A Useful Review – The Donnelly Cycling Strada USH Gravel Tire

A good gravel tire can be hard to spot. Often, tires that appear to offer an ideal blend of good traction and a quick roll will offer more traction than is necessary and don’t roll as quickly as I’d like. That disconnect between looks and performance makes tire choice a rabbit warren from which I won’t willingly leave.

By contrast, I find it difficult to generate much excitement for road tires. Line up four 28mm-wide tubeless road tires and unless one of them cuts like paper, I’ll struggle to detect a difference. But in the changing conditions of gravel riding, my riding generates data points like dandelion seeds blown by the wind.

It is with that prelude that I now assert that my all-time-favorite gravel tire is the Donnelly Cycling Strada USH. This is a tire that features a center slick section with tiny sipes and then a rich herringbone-like pattern on the sides.

The set I’ve been riding are 700C x 40mm. It’s remarkably a remarkably sticky tire; I once descended a wet road that was slightly frosted and by the time I saw the frost on the road, I was committed to my line and I felt a bit like I was signing my own death warrant. Hitting my brakes could have taken me down and the late entry I made on the turn meant that opening it into a wider turn wasn’t possible without going over the yellow lines. The tires slid ever so gently at the apex of the turn but hooked back up instantly. The level of control I felt surprised me.

What I’ve learned is that once wide enough, a relatively slick tire offers a quick roll while still yielding sufficient traction.

I tend to run the 700 x 40mm tires between 36 and 42 psi, depending on conditions. In addition to the 700 x 40s, they also produce a 700 x 32mm and 650 x 50mm and 650 x 42mm. The foldable clincher goes for $55 while the tubeless version runs $70. I can confirm that tubeless is the way to go. I’ll ride this tire almost anywhere. The only two settings I can think of where I wouldn’t ride this tire would be in mud or wet grass. It has proven to be remarkable on hardpack dirt with some loose sand thrown in.

I offer one caveat here. Riders who like to stand up while climbing on loose surfaces will positively hate this tire, unless their technique is such that they know to keep their weight back over the rear wheel. I did spin the tire once—while seated—on a very wet, unpaved climb, but the day had been pretty extreme overall, the sort of day where no one tire could be perfect.

Final thought: This would be my desert island gravel tire. 

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