SOMA SUPPLE VITESSE EX TYRES
700x33c Tyres 289g £39.99
The Soma Fabrication Supple Vitesse EX tyre is described in their blurb as “A fast and light clincher with a supple tubular casing. Its superlight casing not only reduces rotational weight, but also reduces its rolling resistance and does an amazing job at smoothing out the road”.
Available in a wealth of diameters, from 23 to 42mm and in EX or SL formats, aesthetically, these could pass for tubulars, extending their appeal to owners of classic road builds too. However, puncture resistance is good, rather than great. Gravel aficionados and dirt curious tourists may find Soma's Shikoro better options.
Pros: Lightweight, great looks, low rolling resistance and ride quality.
Cons: Puncture resistance favours road biased riding.
Tipping the scales at 289g, they’re positively feathery, for this genre of tyres. Given they’re made by Panaracer, in Japan, I wasn’t surprised to find they came up a little smaller (32mm), measured with my digital Vernier. Slender enough they’d squeeze into my Holdsworth’s rear triangle. My ‘cross inspired fixed will swallow most brands’ 35mm, comfortably- sans guards.
Ours were the terracotta with tan sidewalls, that readily passed for tubulars.
There are two versions EX (Extra wear), which denotes durability. SL boast slightly thinner casings, if you wanted to save a few grams.
Both share “high mileage” carbon rubber compounds, 120tpi casings and “all road” tread pattern. These are low-profile, blocky treads. Essentially diet versions of the Shikoros and none the worse for it. To my surprise, the supple Vitesse do not feature a puncture repelling Kevlar belt, only Kevlar beads. Operating pressures between 55 and 95psi, offer plenty of tuneability. They are also tubeless ready.
Mid-section profiles certainly help but I’ve found leaving the supple Vitesse stretching at room temperature, overnight works best. Even then, sweeping the remaining 30% aboard a standard section Mavic rim, required two tyre levers and a quick plucking motion.
My workshop tyre wand was no use, since the super supple sidewalls caused it to choke. Given 100 miles, the casings assume a much rounder shape, easier to whip on/off, though still demanding two composite levers.
Based upon my experience with the Shikoro, I was expecting a quick and compliant ride but the Supple Vitesse exceeded all expectations. Even at their maximum inflation, 95psi.
Responding with every increase in tempo, the casings deliver an incredibly supple, refined quality, synonymous with old school tubulars and taking washboard surfaces in their stride. So compliant, I was convinced that we’d succumbed to a very slow puncture, during the first few rides.
However, periodic prodding of the casings confirmed otherwise. All things (frame material and other factors) being equal, this left me feeling markedly less fatigued and much fresher (especially around the neck and shoulders) after 40, 50 and 60 miles.
Grip is similarly impressive, encouraging me to push hard on descents, safe in the knowledge they’d suck wet, greasy tarmac like the proverbial leach. The first 150 miles were suitably soggy but the Supple Vitesse held their line impeccably, even hurtling along at 35mph along my favourite 1 in 7.
Switching to single track lanes with muddy centre strips, I employed more restraint, but they’ve coped better than I’d expected, with gloopy, slimy stuff. Even when I provocatively reversed the directional arrows.
Some minor “twitch” was apparent up front, especially when I was weary and traversing lanes carpeted in freshly impacted bovine dung. The usual cautions apply when tackling man hole covers and similar raised ironworks, though to be fair I’ve caught a few, turning quite aggressively with minimal loss of traction. Things never turned spiteful, let alone to into a big shimmy.
Adding Yak pattern trailer and 15 kilo payloads to the equation, things became a little more “interesting” but easily controlled and a moot point when correct rotational direction is observed.
Experimenting with the pressures and venturing off-road, the magic carpet ride was very welcomed along light, forest trails. Frankly, I’d go wider, 38, or 42mm where clearances allowed and if you were looking towards unmade roads/trails on a tourer or contemporary cross/gravel derivative.
Despite off-roading and brushing their casings infrequently, it was six weeks before I succumbed to my first flat. A slow puncture, caused by a very sharp flint that had sliced into the casing. Localised hedge trimming saw two further, caused by long thorns. Deep enough, that I sealed the hole, with some super glue.
Conversely, I’ve ridden through shards of glass and other town typical debris without paying this penalty. Something that astonished me, given their lack of aramid, or puncture repelling layer.
The Soma Supple Vitesse offer fantastic ride quality. Though not overly expensive, they face a lot of competition. These 32mm Panaracer T-serv Pro Tite folding, are arguably, better value, for training and faster commutes.
Nonetheless, the Supple Vitesse are well worth considering if you want a lightweight, quick rolling, yet compliant tyre. The sort that will bring out a bike’s sprightly persona. That said, of the two, I’d be inclined toward their Shikoro cousins, or similarly armoured design for more adventurous/winter riding.