Vredestein Fortezza vs. Schwalbe Ultremo ZX… the comparo continues

Back on Sept 7th we finally had a chance to start riding on a set of Schwalbe Ultremo ZX and I provided by First Impressions: Schwalbe Ultremo ZX Tires in a blog entry on Sept 8th.  To recap those initial impressions:

 … the Schwalbes […] felt light, lively, and cornered pretty well […] .   There was a bit more perceptible road buzz coming through the tires and a little more bump transfer to my hands than what I experience with our Vredestein Fortezza’s.  

DSCN0009After putting about 150 miles on the Schwalbe’s, I pulled them off and put on a brand new set of the Vredestein Fortezza today for some back-to-back comparisons.  I opted to use one of the new sets I have on hand vs. putting on a broken-in set to make the comparison as close to apples-to-apples as I could.

Wow, I gotta tell ya… although subtle, the differences were pretty significant, especially when it comes to cornering performance.  The Vredestein’s are hands-down more grippy, sure-footed and comfortable than the Schwalbes.  Even on the brand-new Vredestein’s, I was able to dive into the corners and pick my line without any tire slip, something that the Schwalbes would still do even after 120 miles.  Road buzz and bumps were also less noticeable on the Vredestein’s.  However, I’m pretty sure the Schwalbe’s roll a bit faster than the Vredesteins and will clearly outlast the Vredestein’s. In regard to the latter, the Schwalbe’s still have a pretty visible center mold seam showing after 150 miles on the rear tire, and the front still has lots of flash left attached to the center mold seam.  The Vredestein’s, on the other hand, always begin to show tread wear as soon as they hit the road and a new rear tire is good for less than 1,000 miles at best.

SDC11300 SDC11299

Ultimately, it clearly comes down to having two very different philosophy’s about tire construction, materials and value.  Both the Vredestein and Schwalbe tires use a fairly high 120-127 thread per inch in the casing thread construction, but the Schwalbe seems to use a much harder, synthetic rubber compound for the tread vs. the much softer, natural rubber-feeling compound used by Vredestein.  That single difference would explain all of the differences I’ve detected in just the very few miles of use we’ve logged on the Schwalbes.

From a consumer standpoint the trade-off in cornering performance and comfort are things that I suspect 90% of cyclists would never notice unless they really like to drive hard through corners or are highly sensitive to road feel.  However, if the Schwalbe’s prove to be more durable and have a significantly longer tread life — which is what I’m expecting — that same 90% of cyclists would certainly appreciate the cost savings they’d enjoy as the miles rolled by.

We’ll do our Tuesday night ride on the Vredestein’s and then I’ll switch them out with the Schwalbe’s for our Thursday night ride just to revalidate my impressions.

Bottom Line: These are both very nice tires. I think I’m more inclined to live with the lower tread life / better cornering since I place a premium on our ride time.  But, we’ll see. I’ll be anxious to see if the Schwalbe’s get more grippy with time and miles: that tread compound is REALLY tough, so I’m not holding my breath.


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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17 Responses to Vredestein Fortezza vs. Schwalbe Ultremo ZX… the comparo continues

  1. Wayne Thais says:

    Try running the Schwalbes at 115-120 psi and I think you will like them better.

    • TG says:

      Did that after the first ride…. There was a bit more compliance at the lower psi on the bigger bumps, but no real change in cornering or high-frequency road buzz. I believe it all comes down to two differences: (a) the Ultremo’s tire compound is just a much harder compound than the Vredestein tread, and (b) the Ultremo may have a taller crown; although, that’s something I still need to go and look at. The end result is a tire that feels very fast, but doesn’t track or corner as well as what we’re used to. The road buzz isn’t all that bothersome and only stands out because of how well the Vredestein’s seem to be at soaking it up.

  2. Michael Grimes says:

    Which Vredestein Fortezza model are you using? My search turned up at least 3 models.

    • TG says:

      It used to be called simply the Fortezza. However, I believe they may have renamed it the Fortezza DuoComp since the last time that I stocked-up.

      We’ve also used the Fortezza SE — now the DuoComp Superlight? — and those were OK, but didn’t last long at all… not that the Fortezza lasts that long as it is. We’ve also used the Tri-Comps, but not since around 2002. Great tire for competition, but not as a daily training tire: the very soft sidewall compounds would dry-out, craze and chunk if they weren’t used-up quickly.

  3. Baird Webel says:

    You didn’t mention how wide the tires are, both nominal and actual? If you are interested in wider high performance tires, I noticed at Interbike that Conti is bringing out 700×28 GP4000s, which might be something to consider.

  4. We are running PRO4 Endurance 25c. At 110 lbs., they measure a hair under 28mm. A 300 lb. team, we are running them at 110 lbs. since they are so wide, a huge improvement in smoothness over the 120 lbs. at which we usually run 25c tires. It’s a two-compound tire. The center compound wears well and has an exceptional resistance to cutting. They handle as well, wet or dry, as a Conti 4000s, IMO. They are the best tandem tire we’ve ever run, by far. We have not tried the new ZX, though the old ZX was terrible for flatting. We tried running 23c Vredestein Tricomps at 140 lbs. when we first got our tandem, but found them much too fragile for our roads, though they handled well and were very fast.

    We’d be very interested in your impressions should you give the PRO4 Endurance a try.

  5. Seth Williams says:

    Tandem Geek
    Can you tell what Vredestein folding 25mm tire you’d be buying in 2014, as I can’t find the tires mentioned from last years blog & there not listed under Vredestein’s web site.
    Much thanks…Seth

  6. Wayne Thais says:

    That particular does not show up on their corporate website as a current tire.

    • TG says:

      True, which is why you can find them on close-out for very good pricing. If I didn’t already have a bunch of tires on hand I’d probably buy 3 sets.

      • Wayne Thais says:

        I am now using the new ONE series by Schwalbe and have over 2,000 miles on the rear 700 X 25. They cost around $53 from tiremaniacs.com. It handles well and has a sturdier casing than the
        zx. I am also running a 700 X 23 tubeless on the front and so far it has been outstanding. The 700 X 25 ONE tubeless is not in country yet. I just ordered a new rear tire and will update to tubeless on the rear when this second rear tire wears out. The economics are in my favor. $53 for 2,000 plus miles vs. $76 for your 2,000 miles. I am very happy with the handling and ride!

      • TG says:

        Good to hear you’re happy…

        As for tread life, bear in mind that it’s very hard to make too many comparisons unless you have the same rider(s) riding the same terrain, road surfaces, level of effort and similar weather conditions since each of those factors will have am impact on tread wear. As a reminder, we typically see 2,000′ of climbing in a 25-mile loop ride from our home; a 32-mile loop we’ve used for club rides will yield 2,400 (see below). If we lived in central Florida I suspect our tread life would be greater than what we experience here in the Atlanta area.


  7. Seth Williams says:

    I actually bought the Vredestein Fortezza Senso All Weather 25mm tire. I’m hoping for the best as far as good handling and a supple ride, plus flat protection close to the gatorskins I’m giving up. I paid $62 p/tire incl. next day delivery, so I can try them on Saturday.

    • TG says:

      Looking forward to reading your impressions and the comparison with the Gatorskins that you’ve been using.

      That particular tire is the one I almost suggested once I realized the base-model Fortezza was no longer being offered. When I checked retailer availability the now discontinued TriComp only jumped out because of the pricing, which was in my target range for tires.

  8. Seth Williams says:

    Hi TG
    I have 1000+ miles on my new Fortezza’s. (not new anymore) They ride slightly smoother than the gatorskins & take bumps better. I’ve been running them at 125 psi vs 105 for the GSs. (recommended 120-140) The rear tire is starting to flatten, with no such issues with the front. No flats over all types of road conditions, incl. some glass.
    Basically I like them well enough, but I think the Gaterskins actually roll slightly faster.

    • TG says:

      Good that you decided to do some experimenting; it’s the only way I know to figure out what works best for us. There are just so many objective and subjective factors to consider when selecting tires, tire sizes and even figuring out how much pressure to use that make those first-hand experiences invaluable.

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