Last August I decided to do a little tire testing and purchased two sets of Schwalbe (shval-beh) Ultremo ZX tires from Wiggle; a set of 25mm for the Calfee and a set 0f 28mm for the triplet.
The background on why I decided to give the Schwalbe tires a try is covered in a blog entry I posted on 17 August. My initial impressions of how they performed on the Calfee were covered in a subsequent blog entry on 8 September and a longer-term follow-up to that was in another blog entry on 22 September.
Sadly, the 28mm tires fitted to the triplet’s wheels didn’t get their first use until this past weekend at the Georgia Tandem Rally. Yes, that’s a lot of bike to have sitting around — well, hanging around… it’s not really in the way given that I keep it suspended from the garage ceiling except for the 9 to 12 days of use it gets each year — but there’s no substitute when it comes to how much enjoyment we get out of riding with a guest stoker when we get a chance to do that.
Anyway, first impressions from their initial 3-days of use are pretty good. They were a huge improvement over the Continental Gatorskin 28’s that they replaced: much more lively-feeling, better and more confidence-inspiring through the corners and even a bit more comfortable. To make an automotive analogy, it transformed the triplet from an SUV to a sporty sedan… and that’s a good thing. The triplet never cornered well with the Gatorskins and I attributed that to the steering geometry. While the steering still is far from “light and responsive” the cornering was vastly improved by what seemed like more “bite” from the Schwalbes. It was the opposite of what we experienced when we compared the 25mm Schwalbe Ultremo’s to the Vredestein Fortezza’s on our Calfee.
The only marginal performance area that will need closer monitoring is sidewall durability. In that respect, the Schwalbe Ultremo’s were on par with the Continental Gatorskins. I say this after discovering several sidewall nicks in the Schwalbes once I had the tires pulled off the triplet in preparation for putting the bike and wheels back into storage.
Unrelated to performance are the aesthetics of the Schwalbe; I’m still not a fan of the UCI-influenced massive branding on the sidewalls. I much prefer a more subtle approach to tire brand marking, but that’s purely subjective.
Bottom Line: I think the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX is definitely a keeper for the triplet. The ride quality was vastly improved over the Continental and there just aren’t that many good high-performance 28mm tires out there on the market. As for putting them back on the Calfee, we’ll see. As before, I still have a healthy supply of Vredestein 25mm tires and a definite affinity for their ride qualities. Of course, I’ll never be able to render an assessment of the Schwalbe’s durability / tread life on the triplet so I may need to put them back on the Calfee if only for one full lifecycle of a rear tire. More to follow.