Strada Bianca

Strade Bianche or Strada Bianca is a UCI World Cup professional bike race. First held in 2007 one third of the total race distance is raced on dirt roads, covering 63 km of strade bianche, or “white roads” spread over 11 sectors. A progenitor of one of the dumbest sub-classifications of bike riding ever- the “Gravel Grinder” in which poseurs and hipsters ride (really, they race with no classifications or rewards other than bragging rights on social media) gravel roads on their gravel bikes.

This is a bicycle called Strada Bianca made by Steve Hampsten, brother of Andy. If you don’t know who Andy Hampsten is, he won the 1988 Giro d’Italia and is iconic because of his ride over the Gavia Pass in a blizzard during that race. He rode at the time for the 7-11 Team. The team bikes were branded with the Huffy name but were made by Serotta. Andy bought his own bike made by John Slawta of Land Shark Bicycles and had it painted team colors.

But this post is not about a bike race or bike racer or even bikes. It’s about these tires. Challenge Strada Bianca tires are handmade in Thailand, close to the rubber sources and know-how. The casings are high thread count polyester and the rubber is latex. The casings are very supple, so supple the tire lies flat rather than in a u-shape like other clinchers. Mounting these on the rim is the challenge; hence the name? Getting the first bead on is tight but inserting a tube and getting the second bead mounted without mutilating and pinching the tube is nearly impossible. I went through a couple tubes mounting two tires. I finally ended up getting some latex tubes that come dusted with talc and those went in easily.

I still think these are worth the effort though because of the ride. As with any fine tool or piece of equipment, marginal gains in performance with a fine bicycle become increasingly expensive but the nuanced improvement adds to the enjoyment of the user. And these tires are not cheap- $70.00 to $75.00 for the Pro series clincher. Challenge also makes a clincher with a silk casing for a cool $125.00. Wish I didn’t know that now.