Plus tires aren’t just for mountain bikes anymore. With the success of oversized tires firmly established in the dirt, the originator of the plus tire movement is moving to road bikes as the next likely target. Yes, Road Plus is a thing, and in a lot of ways, it might be an even better application of oversized tires on smaller wheels.
Designed to fit into endurance road bikes designed around midsize 700c tires (28-35), the Byway (and its knobby-less cousin, the Horizon) claims to add comfort and versatility to drop bar bikes.
The Byway uses a dual compound, with firmer rubber in the center for speed, softer on the sides for cornering grip. The tan sidewall is a good compromise between thin and supple or thick and supportive. I like the transition from slick to file tread to slim cornering knobs.
Tubeless setup on a set of Sun Charger wheels was accomplished with a floor pump, and I stuck to 40 psi for the entire review period. At those pressures, the Byways rolled along pavement much like a wide 700c tire, but the 540 gram weight was noticeable when picking up the pace or trying to chase down a wheel. I won’t be entering any road races with these tires, but outside of that, they won’t ruin your day, even if your ride is solely on pavement.
But not riding dirt on these tires would be a crying shame. They absolutely shine in dry, loose conditions, adding a level of comfort and control that had me wishing for a dropper post to go get just a little more rad. I’ve spent some time on Horizons, and they can get pretty sketched out in loose gravel, the Byways manage to keep it all together. Those tiny cornering knobs don’t look like much to riders used to mountain bike tires, but they make a noticeable difference. Those knobs give up some corner speed to the Horizons on the road, but since most of my road riding is done getting to the dirt, I’ll take that trade-off.
They aren’t ideal in wet conditions, as the side knobs become very unpredictable in off-camber situations. That slick center doesn’t offer much traction for braking in the slime. That said, they do a lot better than expected, and being gentle with pedal, steering and braking inputs kept me upright through a lot more slop than I expected. WTB recently released the Resolute, a slightly skinnier tire with similar side knobs and actual tread in the middle of the tire, which should make it a better choice when things get sloppy.
I’m going to guess that most riders of my weight will be fine at pressures lower than 40 psi, but I was happy with the cornering and sidewall support at 40, and combined with a steel frame and fork, these tires are a magic carpet ride, even compared to the 700×38 tires I was previously using. I’ve become pretty adept at pinch flatting on dirt roads, even with pressures as high as 55 psi in 700×40 tires, so I’m very happy to have some proper tubeless tires that can handle my dirt-road antics.
I tip my hat to WTB for the design of these tires. It would have been easy to stick bigger knobs on the Horizon casing, but this minimalist approach keeps weights reasonable while keeping the positive on-road ride characteristics almost completely intact. Its only real weakness might be that it only comes in 650bx47. A few 700c sizes would probably sell like wildfire.
Make no mistake, these tires are more about pavement and dry dirt than smashing berms and shredding gnar. But there are literally dozens of tires that do that. This tire provides just enough confidence to always want to find out what is down that dirt road or gravel path or not-too-steep singletrack, while rolling well. And I’m not going to lie, that tan sidewall is hot as hell.
This review originally appeared in issue 201 of our sister publication, Dirt Rag. Are you interested in mountain biking, gravel riding, bikepacking and anything dirt related? Check out the magazine and subscribe today!Tweet Print
Words and photos by Jeff Lockwood
The Italian bicycle brand Bianchi has been an icon in the world of cycling for well over 100 years, and its celeste green paint is lusted after by legions of bicycle lovers from all walks of life. While Bianchi regularly sees its bikes in the pro peloton, the brand is also known for building a solid stable of rigs for mere mortal cyclists. For example, Bianchi produced a very popular series of singlespeed mountain bikes, like the SiSS, in the early- to mid-2000s.
We know from watching races like the Giro d’Italia and Strade Bianche that Italy has some rough roads and that Italians love to ride bikes. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Bianchi’s All Road collection offers a couple of bikes to be ridden atop such surfaces. As part of this collection, the All Road Disc 105 hits a market that prefers a bike that can handle the rugged white roads in Tuscany as well as riding to the local café or winery. While that sounds quite utopian, more practical applications for the All Road for the rest of us means we can ride the bike around town during the week and then take it on some modest adventures on the weekend.
The aluminum All Road frame is designed to be ridden in a variety of scenarios, on differing surfaces—sometimes all on the same ride. While people sometimes simply opt to buy cyclocross bikes for off-road riding, the All Road offers some features that are more specific and useful to the average cyclist—and offers more comfort than a racy cyclocross frame.
Bianchi’s own marketing copy positions the bike as a capable all-terrain steed, “The All Road best suits the needs of riders looking to enjoy endless miles ‘off the grid’ — whether their excursions take them up fire roads, down gravel roads, over mountain bike trails or ‘all of the above.’” However, I find the bike does better with riding situations closer to home. Without failing miserably at being too many things to too many people, the All Road deftly presents a product that wisely offers three important characteristics needed for varying types of riding.
For starters, the amusingly (yet appropriately) named 35 mm Kenda Happy Medium tires offer a tread that will roll nicely on smooth tarmac, grab enough on loose dirt roads and absorb some impact from neglected city streets. The fender mounts are key if you’re more into commuting to the office, as well as light touring. The 35 mm tires are about as wide as you can fit here, but there’s still plenty of room for the fenders. While the rack mounts offer a certain level of utility by allowing you to attach some bags and other bits, I wouldn’t say this bike is quite suited to heavy touring or bikepacking.
The key aspect of the bike’s versatility, in my opinion, is the fact that it’s a bicycle that is quite stable and comfortable on rougher roads for long distances. However, it’s still nimble enough that it can confidently cut and dice around traffic and errant pedestrians as you ride from your apartment to those glorious dirty stretches of road. And, of course, everything in between.
While you could theoretically use the All Road to test the waters of a cyclocross race if you’ve never done one before, the bike has a more relaxed and comfortable geometry and measurements than its racy siblings. The chainstays are a bit longer, which offers more straightline stability, yet the front end of the bike remains on the short side. This lets the bike get snappy when you need/want it to be.
Its taller headtube puts the rider in a more upright (read: comfortable) position, which is always good for those long days in the saddle. This comfortable position is bolstered by the compact handlebars, which offer a shallow drop and slightly flared drops. I love the comfort and confidence this cockpit offers. It’s not often that I find myself riding in the drops on road or ‘cross bikes too much, so it was a pleasure to get into such a position with the All Road.
The All Road is spec’d with a wider diameter seatpost (31.6 mm). Combined with its aluminum frame, I was expecting a rather rigid and unforgiving feel—especially on rough roads. I was pleasantly surprised that the bike muted some of the vibrations on rougher roads. While it didn’t offer steel-frame-level forgiveness, I found it to be plenty comfortable. Sure, this is mostly thanks to the wider tires, but the whole package rode really nicely.
Let’s be honest. The All Road is not designed, or priced, to be a hard-edged racing machine. It’s meant to be more of the trusty Swiss Army knife you have at the ready for whatever might come your way. However, since it’s billed as something to play in the dirt with, I sought out to see how the bike would perform on some tasty singletrack. It’s definitely no cyclocross bike, nor can it withstand truly technical trails with gnarly rocks and roots. But when the path was smooth, flowy and tacky, the All Road was fun. As long as I approached turns with a bit of care, the All Road stuck nicely to the trail.
The component spec on the All Road is typical for what you would find on a similarly priced rig. Shimano 105 takes care of the drivetrain. The 105 group is the workhorse of the shifter/derailleur world, and it’s hard to beat its performance-to-cost ratio. Disc brakes are a must for a bike like this, and Shimano’s road-specific hydraulic brakes offer smooth modulation and confidence. The aluminum stem, bars and seatpost, all branded as Bianchi’s Reparto Corse products, do their respective jobs with neither complaint nor fanfare. The carbon fiber fork is a nice touch. It tracks nicely and doesn’t really chatter on the rough stuff, which is welcome for more dirty sorts of riding.
While the Reparto Corse DRAW 1.9 Disc wheels and the Happy Medium tires performed well during the testing period, I would have preferred to run a tubeless setup. I understand that would have priced the bike a bit higher, but the performance gains, and confidence, offered by tubeless tires is key for such off-road specific bikes like this. I did worry about pinch flats when I would drop the pressure to further smooth out the ride.
While it was designed and built to be primarily ridden off-road, I found the Bianchi All Road more adept at rides along varying types of surfaces, rather than a pure gravel machine as marketed. If you’re into riding what you want, when you want, the All Road is certainly worth consideration. It may lack the sexiness that Bianchi is known for, but it’s a reliable rig that’s versatile, comfortable, decently spec’d and comes in below the $2,000 threshold.
Sizes: 50, 53, 55 (tested), 57, 59, 61 cm
Weight: 24.3 lbs
This review originally appeared in Bicycle Times #44. Read more reviews online here, and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to get content like this delivered directly to your inbox every Tuesday.Tweet Print