A Fast All-Rounder with Surprising Versatility
From the moment I laid eyes on the Continental Terra Speed tires in the receiving area of our warehouse, I was smitten. The amber colorway in particular — showing the threads of the 3-layer, 180 tpi casing — is absolutely gorgeous. Extremely soft and supple to the touch thanks to their tightly woven casing and Black Chili compound, they are comparable to high-end hand-made boutique rubber in feel. The knobs are small and fairly evenly spaced across the tread.
Despite not having the ideal platform — my gravel bike is also my commuter bike — I had to see how they ride. The 40mm version mounted up on Easton EA70AX wheels no problem. One try with a floor pump snapped both beads tightly in place.
The Terra Speed is not a road tire, but is surprisingly sprightly on tarmac. Bicycle Rolling Resistance rates it as one of the fastest-rolling gravel tires — indeed, according to their tests, the Terra Speed performed faster than many road tires, even in the 45mm size. While I always take rolling resistance numbers with a grain of salt, my experience backs up the numbers.
The Terra Speed is obviously not a mountain bike tire. But at 30-40 psi (I'm a larger rider at 220 lbs on a good day) it has adequate volume and suppleness to conform to uneven and rocky ground and give a feeling of control or even playfulness on chunky descents, rather than just hanging on for dear life.
It is also definitely not a mud tire. But in the slick stuff, the small evenly spaced knobs perform better than most smooth-centered semi-slick gravel tires and will at least allow you to spin your way up a slippy climb.
So What is the Terra Speed?
It is a gravel tire, through and through. Over the last 6 months, I've put them through their paces on the steep-sloped fire roads of Portland's Forest Park and the Cadillac gravel of the surrounding areas. They've performed remarkably well. The evenly-spaced knobs bite well on hardpack and softer dirt and provide predictable grip in the corners. With the pressure dialed in, they feel responsive on a climb or a quick out of the saddle effort, but still compliant and planted on an unexpected loose corner.
Now for the limited downsides: As mentioned, I'm a larger rider, and as such tend to puncture more than most. In terms of protection, these seemed about on par with other faster-rolling gravel tires (the Pirelli Cinturato Gravel H, Panaracer Gravel King, Teravail Washburn, etc.) but definitely are not bombproof. More significantly, due to the ultra-soft Black Chili race compound and the smaller knobs, they wear faster than many comparable gravel tires. I replaced a mostly smooth rear tire after about 4 months (maybe ~2000 miles) of steady riding.
We know better than most that the right tire can make the difference between an epic day or a total slog. If you're looking for a shreddy tire to tackle big singletrack & mixed terrain adventure rides, the Terra Speed may not have the durability and aggressive tread for the job.
However, the Terra Speed shines as a gravel race tire for non-technical courses, and is a surprisingly capable all-rounder with grip, speed & poise. Add to that a relatively lightweight construction, excellent performance both on & off pavement and truly beautiful aesthetics, and the Continental Terra Speed might be just the tire for you.
Written by Ben Hubbird Photographed by Bertrand Mejia-Morin Published on July 27th, 2023
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