Synonymous with luxury, the american tyre brand Compass is renowned for offering a superior level of comfort, almost revolutionary if you to believe some of the hype.
The effect of current trends, a real advantage or a simple placebo effect due to the price of these tyres?
We have had a set of the Babyshoe Pass Extralight tyres on test to be able to pass judgement.
Out of the box
The tyres come packaged in plastic film adorned with the brand name and that’s it. No hefty instruction manual. These tyres are aimed at the experienced cyclist.
The extralight versions are said to weight 362g. This pair weighed in at 357g. Spot on given the slight variations expected.
Visually, the beige sidewalls are very thin, almost tub like, giving a (false?) impression of fragility compared to other, more standard tyres.
In hand, it’s clear that the central tread is thicker by around 3mm than the sidewalls, which of course makes perfect sense as we spend more time riding upright than taking turns!
These tyres are fully tubeless ready. Given the recommended low pressures, mounting tubeless is the way forward to take advantage of their renowned suppleness and avoid pinch flats.
In terms of rotating direction, there’s no indication on the sideway. A quick call to our favourite dealer later and they confirm that there isn’t a recommended orientation.
How the tyre is down to the individual, but can be based around 2 criteria:
-There are faint chevrons at the exterior of the central tread. Not entirely sure if there direction makes a difference?
-The blue Compass logo is only printed on 1 side of the tyre. Indisputable then which way the tyre is orientated. Rule #40, it is on the driveside, aligned with the valve.
During fitting, you soon realise that the Babyshoe Pass are manufactured from the highest quality materials.
Experiencing no issues with mounting the tyres, the usual steps are recommended:
-Push the tyre bead into the central trough of the rim
-Lightly soap the bead for ease of seating
-Remove the valve core
-Use a compressor or tubeless specific pump for rapid inflation and better seating of the tyre bead on the rim
-Finally, pour in your sealant, reinstall the value core and soap the outside bead edge to check for any air leaks.
Fitting with tubes
Same principle, but Compass recommend Schwalbe tubes SV12 or SV14A. On paper, these are 26er tubes, but which adapt perfectly to 650bx42.
As a direct comparison, I was previously riding WTB Horizons 47mm, 5mm larger than the Babyshoe Pass.
Despite their reduced size, the Babyshoe Pass felt more comfortable!
Their feathery weight and fast rolling nature adds up to superb road feel and lets you mix it up as part of the peleton with ease.
Grip is as good in damp conditions as well as dry. I have yet to make them break loose even when deliberately pushing them hard into turns, whilst death gripping the bars!
Inflated to the recommended pressure, the supple sidewalls absorbed the chaos of the road, gravel, potholes and really did give that experience of riding on a cushion of air.
The roads are normally an obstacle course, constantly weaving around damaged sections of road, but much to my surprise, I found myself riding straight through without realising it!
With almost 300g less than the Horizons, you feel more at one with the bike. It becomes more responsive, faster and general better to ride.
Given such a difference, I am hankering after their next size up, the Switchback Hill 48mm. Still 100g lighter than the WTBs, they should be a real blast.
Everyone has their personal definition of what constitutes gravel! The tyres first ‘off road’ outing was on the rolling tracks around Carmargue, where, to no surprise, they performed faultlessly.
Lacking any noise from rolling across the sandy terrain, you’d almost forget that you weren’t riding tarmac. The tyres absorbing all the trail chatter. Even when turning hard and fast, so long as the tyre is at the correct pressure, grip is surprisingly steadfast.
Next up, we took the bike across the rocky terrain of the massif de l’Estérel.
Again, the tyres performed!
Despite their “narrow” profile for 27.5, the Babyshoe Pass glide over looser ground, with enough comfort to make you ride faster without even noticing.
As you might expect however, on more technical terrain, these slick tyres have their limits, losing some grip and directional control.
When loose gravel becomes too deep -as with any other slick tyre- motricity and direction get somewhat uncertain. A bigger tyre width, thus greater contact patch would push back grip limits.
When terrain becomes demanding, don’t be surprised if you can make the tyre contact the rim, but if you want to ride more MTBesque trails, use an MTB!
With greater comfort, one rides further.
And -at least with these tyres- one rides faster too!
The truth of it
The main question was whether these ultra light sidewalls would be durable enough.
We have ridden these tyres beyond their design brief, along rocky singletrack where MTBers gave us hard stares.
Not a single puncture however, even under tyre-rim contact. That’s the compromise with such a defined product. To make the most of its suppleness, air pressure has to be on the lower end. To be able to ride more technical trails, higher pressures are needed, but you lose the very point of the tyre, its souplesse. There is sweet spot pressure wise for optimal riding experience.
After several months of pushing these tyres hard, the sidewalls have the expected war wounds and the Orange Seal sealant seem to have done a perfect job.
Concerning tires too, one can try to pollute less!
-Prefer biodegradable sealant
-Pop tires with a compressor or a tubeless-specific pump instead of a CO2 canister
-Fix flats with patches instead of disposing tubes
-Do not throw away old tubes, many associations collect and upcycle them!
-CO2 canisters -even though they are recyclable- are pricey and not eco-friendly.
A mini handpump will work as well!
- Size: 650b*42
- Verified weight: 357g
- Verified width: 42mm
- Bead: Folding
- Tubeless: Yes
- Available sidewall colours: beige, black
- Unit price: 84€
Did you know?
Compass tyres are designed in the US and manufactured in Japan, in the Panaracer factory alongside the Gravel King and Pasela.
Apart from their production location, they have nothing in common with the Panaracers.
Specifications, R&D, materials and the production line -thus the final product- are different.
- Superior comfort
- Low rolling resistance
- Unit price
- Tyre pressure needs to be precise for optimal riding performance
If you have the means, the Babyshoe Pass offers superior ride comfort and transforms the bike’s handling.
From tours to gravel tracks and fast commuting this tyre is ideal across a range of riding with its surprising durability.
As mentioned though, it is aimed at the more experienced cyclist.
Beware though, once you’ve tried these above standard tyres, it’ll be super tough to go back to anything else!
For us, the Compass extralight range is probably the best upgrade you can make to your bike (apart from changing the wheels, but that’s a whole other budget!)
Thank you 2-11 Cycles for supplying these tyres and sealant, for your wise advice and great contact!