CST Pika 38mm Tires: Quick Review

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CST Pika
The CST Pika 38mm tires are a budget friendly gravel road rider’s choice.

CST Pika 38mm Tires: Quick Review- First things first- You may not know who CST is. Well, CST and Maxxis Tires both are brands manufactured by Cheng Shin Rubber which is one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world. The CST branding is typically used for more budget minded bicycle tire offerings, but don’t let that make you think these tires are your typical, replacement tire type fare. CST does make that sort of tire, but many of their models actually are pretty nice with some features found in other tire company’s mid to higher end lines. The CST Pika is one of those tires and we were sent a set to check into.

CST Pika
The Pika has a flattish crown to its profile which played well in the looser gravel.

The Pika tires we were sent are wire bead models with the under the tread EPS puncture protection.  Here is what the CST site has to say about these treads:

The CST Pika is a dirt road tire built to handle the ever-changing conditions encountered during your daily commute or a weekend gravel grind. The tire has ramped center knobs for a smooth, fast ride, while the shoulder tread features U-shaped knobs designed to give you confidence in the turns. The CST Pika comes in 700x38c and is equipped with dual compound tread, EPS protection, and wire bead.

We were also told that in the near future this model will also be offered in a folding bead in 38mm and 42mm sizes. Our set weighed in at 450 grams for each tire, which is respectable for a wire bead tire. MSRP on the wire bead 38mm Pika is $30.00 and they are available through most local bike shops.

The Pikas mounted up easily with tubes on the Grava Revenuer’s Boyd wheel set, (see our review on that bike here), and the tire showed a slightly flattened profile, which generally is a good thing in my experience. That said, time riding would tell the tale. The width of the casing on the Boyd wheels was just barely shy of 38mm. No doubt on a wider rim the Pika would be 38mm or maybe a touch wider. I set the pressures initially at about 45psi rear/42psi front. Then it was time to get out there and ride them.

On the way out on pavement I could not tell you that these tires were slowing me down at all. The previous tires on the bike were semi-slick, light weight tires, and yet the Pika tires really weren’t any slower. They were noisier though, I will give you that much. Finally, out on the gravel roads, the flattish crown to the casing really helped these tires have a feeling of stability since they did not feel as though they made the bike hunt around side to side for traction through loose, deeper gravel. I feel that the side lugs with their “U” shape helped in this regard. The smoother, more dirt road type lines were taken with really good speed. Traction was good. Wetter areas were dealt with in a fairly normal fashion. No surprises there.

 CST PikaThe ride feel is not super smooth, but it isn’t a wooden feeling tire at all. I would rank it as slightly above average. The puncture protection belt only covers the tread area on this tire, and does not go bead to bead. This leaves the side wall of the Pika freer to flex over rocks and rubble, and it is probably a good reason why this tire feels like something that costs twice as much money than it does.

The Pika isn’t a tubeless rated tire, but it does have a dual compound tread, a flat protection layer under the tread, a decent, all around tread pattern, and it performs at a level that belies its $30.00 retail price. This seems to be a great choice for those on a budget, or for anyone looking for a great training tire. Given the news about a future folding bead variant, and a wider version at 42mm, this may be the sleeper choice in gravel road going tires in the future. The wire bead 38mm version is good enough that I would consider running it full time. The only thing that would make me reconsider is that the Pika is not a tubeless ready tire. Wear in the long run is an unknown at this point, but even if the wear is only average, at this price, the Pika is still a great value for those looking for a good, solid performing gravel road tire.

Note: CST sent over the Pika tires for test/review to RidingGravel.com at no charge. We were not bribed nor paid for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Discuss and share your questions or thoughts about gravel bikes, gear, events and anything else on the Riding Gravel Forum.


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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5 thoughts on “CST Pika 38mm Tires: Quick Review

  1. I’m new to gravel and primarily road ride, but am getting a gravel road bike now. I’m looking to get this tire and wondering if you think the 38 is a good size for going from pavement to get to gravel roads, or would you go to the 42? Decisions decisions right? 😉

    Thanks for any info, and nice review.

    1. @Doug: It really depends upon a lot of factors, but in general, the chunkier/looser your gravel can be, or the heavier rider your are, or a combination of both, would lead one to cheese a bigger volume tire.

      Obviously there are exceptions, but that’s not a bad place to start with your decision making.

  2. So, I ordered the CST pika 38c. 700 x 38c stamped on tire. The tires ended up being 724 x 35. Width was fine, but hit my frame. What am I missing? Is it normal for a tire to be that far off? Bummed. Loved the look of the tread and couldn’t wait to try them.

    1. @Jay are you saying it was too tall for your frame and rubbed on the top of the tread? We mounted one up on a 20.8mm rim and the diameter was about 704mm. What width tire fit previously on that frame?

  3. Just mounted up some 700×38 pikas to use as winter tires. They came out to a touch over 35mm on my 20.7 internal rims. Maybe they’ll stretch a bit? Had I known they were going to run this narrow, I would have gone with the 42’s.

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