2 months on this set of tires and this is what I’ve experienced…

Yes, most of you know me as “Sarah hill, the South African mountain biker”, but little did you realize how often I train on my road bike. Averaging about 3 to 4 rides on the road bike per week, I would say that it is one of my most valuable training tools. That being said, serious miles have been accumulated and a great tire just cannot go unnoticed.

I live in Johannesburg, one of the biggest cities in South Africa. The roads are filled with cars, traffic, potholes, and the occasional yellow lane to ride in. Luckily I spend a lot of my time riding in groups, or make my way through to the Cradle of Humankind to make use of the handy bike lane. In order to successfully train (puncture free), I’ve needed a tire that can match my sessions – tough, resilient, and fast paced.

The problem with road tires is that it’s hard to find something that is strong and light. I’ve always sacrificed weight for durability, thinking “at least I will be less likely to puncture on these roads”. Well, finally I can say that I’ve found something that is not only strong, but light as well.

It was the Ride Joburg 947 road race in November 2022 where I noticed the biggest difference in my speed and handling. In the world on mountain biking this is something that we focus on more from a tire pressure perspective than the actual compound. Paired with rider capabilities, you can be fast on just about anything if you know the tread well enough. On the road bike I found it a little different.

My usual pre-race opener route took me 1 hour and 30min to complete. It has the perfect undulating hills for some short intensity, with the added bonus of a little broken up tar and pothole section right outside my house. In typical routine fashion, I kit up, jump on the bike and begin rolling through the rough section on my way out. I was surprised the reactivity of my front wheel. I remember looking down and thinking maybe something was wrong as the bike itself had never felt so engaging before. I felt like I was floating over the terrain beneath me. I then went on to a heavier traffic section of the road. The tar was good, and I always enjoyed swooping through this one corner (as if to set me on my way to have a good session). I set myself up wide and absolutely flew through the left-hand turn. I immediately yelled “woooooohoooo” when I sat up and laughed with enjoyment. When was the last time I found a road corner exciting? Haha! I continued and completed my first 2 set of intervals. Each time I was blown away by the acceleration speed. I felt faster, lighter and in more control than I had in over 2 years on a road bike – and the only thing that had changed was the tires.

The final interval started and as I stood up, I could really feel the magnitude of what the Strada Pro’s had to offer. Swinging the bike left to right I was moving forward with such control and could feel how the energy I was putting in was getting directed straight into the ground rather than getting lost in the flexing on the tire itself. An interesting concept to think about, which is why trying out a pair of these is worth the investment. Needless to say, my pre-race opener loop time was 10min faster than normal. How about them apples. These Challenge Strada Pro tires were 25mm wide and tubeless. I don’t actually see a lot of riders opting in for tubeless ready road tires, but it truly is a completely different experience. The handling is more reactive, accelerations are faster, and the floating sensation is unique and exciting. I felt more confident on these tires and knew that I was in for a good race. The Ride Joburg 947 race was a priority C race for me. At the end of a long season and 2 weeks off, I wanted to end off the year with something fun – with a whole lot of fast women surrounding me. The city blocks off entire roads, raceways (and highways!) for us to race on, which is such an experience. The roads were well selected, and it made for a fast, punchy course.

The early stages of the race were calm, with the occasional attack that I just gladly sat wheel and joined in the party as they happened. The first half was predominantly downhill, making it a speedy first 1 hour and a bit. As soon as we entered the Kyalami Raceway, I knew something spicey was going to happen! I patiently waited for someone to make a move and habitually I stood up and embraced the nice rush of adrenaline. My bike felt so nimble with these tires, as if I only needed to put half the amount of power down to actually move forward in the group. I raced a lot of criterium events during my time in the USA, so the fast-paced corners are always a good time for me. As we hit the climbs fatigue slowly started creeping in. I remember just being so surprised by how far I managed to stay in the group considering I had just had 2 weeks off the bike. I found myself behind a friend whose teammate had just attacked off the front and decided this was a good place for me to hang tight. We had the opportunity to catch up during the race and finished together (perfect way to end the year). I think I was just outside the top 10 in the end with a whole new understanding of the value of great road tire underneath me.

The true test came when I went down to the Eastern Cape to train over the December holidays. St Francis Bay is a beautiful place, but the road towards Humansdorp is a roadie worst nightmare. I umm’d and ahh’d about whether taking the road bike or the gravel bike would be better, and after the race I’d had on the Strada Pro’s I decided to continue testing these bad-girls out. Did I puncture? No! Did I ram straight into some cattle track at 35km/hr? Yes! Did I ride in a group at 45km/hr with a trailwind and not even think about what I was riding over? Yes! I could not believe how little I had worn out the tires over a three week period. It was fantastic! Despite not having the full test of durability – yet – I am confident to see how complementary the Strada Pro’s have been to my riding style. I know I am smooth and take good lines wherever I can, but you can’t quite take the mountain biker out of me. Occasional dirt roads, glass, and cattle track have definitely tested these beyond what most would, and they are still going strong.