First Impressions: Compass Barlow Pass & Stampede Pass Tires

Riders who prefer skinny tires have plenty of options when it comes to high-performance rubber. But you’re looking for a wide, supple tire, the pickings can be mighty slim. Thanks to Seattle’s Compass Bicycles, fans of wide tires don’t have to sacrifice width for performance.

Compass offers tires for 26″, 650B, and 700C rims. All Compass tires feature folding beads, and most models are available in standard and extralight versions. For long life (and improved puncture resistance), both versions–which are handmade in Japan by Panaracer–feature 3 mm tread thickness. Extralight tires are available with tan or black sidewalls, while standard models are only offered with tan sidewalls.

Model Weight (g) Width (mm)
Stampede Pass
281 31.5
Stampede Pass
(extra light)
251 31.8
Barlow Pass
(extra light)
370 37.8
Tires measured on Rolf Prima VCX rims with 22.6 mm outer and 18.4 mm inner widths.

We tested Compass’ 700×32 Stampede Pass in the standard ($57 MSRP) and extralight versions ($76 MSRP), and the extralight 700×38 Barlow Pass model ($78 MSRP). Our testing took place on paved and unpaved roads, and included both utility and recreational riding. Tires were installed (with tubes) on a variety of rims, including models from ENVEHED, Mavic, Rolf Prima, and Specialized. All three sets of tires mounted easily on our test wheels, and seated without any hops or wobbles. gravel grinder Compass Stampede Pass Black Mountain Cycles TRP RG957 HED Ardennes Plus LT Cane Creek

From ten feet away, one might mistake the Stampede Pass for a basic commuting or touring tire. The tan sidewalls give off a retro vibe that belies the tires’ modern construction and materials. For those that prefer a more modern aesthetic, the extralight version is also available with black sidewalls. On the road and trail, the Stampede Pass tires delivered a smooth, nimble ride. The minimal tread proved effective on hardpack dirt roads, and behaved predictably on wet and snow-covered pavement. While the Stampede Pass tires have a maximum pressure of 90 psi, we never ran more than 80 psi on paved roads.

As good as the standard Stampede Pass versions are, the extralights are in a completely different league. Plush doesn’t even begin to describe the extralights’ ride. The extralight Compass tires practically floated over chipseal roads and broken pavement. In theory, the lighter casings are more susceptible to damage, but we didn’t encounter any issues with the extralight models. Interestingly enough, the only puncture that we experienced during our testing occurred with the standard Stampede Pass tires on an early morning commute. Based on the size of the flint-like shard that caused the flat, we suspect that a heavier, less-supple tire would have met the same fate. gravel grinder Compass Barlow Pass Rolf Prima VCX Disc Salsa Vaya

While not every bicycle can accommodate 38 mm wide tires, the ones that can will definitely benefit from the Barlow Pass’ smooth, fast ride. The tires’ plump profile proved ideal for mixed-terrain commuting and recreational rides. Some riders may balk at the idea of using $78 tires for commuting, but the Barlow Pass’ superior performance inspired us to seek out longer routes to and from our destinations. We didn’t test the tires in any competitive events, but Compass Bicycles’ Jan Heine reports that many of his customers choose the company’s tires for gravel racing (Heine completed the 360-mile Oregon Outback event on Compass extralight tires with no flats or tire damage).

Are the Barlow Pass tires effective on dirt and gravel? Most definitely–if you understand the limitations of their minimal tread. Performance on hardpack dirt is excellent. Shallow gravel was no problem, but you’ll probably want a wider tire for deeper gravel. In mud or loamy soil, we certainly noticed the lack of knobs. Compass’ Barlow Pass tires really shine on washboard dirt roads; we could comfortably cruise along at a good clip thanks to the tires’ passive suspension properties. And although they are rated to 75 psi, dropping the Barlows’ pressure down to 35 psi (front) and 45 psi (rear) will make them behave like a much wider tire on dirt and gravel.

If you need the reliability of heavily armored tires, the extralight Compass models may not be the right choice for your application. For average riding conditions–including mixed terrain use–we have no qualms recommending the standard Stampede Pass and Barlow Pass tires. Riders who are looking for the next level of performance and comfort owe it to themselves to check out Compass’ extralight tires.

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

26 thoughts on “First Impressions: Compass Barlow Pass & Stampede Pass Tires

  1. I have the extralight Barlow Pass tires and I’ve been (im)patiently waiting for your review as a sort of third-party gauge of whether my experience of them was overly biased by my having to spend my money on them. The tires live on an All City Space Horse, which has become my bike of choice for riding on anything that one might call a road, and I love them. They’re comfy and smooth, and the only times I ever have any pause about their abilities is on steep gravel hills. I’ve lost traction on a climb because I’ve pulled my weight too far off the rear wheel, and I tend to be a bit more cautious on gravelly, downhill curves than fellow riders on 29ers. I’m more than happy to accept these few limitations for a tire that performs so well everywhere else. For what it’s worth, they fit securely and un/mount easily without tools on American Classic TCX wheels. (Despite the tubeless-ready rims, I use tubes in these tires.)

  2. I have been using a pair of Barlow Pass extra lights on my mixed terrain bike for approximately five months. The ride quality is excellent and they certainly deliver as promised in terms of suppleness. However, they are definitely puncture prone on city roads and also on any of the rougher unpaved roads. For example, I suffered three punctures in the same (rear) tyre on one 50km gravel ride and there are numerous small tears in the sidewalls on both tyres. I love their speed and suppleness, but now that I’ve ridden them extensively, I won’t risk them on any future mixed terrain rides. I don’t want to be fixing flats when I’m many miles from anywhere!

    1. Hi Rohan, Rodd from Ottawa here.
      Interesting data point. I’ve been riding the precursor to these tires, the Grand Bois Cerf, since 2007 on many many rough gravel roads and trails in both racing and JRA, with very few issues. Same goes for many of my friends. I think the fact that all gravel isn’t created equal really holds true. Flinty sharp gravel seems to require a more armoured tire than these. Bummer they haven’t held up for you. They sure are fast

      1. Rohan & Rodd – I’ve ridden the Grnd Bois 700x32s & took them into rail ballast which tore that soft sidewall on my rear wheel – but I was going too fast & was seated when I entered the ballast rocks.

        Since the Compass Line began, I’ve commuted, toured & lightly ridden mtb trails on a pair of the Barlow Pass 700x38s. Less punctures than I ever had with Schwalbe Marathons, same frequency as RIBMOs (hardly ever), but I’ve worried during all those rides, long & short, that I’d tear the sidewalls. At nearly $80/tire, its hard to ignore that possibility.

        That said, they are the most comfortable tires I’ve experienced.

  3. I have fitted a pair of Stampede Pass standard 700 x 32 on a recent rebuild which I use for commuting and longer excursions in Northumberland, UK. Having used skinnier Continental tyres over the years I was shocked at how flexible these tires were when I unpacked them. To be honest I did not think they would last more than a few miles on the very rough roads in this part of rural England. However a 1,000 miles later, not one puncture and comfort and speed is far superior to the high quality conti’s I have ridden for years. Only downside so far is that I too have experienced a few nicks in the rear tire sidewall, running at 80 psi. Lined these with duck tape and seem to be holding up OK but worried about a blowout on the bigger descents. So have ordered another tire to see if it’s a one off. I really hope that I have been unlucky with the sidewall nicks as otherwise I am a convert.

  4. I think the real secret to these tires is to forget our perceptions of tire pressure and pumping them up to 80psi or more. I have been running the 700x32c extra light tires for about 1500 miles. At first, I had the tires pumped to 80psi or more. I had two flats (one from a thin wire) and the center tread on the rear began to wear significantly.

    Then, I lowered the pressure way down to the 50-55psi range. An amazing change! The ride was even better, the wear issue stabilized, and–most importantly–not a single flat since, in around a thousand miles. I am convinced that the higher pressures caused more debris to imbed in the tires, and now they flex over most of it.

    Looking at the tires as I ride, it does not appear that 50psi is anywhere near a danger of a pinch flat, so I am staying with this pressure for all terrain. As a side note, I weigh over 200lbs.

    Magical tires. I won’t ride anything else.

  5. Second Mike’s point about pressure. There’s some who feel that we shouldn’t ride anywhere near the max pressure, that that number is a safety limit and not a ‘recommendation’ for optimum performance.
    Personal preference is 40 front, 45-55 rear but then I’ll forget to check &, not infrequently, find that I’d been riding them @ low 20s, or 25-30psi. The comfort is addicting so any loss in speed doesn’t seem to occur to me. But, then, I’m careful about hopping curbs and un-weighting the tire if there’s road damage/obstacles. Guess I’ve been very lucky with no pinch-flats at those pressures.

      1. Mike & John

        Thanks for the advice on running at a lower pressure. The guys at Bicycle Quarterly have an article suggesting that running these tires at a lower pressure will bring additional advantages of comfort without any negative effects on puncture resistance or overall ground speed. I have a three day trip coming up so will give it a go, with the spare tire in the saddlebag of course, just in case.

  6. I’ve been running the 700×38 Barlow Pass extralights at 50 psi front and 60 psi rear. That’s for paved-road use. On dirt/gravel, I’ll drop the pressure 10 psi front and rear.

  7. Would be interested if anyone could compare/contrast these to the Clement X’Plor? I’ve become a huge fan of the Clement MSO and UPF for more spirited gravel and modest single track on my CX bike. I also ride Schwalbe Marathon’s on my commuter bike – night and day difference in ride between the supple Clement’s and the wire bead 42c Schwalbe XR’s.

    I fully agree with comments from others – for a large volume tire 35c to 40c, one can go to a much lower pressure. My commute includes 5 miles of gravel/dirt roads. 45 to 50 psi in the rear seems ideal for the 42c Schwalbe’s. The CX bike (no fenders, lights, pannier) is a good 20 lbs lighter and I’ll run about the same pressure or slightly lower with 33c to 40c Clements (the 35c Xplor measures the same as the 33c CX tires I also use).

    It would also be useful if the review included measurements of the tires on a couple rims – perhaps one of the traditional narrow road/CX rims and another on a touring or the new wider CX rims. Thanks for the great review!

    1. The Extralight Compass tires ride smoother than any of the Clements that I’ve ridden/tested. And despite the Compass’ lack of tread (compared to the Clements), they perform really well on hard-pack dirt.

  8. I have the Barlow 38’s and love the smooth ride.
    I’m temped to try them tubeless, as should make them even silkier and more flat resistant, has anyone else tried it?

  9. These are the most comfortable road tires I have ever ridden. I have been running the Barlow Pass extra lights for about 5 months now, approximately 1500 miles so far, mostly fast riding on the road. Not country road, either. I live in Long Beach, CA. Lots of traffic, glass, debris, and potholes. I’ve only had two flats, on the rear tire – one wire, and one small finish nail. I’m a long time roadie, so I keep an eye peeled and avoid what I can, and get light to float over rough stuff. But stuff still surprises you sometimes, and these tires have really held up. The front tire shows barely any wear, and the rear is to where the center ribbing is just getting smooth (i.e. time to rotate them). I usually run 50 psi rear and 40 psi front (I weigh 195 lbs, and my Black Mountain Cycles monstercross rig is about 24 lbs complete). If I will have tight turns on a ride, I’ll increase that to 55 psi and 45 psi, since I’ve found that the front tire especially gets squirrelly in sharp turns at lower pressure. Maybe wider rims would reduce that – my current rims are 19mm inner width. I get lots of funny looks from other roadies, and teasing from my riding buddies about my “monster truck of a road bike”. They are usually surprised to discover that these are fast tires 🙂

  10. I”m currently riding Pasela 35s but bought a pair of Stampede pass 32s foran upcoming ride that is longer than is usual for me. I usually pump the pasellas up to 50-55 every 2-4 weeks and don’t much change im performance until the pressure drops below 35. I can’t wait to try the new tires, it sounds like i will not have to give up comfort to gain speed. I’ll keep you posted and if they are as good as reported I’ll probably replace the 50s on the Hunqapillar with the 38 Barlows. Thanks for the great reviews.

  11. I ride similar roads to Rodd above (live in the same area) and for smooth/rough pavement and hard packed dirt, the Calgary Pass really impress! My Extra Lights came in at 268 gr, I added a couple of ounces of sealant and mounted on my V1 Pacenti SL23 (~ 31.5mm width) and haven’t looked back.

    I’m about 200lbs and ride 50psi front and 55psi rear. Any less and the thin sidewalls get a little too mushy out of the saddle. I’ve had no flats or frankly any visible wear in 1000km, about 50/50 pavement & dirt.

    What I like about these tires besides the weight/size/thread pattern is that they work really well on the road (*maybe* 1kph lost versus my Schwalbe One 28c?) and float on gravel. Best of both worlds all while using a single rig – nice!

    The only wish I would have is for the same tire to be just a hair bigger, 35mm at <300gr would be perfect.

  12. One additional thought on keeping tires at lower pressures. As mentioned before, I run mine under 55 psi & they can drop into the 30s or high 20s without it bothering me. But what has happened is that the tire has become too ‘splashy’ to corner safely and I’ve nearly lost control in a sharp turn. A question: what would be the ideal rim diameter for these bigger softer type tires?

    1. Edit for clarity: The cornering is fine down into the low 30s, its when psi sneaks down into the mid 20’s that the tires can start to wash out.

  13. John, my experience (see my first comment above, June 9 2015) is that the cornering can get squirrelly with pressure below 55 psi rear and 45 psi front. This is with Barlow Pass 700×38 tires mounted on Velocity Synergy rims with 19mm internal width, me at 190 lbs and the bike at 24 lbs. I did some hard sharp turns at low speed to watch what happens – the sidewalls partially collapse and wrinkle up when you feel the tire wash out. At high speed it would be dangerous. By increasing the pressure from 50/40 psi or a bit less (my preference for ride quality) to 55/45 psi, the tire becomes rigid enough under cornering loads to prevent washing out. Obviously, the pressures needed will vary depending on rider+bike+cargo load and cornering style. I needed to carefully sneak up on the best compromise.

    I just changed out my wheels to some really wide ones I’ve built: H+Son Todestrieb (really a 29er mountain bike rim) laced to road hubs. These are about 25mm internal width and 32mm external width. The wider rim pretty much eliminates the “light bulb” cross section of these wide tires. The cross section is now similar to a 25mm tire mounted on a standard road rim, just scaled up. The wider rim definitely improves stability in turns. I’ve done a couple rides this week (one in pouring rain), with the pressure dropped to my preferred 50 psi rear/40 psi front, and it is just as stable as it was at 55/45 psi mounted on the narrower rims. The down side of course is that the wider rims weigh quite a bit more – the Todestriebs are listed at 600g each online, but this is optimistic for even the 26″ (559mm) size. My 29″ (700c / 622mm) rims actually weighed in at 740g each, so these are comparable to other large heavy duty rims. Yet the bike rides so nice with the wider rims, I don’t think I mind the heavier wheels 🙂

    Of course, if your bike has disc brakes, wider rims don’t need to be so beefy. There are some pretty light yet wide disc brake specific rims available. Take a look at the Velocity Blunt SS 29″ – 26mm internal width and listed at only 425g. Wish I could use them on my bike!

  14. I’ve worn out three sets of Stampede Pass tires (700c 32) and have probably had 10 flats total on varied terrain. I also weigh 225 and average 18-22mph. Good tires, very comfy which can sometimes equate to speed.

  15. Long term report on the Barlow Pass (700×38) extra light tires:
    — I am now at 3700 miles on this set of tires (I rotated them for even wear). I am sure they will make it to 4200 miles at least. Since I used to get about 2500 miles per set of Continental Gatorskin 700×28 tires, this better longevity makes the cost-per-mile of these $80 tires equivalent to my previous tires.
    — I have discovered that I was overstating the pressure I’ve been using. My floor pump’s gauge was quite a bit out of calibration, and when I checked pressure with a new high quality digital pressure gauge, I’ve actually been riding at about about 43psi rear and 35psi front. This is on the new wide H+Son Todestrieb rims that I built up. Cornering stability on the road is solid at these pressures (but as I’ve stated before, on narrower rims I needed to bump the pressure up another 5 psi to get cornering stability). Being able to drop the pressure when I went to the wider rims *really* slowed down the wear rate (which was originally more heavily biased to the center of the tread).
    — I’ve had a total of perhaps 8-9 flats over this mileage, which is not much worse than the average year when I was riding kevlar-belted Continental Gatorskins 700×28 at 70-75psi. Most of the flats have been thorns when I’ve ridden off pavement, not the abundant broken glass and debris on the streets. But I am happy to fix a flat a month to get the riding qualities of these tires.
    — Overall verdict? I’ve already bought another set, and I am sticking with the extra light version 🙂

  16. Can we get a FINAL IMPRESSIONS? My experience with the older Grand Bois Cypress and Extra Legier was that I got a lot of sidewall cuts even riding on the road.

    1. I still have these tires in service. Granted, it hasn’t been continuous service, but they’re still plenty road-worth. ZERO sidewall issues even with lots of miles logged in the dark (where I can’t see debris as easily).

    2. I also ride in the dark a lot in the winter (i.e. early morning rides before work), albeit with good lights. I have had zero sidewall cuts over nearly 3900 miles (mostly road riding). I did get one bad cut in the tread (1/4 inch long) from a large shard of glass. I glued a fabric patch on the inside and have put another 1500 miles on the tire with no issues. Low pressure helps make this possible.

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