Schwalbe Ultremo HT Tubular Tyre Review
Posted 15 October 2012
Words by Vincent Halpern
Does the Schwalbe Ultremo HT tubular tyre offer the perfect balance of speed, grip, comfort and durability?
I’ve raced on tubular wheels and tyres for 20 years now as in my experience they’re lighter, faster and offer a great ‘ride’, all of which I was looking for when I switched over to these Schwalbe Ultremo HT tubulars earlier this year. Obviously these qualities can be very subjective, especially with manufacturers now claiming that their clincher offerings are fast catching up. However, most pros ride tubs – and not just because you can still continue riding on them when flat.
Having raced on Victoria CX’s and Tufo tubulars for the past 5 years, I decided to make the switch over to Schwalbe after reading some positive comments online, and after a summer racing on these tubs I can declare that I am very impressed with the Schwalbe Ultremo HT.
According to the marketing material, Schwalbe worked closely with the Liquigas-Doimo team to develop the company’s first pro-level tubular tyre. The Ultremo HT’s are handmade in the classic ‘Italian’ fashion but with some great modern German details.
The tread features three rubber compounds, called ‘Triple Nano Compound’. As you’d used expect, the centre is built for durability, the sides for grip, and there’s another low rolling resistance compound underneath. The tread is a diamond file pattern, great for handling surface water, but rather than sharp peaks, the pyramids of the tread have flattened heads, which Schwalbe says adds more contact area and therefore improves grip.
The casing is made from 300tpi (threads per inch) polyester fibre for flexibility aiding ride comfort and grip by deforming better to increase contact surface area. It is also excellent at resisting water which if absorbed would add to tyre weight and reduce performance. This is then reinforced with Schwalbe’s Race Guard protective belt under the tread to protect against punctures.
The Schwalbe Ultremo HT tub uses a latex inner tube with a removable valve core which helps achieve the light weight of 250 grams. Currently they are available in both 22mm width, which is traditional for tubs, and also, given all the recent research suggesting that wider tyres offer less rolling resistance and better speed, in 25mm as well – not that you’ll ever be worrying about lack of speed when using these…
Although I’d usually use glue, this time I attached the Ultremo HTs to my tubular rims with the aid of tubular tape, which for the uninitiated I can only describe as a BluePeter like double sided sticky tape. I soon had them firmly on my rim using just a little muscle and for once with tubs, no pre-stretching was required. They were also very simple to align when on the rim so that they ran straight. Not having to wait for glue to dry meant that I was up and racing on the Ultremo HT’s almost immediately.
I did have a bit of a scare the following morning after my first outing on these tubs when I thought I had a flat tyre. Like most tubulars, due to the porous nature of the latex inner, these do leak an alarming amount of air; overnight the tyres had lost as much as a third of the air, so you’ll learn to love your track pump.
I’ve now raced on them for over 6-months, in local circuit races, time trials and road races, mounted on Zipp 404 tubular wheels and the Schwalbe Ultremo HT tubulars have been great in all conditions.
I have raced them in torrential downpours and was soon reassured by how well the tyres grip into corners. The tyres did not slip when banking the bike over into puddles of water or onto equally treacherous shiny, damp patches of dark tarmac.
The combination of a high thread count and the latex tube help give the Ultremo HT a great ride which for a narrow racing tyre is very comfortable, smoothing out bumps in the road.
They also roll superbly, feeling fast at all times. The round profile of the Schwalbe Ultremo HT’s means that they continue to roll fast with no speed scrubbed off when leaned over into turns. When accelerating to close gaps or sprinting the tyres feel firm during out of the saddle efforts inspiring real confidence come the finishing sprint.
However, I’m especially impressed with their durability; having over 2500 race miles on them with only a little wear in the tread down the centre of the rear tyre is pretty astounding. The front is pretty much intact and though there are a few cuts down the centre of the tubulars, there’s nothing major. In fact I am now hoping to take these tyres through the next Winter Series circuit races into early Spring of 2013…I’ll let you know how they hold up.
The Schwalbe Ultremo HT’s are definitely a race specific tyre. They are on the pricey side but their speed, ride, durability and grip, added to the weight advantage of using a tubular wheelset, make them a serious contender for the dedicated racing cyclist.
Schwalbe Ultremo HT Tubular Tyre RRP £71.99