companies that make such bold claims - it can often be hard to qualify such claims in real life settings. How can one measure souplesse? It’s something that comes down to pure feel. The reaction between the rider and the interface with the road and the tyre. I can neither refute nor stand by with complete conviction the claims made by Schwalbe about their new tyre, but what I can say is that it felt beautiful, it felt smooth, it felt like the feeling when the stars align on that corner in the Waitakere Ranges. And that’s all I hoped it to be.
On the descent from the small town on the hill in Tuscany, I found that corner I’d hoped for. It swept to the left, past a small stone villa ensnared with vines, and olive trees in the garden. A smile broadened on my face as the sun continued to beat down and the cool wind blew gently in the long grass that covered the slopes. I hit the line right, and the stars aligned. There’s little that feels better.
Words: Freddie Gillies
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