Choosing road tyres for autumn and winter

The wet weather has arrived and unfortunately it will probably continue to rear it’s ugly head repeatedly for the next couple of months.

Heavy rain means that debris is washed onto road surfaces, so even when the surfaces have dried out, there are more puncture risks on the tarmac. Not only that, but of course wet weather means surfaces are more slippery.

These two inconveniences – higher puncture risk and slippery roads are best combated by winter worthy tyres.

One common misconception is that the best tyres are the ones with the thickest grooves, or ‘tread’ visible on the surface. The benefit of a heavy tread is entirely psychological – what you really need to look out for is compound, puncture proofing breakers, and appropriate TPI.

Compound

Summer riding is all about soft compounds, those lovely supple tyres that roll over uneven surfaces, sticking to the road and giving you a smooth, low resistance ride. Hard compounds are much more resilient to punctures, but they don’t mould with the road, they bounce over uneven surfaces, they increase resistance and aren’t that comfortable.

Neither of the above options are good for winter miles – and that’s why quality tyres will have a ‘dual compound’ – a soft compound, with a puncture resistant layer, or softer compound on the sidewalls for supple cornering and hard compound in the center to combat the nasty grit and dirt.

Puncture Proofing

Your puncture resistant layer is likely to be made of ‘Vectran’ or ‘Kevlar’ – this extra barrier adds a little weight and toughens up the tyre, hence slightly more resistance, but it’s a lot better than standing by the road with numb fingers.

Of course, you do need to make sure your tyres are in good condition – give them a wipe after rides to stop grit becoming embedded, and if they’ve got genuine slashes in them it might be better to replace them. If you’ve sprung a hole and can see right through to the tube, no amount of Kevlar or Vectran will save you going flat.

TPI

Your tyres have a cloth casing, usually made from nylon. Winter tyres will have a lower TPI (threads per inch), which makes them more durable – whilst supple, fast, summer tyres have a higher than 100 TPI – this makes them more comfortable and speedy to ride, but less resilient. Therefore, if you want bullet proof as you can get, look for something like the Speicialized Armadillo, with 60TPI, but if you want something that feels a bit speedier, consider the 330TPI Continental GP 4 Seasons. The latter is still a suitable winter tyre, but it needs more expert puncture proofing to cater for the supple casing, hence the considerably higher RRP.

Width and pressure

Fast racing tyres are usually skinny, 23mm – and even less if you’re racing tubs. Over winter, most racers are plodding out the base miles, and fast has become less important. For commuters, getting there safely and hassle free is the most important concern year round. Therefore, 25mm and above tyres become the order of the day.

Wider tyres have a larger patch of contact with the road. This simply means more grip, which on wet, greasy roads, is important. If you’ve got a hybrid, cyclocross bike, or a relaxed geometry road bike with clearance for 28mm tyres, then you can go even bigger.

Running your tyres at slightly lower pressure in the wet also increases the surface area of your contact point with the road, so aim to run your tyres around 10 PSI lower than you might on a sunny day. Of course, don’t allow them to run too low – as this can leave you open to punctures – for a guide to what range you should be looking at, check the tyre side wall. If you’re light, stick to the lower end, if you’re a heavier rider, the higher end.

You want my suggestions?

The perfect tyres for you will vary, but going on my own personal experiences:

shopping

Specialized Armadillo – Hardwearing, these tough little critters shouldn’t puncture often – but with a 60TPI casing they will make your bike feel a little slow if you’re used to lightweight summer tyres. This said, you’ll soon get used to them, and it will feel amazing when you swap them come spring.

schwalbe-durano-tyre

Schwalbe Durano – I’ve ridden these in summer and winter, and suffered very few punctures whilst still feeling perfectly happy to ride them in the sun. A dual compound is used, with supple rubber on the shoulders for grip and comfort, and a much harder compound at the centre, where the tyre makes the most indent on the road.

continental-grand-prix-4-season-700c-folding-duraskin-road-tyre-oe

Continental 4 Seasons – These have a Duraskin and Vectran breaker, as well a super special black “Max Grip Silica” compound optimised for wet weather grip. Extra technology has gone into making these tough, whilst still boasting a 330TPI – they’re pleasant to ride and resilient.

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17 Responses to Choosing road tyres for autumn and winter

  1. Barry 16/10/2014 at 6:23 pm #

    Conti 4 seasons are my favourite. 28 mm width…Fantastic grip, excellent puncture protection and nice shock absorption with this size…

  2. Tom 16/10/2014 at 9:37 pm #

    I just use specialised nimbus armadillos all year round, I get about 3000 miles between punctures on average, they are grippy and fast(ish) in wet or dry and can handle the towpaths too. I like them.

  3. John 17/10/2014 at 10:23 am #

    For a hybrid, try Vittoria Randonneurs. Best tyres I’ve ever used. Pain to get on & off but you shouldn’t have to do it very often.

  4. David 17/10/2014 at 10:26 am #

    Gator Skins. Enough Said.

  5. Arni 17/10/2014 at 10:40 am #

    Would love to be able to use the 4 Seasons but Nokian Hakkapeliitta W240 is the one for my daily commute in winter.

  6. Patrick 17/10/2014 at 11:56 am #

    GatorHardshell 28mm. My rear one is 2 years old, averaging 80 + miles/week. Fantastic.

  7. Richard 17/10/2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I ride Continental GP 4 Seasons all year round and love them. Grippy, safe, smooth and virtually indestructible. Pricey but you get what you pay for.

  8. Raj 17/10/2014 at 1:21 pm #

    I’ve slowly been working my way through this list:
    https://www.lfgss.com/conversations/132752/

    I’ve found the Specialized Armadillos a harsh ride, and the Contis cut up far too quickly on London roads. Prefer the Maxxis Re-fuse and Hutchinson Intensives. Re-fuse probably slightly harder wearing.

  9. James 17/10/2014 at 1:32 pm #

    I ride Vredestein Fortezza Tricomps at 110 psi all year round. They offer good puncture resistance – I get a puncture every 2000 miles or so – and crucially for commuting, they’re bright. Which for me, if the real downside to most tyres mentioned here.

    I would also really recommend throwing some sludge into your innertube: http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/category/tools/cycling-tools/puncture-repair-kit/product/review-sludge-puncture-sealant-30813/

  10. Linz 17/10/2014 at 2:40 pm #

    I’ve ridden equal time on Gatorskins and Duranos this year (summer included). Maybe it’s just rotten luck, but I’ve had two flats with the Gatorskins and none with the Duranos. I find the Duranos have a much nicer roll to them as well – they make for a lovely ride.

  11. John H 17/10/2014 at 5:55 pm #

    Unless you are riding as a professional road cyclist,just pump the tyres you have to the recommended pressure, inspect for cuts, flints and debris and carry on cycling.Most modern tyres are very much the same,and its just a marketing ,advertising ploy to get us to buy products we don’t really need.Now what we really should be looking at are cycling specific Jackets, base layers, shoes,trousers,glasses,helmets,bags,hoodies,shirts, scarves, gloves,panniers and or backpacks and lots and lots of other expensive must have winterising stuff,,,see my point !!!

  12. Spencer 17/10/2014 at 9:08 pm #

    Hmmm, I’ve been using Gatorskin Ultras for my commuting…

    Done around 2600 miles so far and in that time had 3 punctures and come off three times. Twice in the rain and once on the ice (yeah, should’ve had more sense than trying to commute when the route was icy).

    Mind also learned that a) wet manhole covers are extremely dangerous, even when riding straight over them and b) riding with a backpack raises your centre of gravity therefore you can’t corner quite as tightly in the wet as you can with panniers.

    I’m learning…

  13. Richard Lindsley 18/10/2014 at 8:09 am #

    I got 2 conti GP 4 seasons. The rear tyre lasted just one week. I was riding on a recently resurfaced country road when I encountered a combine harvester on a downhill bend. I locked up and tore a chunk of rubber off the tyre. The conti rep said it was operator error not a tyre fault so that was that the gator went back on. The front is still going strong so I’m trying to decide whether to risk another one on the back.

  14. Mrs janet groves 18/10/2014 at 5:46 pm #

    I’ve just done 2000 miles on SCHWALBE LUGANO’S 25mm. No punctures and no problems in the rain. I could have probably got another 1000 miles out of them : but they looked a bit bald.

  15. Phil 20/10/2014 at 10:59 am #

    Schwalbe Marathon Plus 1.75″; no problems in any weather, no punctures in nearly three years. I don’t care if they’re allegedly heavy, the time saved not mucking about in the rain fixing punctures is worth it.

  16. RichA 01/11/2014 at 11:14 am #

    I mainly used Bontrager Race Lite Hard Case 700 x 23 or 25 mm. On the whole they are a long lasting good all round tyre. I did try Specialized Armadillos, and when they worked, they were good, but on the last 2 tyres I had, de-lamination of the tread from the tyre became a problem. I am now trying Tannus tyres (http://tannus.co.uk/) – Solid (literally, solid rubber) lightweight tyres. They are not as much of a pig to fit as I had expected – The front tyre fitted easily, and on the back, I have a rim that is a little bit too wide for the tyre (yes, it was a cheap rim), but it has so far stayed nicely in place. I am pleased to say that after 5 weeks of daily cycling in and aroundLondon, I can now ride on broken glass and the like with obviously no punctures, and i don’t have to carry pump, patch kit or spare tubes. Downsides – the ones I have are a little bit harsh. I think I have the hardest ones though. Also, they can be slightly slippy in the wet, and they are expensive, but if they last for a year, and I am not wasting my time dealing with punctures, then they have easily paid for themselves. They might not be for everyone, but have worked well for me so far.

  17. Mark Turner-Smith 05/02/2015 at 2:26 pm #

    Have a GT Grade, most interested in reliable tyres as my sport is XC MTB racing so my Grade is my mile plodder road bike.
    Have brought Specialised Armadillo all-seasons 700×28 now wondering if that was right or should have got the 32mm version.
    (Bike came with horrible Kenda 32mm things). Was thinking 28mm a little speed with durability as 32mm + not needed for what on the Grade is all road work/commuting.

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