I have reviewed Challenge tires before, Grifo cyclocross tires to be specific. Aside from the tread delamination issues that plagues their cross tires, they are mostly functional and economical.
Since that review, I have had considerable experience Challenge Criterium Road tires, both the tubular and the clincher versions. I have found both tires to be attractive, fast and grippy, but entirely unsatisfactory nonetheless. The tires are just too fragile. I have found that I flat almost half the time that I use them.
My first time racing on the tubular version of the Criterium was at Turtle Pond in 2009. I mounted the tires, rode them on clean roads once to make sure they were mounted properly and to dial in the air pressure. I re-inspected the tires before the race. In the first 25 miles I slashed the tire and flatted out of the race. The tire was unsalvageable. It was the biggest slash I have ever seen in a tire. To the best of my knowledge, few people flatted out of this race.
A few weeks later, I flatted out of Wells Ave when the other tire mysteriously lost air. I never figured out what went wrong. There was no visible puncture on the tire casing or tread.
I was happy to be done with this set of tubular tires. $160 of folly.
As time marched on, I forgot about my negative experiences with these road tires. I was drawn back to their attractive all white tread. Mostly my positive associations with Challenge Grifos started to overshadow my terrible experiences with the Criterium Tubular.
So I bought a set of Criterium Clinchers along with Challenge latex tubes. WHAT A STUPID THING TO DO! I should have known better.
I used the latex tubes in my Michelin Pro3’s at Battenkill without incident. I assumed that the Challenge tubes would mate well with the Clallenge clincher. After carefully mounting the Criteriums with Challenge Latex tubes, I had both tubes blow out the side of the tire before I got 2 blocks from home on a “shake out the bugs ride” before 2011 Blue Hills Classic. I put standard Michelin tubes in the tires and did the ride without incident.
I was taking Blue Hills very seriously, so I deflated and inspected my tires before going to the race.
Short story: I flatted my rear tire within the first 3 miles of the race. No glass in the tire, didn’t hit anything that hard. Just flat.
My race was over.
After the race, I fixed the flat and I rode my bicycle for a few miles, the front flatted. Again, no glass, no incident.
These tires are exceedingly fragile. One of my friends said “Challenge Tires=challenge to finish”
I want to like these tires. They are attractive and grippy, but they are the most fragile tires that I have ever ridden (including the 19mm Vittoria Pista Track specific tires I ruined on run down go cart track in NH).
Overall I have bought 2 sets of tires, and one set of tubes that all failed, at a retail value of over $250.
You’d be a fool to buy these tires, much less depend on them in a race. You’ve been warned.