The Stelvio is named after the hill in Italy. It is actually the highest peak in Italy and the Giro d’Italia usually schleps over it every June. Schwalbe have used the name for all their racing line of tyres, from their superlight track racing tub through to the excellent rain tyre, they have a tyre for just about every occasion.
There is no doubt that a front tyre has slightly different demands placed on it than a rear tyre does. Essentially you sit on the rear tyre and the grip required needs to provide both cornering and power duties without compromising each other. On a bicycle this is made even harder by worrying about rolling resistance, drag and weight. The lighter the tyre the more likely you are going to have punctures and the heavier more likely to ride like a board. It’s a tricky balance.
What the German company have come up with is: The ultimate combination for racers: Rubber compounds developed specially for front and rear wheel use. Front compounds give maximum adhesion for cornering and braking. Rear compounds minimise energy loss Use of these special compounds makes power transfer more efficient on both front and rear wheels.
Essentially Schwalbe’s Qualifier Compound (QC) is placed in the tread centre for the more highly loaded rear wheel, where a low rolling resistance is important. A RaceGuard puncture protection belt is added for security.
The tyre shoulders use Maximum Grip Compound (MGC) providing for safer cornering. In the dry cornering is effortless, the centre section transition is un-noticeable as you slam into corners and they didn’t complain. In wet and damp conditions there’s no real change in performance, although naturally you slow down in the wet, even at 120psi they felt secure. The shape is pleasingly round with no nasty transition between the centre tread and the sidewall, although there is a slight rise to the centre 8mm section you don’t notice it at all.
Tyres are a personal choice and I have always liked the ride of Michelin’s tyres over the past ten years or so (especially the Pro Light and Pro Race, we are testing the Race 2s at the moment too). Continental have also, almost, matched the tubular ride with tyres like the Podium and the Force Attack combo. British conditions and road surfaces also play a part in tyre choice, but for racing you cannot beat the ride of a set of decent quality tubular tyres, they are just such a palaver to fit (to the impatient and inexperienced)
The ride of tubs is more to do with the complete wheel than the tyre itself. Mounted onto a simpler, lighter rim the tubular is faster and more responsive. The tyre and tube is far lighter than a high pressure tyre (clincher). Then the rim construction builds a laterally strong but radially compliant wheel. High pressure rims are heavier because they have a bead and channel necessary for the tyre to fit into. This makes a slightly less radially flexible wheel and this means the ride is less ‘plush’ and comfortable. However tubs are really only for pro teams as they cost a pile of money and wear out pretty quickly. And did I mention that they are a pain to fit?
This is a big improvement wear-wise on the original Stelvios, which ride very nicely but had a vulnerable tread especially in Northern European climates. The Evolution is an apt name for this tyre as it has matched Michelin and Veloflex for handling qualities and Continental for rubber and wear quality. At £50 a pair they’re not too bad price wise either (Conti’s Force and Attack are £28.95 each) and they certainly last a lot longer than previous Schwalbe race tyres. As for the front and rear specific tyres there may be a little obsolescence built in but the idea is a good one, you just won’t be able to swap tyres around to make them go a little further. After two months heavy use they are in remarkably good shape, which is saying something after all the weather we’ve had to put up with.