Second Look: SOMA C-Line Tires

When we reviewed the New Albion Cycles Privateer frameset last summer, the bike’s SOMA C-Line 700×38 tires really stood out–and not just because of the terracotta-colored tread. The tires’ mild tread and supple casings made it easy to transition between paved and unpaved surfaces. To help test the new Zipp 30 Course wheelset, we decided to give the C-Line tires a dedicated second look.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder SOMA C-Line Panaracer Pasela Compass Barlow Pass Zipp 30 Course

Manufactured in Japan by Panaracer, SOMA’s C-Line tires ($59.99/ea MSRP) share the same tread pattern as the company’s New Xpress line of tires. Unlike the New Xpress, however, the C-Line lacks the former’s Hypertex casing. Why not go with the more cut/puncture-resistant Hypertex casing? Easy–superior ride quality. Adding extra material to the casing makes it stiffer, which in-turn makes the tires less supple.

Mounted on 25 mm wide Zipp rims, our sample tires measured 37.8 mm when inflated to the maximum pressure of 90 psi. Both tires came in under the claimed 400 gram weight, tipping the scales at 387 grams and 395 grams. And although we fitted the tires with inner tubes for our testing, we were able to seat the tires (sans-tubes) on tubeless-compatible wheels from HED, Rolf Prima, and Zipp (although some combinations did require a compressor or COcartridge).

Despite being rated to 90 psi, we rarely inflated the C-Lines over 65 psi. On paved roads, our testers found that 50 psi front and 60 psi rear worked best for unloaded riding. When it came to dirt and gravel, dropping the pressure by 7-10 psi improved traction and comfort without inviting pinch-flats. Our test period took place during unusually wet weather in Colorado, and the black tread offered plenty of traction on damp roads. The classic tan sidewalls received numerous compliments, but we’d like to see SOMA offer a version with black sidewalls, too.

How do C-Lines compare to Panaracer’s popular Pasela family of tires? You know that expression about having your cake and eating it, too? If you want Paselas with folding beads, they’re only available on models with puncture-resistant casings. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, many riders prefer the livelier ride of the more supple casings found on the SOMA tires (and wire-bead Paselas). Knowing that we’d get asked to compare the C-Lines to Compass’ similarly sized Barlow Pass tires, we spent plenty of time switching between the two. The verdict? For pavement, we preferred the Barlow’s minimal tread, but on dirt and gravel, the C-Lines offered a bit more traction and control.

Disclosure: SOMA Fabrications provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

Second Look: Hutchinson Sector 28 Tubeless Tires

After analyzing three years of visitor stats for the GRAVELBIKE site, it’s pretty clear that people like reading about tires. This year alone, five of the top-ten articles have been tire reviews. One of the more popular pieces is last summer’s review of Hutchinson’s Sector 28 tires. With the increased interest in road tubeless setups, we decided to give the Sector 28s a second look.

When we first tested the Hutchinson Sector 28 tires, we paired them sans-tubes with Pacenti SL23 rims. That combination produced an extremely smooth ride, but the tires’ tight fit made us dread a roadside tube swap if the sealant failed to fix a puncture. So for this go-around, we opted to test the Sector 28 tires with and without inner tubes on rims of various widths.

Sector 28 front (tube)

Sector 28s installed with inner tubes on HED Ardennes Plus LT wheels.

Installed with inner tubes on both narrow and wide wheelsets, we were pleasantly surprised at just how lively the Sector 28 tires felt. Fitted with 80g Mavic tubes, the Hutchinson tires retained most, if not all of their supple tubeless feel. Despite a minor weight penalty, acceleration was on par with lighter tires of similar size such as the 700×28 Panaracer Gravelking (using identical rims and tubes). Interestingly enough, we ended up running the same pressure (70-75 front, 80-85 rear) with inner tubes and in tubeless mode.

For our tubeless testing, we used HED’s Ardennes Plus LT wheels and Caffelatex sealant. Mounting the Sector 28 tires was effortless with the 25mm-wide HED rims, and the beads seated at 50-60psi using a standard floor pump. As we stated in our original review, the Hutchinson tires can be run at lower pressures (in tubeless mode) without negatively affecting performance. This was even more apparent with the wider HED wheels, as the rims’ extra width gave the tire a more pronounced u-shaped profile.

Sector 28 (tubeless)

The Hutchinson tires set up tubeless using Caffelatex sealant.

Tire manufacturers may be slow to embrace tubeless technology for road use, but Hutchinson’s Sector 28 is a real bright spot in today’s market. The French company has succeeded in delivering the advantages of tubeless tires (puncture resistance, safety) without sacrificing the performance of lightweight clinchers. Riders looking to explore dirt and gravel roads without the worry of pinch-flats would be well served by the Sector 28 tires.

Disclosure: Caffelatex, HED, Hutchinson, and Mavic provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.