should you jump on a supple tire bandwagon?
One of the most recurring topics in the world of comfort is tire suppleness. You can read opinions like this tire is harsh and that tire is very comfortable. So naturally, I wanted to find out if these subjective opinions are correct or not. To do so I bought a pair of Soma Cazadero 42mm tires which are known as one of the most supple tires on the market.
On a daily basis, I use Panaracer GravelKing SK tires. I have 42 and 50mm versions (700c) and a 48mm 650b. Those tires are very rigid and dependable. I trust them and use both in tubed and tubeless setup. But GravelKings are not the most supple tire you can get – far from it. To get the most comfort from them you really need to go very low with the tire pressure (like 20 psi low with a tubeless setup). Then you can get something like a magic carpet feeling but not everyone (including me) likes riding on tires with so little air in it (especially cornering is not that enjoyable with tire moving so much). Fortunately, there are also tires like Soma Cazadero which are known from its great suppleness. This allows you (at least in theory) to ride with much more usable air pressure (like 30 psi both tubed and tubeless) and still enjoy the comfortable ride.
Soma Cazadero in 42mm variant is not officially tubeless-ready and with my narrow Alex ATD470 rims it shows. Mounting tubeless required removing the inner valve completely to push the air effectively so the tire will expand properly. Then I needed a lot more sealant (actually a mix of Slime and NoStans sealant) to stop air from fleeing the tire. In the end, it worked quite good but on a daily basis, I rather use inner tubes with that tire (maybe different and wider rim will work better). So to do my test I based on tubed setup and I run all the tests with 30 psi air pressure. Why 30 psi? Based on my previous tests I found out that this is optimal tire pressure. You will not get a pinch flat with tubes (my first ride on Soma Cazadero tire with 20 psi air pressure resulted in an instant pinch flat) and the cornering is much more enjoyable. Yet 30 psi is still low enough to allow the tire to flex and show its suppleness.
Comparing to my GravelKing SK 43 mm tire Soma Cazadero generates much less noise on the tarmac. This was the first surprise especially when you compare the threads on both tires (Cazadero looks much more like an off-road tire). Soma Cazadero felt also a little bit slower. The other difference was the feeling when cornering – Cazadero was somehow sliding more than GravelKings SK. But after more rides I got accustomed to that feeling and to be honest when pushed hard – Cazadero behaved in corners as good as Panaracer tire. But how about comfort? To be honest there was something going on but I did not feel a big difference at all. So I began to wonder if all this supple tires hype was just the hype? Then I run my standard tests based on my benchmark bike (with suspension stem and a flexing seatpost).
The big revelation was that indeed a supple tire is indeed more comfortable. On the slow forest run, front of the bike was generating over 10% fewer vibrations and the back was even better with 13,4% fewer vibrations. On the fast gravel route, the difference was lower but still 6% in the front and 3,1% fewer vibrations in the back. Based on my previous test I can honestly tell that this is a significant improvement in overall comfort and for sure, apart from lowering the tire pressure to something like 30 psi, using a more supple tire is a second-best thing you can do to improve the overall comfort of your bike. So yes, supple tire hype is real and you should jump on the supple tire bandwagon as soon as possible 😊