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Review: a flat free ride with Rubena Stop Thorn tyres

Alia Parker's picture
Rubena Flash Stop Thorns top and Stop Thorn Ultimates below. Cycle Traveller

We're always ecstatic when we find bicycle tyres that are up the the challenge of a fully-loaded self-supported bike adventure, so we're pleased to announce that in our recent test of two models from Rubena – Europe's largest tyre manufacturer – both passed the test with flying colours, including zero flat tyres!

Heading out on a fully-loaded bicycle tour with the wrong tyre can be a disaster. Frequent flats, vanishing tread, blowouts and tearing along the bead are just a few of the common problems you may run into, none of which add any fun to a cycling holiday. So we were pleased to not only have avoided all of these potential problems but also enjoyed the feel of the ride.

What we tested

Rubena Stop Thorn Ultimate bicycle tyre after 2500km. Cycle Traveller

There are a number of tyres in Rubena's Flash range (Flash is the name given to the tread pattern), with options for different types of rubber as well as puncture protection levels to suit different needs. We tested the two most suited to touring:

1. Rubena Flash Stop Thorn (with Long Way rubber) – 700x35c
2. Rubena Flash Stop Thorn Ultimate (with Long Way rubber) – 700x35c

Rubena classes the Flash Stop Thorn and Stop Thorn Ultimates as suitable for touring, trekking and city commuting. These two tyres have the same characteristics with the exception of the thickness of the puncture protection. The Stop Thorn comes with a 3.5mm rubber puncture protection layer, while the Stop Thorn Ultimate has a 5mm puncture protection layer. The only other difference between the two, as a result of the difference in puncture protection thickness, is the weight of the tyre, with the Stop Thorn weighing in at 820g per tyre compared with the Stop Thorn Ultimate coming in a little heavier at 900g per tyre.

As part of the test we were looking at overall performance, longevity and any puncture protection, including any differences between the two tyres.

The test

We put both these tyres through the paces on a 4,000km fully-loaded bicycle journey from Adelaide to Darwin. Simon rode with a set of Flash Stop Thorn Ultimates while I rode with the Flash Stop Thorns.

The test included all road surfaces, from smooth road sections, rocky and corrugated dirt roads (including through Bunyeroo Gorge in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia, and out of Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory) as well as pea gravel bike paths. However, by far the most common road surface was the rather abrasive sealed road up the Stuart Highway.

Let's break our findings down.

Puncture protection layer in the Rubena Flash tyres. Cycle Traveller

Puncture protection

First up, puncture protection. As mentioned, we experienced zero flat tyres over four individual tyres on the ride from Adelaide to Darwin via the Barossa, the Flinders Ranges and Litchfield National Park. This performance was very impressive, especially since a sharp shard of rock wedged into my front tyre at the 1,000km mark.

Rubena's puncture protection consists of a special layer of rubber compound between the carcass and the tread, stopping sharp objects penetrating the tube.

Stop Thorn: This model has a 3.5mm thick puncture protection buffer. Not only does the protective layer reduce punctures caused by sharp objects, but as it increases stiffness in the crown, it also helps prevent pinch flats. Additionally, the stiffness prevents drag and helps give the tyres a really nice roll. Put simply, for a heavy-duty tyre, they feel remarkably nice to ride on.

Stop Thorn Ultimate: This model has all the characteristics of the Stop Thorn except the protective layer comes in a 5mm thickness.

We found the 3.5mm thick puncture protection to be more than adequate in preventing flats, which was nice given the tyres are 80g lighter each. However, as we mention down below, the tread on the Ultimates did seem to last longer.

The carcus of the Rubena Flash Stop Thorn after 4000km. Cycle Traveller

Carcass

The inner lining of a tyre – the carcass – is what keeps the tyre together under pressure. As such, the carcass is very important when choosing a tyre that can handle a loaded bike. The Rubena Flash tyres made with Long Way rubber have a strong carcass with a reasonably low thread count of 29 TPI (threads per inch). Tyres with low TPI generally need more rubber in the carcass. While this makes the tyre stiffer and heavier, it also makes them more durable, making them suited to long distance touring. Generally, tyres with high TPI are lighter as less rubber is needed in the carcass, however, they are less durable and can be more susceptible to punctures. Higher TPI tyres are more suited to racing.

We found the strength of the carcass on both models to live up to the strength required of a heavy-duty touring tyre. Upon inspection of the carcass in Darwin, we found no visible signs of wear or defects.

Load capacity

Both tyres have a load capacity of 108kg each, which is very high. As bicycles have two wheels, the total load capacity is 216kg – theoretically, if weight is divided evenly between the two tyres, which is never really the case. Even so, the high load capacity is more than capable of supporting a fully-loaded cycle tourer.

In our test, the total average load on the Stop Thorns (bike + gear + food and water + rider weight) was about 110kg, while the total load on the Stop Thorn Ultimates was 130kg. Most of the load was carried by the rear tyre, with some weight distributed forward with front panniers. The tyres held these weights without issues.

Side view of the Rubena Flash Stop Thorn tyres. Cycle Traveller

Sidewalls

The sidewalls have a reinforced Gumwall, which Rubena says provides strength as well as dynamic movement. A common criticism of tyres with a low TPI is that they can be stiff due to the additional rubber thickness needed, resulting in reduced cornering ability. However, on the Rubena Flash models, we found the tyres to be comfortable on corners with great control.

Bead

Both the Rubena Flash Stop Thorn and the Stop Thorn Ultimate have a twisted steel wire bead. Nothing fancy, but durable and helps to keep the price down. Unfortunately, this doesn't make these tyres the most practical if you want to take a spare since they can't fold like a tyre with a kevlar bead.

Tread

The tread is made with an abrasion-resistant rubber compound that retains a nice level of softness. Generally, the harder the rubber, the longer it lasts. The trade off is the tyre has less traction, comfort and control, so getting the right balance between longevity and control is important. The Flash Stop Thorn and Stop Thorn Ultimates get this balance right, holding up for a respectable lifespan without compromising the feel of the ride.

According to official Rubena tests, tyres with Long Way rubber will last between 3,000km-5,000km, depending on road abrasion. This looks to be spot on, especially when taking the wear difference between the rear and front wheels into account.

In our test, we had noticeable wear on our rear tyres (which carry more of the load) at the 2,500km mark. At the same time, the front tyres looked barely worn. To even out the wear, we rotated the rear and front tyre at the 2,500km mark.

Rubena image of the Flash tread. Cycle Traveller

As a result, both tyres held up for the 4,000km journey, despite the very abrasive surface of the Stuart Highway. Interestingly, the tread on the Flash Stop Thorn Ultimates had more life in them than the Stop Thorns. This was despite the Ultimates being burdened with a heavier load by about 20kg. Both tyres were run at about 80 PSI when on sealed road (the recommended maximum is 87 PSI).

I can't explain this noticeable difference in tread wear given the two tyres are made from the same rubber and Rubena states no other difference between them other than the thickness of the puncture protection, which sits between the tread and the carcass. However, in our test, the Flash Stop Thorn Ultimates could easily run another 1,000km – taking it to the top end of Rubena's projection – and outperforming the Stop Thorns, in which the tread was near the end of its life.

In the image above, the four tyres are arranged in order of tread wear after 4,000km. The top two are both Flash Stop Thorns while the bottom two are Stop thorn Ultimates.

Tread pattern

The Flash series of tyres has a relatively slick tread (with a low Roughness Rating of 1.9), helping it to roll nicely on road. It also has indented grooves that allow a space for water and mud to move into in less than perfect conditions, allowing the rider to maintain good traction. We found this tread pattern also performed well on dirt roads (although with rigid cornering), making it suitable for touring on mixed terrains.

Other characteristics

The Flash Stop Thorn and Stop Thorn Ultimate both come with a 3M reflective strip on either side of the tyre sidewall. This is a nice safety feature for riding at night as vehicles are easily able to identify the shape of the two wheels when lit from the side.

The touring bike setup with Rubema tyres. Cycle Traveller

The bottom line

The Rubena Flash Stop Thorn and the Rubena Flash Stop Thorn Ultimates are very trustworthy touring tyres and offer top level puncture protection. Not only that, but they have great roll as well as control for a heavy-duty tyre.

The Stop Thorn Ultimate edges out the Stop Thorn when it comes to longevity, with the rider able to get about 1,000km more of loaded touring. For a commuter travelling without a heavy load, they'll get even more miles out of each tyre. As stated, the Ultimates are 80g heavier per tyre, but on a loaded touring bike, this weight difference isn't noticed. 

So for a trouble-free tour, Rubena Stop Thorn Ultimate with Long Way rubber can be added to your arsenal of trustworthy bicycle touring parts. The Stop Thorn Ultimate sells for about AUD$69, which is also significantly cheaper than comparable heavy-duty tyres on the market.

Images from top. 1. Rubena Flash Stop Thorn (top two) and Stop Thorn Ultimate (bottom two) after 4000km of loaded touring. 2. Stop Thorn Ultimate after 2500km. 3. Image of puncture protection placement. 4. Inside the carcass of the Stop Thorn after 4000km. 5. Side view of the Stop Thorn after 4000km. 6. Computer image of the Flash tread pattern. 7. Loaded touring setup for the test ride.

Disclosure: Cycle Traveller was supplied with the tyres used in this review at no cost.

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