Schwalbe Ultremo ZX 28mm on Triplet: Impressions

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.

bikebaytriplet3Sadly, 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.

SDC11299 SDC11300Bottom 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.



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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6 Responses to Schwalbe Ultremo ZX 28mm on Triplet: Impressions

  1. chuck telfot says:

    Since you seem to like the Vred 25, are there larger versions of that line?
    You might like them on both your tandem and triple.

    As you seem to be acknowledging (by putting the 28 Schwalbe on the triplet) that heavier, more momentous bikes benefit from wider tires, why not try a wider Vred–or other quality tire–on the tandem?

    No, I am not “worried about what someone else is doing” (referencing a comment you made to someone who had the audacity to suggest that 25mm tires on a tandem might be on the narrow side), no, I am just suggesting that you carry your experimentation in that direction. I am curious to see at what width wider tires actually become detrimental to pedaling bicycles. Clearly, FAT BIKES are pigs, and only really suited to snow, sand, and wild parties, but short of that width, where is the cut-off. Inquiring minds…

    In MTB it seems that the trend is still w-i-d-e-r for both tires and rims, and even on road singles– even racing–there is a similar trend. HED now has a 25 wide rim in its Belgium series. Where will it end?

    • TG says:

      The Fortezza line of tires is only 23mm or 25mm. To get a larger diameter tire from Vredestein requires a move away from performance tires to “trekking” tires which are not desirable.

      But, the real limiting factor for tire size on our Calfee is the frame, fork and brake clearance. The fork can only manage a 25mm and the rear triangle is also a tight fit for anything larger than 25mm. The only thing I’d like to improve upon with our Calfee’s tires is one that has a little longer tread life with the same puncture resistance (we rarely get flats) and performance. The Schwalbe Ultremo ZX is a ‘possible’ substitute; more time on the bikes will tell. The triplet with our lightweight trio (collective weight under 400lbs) did well with 28mm Schwalbe Ultremo tires on the good roads we enjoyed near Athens. But, therein lies the secret to our ability to get very good performance from our somewhat narrow tires: we enjoy very good roads here in the Southeast US. If we lived anywhere where chipseal roads, frost heave damage or expansion joints were the norm we’d have spec’d our Calfee to have larger tire clearance and would likely be riding 28mm – 32mm tires on the tandem and perhaps 35mm on the triplet and would have had to give up our composite forks for custom steel forks with the necessary clearance for the larger tires.

  2. Herb says:

    What is the real size of these tires?

    • TG says:

      30mm out of the box when mounted to a Velocity Dyad 700c rim. I haven’t checked them since putting on the 150 miles at GTR to see if they have “grown” after being worn-in.

      FWIW: Here’s what I noted in the 17 Aug 13 “initial impressions” blog entry, these were how the Schwalbe’s compared to the tires they’d be replacing:

      The tires arrived on August 12th, but we’ve not yet had a chance to try them out given our soggy weather. However, I’ve mounted them and have some initial observations.

      The tire compound has an unusual look and feel; seems to use a polymer-based rubber rather than the natural rubber that I’m used to seeing on the tires we’ve used.

      They are VERY light:
      – The 700×25 was 195 grams vs. 235 for the Vredestein Fortezza
      – The 700×28 was 230 grams vs. 330 grams for the Continental Gatorskin, noting the Gatorskin uses a wire bead which really puts it at a disadvantage. However, that’s still nearly a 1/4 lb per wheel weight reduction for the triplet.

      Their width is approximate, not quite accurate:
      – The 700×25 measured 24mm at 115 psi vs. the Vredesteins at a true 25mm.
      – The 700×28 measured 30mm at 115 psi vs. the Gatorskins at a true 28mm.

      The 25mm version was mounted to a Velocity Deep-V 700c rim.

  3. Chris Timm says:

    Mark, have you ever tried the Continental GP 4 Season? Even though Conti is a German company I’m not sure the Gatorskin is marketed over here. The only times I have seen them is on Santana tandems. I ride GP4000s on my road bikes and the GP 4 Season on the road tandem and when training on rough roads in Italy. Like the Gatorskin, it has strong sidewalls but lower rolling resistance.

    • TG says:

      I have ridden both many years ago; they were very nice tires. However, they always seemed to be a bit more expensive than what I could get the Vredestein’s for so I stuck with the Fortezzas.

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