With the Christmas break and the start of the New Year dominated by wet weather, floods and standing water, that perennial debate amongst road cyclists as to which are the best winter tyres was one that will have vexed many a club ride, forum and cake stop. In my last five club runs we have had a total of 14 flats - five today in fact, or was it six? We lost count, though fortunately not our sense of humour. 

I ride in Oxfordshire and in recent weeks we have seen our fair share of rain and floods. I've ridden in plenty of conditions that have put much of my winter wardrobe to the test. I've discovered that my 3 year old rain jacket is just about holding up. My waterproof gloves are not waterproof and my waterproof socks have a tendency to fill up like balloons in torrential rain. Weaknesses have been exposed and I have, quite literally, had to patch up or replace leaking garments.

Fortunately, the one saving grace through all of this has been my winter tyres. I switched from Conti Gatorskins to Schwalbe Durano Plus 25c this winter and so far I've not had one puncture, nor any noticeable damage to the outer skin. Not bad going, considering I have cycled close on 1000km on the pair already and they still look as fresh as the day I took them out of the box. I suspect they will see me well into next winter. 

Schwalbe Durano Plus Tyres

This is all impressive, and somewhat surprising, given the atrocious weather we have experienced recently in the UK, but even more so given the combination of detritus on the roads left by heavy rain and flood waters, not to mention the mud and hedge trimmings that tractors have a habit of leaving in their wake during the winter months.

No road tyre is bombproof, I concede, but so far these have suggested they come pretty close. The Ridgeway in the south of Oxfordshire is a series of undulating chalk hills and characterised, as any student of neolithic Britain will remind you, by sharp flints that in the wet can reduce a peloton to a bunch of upturned bikes and cursing cyclists in an instant. On one of those recent puncture-ridden club run  the flints and thorns claimed  some notable scalps - Continental GP4000s and Specialized Armadillos amongst them. The Durano Plus came through unscathed. Yes I cursed the cold as my feet rapidly froze as the respective riders searched out the offending flints and thorns, but at least I could take took some satisfaction from the fact that the Schwalbes had once again seen off the worst that the winter roads could throw at them unlike some other tyres that claim high puncture resistance!

The effectiveness of the Durano Plus against punctures comes down to the SmartGuard lining -  the very same robust rubber layer that Schwalbe use in their heavy duty, touring tyre, the Marathon Plus. (It's no surprise the Marathon has been one of the best selling touring/commuting tyres for nearly 20 years). The SmartGuard layer in the Durano Plus sits over the dense nylon carcass and though it is not as thick as the SmartGuard layer in the Marathon,  the fact that it is incorporated at all means that the puncture resistance is very high.  A fellow rider told me that SmartGuard is actually used by NASA on their Mars exploration rovers - and that's one place you really don't want to be getting a puncture!

The SmartGuard layer (in blue) is the key to the puncture resistance of the Durano Plus

As for ride quality, I find they roll well. OK , so they may not be the fastest tyre, but I'm happy to compromise a little speed during winter. More importantly, running them at between 85-90psi, the grip is reassuringly sound and I've found myself hitting descents and corners at a greater speed and with more confidence than I have in the past when riding in winter. I'm not knocking my previous winter tyre of choice, Conti Gatorskins, but the Durano Plus are definitely providing me with far more reassurance and the 25c deliver a good degree of comfort too.

The tyres are very relatively easy to get on and off - all the more important for me as my winter bikes is a CX, so I switch between these and a pair of Conti CX tyres for riding off road. I've found that the Durano Plus respond quickly to a bit of warmth, so I suggest hanging them on a radiator for a while before fitting.

The Schwalbe Durano Plus is available in two sizes, the 700 x 23c that weighs in at 340g and the 25c at 380g. There's no denying that this is considerably  heavier than some other tyres aimed specifically at the winter tyre market, like Continental's 4Seasons for example. Personally though, I can't get too worked up about a few extra grams here and there in winter - my bike is heavy enough as it is!  I like to remind myself that come Spring, when I will once again be running slicks on the summer bike, it will be payback time for slogging it out over the winter!

And if my recommendation is not enough,  they also come with the pro seal of approval too - Radioshack Leopard Trek use them in the off season. If they are good enough for Fabian Cancellara, Chris Horner . . .

With a RRP of £37.99, the Schwalbe Durano Plus is available to buy online from Chain Reaction or visit Schwalbe.uk for stockists and more information on their entire range of bike tyres.

Strengths:  Very effective puncture resistance. Roll well. Good grip and comfortable ride  Excellent winter trainer or commuter tyre. Relatively easy to fit on the rim.

Weaknesses: Weight. At  340g and 380g for the 23c and 25c respectively, there are certainly lighter winter tyres out there. If, however, you are happy to compromise trade a few grams for peace of mind then this is surely not an issue? 

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Comment by Mike the Bike on October 13, 2016 at 18:25

                                                                           What a bargain.
Two years ago it was, two whole years.  Those were the days, our prime minister was a chap called Cameron, we were enthusiastic members of the EU and Terry Wogan was a regular on the telly.  Oh yes, and my Croix de Fer needed new tyres.  After reading a review of Schwalbe’s Durano Plus on this site I bought a pair and since then I have seen them pass from youth, all glossy rubber and sharp tread, to maturity, bearing the occasional scar and onward to old age, haggard and scuffed and bald.  Could there be truth in the theory that tyres come to look like their owners?.
Were they value for money?  Did they do good?  You bet.  They carried me for about 8000 miles, that’s Brexit miles not your puny Euro-kilometres, and they saw plenty of action.  Dry, wet, gravel, thorns and grit, they coped with it all and succumbed to only one puncture.  That’s a history I consider to be exceptional and when I replace them in the near future Duranos remain firmly top of my shopping list.
Being of the parsimonious persuasion I can probably squeeze another few hundred miles out of them; although the tread is mostly gone there is only one tiny bald patch where the blue anti-puncture strip shines through.  And when they finally go I shall observe the proper period of mourning, as befits the passing of a good friend.  If only all bicycling parts were as splendid as Mr Schwalbe’s little boys. 
Comment by Dave Nash on March 6, 2015 at 12:18

Sorry to hear that Mike . . . but if you will take drastic steps to avoid being dropped by your wife! 

I finally had to hang up my Durano Plus after two winters of loyal service this week. I totted up my mileage using the tyres and it comes in at a shade under 4500 miles, not including many short trips in the locality that I don't record. I reckon that a good 70% of that mileage has been in wet conditions or damp roads and many of my rides take me into the flint strewn hills of south Oxfordshire. Add in the factor that the roads here are in a horrendous condition generally, plus there is always hedge clippings and farm detritus to negotiate. All in all a recipe for a puncturefest. 

Total number of punctures: ZERO.  

They are looking a little sorry for themselves, but they bow out undefeated!

Comment by Mike the Bike on March 5, 2015 at 19:00

Hush my big mouth.  A mere couple of weeks since I was singing the praises of the Durano Plus, telling everyone about its puncture-proof construction, and guess what?

There I was, following my lady along the narrow lanes as she wound up her electric velocipede to warp speed, when we came upon a tractorised hedge trimmer.  The road was carpeted with a layer of clippings and any sane rider would have dismounted and walked for a hundred yards.  But I was keen not to lose ground to the missus so I carried on, pedalling furiously.  And it was only five minutes later, as we arrived home, that I realised the front tyre was softening.  The thorn was easy to find, it was about 10mm long and stuck in the side of the Durano where it probably missed the Smartguard layer. 

So, not perfect after all, these German wonder rubbers, but I take most of the blame for being a plonker and riding on regardless.  

In case you were wondering, my lady's tyres seem to shrug off every known source of flats but they are as hard as bullets and only her suspension saves her from loose fillings.  I wouldn't swap.

Comment by Dave Rowe on February 16, 2015 at 17:29

Great review Dave, I've been using the Marathon Plus on the plug all winter and, without wishing to tempt the P Gods, they are BOMBPROOF - highly recommended!

Comment by Mike the Bike on February 16, 2015 at 16:20

Well, it's been thirteen weeks since I fitted my new Durano Plus tyres to the faithful Croix de Fer.  That's a quarter of a year, and the winter quarter too, complete with frozen tarmac, huge potholes, copious thorny hedge clippings and tons of mud and stones.  I reckon to have covered well over a thousand miles in that time and, with spring waiting in the wings, an update is probably due.

As I said in an earlier post, I have been a great fan of Vittoria Randonneurs over the years.  They have served me extremely well as winter tyres, being as puncture-proof as I could wish and offering long life.  The trade-off is that they give a stiff, wooden ride and weigh about 500g in my preferred 28mm size.  And while I still think the Italian rubber is fine value for money there is no doubt in my mind that the Durano is a significantly better all-rounder.

The German Schwalbes have shrugged off every obstacle and I haven't suffered a single flat over this last winter, which is a great credit to their construction.  And while the Vittorias might easily have performed to the same standard, they cannot match the Durano's other attributes.  With their superior ride quality, lower weight and more confident grip they are as close to the perfect winter tyre as I can imagine.  And to cap it all, they show remarkably little wear.  The front tyre still displays most of its little moulding bobbles and the rear, whilst exhibiting signs of a harder life, is completely free of cuts and tears.  This is one seriously strong tyre.   

Who knows, perhaps in twenty years' time we will have the choice of flat-free, super sticky tyres that last the life of the bike and weigh as much as an energy gel.  But until that time I shall be happy to roll on my Durano Plus.

Comment by ray withington on November 13, 2014 at 12:48

Been using these on my commuter for almost a year.. 700x30, no flats till a huge chunk of glass all but destroyed the rear last Saturday, I'm gonna try to boot it to get another thousand out of it because it's hardly showing any wear..overall i'd go again with them, gonna keep an eye on xmas/new year sales for a pair 

Comment by Rob Metcalf on November 4, 2014 at 13:53

I recently got some new wheels and my Durano Plus' popped on the new wheels with little problem.

Unlike my old wheels which took me 20 minutes of struggling per wheel!!

Comment by Dave Nash on November 4, 2014 at 11:29

Good to hear you are happy with the tyres so far Mike and that getting them on was not a major issue - you are obviously far more butch than me!  I've found the wear and tear on them pretty impressive and despite riding some rough, flint strewn roads all through the wet of last winter, my Duranos emerged remarkably unscathed. I've been back on them for a month now - still no punctures to report and now a fair number of my club mates have switched to them. 

Comment by Mike the Bike on November 3, 2014 at 18:45

It's been a week since my Duranos arrived and a busy week too, so I thought I'd write an encouraging update for any other members who might be switching tyres sometime soon.

I had heard they were difficult to fit, in fact one reviewer said they were a nightmare, but they squeezed onto my rims with only thumb pressure.  And I'm the original nine-stone wimp.  Pumped to a mid-range 100 psi they looked handsome and purposeful, in contrast to the worn-out Randonneurs that, I am embarrassed to admit, were showing streaks of red puncture protection through the rubber.  On the road they certainly roll a little easier than their predecessors, it's not a huge difference but it's in my favour and at my age I'll take any advantage I can get.  The Duranos are probably a little more forgiving over rough surfaces too.  Once again it's a small improvement but hey, marginal gains and all that.  I shall try slightly lower pressures over the next weeks to see if this boosts comfort levels even further. 

As I said, it's been a hectic few days.  I've ridden every day except Sunday and covered at least 150 miles, much of it on wet, gravel strewn tarmac.  And I'm pleased to say the tyres have performed well, no flats, no dramas, no problems.  In fact, after the first hour I forgot they were new and could concentrate on more important stuff like avoiding bottomless potholes and errant pedestrians, glued to their phones.

One of my regular routes takes me up a genuine 25% hill.  At this time of year it is permanently streaming with water and covered with wet leaves which, on my knackered Randonneurs, would lead to an occasional loss of traction from the straining rear wheel.  But the new rubber coped very well and carried me safely to the top without any hint of slippage.  For that alone it was money well spent.

I inspected the tyres today with a view to picking out any embedded flints and thorns but, not a chance.  Nothing has even marked the surface, never mind penetrated the rubber.  In fact the moulding flash still decorates the circumference, which gives hope for a long tread life.

So there we have it, all the early signs are favourable and I'm beginning to think the Durano Plus was a wise choice.  If you are thinking of renewing your winter rubber I reckon you could do a lot worse.

Comment by Mike the Bike on October 26, 2014 at 19:20

Persuaded largely by this review I've ordered a pair of Durano Plus for my Croix de Fer, which gets a hammering as my winter bike.  I have been using Vittoria Randonneurs for the last five years and boy, are they puncture resistant.  But they are heavy, about 500g in the 28mm size, and feel a little more wooden than I would like.  And well, I guess too I just wanted a change,  it's good to keep up with newer products.

I should save about 80g a wheel, which isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but at £22 each at Tredz they are a useful fifteen quid off the recommended price.  I shall spend that money treating my lady to a lunch tomorrow at the halfway point of our planned bike ride.  The biggest bonus to my recent retirement is being able to drop everything and pedal off into the distance.  Love it.

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