Review: Compass 650bx48 Switchback Hill Tires

Before “Road Plus” was a thing, there were randonneuring bikes. In this video, I review the Switchback Hill tires from Compass Bicycles, a long time booster of this newly rediscovered tire platform. Love this content? Help support the channel! :

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Juan Villegas says:

what kind of fenders are those?!


My experience with Compass Switchback with now ~1000 miles on my gravel bike. They are also the 48 mm in the Extralight configuration. Great on dirt and gravel, and not bad on easy rooted and rocked singletrack. The ride is excellent. On pavement, they roll nice and easy. I run 35 psi, and no deformity that I can feel. Fast descents feel fine. They are a bit noisy at faster speeds. I’ve had one flat along the tread, that looked to be a sharp rock cut. A second fill of Stan’s sealant took care of that. One of the tires refused to hold pressure. My soapy water test revealed over a dozen spots along the sidewall leaking air. I could feel appreciable loss of pressure on a two hour ride, and the tire was almost flat overnight. I told my local bike shop about this and they said it was a frequent complaint. I inspected, cleaned tire and rim, refilled with sealant… 4 x and no improvement. My shop replaced the tire at no charge! Yeah, for LBS’s! Hopefully, Compass will be able to remedy this for future iterations.

5kps5 says:

Are these the extralight casing?

Henrywildeberry says:

Hey Russ, I would say the bigger Compass tires >= 32mm are worth it. I’ve had such a positive experience with them. On the smaller tires, I’m not so sure they are worth it. I’ve used the 28mm tires on my road bike and just never really found my enjoyment with them and ultimately went back to Conti 4000’s. The softer compound with the narrow 28mm tires felt smooth on rough roads, but I didn’t like how they handled high speed corners. They tended to feel like they were washing out. To compensate I would have to inflate them to a higher pressure negating the smooth ride benefit. With that, I decided to go back to 28mm Cont’s, but at a slightly lower pressure 75 psi in the back and 65-70 psi in the front and find this to be the best of both worlds (for road biking). I do appreciate the takeaway I gained from experimenting with the 28 mm Compass tires in that lower pressure in almost all situations is better (notice I said almost all).

Andrew Suzuki says:

I’m interested how the Soma Grand Randonneur SL and EX tires compare. Jan has said the similar panaracer-made tires Pacenti Pari-moto and Panaracer Gravelking Slick are good, but the center tread is thinner than Compass’ offerings so they have much shorter lives. Interesting that he didn’t include the Soma with those other two tires. The SL variation is supposedly super thin, thinner than the Pari-moto, but it seems they released the EX with a thicker tread — possibly the same as Compass? I see the weight and sidewall TPI is identical to the Babyshoe pass as well — both 390g / 90tpi.

Greg McKay says:

Seems like a good product and an alright review, I must take acceptation to the term baby heads, I personally find this offensive really that is the best you can come up with to describe a 6 to 8 inch size rock, you can do better.

Matthew Barr says:

What are “baby heads”?

Joshua Briones-Yap says:

Is it true to size? (48mm)

Joe Bond says:

I’ve been ordering tires from Compass since they were the only place to buy 650Bx42mm Gran Bois’s (i.e., before there was such a thing as Compass tires.) I’ve tried the 700cx28, 32, 35, 38, and 44mm, as well as 650x48mm and the 26″x2.3″ (my personal favorite). All are incredibly comfortable, and surprisingly resistant to punctures. I have close to 25,000 miles on (a lot of) the 700x38mm tires and consider them to be the finest tires on the market. In general Compass tires do wear out faster than some of the heavier tires (1700-2000 miles for the rear, ~2500 miles for the front), but are well worth the money . Note that almost all my miles are on tubeless setups (yes, the 38mm tires aren’t recommended for tubeless, but I did it anyway without issue.)

Stuart Henderson says:

Just ordered​ a set for my 3T exploro looking forward to the supple life !!

Lars Halstrom says:

This tire has some weeping problems. Thin casing sidewalls. View this link.

Robert Trageser says:

The Soma Grand Vittesse are similar tires. They have the same casings and are also made by Panaracer. They have an SL version and an EX version with a thicker tread. Thats what got in 700×32. I tend to ride dirt more, so a little extra durability is welcome.
Theyre a little less expensive than the Compass tires.
My friend has Compass tires set up tubeless. His tires feel just like the high end sew ups I rode back in the day. Its like a magic carpet ride!
My Somas arent tubeless rated so Ill get the tubeless version next time. The tires I have are very light, very fast and comfortable with tubes. I run them at 35-60 psi depending on how bad the roads are.
If you get lots of flats you may be over-inflating.
I wouldnt run even a 25c tire over 80 psi! Skinny tires and high pressures are for the velodrome! More air volume at lower pressure are where its at! Less flats, more control, better handling and braking and MUCH more comfort lead to longer, faster, more enjoyable rides! Its been proven in testing. Those fast feeling, rock hard tires only feel fast. Its an illusion!

Rob Luskey says:

Russ any thoughts on how these compare to WTBs Byway or Horizon? Looking to pop these or the WTBs on to my impending Journeyman 650 purchase. Thanks!

A K says:

What was the internal width of the rims you used with these tires? Also, what was the final width of the tires? Thank you for your help, you have some excellent content 🙂

Jay Pozo says:

One thing I am curious about – I’m running tubeless and I’ve noticed the sidewalls have been sweating sealant a bit, after approx 500kms of riding, along the weave pattern. Have you noticed anything similar?

Jay Pozo says:

Awesome, these were my first set of 650b tires on my Wolverine and I love them. No flats for me on many kms of pavement and gravel. What pressures did you like them for on the gravel of the GDMBR? Also, would love to hear a review of the Gravelking SK 48mm by Panaracer.

Dr J says:

I’ve been using Stampede Pass Extralight (32mm) for over two years now. They are good. Very good. But you have to know their limitations. Compass tires roll very well on pavement and unpaved hardpack. But I wouldn’t take them for a long tour over rough, unpaved trails or gravel roads with very coarse, chunky gravel. I would be very worried about their durability. Sidewalls are thin and there is not much rubber under the cosmetic (really) tread. For such use I would prefer something more robust and durable.

Nick Stroud says:

Puncures, sure. I think the range of tires are more prone than some tires, but it depends. I setup Snoqualmies (normal sidewall) tubeless and got 1 month out of the rear and 4-5 months out of the front. Both punctures were on the main rubber belt, the rear wasn’t salvageable (my guess was glass) and the front still has a tube in it for road use. Must of the use was on mixed terrain/commuting in WA. I am however happy and I plan on buying compass tires for the next set of gravel race tires, but for day to day i’m going to be running something beefier. I also got a pair of Panaracer gravel kings for comparison and had slightly better luck with these, only slightly. Running tubeless I got the simmilar longevity and with tubes the rear needs to be replaced after ~6 months. It just not as supple.

Henrywildeberry says:

Great review! Some things to consider in your 650b conversion. If the outside diameter of the tire is roughly the same as a 700cx25mm tire your bottom bracket drop should be more or less the same. However, if you’re going from a 700cx38mm to a 650bx48 then you would be dropping the bottom bracket by (698mm – 683mm) / 2 = 7.5mm. In this case, one could choose to replace their crank with one shorter, say 175mm to 170 mm, or 172.5mm to a 165mm, as a way to reduce pedal strike. Making this switch would also improve toe overlap along with reducing over-extension of the hip during casual riding (for example a long day on a gravel road or touring). Of course, the common thinking is this comes at a slight loss of power & efficiency assuming you’re currently using a 172.5mm or the larger 175 mm crank. I bounce back and forth between 170mm on my touring rig and 175mm on my road and mountain bike with only a slight noticeable difference in overall performance. With so many other variables involved such as rolling resistance and weight, to name a few, it’s hard to point out where the efficiencies are gained or lost. In general, I find the short crank to be the preference for easy pedaling on long rides, casual riding, and touring. That’s not say a shorter crank wouldn’t provide benefits for competitive cycling, it’s certainly possible, so it comes down to the individual. In summary if you can give up a little length for the extra girth of the tire it just might be a perfect compromise! You do a great job presenting your information in a concise yet entertaining manner.

h000k says:

I’ve had the 700×38 Barlow Passes and the 700×44 Snoqualmies. They’re the least flat-prone tires I’ve ever ridden. The quality of the ride vastly outweighs their cost for me. Absolutely love Compass, I’d have a hard time riding any other brand at this point.

Xaver von Treyer says:

Just switched from Panaracer GravelKings SK 43 to Compass Snoqualmie 44. Amazing ride quality. Let’s see about punctures but as I ride tubeless I feel pretty confident they will last. My plan is to run these in summer and the GravelKings SK for the tougher wet season. The Snoqualmie roll really good. Without much effort I slashed 9 secs off a 3min. Strava segment including headwind. That’s 5% better… and did I say the ride AMAZING? And they are very very light for that size. Let’s just hope they can cope with rugged roads as well as the GravelKings did so far. I am afraid that the reputation of these tires is entirely based on reality: you probably won’t want to go back to other brands.

John Zarn says:

I don’t like the gumball sidewalls in which they don’t last as long as rubber sidewall. I see a lot of tires come in and they have brand new tread but the sidewalls dry rot so fast. I am curious how long they will last. Thanks for the video.

lbmcr says:

The viewers wish was granted. . . Thanks for this

Jason Brown says:

Im a little late to this, but specialized sawtooth is a $40 option that ive found to be a great value. Not sure if there is a 650b variant, but 700×42 carries my 300lb butt around comfortably for commuting. 120 tpi is great too.

Dave Longmore says:

I have Barlow Pass on my commuter/shopper, and Snoqualmie Pass on my Wolverine. Regarding punctures, I’ve run the Barlow Pass with tubes, and during an unlucky period last Summer ​picked up three punctures in a two-week period. Since then, touch wood, no punctures. The Snoqualmie Pass tyres are running tubeless, with Orange Seal. I had a ‘puncture’ last week, that sealed itself, I lost about 10 psi before it self-sealed! Fantastic boots that I’ll buy again, no doubt. By the way, I’m in England, and the extra light version is about £65

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