We’ve become fans of mid-weight tires over the years. These are, in our definition, tires that are a hybrid: typically folding beads with a somewhat supple casing, and a healthy amount of tread. Originally, this seemed like a netherworld between fancy racing tires and rough low-end tires, but the offerings seem to get ever better.
The Schwalbe Lugano fits in this realm. It’s a fairly pedestrian offering; you probably haven’t noticed that these tires come as standard equipment on many bikes from several brands, including Pinarello and Cannondale. That also tells you something about the tire. It’s good enough to not stand out in a negative way, but it’s still meeting a price point.
If you go to Schwalbe’s website, you’ll see that this is the least expensive offering in their road tire stable. So cheap, in fact, they don’t bother to tell you much about it. Here’s the entirety of the info: ‘Our entry-level model. Attractive bi-color compound. The classic diamond profile provides reliable performance on dry and wet roads. Naturally with a puncture protection belt.’
For those who want more, it has a 50tpi casing. If you want to go super-cheap, you can get a wire-bead version. Otherwise, you can get a folding bead, which will save 70g per tire. Claimed weight is 255g for the folding bead tire. The rubber tread is as basic as they make it. According to the importer, ‘the Lugano uses a silica rubber compound. Single compound. It’s just a special filler in the rubber mixture that helps positively influence the rolling resistance.’ The belt under the tread rates as puncture protection; their minimum standard. It consists of latex rubber under the tread, and provides a protection level three of six. What we found when we had the tires in our hands is the diamond tread, or file tread, down the middle is supported by diagonal stripes on either side. The tire, when mated to a 23mm wide rim, looks like a tubular. The two all-Black tires, ‘Black-Skin’ in Schwalbe’s parlance, weigh in at 262g per tire. We were able to mount the tires easily without tools on Mavic and Zipp rims. Our Ritchey rim took a little work to mount the Lugano initially; after that, we could remove and mount without a tool.
On the bike, they roll pretty well. We apologize for not having more exact data, but we pumped them up to our standard 110psi and would ride them for a week before pumping up again when using riding butyl tubes. Then we pumped them up every day when we were testing out latex tubes. They rode fine. The differences between the Lugano and a heavyweight tire like the ones we use in the winter are apparent very quickly. Ride quality is much improved, probably because of the more supple casing. However, the difference between the Luganos and a racing tire are much harder to quantify. In terms of that abstract ‘feel,’ we didn’t notice much. Possibly, a difference in terms of acceleration due to weight differences, but in terms of road feel, we can’t report noticing anything.
On the good side, there is actually little to share from our miles with these tires. Nothing bad happened, no surprising or troubling incidents occurred after over 1,500 miles of use. Good roads, bad roads, dirt roads, glass, gravel, you name it. Dry days, rainy days. It worked. Never did we have a flat. After this distance, the file tread is still visible down the middle of the tire mounted on the front wheel, and it has been pretty much worn off on the tire mounted to the rear wheel. Our guess is the Luganos have at least another 500 miles of use left, probably more.
The Lugano reminds us of the Michelin Lithion tires we tested a few years back. Neither are tires that excite people, both occupy the middle ground. Both rode well and lasted a long time. There are two differences we can look at. The first is weight. The Lithions are noticeably lighter. The second is durability. Looking at the treads of both after having them on for a long time, it seems that the Luganos came out the better in terms of wear. We see no signs of tread cuts or chunks missing from the tread. Maybe this is because we started riding them later in the year, or perhaps our daily roads have gotten better in the past few years.
We think there’s a place for the Schwalbe Lugano in just about everyone’s arsenal. For us, it’s the kind of tire we like for daily riding from April through October. A tire that is quite a bit cheaper than a racing tire, but is still fairly light and feels fast on the road. We wouldn’t want to race it, nor ride it through our winter. But that should be fine; those extremes aren’t what the Lugano was designed for.