We’ve had a benign start to autumn and no doubt many of you have yet to switch to a more robust set of tyres for riding in the more changeable conditions of the colder months. Nevertheless, it’s time for us road cyclists to ponder that perennial question: “Which road tyres are going to keep me cycling through the worst that Mother Nature can throw at me over the coming weeks?”. Below is our round up of some of the options, with the emphasis on new products and upgrades to bestsellers, plus some unfamiliar brands that may not yet be on your radar.
There is definitely a move towards a wider tyre width, with many manufacturers now providing 28mm and even 32mm tyres across their road tyre range. Conventional wisdom stated that the thinner the tyre the faster you went, but wider tyres have similar, if not better, rolling resistance. They also have a larger contact patch on the road and can be run at a slightly lower pressure, providing more comfort and safety, plus the added bonus of reducing the risk of pinch flats. Tyre manufacturers have reacted quickly to the advent of disc road bikes in the market and more riders are seeking improved comfort and grip over speed.
Oh that every winter ride was like this, but it's worth sacrificing a bit of speed to ensure that your tyres are better protected against the detritus on the roads, especially in the wet.
It’s an increasingly competitive market and there are a myriad of options out there. A good winter tyre will offer optimum puncture protection and grip, without sacrificing too much in the weight and rolling resistance departments. It’s inevitable that a beefed up puncture belt and sidewalls will increase the weight of the tyre and the ride can become a little harsher. If, however, that extra weight is preferable to trying to mend a puncture with frozen digits, then the odd extra 100g is not going to bother you . . . and those lighter weight tyres in spring will feel just that little sportier too!
Every year, advancements in compounds and casing, plus extensive R&D by the respective manufactures, are pushing the boundaries, which is great for the end consumer as each year one has the option of upgrading one's bike with a tyre that will be that little bit lighter, a tad faster and a touch safer and tougher than the year before.
Alternatively, of course, you can go tubeless. Popular with our MTB brethren, tubeless tyres were a niche product for road cyclists until recently, but are now becoming established too, with several manufactures now offering tubeless tyres. The benefits, as those who have made the switch will testify, is that they can be run at lower pressure, so increasing traction on the road, combined with lower rolling resistance and, most importantly, zero punctures. You may prefer to invest in a tubeless specific or tubeless ready wheelset, rather than convert your existing rims, but pair a Schwalbe One Tubeless with Campagnolo’s Zondas 2 Way Fit wheels and you have a pretty bombproof combination to see you through the very worst of the coming months!
The Wheelsuckers' team have been hugely impressed by Schwalbe’s Durano Plus, which have nursed us all, puncture free, through the past two winters, but if you are looking for a lighter tyre then the new Durano DD, unveiled for 2015, is a great option. The DD stands for ‘Double Defence’ thanks to two layers of nylon fabric that provide a good level of protection to the shoulder and sidewall, whilst the RaceGuard belt around the outer, more vulnerable surface of the tyre adds a good level of puncture resistance.
**UPDATE April 2016**
We have had the Schwalbe Durano DD (25c) on test for several weeks now. If we had anticipated any reduction in robustness compared to its indestructible sibling, the Durano Plus, then we have been proved completely wrong. Over 2k miles in some abysmal conditions over the winter and the tyres have not let us down once.
I recently tried out some tyres from a rival manufacturer – supposedly their out and out winter training tyre. Two ride. Two punctures. They are no longer in use. No such issues with the Durano DD and such dependability quickly brings a welcome reassurance that you are not going to be left on the side of the road, hands muddy and numb with cold, trying to fumble your way through a tube change as your cycling mates disappear into the distance.
They also strike that difficult balance between being grippy and robust, but not so heavy that you don’t feel any connection with the road. They are noticeably quicker than the Durano Plus and provide a more assured, tangible connection with the road surface. But what I really liked about them is the reassuring grip they provide, especially when cornering in the wet. Admittedly, the road testing of the DD’s coincided with me switching to disc brakes on my winter bike and that added level of control possibly played a part in this, but I quickly came to trust the grippiness of the DD’s.
When it comes to winter tyres, aesthetics are not exactly at the top of the tick list, but I must mention that these tyres have a very classy look to them thanks to the silvery-grey sidewalls, which have garnered some favourable comments. But they ain’t just pretty and after all that mileage on some atrocious roads they still have plenty of wear in them, though the centre of the tread is beginning to suggest the abuse they have had to endure.
All in all, a superlative clincher and one I would recommend for winter riding or the wet. A great commuter tyre too and if you hunt around, some good deals are to be found out there. Having used the Durano Plus the previous year, I was convinced they were one of the best winter tyres out there, but the DD’s are a great option: lighter, faster, but maintaining the reassuring grip and puncture resistance you need in the colder months.
The Durano DD weighs in at 295g for the 25c folding version and though it may not offer the protection of the Durano Plus, for those looking for a lighter, sportier tyre at a competitive price point, then the DD is worth considering. The DD comes in both a wired and folding bead version, with an of SRP of £24.99 and £31.99 respectively. Both come in 23c, 25c and 28c widths.
Schwalbe have been leading the way with the tubeless revolution, their Scwhable One being one of the most popular and well received. This autumn, however, the Schwalbe One will be superseded by the new Pro One Tubeless (pictured below), which the German manufacturer claims has 10% lower rolling resistance and is 70g lighter than its predecessor.
The Pro One comes in 23, 25 and 28mm widths and though the Schwalbe One tubeless is being phased out, it will still be available in its conventional clincher manifestation. For those of you who have been waiting for the release of the Pro One, Schwalbe UK have assured us that they will be available in the next few weeks in the UK.
No new products from Continental this winter, but as Shelly Childs, UK Brand Manager for the premium German brand, is quick to point out, Continental already offers plenty of good choices from Gatorskins to Hardshell Gatorskins, GP GT and GP4Season, not forgetting their more affordable Grand Sport Extra. The good news for Conti fans who are tempted to increase their tyre width this winter, is that they have some new sizes due out soon, including a 28mm Grand Prix GT, and a new enlarged GP4Season, in both 28mm and 32mm. The new sizes should be available in early December.
VeeTireCo. is a Thai brand and may not be a tyre manufacturer you are familiar with, but their stable of tyres are garnering good reviews and their competitive pricing will make them an attractive choice for many. VeeTireCo. have been making tyres for the last 30 years, though only recently entered the UK market, arriving with a reputation as a fat tyre specialist, but their stable of tyres also encompasses road, CX and BMX.
For winter riding VeeTireCo. offer two tyres: the Apache (pictured below) is an intermediate sort of tyre, great for spring and autumn riding, whilst the Rain Runner, as the name suggests, is aimed more towards the winter months.
Both tyres can be purchased from the Thailand based company’s UK website. The Apache retails at £29.99 though this price is for a standard sidewall, but for £32.99 you can purchase the same tyre but with a reinforced Synthesis sidewall. The Rain Runner retails at £32.99 and, like the Apache, currently comes in widths of 23c and 25c, though VeeTireCo. will be introducing a 28c width across their entire road tyre range in 2016.
The grippy looking VeeTireCo. Rain Runner
VeeTireCo. also have a tubeless tyre, the Apache Chief , though stocks will not be available in the UK until the middle of next month. There are two versions on offer, one with a Synthesis sidewall, with an SRP of £39.99 and one without, with a £35.99 price tag. Bearing in mind the higher cost of tubeless tyres, the price of the Apache Chief is notable.
No major changes from SPECIALIZED this winter as they’ve been focusing all their attention on a revamp of their S-Works Turbo and the introduction of its sexier sibling, the S-Works Turbo Cotton, which Justin Sullivan in Specialized’s UK Marketing department claims is ‘super supple, comfy and bloody fast!’. More of those tyres in Spring, but for winter the All Condition Armadillo Elite remains the dedicated winter tyre from the American brand, offering high puncture resistance.
Thanks to the Gripton compound the Armadillo is made from, Specialized believe it is the best flat-resistant, high-performance tyre that they have ever made. The All Condition Armadillo is available in 23c, 25c, 28c and 32c and retails at £35. It’s widely available to buy online, including Evans Cycles.
Alternatively, there is also the Roubaix, which come is both a clincher and tubeless form. This is a tyre designed for longer rides, It comes with Black Belt puncture protection, coupled with bead to bead ENDURANT casing, so this tyre is suited for rough and smooth roads. Sullivan concedes that the Armadillo will have better puncture protection, but the trade-off is less rolling resistance and more weight and the Roubaix pips the Armadillo to the line on that one. The Roubaix retails at a competitively priced £25.00 and comes in two sizes, the 23-25 and the 30-32. The two figures refer to the tread width and the carcass width respectively, which provides a skinny contact patch, but allows the tyre to be run at a lower psi.
Those wanting a faster, lighter but relatively robust tyre thanks to the same Black Belt band used in the Roubaix, may prefer the Turbo Pro. This is not marketed as a winter tyre by Specialized and perhaps this is one for those drier days when road debris is at a minimum. Again, at only £25 it is a good value option though and comes in a 24c and 26c version.
Italian brand Vittoria are making a big noise about their new Graphene range of tyres. So “What the hell is Graphene?” I hear you ask! Well, without delving too much into the science behind it, Graphene is derived from the mineral graphite and is pure carbon at a molecular level and 200 times stronger than steel and 6 times as flexible. So, when it comes to tyres, the incorporation of Graphene ‘changes everything’, to quote Michela Fenili, speaking from the company’s HQ in Madone in northern Italy.
Graphene, or rather the G+ Isotech compound that incorporates this revolutionary material, Fenili explains, offers more grip, more speed, more puncture resistance and more overall strength. Essentially, more durability, improved comfort (thanks to the high flexibility of the casing) and optimum puncture protection.
What is more fascinating, however, is the assertion from Vittoria that their new Graphene-enhanced compounds are also ‘intelligent’ - the compound actually adapts to changing demands. So, if the tyre is rolling straight, the rubber is at its hardest and offers low rolling resistance, but if the rider breaks, accelerates or corners, the compound softens and offers significantly more grip. It will be interesting to see how the tyres perform in tests and whether this characteristic enhances the ride significantly.
For autumn/winter riding specifically, Vittoria have two tyres which utilise the G+ Isotech compound: the Rubino Pro Control and the Rubino Pro Endurance. (The latter taking its name from its durability) Both have side wall protection as well as under tread, but the Pro Control is the lighter, sportier of the two. The Pro Endurance is an altogether more robust beast. The compound, similar to that used in car tyres, provides optimum grip and puncture resistance and is formulated to perform in temperatures below freezing point, making it a tyre worth considering by those brave enough to venture out when the mercury is struggling to rise above zero!
An intelligent tyre? The Vittoria Rubino Pro Endurance.
The Rubino Pro Control and Rubino Pro Endurance will go on sale in the UK in November. The Pro Control will be available in three widths, 23c/25c/28c, weighing 280g/320g/360g respectively and the Endurance in 23c and 25c, weighing 440g and 480g, which certainly places it on the weightier end of the tyre scales.
Neither the Rubino Pro nor the Rubino Pro Endurance come in a tubeless ready version, but if you want to consider a tubeless ready tyre from the Vittoria range, then the Corsa Speed (Open TLR) will be available from November, priced at £54.99
No big announcements from French manufacturer MICHELIN, but their PRO4 Grip tyre remains their out and out winter tyre, offering a superior grip (as the name suggests) to the other tyres in their PRO4 range, thanks to the ‘Bi-Compound’ technology, which also provides lower rolling resistance and superior wear resistance. Michelin developed the profile of this tyre to ensure optimum traction when cornering thanks to an increased contact patch. Puncture resistance was also at the forefront of the design of this tyre, so Michelin developed its Aramide ply carcass specifically for the PRO4, which extends down the sidewall.
The PRO4 GRIP retails at £41.99 so is not a cheap option, but as it only comes in a 23c width, it is one of the faster puncture resistant winter tyres on the market.
Japanese company PANARACER unveiled its Gravel King tyre this time last year and it’s going to be a popular tyre for those wanting durability and a bit of extra bite, especially if you are inclined to veer off the asphalt and head down tracks. If you are looking to mix up your riding terrain over the winter, then this is a tyre that, whilst not transforming your winter steed of choice into a cyclocross bike, is going to provide a little more versatility to your ride options.
The Gravel King is available in just the folding black version and comes in a good range of widths, 23c, 26c, 28c and 32c with an SRP of £29.99. It's widely available to buy online, including Wiggle.
Spotted on the stand of leading UK distributer. ExtraUK, at the NEC Cycle Show in September were the range of tyres from Taiwanese company, MAXXIS. ExtraUK already have Hutchinson Tyres on their books and ExtraUK acknowledged the fact that establishing a brand in the competitive UK market is not easy, especially when many cyclists have long-term loyalties to premium brands. The Re-Fuse (‘refuses’ to puncture, geddit?!) is the Maxxis dedicated winter tyre and has garnered decent enough reviews for durability and low rolling resistance, but it remains a bit of an unknown quantity, so purchase at your own risk! Puncture protection comes in the form of the MaxxShield belt and the tyre comes in a good range of widths (23c/25c/28c) and, for those who worry about these things, it is available in a few colour options too. The Maxxis Re-Fuse retails at £32.99 and is available to buy from online retailers, including Wiggle.
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