Contrary to popular perception, narrow tyres aren't necessarily what most cyclists need. They might be fine for racing, but for the vast majority of us a wider tyre is going to be just as quick, a lot more comfortable, safer and durable.
I've been running Schwalbe Marathon 32mm tyres for the last few months. They're impressive tyres to be sure, plush and sure-footed and resistant to punctures on the dirt roads I do most of my travelling on. The only downside is that they're heavy and not terribly sexy.
I treated myself to a pair of Grand Bois Cypres a month ago, but thanks to various commitments I haven't had much of a chance to test them out until this weekend. They are a very impressive tyre.
First impressions are they they're light. Thin-walled and with a folding bead, there's not much to them. They went onto the rims fine and present a pleasantly rounded profile at 70 psi, which is what I'm choosing to run them at for the time being. A little more air might make them a shade faster, but at the cost of comfort. They're sold as 30mm tyres, but they're closer to 32mm.
On the road the Grand Bois Cypres live up to their reputation as a supple smooth-rolling tyre. That lovely hum that good road tyres make is just audible, even at the lower pressures. They soak up the bumps nicely and feel safe through corners. They feel particularly smooth at lower speeds - something I've noticed on climbs. There's not much tread on them and it's not really thick, but customer reviews and none other than Jan Heine reckon they're durable and puncture resistant. Time will tell, although 70km of dirt roads over the last few days hasn't put a mark on them.
They're made in Japan, apparently for the delightful Grand Bois bike shop. I'd love one of their stunning Model C frames pictured right, though I don't speak Japanese and very possibly don't have the money.
What I like most about these wider, softer tyres is that they give me the ability to safely roll off the shoulder onto the dirt to let traffic by. The Grand Bois are as sure-footed as the Schwalbes in that respect. And are they fast? They'll do fine. A steady ride this morning turned into a personal best for a course I ride most weeks, so they're certainly not slowing me down.