Schwalbe Tire Review: Schwalbe Ultremo Aqua 23C
The Skinny on Eugene:
Eugene Hahn is a 43 year old Victoria resident who enjoys riding both road and mountain bike but sees himself as a roadie. Eugene recently leaped back into competitive cycling in 2014 with the Victoria Wheeler’s after leaving the race scene in 2001. His love of the bike didn’t stop in 2001, he kept riding for fun and fitness while spending more time with his family. Eugene is back at it and is looking forward to a good year in 2015. He hopes to be an integral part of a successful year in the Victoria Cycling League.
When I was approached by Trevor (McKenzie) from the (Victoria) Wheeler’s to test ride some gear for the club I was thrilled. Anytime a cyclist can get free useful schwag, not only is a moral victory but made it made me feel like my opinion mattered. I couldn’t wait to parade my newest acquisition in front of my wife being sure to mention that I was now a club racer and product tester! That’s right honey, those 14000 km last year got me a free set of tires!
I headed to OBB to see Andrew Sherry and grab the tires. I was so keen I beat Mick to the punch and was offered the choice between riding Conti GP4 Seasons which I know and love and a Schwalbe tire that was apparently the next big thing. So, Andrew and I decided that I should try the Schwalbe Ultremo Aqua 23c as I have not ridden it previously. I have ridden many Schwalbe tires in the past as former member of that race club so I was stoked to see their newest and best rain tire. Looking at them in the box they had a great look and I was surprised to see that they weighed in at a paltry 195 grams. Being that it was still pretty wet and cold out and I had planned on a 500 km week, the timing was perfect. Later that night as I was preparing to mount them, I gave them a closer look. First thing I noticed was the aggressive tread pattern that felt something like 240 grit sandpaper. These will be definitely be grippy I thought as I put them on. A little tricky to mount, but once they were on they looked great and cut about 100 grams off the bike from the 240 gram Conti’s I was running. Sweet, I’ll hit some hills tomorrow and we’ll see how they climb and descend. I was just about to head inside when quiet solitude of my garage was shattered by the gunshot sound of a tire blowing off the rim. Crap. I rushed a little and the front tire had not seated properly. Oh well, the second attempt held and I headed inside but I did have that uneasy feeling of a bad omen. The next day was wet and cold so I headed out for a spin and to find some vertical. I decided on 85psi up front and 90 in the back. The first thing I noticed was that these tires are loud. I mean really loud, and they picked up all kinds of pebbles and small rocks and chucked them at my down tube. Better stay out of the crap I thought and rode on. They felt a little slow on the roll and had a much quicker turn in then the 25c Conti I was used to so it took a bit to get used them in the corners. They did feel grippy right away though. I headed over to Mount Doug to see how they would perform on steep climbs and descents. I can’t say that I learned much more then Mt Doug is just plain old painful no matter what the tire. The light was fading, it was quite foggy and there was so much foot traffic on the road that after a couple of reps I was forced to abort any attempt at going fast and headed home to prepare for tomorrow. For Monday’s ride I increased pressure to 90 up front and 95 out back in an effort to make the tires feel a little quicker. I headed for the classic 2 hour loop up Willis Point, over Durrance and Munn’s and home via Burnside Road and the (Galloping) Goose. Sadly, the increase in pressure did little to decrease rolling friction, but it did seem to cut down a bit on much road debris was flung up at me (I do not use fenders). The climbs went ok and I chalked up my slower then average speeds to a little fatigue (stupid Mt Doug) and maybe the tires being a bit slow. Once I got onto the downhill sections though, this tire did shine. It was really misty and the roads were wet, but I was still able to descend the south section of Durrance Road and the descent off the Munn’s Summit like it was dry. The braking and cornering traction of this tire was the best I have ever experienced and made the loop seem much more fun as I hit almost 70kmh on Munn’s Road without any thought of danger or loss of control. The two chicanes on Munn’s Road were especially fun as the tires stayed firmly on the line despite high speeds and wet pavement. When I got home Strava told me that I averaged about 28 kmh on the 55km loop. A little bit slow considering I was pushing the flats pretty hard, but it was pleasing to see many fastest times for 2015 on the descents, and to be within a few seconds of my personal bests. Not bad for a rainy Monday morning, but I did feel the need to Google the tire and check out the factory specs on it. Here is where the picture is completed. I learned that Schwalbe developed this tire for use in extreme conditions, aimed at track riders that must race in the rain. So, you can imagine what a tire that is designed to get traction on a wet wooden track is going to feel like on the pavement. Grippy, yes. Fast rolling….no. The company line on this tire is that “it will provide ultimate traction on the slipperiest of surfaces which will more then offset it’s high rolling resistance.” I was actually pretty happy to read that line as I was beginning to wonder if Andrew had hooked me up with these beasts in an effort to get back at me for thinking his name was Scott! Sorry about that Andrew (Sherry). I think we are even now. Anyway, after the two test rides and the info that I gleaned from the ‘net, I put away these tires to save for a rainy day. A really rainy, wet slippery day. So, my evaluation of this tire is this. If you are heading out for a couple of 1500w sprints in the rain, bring this tire. If you are attempting to KOM the descent of Finalyson Arm Road in the rain, use this tire. This tire would have been my choice for the two rides I did on Dec 30 and Dec 31 on the wet frosty roads of the lower Island. But, if you are doing pretty much anything else on a bike, this may not be the tire as it is overkill in terms of traction and rolling resistance.