First Ride: Schwalbe’s light, fast, and souplesse Pro One tire
Schwalbe’s been selling tubeless road tires since 2012, when they released the very first iteration of the Schwalbe One. They weren’t the first company to enter the road tubeless game, but they’ve consistently supported the platform ever since. So much so that all the professional athletes they support have transitioned from tubulars to tubeless. Those athletes consistently reported wanting not only a fast tire with minimal rolling resistance, but also a supple tire — one with the ride quality of a tubular tire. So, Schwalbe went to work to create the most souplesse tire they could, capitalizing on German engineering to get there. The result was the new Pro One.
What’s Actually New About the Pro One?
A lot, actually. Schwalbe re-envisioned its Tubeless Easy technology into what the company calls turn-up construction. It minimizes the material in the sidewall with a triple-layer mesh construction designed to work in conjunction with Schwalbe’s recommended Blue Doc sealant. This combination creates an airtight layer without excess material to stiffen the sidewall, or unnecessary weight.
Because the tire carcass is a thinner, more minimal design than previous versions of the Pro One, Schwalbe added a 14mm-wide (measured in the 25C model) V-Guard puncture protection belt. It’s a thin, Kevlar-style lining directly under the tire’s tread. This belt should give you suitable puncture protection when paired with sealant with minimal weight.
Adapted from the mountain bike tire lines, Schwalbe is also introducing an entirely new Addix compound with the Pro One—the Addix Race. According to company engineers, this is a specific blend of silica fibers and other polymers that optimizes corning grip while maintaining low rolling resistance and high durability.
Finally, Schwalbe designed all variations of the new Pro One tire around a modern 19mm internal-width rim. The trend toward wider rims paired with matching tires increases volume, making for a plusher ride.
How Does it Ride?
I tested the 700 x 30C Pro One TLE (tubeless) tires on a Simplon Kairo Disc bike. To prevent predetermined opinions, the Schwalbe engineers refused to tell me what tire pressure I was set up with. “Ride it first and see what you think,” they told me. Okay, I’m game.
While the views, the food, and the wine are phenomenal in Tuscany, the road conditions can vary greatly from smooth tarmac to Fiat-eating potholes strewn across chip seal, paving stones to gravel roads, all located among rolling hills. These roads keep you on your toes. It made for an ideal location to test just how supple and fast Schwalbe’s new Pro One tubeless road tire is.
While climbing and powering across the flats with the group, the tires disappear, and that’s a good thing. At points when I’m working hard, the last thing I want is to notice my equipment because that’s typically a sign that something is lacking. It is a comfortable, compliant tire that never felt sluggish.
The long sweeping downhills offered plenty of opportunity to test the grip and control of the tires. Descents can be sketchy on a tire you’ve never ridden, as you try to find the tire’s limit, but there was no point at which I felt I couldn’t have pushed the tire a little bit more. The grip and control are impressive.
At one point in the ride, we rode a gravel section of the Strada Bianche course, and again, the 30C tire performed without incident. Were I riding a longer stretch of gravel, I’d have lowered the air pressure a bit more, but even at its then secret pressure, it did well, with minimal slipping through loose sand and rock.
Let’s Talk Pressure
Schwalbe set my (and all 30C tires on 52cm or smaller frames) at 4.5 Bar (about 65 PSI). As a lighter weight rider, that’s about where I would typically set a 25 or 28C tubeless road tire, so I’ll be curious to lower that a bit in subsequent testing on my home roads.
Schwalbe provides a handy chart of recommended pressures per tire size. Remember, lower pressure is smoother when it comes to wide tires, and smoother is faster for longer. We’ve all read those studies.
Tubeless road tires have a reputation fraught with difficult installation and compatibility issues. Once I get it on, how difficult will it be to seal? If I need to put a tube in while riding, will I be able to break the seal or remove the bead from the rim? And are all those ifs worth the trouble? Is the ride quality that different from a standard clincher and tube?
I’ve ridden tubeless tires that I had to take to the shop to install and that I knew, if I flatted, I’d be calling an Uber because there was no way I’d physically be able to get the tire off or back on the rim to install a tube.
Schwalbe is adamant that you follow their directions with regards to tape and proper installation. But otherwise the Pro One will work with any tubeless-compatible road rim (ideally with a 19mm internal width, but not required). Watching several demonstrations, the tire mounted up easily, and once sealant was added, the tire inflated easily with a high volume/high pressure floor pump.
In addition to the Pro One TLE (tubeless), Schwalbe is also rolling out the Pro One TT (205g; $81.00) and the Pro One Tube-Type (235g; $72.00). The TT is easily identified by its tan sidewall and is your huckleberry if you want the lightest option possible. The tradeoff is the loss of the V-Guard protection belt. The only puncture protection the Pro One TT tire has is the tubeless sealant.
The Pro One Tube-Type has all the same features as the Pro One TLE, except the bead. This is not a tubeless tire and you must use a tube. Schwalbe has clearly printed “TLE”, “Tube-Type”, “TT” on the sidewall to eliminate any confusion when purchasing.