Donnelly Strada USH review

Offering fast rolling and grip in equal measures, is the Strada USH the best of both worlds?

Donnelly Strada USH
Cycling Weekly Verdict

The claims match up to performance. These offer smooth rolling and a surprising amount of grip all wrapped up in a relatively light and easy to set up package. If you ride predominately hardcore off-road terrain then you'll want something with a bit more bite but for riders who like to intersperse their gravel with tarmac then the Strada USH tyres are spot on.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Fast rolling

  • +

    Effortless tubeless set up

  • +

    More grip than you might expect

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Carcass isn't the thickest

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The Donnelly Strada USH tyres were selected for an Editor's Choice award in 2020. This year's list contains 78 items which scored a 9 or 10/10 with our tech team - this gear is the best of the best, and has received the Cycling Weekly stamp of approval. 

Depending upon where you ride, choosing the right gravel tyre is often about compromises. Go too aggressive on the tread pattern and risk a draggy ride on the tarmac but on the other hand go too smooth and you'll lose grip on loose trails. Donnelly's Strada USH tyres sit more towards the smooth and fast end of the gravel tyre spectrum but they have a few features incorporated that go some way towards minimising the detrimental impact.

>>> Best gravel bike tyres

These follow the classic tyre design theory of matching a smooth chevron patterned central 'spine' with a wider spaced, more pronounced shoulder tread to each side, wrapping around to the sidewall. Donnelly has broken up the central section and alternates each chevron with two smaller arrow shapes to incorporate a little more open space. This opening up effectively increases mechanical off-road grip (and water displacement) without impacting road grip too much.

What's really interesting is Donnelly's shoulder chevron tread design. A detailed look at these seemingly simple rubber ribs reveals the fact that each is split into smaller sections. This division enables each section to conform subtly to the surface imperfections, increasing cornering grip over a wider variety of conditions than you might otherwise expect.

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I've been using these tyres for several months over the complete range of weather conditions and on surfaces varying from smooth tarmac, muddy bridleways to rooty and rocky trails.

The first thing to note was tubeless setup was a dream, instant seating and zero air loss, although Donnelly also state that the tyre can be used with tubes if that's your thing.

As most riders who enjoy a lot of time off-road soon come to realise, grip is a relative concept and almost as important is how a tyre behaves when it loses grip. In this respect the Strada USH tyres are really pleasing to ride as they break traction in a very predictable and repeatable way. The design of the tread actually gives them a little more shoulder traction than I would normally expect from this style of tyre but take them through loose gravel or mud and of course they don't grip as well as tyres with a more mountain bike style spaced shoulder tread. But when they lose that grip they tend to provide a controllable slide rather than dumping you on the floor, which is a good thing.

Where the Strada USH tyres excel is when travelling at speed across dry and hard packed trails and darting on and off-road. Here tarmac, dust, loam and sand are tackled with aplomb and grip is excellent without impacting too much on speed. I have been running the tyres tubeless and at 35psi and this seems to be the perfect balance between speed and grip (I weigh 75kg) - Donnelly rate the tyre between 40 and 60psi but I've had no issues running slightly less that the recommended. I've mainly been running them on a set of Stayer All Road carbon wheels, with an internal rim width of 22.5mm. With these wheels the tyre comes up as a true 40mm with a nicely rounded profile.

The tyres weighs in at 456 grams each which is on a par with most similar tyres (Zipp G40/WTB Venture) and they have been relatively durable. I say relatively as each tyre shows several patches of sealant where a puncture has been repaired, so it's not the thickest carcass. Tread wear has been minimal and apart from the puncture points there is no other damage evident. Plus the tanwall looks great.

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