Winter road tyres

Winter involves a lot of long cold miles on slippery roads. My main priorities for a winter tyre are:

  1. Strong puncture resistance
  2. Reasonable rolling resistance
  3. Grippy in the wet.
  4. Long lasting
  5. Not too difficult to take off rim with cold hands.

Over the years, I’ve ridden several different tyres during winter. Primarily Continental Gatorskin and Continental 4 Seasons. Sometimes, I’ve gone into winter with lighter summer tyres still on, like  the Gatorskin, Continental Grand Prix 4000. Sometimes I’ve gone to the other extreme and ridden really hard, heavy puncture resistance tyres like Specialized All Condition, but find these are just a bit too ‘heavy’ and slow – even though I never picked up a puncture with these tyres. Generally, it becomes a toss up between spending time mending punctures and being slowed down by heavier tyres. The good news is that even reasonably light and decent rolling resistance tyres are now fairly puncture resistant. There seems to have been improvement in tyre technology since I started cycling 20 years ago.

Best size tyre for winter?

For myself. 25″ is the new 23″ I’d strongly recommend 25″ in winter, especially for the rear tyre. I used to have this idea that the smaller the tyres the faster you go, but it’s more complicated than that. There is no discernible difference in speed between using 23 and 25, but you get a bit better grip. I’ve visited quite a few bike shops this week, and many road tyres seem to be 23″. But, for training, I prefer riding 25″ – especially in winter. 25″ will be perfectly fine for summer riding too.

The Best Winter road tyres

schwalbe-durano

Schwalbe Durano Plus Performance

These are an excellent tyre. They last a long time, have one of the best puncture resistance and have reasonably rolling resistance. It’s everything that you want and need from a winter road bike tyre. I’ve only used one. But, it lasted a good 3,000 miles and I don’t remember getting a puncture. I’ve ordered another one for the rear wheel. It was 33% off which helped. The downside is that it is a bit on the heavy side, the smartguard puncture protection is fairly thick. It means the 25″ tyre weighs 380g (23″ weighs 340g) Compared to the Specialized All Condition it feels it has a little more spongyness, and a little better grip. Though heavy, they are not completely ‘dead’ and offer decent rolling resistance. Keep them well inflated, and you should get few punctures. The other downside is that, especially the first time, they are hard work putting on; they are very tight to the rim. But, once on you can almost forget about them for quite a while.

Continental Gatorskin / Gatorskin Hardshell

gatorskin

I’ve used Gatoskin for the past couple of winters. They are relatively light for a winter training tyre, and good enough for summer training too. (23″ only 230 gram and 25″ 250gram) I’ve left the last pair on almost all year. They are quite flexible and a quite easy to fit.  They are quite fast. However, I want to change them now winter is really setting in.

They have been a bit slippy on recent rides. I got bad wheel spin on a climb to Brill (16%) and nearly skidded out on a damp corner. I might have been better off with a 25″ and it’s always slippy in winter. But, I’m going back to Durano Plus for my real mid winter tyre.

Continental have also brought out a Gatorksin Hardshell. This adds an extra 48 gram to the tyre and adds an extra layer of puncture protection. I’ve had one hardshell variety, and I couldn’t notice much difference in terms of  rolling resistance, so the better puncture protection is good for winter. For winter, the Hardshell is  definitely a good option. The Gatorskin are more of an all season tyre.

I find the Gatorksins are very long lasting. I’ve been riding on the same pair for the past 12 months, which is perhaps close to 5,000 miles on that wheelset. Continental have made progress in making the tyre more resistant to  scratches and sidewall splits.

  • Gatorskin at Wiggle (RRP £32.99, – £23.99)

conti grand prix 4 season aw06Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons

The Continental Grand Prix 4 seasons has probably better grip in the winter than the Gatorskin. It is heavier tyre, and more dependable in the winter. I’ve used them in the past and they are fairly similar in performance to the Continental Gatorskin, but with a better rubber for winter.

  • 4 Seasons at Wiggle (RRP £42.95, currently £32.99)

 

Best puncture proof tyres

If you want to go all out for puncture resistance, I recommend either Specialized All Condition or the Schwalbe Durano Plus. I’ve used the Specialized All condition for several years now, rarely getting a puncture. If you riding over rough flinty, gritty road, the Specialized seems immune to anything you throw at it. However, I tend to keep it just for my commuting bike now. It’s OK for winter training rides, but I found the surface just a little too smooth and prone to slip. Also it is quite heavy and gives quite a leaden performance. The Scwable Durano Plus is probably a slightly better rides, whilst giving a very high level puncture protection.

Specialized All Condition

I have Specialized All condition on my commuting bike. I’ve sometimes used it on winter training rides, but prefer not. It’s just a little too heavy and dead. You don’t want to be mending punctures by the side of the road. But my average speed in winter is shockingly low as it is.

armadillo-allcondition

Cheaper Winter tyres

If you don’t want to spend £30 for a winter tyre, you could try these two:

To be honest, I never use these cheaper tyres, I always feel that spending £40 on a tyre pays you back in terms of good value. However, tyre technology has moved on quite a lot. These days the ‘budget’ tyres are probably better quality than the ‘best’ tyres of yesteryear.

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5 Responses to Winter road tyres

  1. Chris November 29, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi Tejvan,

    I obtained a set of Bontrager R3 plus tyres, mainly because of there puncture resistance, but even I wore them out in 3 months, 1200 miles.

    So I have the ones that you mentioned in another article, the Schwalbe Evolution Ultremo ZX, these are fine and as I don’t have to consider tyres very much, ride them all year.

  2. Dave Thomas October 27, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

    The best(& cheapest) all round tyre I have found is the Vitorria Zaffiro Pro Tech. Important to get the ‘Tech’; tread pattern same as Pro but different rubber compound. Far superior to Gator Skins on slick inclines. Doubt you’ll get 3000 likes on the back out of them & I’ve never managed to get other than 23mm.

  3. Tricyklist November 19, 2014 at 7:31 am #

    Hi Tejvan and congratulations on your well-earned successes and blog.

    The lighter Schwalbe Durano “Performance” tyre [700x25c] proved better than the Plus over many thousands of miles. The lighter tyre is now my favourite all year round tyre for incredible puncture resistance and very long life.

    I just wish Schwalbe clearly defined the exact tyre model from the heavier Plus. Schwalbe still leaves me “nonplussed” as to the correct tyre name. 😉

    My, almost puncture free, latest set of Continental 4000S has proved that Continental has no control over the variability of their tyre compounds. An earlier set grew huge holes from the tiniest of flints and punctured far too readily to be worth using.

    I am now riding a new set of 4000S which were supplied by the online dealer when Continental denied all responsibility for their trashy rubber. I kept the new set in a dark, unheated shed for a year before finally daring to fit them. Hoping to use the pro mechanic’s trick for aging the rubber before use.

    The new set of 4000S are proving to be reasonable tyre with no obvious holes so far. But will the next set have the same rubber? I really don’t care to try as I will go back to Schwalbe’s reliability and greater comfort in the same size and pressure. [25mm @ 90PSI]

    The 4000S offers a harsher ride than the Schwalbes without any real advantage in lightness or [perceived] rolling resistance. The Schwalbes seem to have a more “rubbery” feel with a greater sense of “urgency” than the 4000S.

    • tejvan November 19, 2014 at 8:48 am #

      Thanks for feedback. I’ve found that in recent years Continental 4000 have improved in quality and less prone to splitting

  4. Kiver November 13, 2015 at 1:13 am #

    Late to the party but another budget recommendation for you – Specialized Espoir Sport 25mm tyres (not the more expensive Elites) can be picked up for £15. In 20 months and 12,000km of riding through all seasons in the UK and even the odd bit of gravel I’ve not had one puncture and they’re still going strong. All I’ve done is keep them topped up to 85-100 psi, depending on conditions, and It seems the featured “Double Black Belt” protection really does work.

    I’ve used the more expensive Armadillos in the past too but, while they were good, they didn’t last nearly as long and are somewhat heavier too.

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