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SCHWALBE LUGANO TYRES
Wire Bead version £17.99 498g each (700x25 as tested)
The Schwalbe Lugano 700x25c tyres are the German brand's entry level road rubber, designed to deliver a decent mix of performance and reliability at a keen price. Generally speaking they do pretty much what they promise in the blurb.
Ours Schwalbe Lugano tyres were the wire bead versions, which tip the scales at a moderate 498g apiece but there is a 28mm wired and two folding counterparts available in 23 and 25mm widths. Materials/specification is, otherwise, identical and pretty much what I’ve come to expect, from this price point.
50tpi casings are coarser than I’m used to but about right for a winter/workhorse. Part of their active line, the relatively thick rubber casing features water channelling grooves and a Kevlar breaker beneath
This only covers the centre strip, leaving the shoulders potentially vulnerable to flints, glass and similar sharps and sidewalls are similarly no-frills. Mind you, they shouldn’t give any trouble either, which is reassuring for heavier riders, or those lugging trailers/ moderate pannier loads.
They have quite a big profile, compared with sportier counterparts, which shouldn’t pose any problems for racier tourers, or more traditional winter bikes designed to take full-length mudguards. They also re/mount with surprising ease and a single, bog standard tyre lever.
Things can get tricky with some road builds, especially those from the late 1980s/early 90s with eyelets but fag-paper clearances. My bespoke road frame, known affectionately as “The teenage dream” hails from 1991 and is a prime example.
With some gentle jiggling of the mudguard stays, I successfully bought a few millimetres breathing space at the rear triangle. Up front, it proved a non-starter.
Filing and bending the mudguard bridge might’ve done the trick. However, the risk of it breaking, dumping the guard and inducing an undignified over-the-bars ejection lacked appeal!
Comparison with 120tpi 25mm mid-range tyres is unfair and transitioning to their charms took a few outings. Even run at the higher end of its 90-115psi range, the Lugano are tangibly less willing. This proved most apparent when trying to catch someone on a climb, when the lights change, or snatching away from imminent danger - rogue black labs, drunk pedestrians, opening car doors etc.
By the same token, I’ve cruised along fairly effortlessly between 17 and 20mph and the ride has been very compliant, especially over washboard surfaces. Sure, my legs felt wearier over 35 miles or so, compared with the 25mm, 282g Vee Rubber but additional resistance has largely gone unnoticed on rides around the 20mile mark.
In the dry, the Lugano inspire confidence, providing excellent feedback from the tarmac, irrespective of condition, or surface treatment. Freshly lain road chippings demanded a bit more focus but with common sense, you’d be seriously unlucky to go rubber up.
Traction over manhole covers and similar ironworks is equally predictable. At the other extreme, pushed to 30mph along swooping 1in 4 descents, things remained generally predictable-even when I was relatively tired.
Long dry spells, followed by torrential downpours leaved a really slippery film as oils, spent diesel etc get dispersed. Dropping their pressure to 100psi, saturated town centres required more concentration and there was the occasional, pregnant pause when tackling major roundabouts.
On the plus side, though the compound isn’t particularly sticky, the water channelling grooves seem to do a decent job of flushing shards of glass and similar sharps out. Shimmy and similar unwelcome quirks haven’t presented either but reliable, rather than “on-rails” predictability is something to consider during the more slippery seasons.
400miles in and the casings are still in pretty rude health, with no obvious signs of cuts/similar distress. Some riders report 1500 miles from the rear, on a fixed, twice that up front.
A new tyre every four months, working on the basis of 100miles per week. Unimpressive compared with premium models, perhaps but keeps running costs low on a commuter, or upgrading OEM rubber on a new bike.
Some people flat more than others and sometimes flats can strike in quick succession,with none for months on end. A wet, greasy winter may say different but so far, the Kevlar strip and relatively thick rubber have done their job handsomely.
I haven’t flatted yet, despite cruising through shards of glass on bin collection days, in town on a Sunday mornings. Admittedly I’ve been running goo filled tubes and brushing the casings down. Quick, once-over scrubs, when washing the bike, undoubtedly helps.
The Lugano are an excellent upgrade to unbranded OEM rubber often chosen to keep component specification higher on new, budget bikes. However, they face stiff competition from similarly priced store brands boasting lower profiles and, on paper, faster casings.
Similarly, I’d advocate spending more if you’re planning on commuting or training in really wet, slippery conditions.
That said; clearance caveat aside, the Lugano still offers a decent blend of reliability and comfort without breaking the bank, or deadening the charms of sporty commuter/training bikes.
Verdict: 3/5 generally capable budget rubber for general riding and commuting but check clearances, especially on older frames.
PUBLISHED JULY 2017