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Supple tires are crucial for a comfortable ride on bumpy gravel roads. And the more supple the tires, the more comfortable you can pedal along.
Up until now, the Soma Cazadero tires were my benchmark in terms of tire comfort. But this could now change as I got my hands on some Rene Herse Barlow Pass tires that are known to ride very smoothly…
Let the fight begin!
Soma Cazadero vs Rene Herse Barlow Pass vs Schwalbe G-One Bite
The Soma Cazadero is one of my long-time favourite tires. I use it on a daily basis.
Even when you grab it, you can feel that the sidewalls are very soft and flexible, which results in a lot of comfort when riding. And this indeed is the case – it’s especially noticeable with a pressure of 25 psi.
The tire performs remarkably well in dry, wet, muddy, and rough conditions. It is the benchmark to beat in terms of mixed gravel riding.
I also like this tire because it is very easy to mount tubeless on any rim, and the tires hold air well too.
The only real drawback is the noise and rolling resistance on asphalt. You can hear the tire buzzing a lot, making it feel as if the tire might be slowing you down.
The Rene Herse Barlow Pass (Endurance casing) could be the new comfort king. This 40mm wide (measured*) semi-slick is also something else in terms of speed. Boy, is it fast! It also runs very quietly underneath you.
The Rene Herse tires certainly have a reputation to be very comfortable, although subjectively, I feel the Soma Cazadero might have the edge.
This tire will never compare to the Cazadero in terms of grip, especially in slippery, muddy, or wet conditions. You need to be laser-focussed on choosing the right path or you might end up in the bushes!
The last thing that separates those two tires is the process of setting them tubeless. The Cazadero is super easy while the Barlow Pass is super hard to set up. For the first time ever, I needed not only an air compressor to set them up tubeless, but soap, and a tube (I put the inner tube in first to make sure the tire had expanded properly).
*Please note that the Rene Herse Barlow Pass is labeled as 38mm, but when I installed them on my rims with an internal measurement of 24mm, I measured a 40mm actual width.
I’m also testing the Schwalbe G-One Bite tires (40mm) as I’ve heard many good things about them.
In terms of comfort, these tires feel closer to lower-performing tires like the Panaracer GravelKing SK. But in terms of overall speed and grip, I would say they are a mix between the Cazadero and Barlow Pass – they are fast and quiet, but at the same time, somewhat grippy in wet and muddy conditions.
Calculating The Appropriate Tire Pressures
When I compared the Soma Cazadero 42mm tire with the Panaracer GravelKing SK 42mm tire, I found that a supple tire can attenuate 13% more vibrations, which significantly improves the comfort of your bike.
These original tests were conducted at 30 psi. Since then I’ve discovered that (for me) the best possible pressure for 42mm gravel tires is 25 psi (in terms of comfort, weight, terrain etc).
I’ve also started using Laplace’s law to make sure I achieve the same casing tension on tires of different widths. You can read about how I do the calculations HERE.
In this test, I’ll use 26.5 psi for the Barlow Pass 40mm tires (measured). And I’ll use 25 psi for the Soma Cazadero 42mm tires. These numbers should make for a fair match-up.
The Test Bike Setup
I am currently testing a Canyon Grail SLX 8.0 ETAP gravel bike and decided to use it for this tire comparison. It has a rather stiff front end, which should nicely highlight any differences in comfort between the tested tires.
The Canyon Grail came with a great pair of DT Swiss GRC1400 Spline DB wheels. These are perfect because they are light and stiff, and should be able to highlight the comfort differences between the tires.
The last thing I should note is that I conducted the main comparison test with all tires using a tubeless setup. But I also tested the Schwalbe G-One with an inner tube too so that we could see if there was any comfort difference between tubes and tubeless.
Vibration Test Results
You can see my vibration measurement procedure & outdoor test courses HERE.
The front Barlow Pass tire ended up matching the Cazadero tire on the bumpy forest trail, but then beat it significantly in terms of vibration damping on the fast gravel road (9,5% fewer vibrations).
Meanwhile, the G-One Bite tire was nearly 9% less comfortable than the Barlow Pass on the bumpy forest trail and was 11% less comfortable on a fast gravel road. However, to my surprise, the G-One Bite was within 2,5% of the Cazadero on the fast gravel road.
The Schwalbe G-One with a tube performed ok on the bumpy forest road but attenuated 3% fewer vibrations than the tubeless tire on the fast gravel road. This is not the biggest difference, but I recommend tubeless for the lack of pinch flats anyway.
At the rear, we saw more minor comfort differences between all tires. The Cazadero and Barlow Pass tires ended up having 4% fewer vibrations than the G-One Bite on the bumpy forest road, and 2% fewer vibrations on the fast gravel road.
When you look for the best overall performance, or should I say, the best compromise between overall speed, grip, and comfort, then I still think the Soma Cazadero is the tire to beat.
Yes, there are faster tires out there, but you have to sacrifice comfort (G-One Bite) or grip (Barlow Pass).
If comfort is your priority, then you cannot beat the Rene Herse Barlow Pass. It was a really impressive tire.
My search is not over yet as there are many more interesting tires that are waiting to be tested. Perhaps, it is only a matter of time until I will find tires better than both the Barlow Pass and Cazadero.
You can support the CyclingAbout Comfort Lab by purchasing Soma Cazadero tires on Amazon. Simply click HERE for 700Cx42mm, HERE for 650Bx42mm, and HERE for 650Bx50mm – and a small commission will come our way.