The arrival of Continental Nordic Spike 120 couldn’t have been timed better. 120 steel studs combined with an open, knobbly tread allowed me to cut a steady swathe through otherwise impassable back roads. However, a modicum of caution is required when accelerating – especially over icy tarmac – and their portly 42mm profiles can present compatibility hassles with more traditional ‘cross, touring and hybrid frames.
The Schwalbe Kojak offers great all-weather cornering prowess and are the fastest big volume slick I’ve ever used. Superior town manners mean they're a real hoot when shod to crossers that do turns on the tarmac. Reflective sidewalls, dynamo tracks and similar detailing are notable by their absence, however, and despite a sympathetic riding style, the race guard protective belt seemed unduly susceptible to thorns, sharps and other roadside debris.
The 24mm Halo Twin Rail has been tested before on road.cc with Shaun Audane describing it as "Lively, dependable road rubber for aggressive fixers and mile munching club bikes". The 29mm version gives a bit more of an air cushion between you and the road, and what you lose in extra heft you certainly gain in comfort and, to an extent, puncture resistance.
If you’re after a lightweight clincher that really zings along the road, Schwalbe's Ultremo does the business – it’s been one of our favourite race tyres for a while now.
The Evo 3 is Panaracer's top of the range road clincher and features PT, ZSG, BAX and All Contact Tread Shape, a sufficient amount of acronyms and buzz-words for such a high status tyre then.
If I was only allowed one tyre for year round use Specialized’s all condition Armadillo Elite would be top of my list for year-round training/spirited road duties thanks to its enviable blend of minimal rolling resistance, durability and puncture protection. However, the ride’s a little harsh and there’s a definite knack to getting them on board-especially if blistered thumbs and broken tyre levers are to be avoided.
The Panaracer Closer is a new tyre for 2010 that is marketed as a "fantastic balance of high end race performance and the superb durability, comfort and confidence of a training tyre". I'll certainly go along with the high end race performance bit. At 210 grams, you can't accuse it of being heavy. It remind me a lot of my set of Michelin Pro2Race's both in terms of looks and performance.
The Gator Hardshell is a very durable, puncture resistant and comfortable tyre, at relatively high pressure it is yielding and comfortable for long rides. When it comes to a high speed training session or 50+ mile chain gangs this would not be my first choice but in terms of a winter training tyre, club runs and for committed commuters this is an excellent tyre.
Vittoria's Open Pave EVO CGs ride like tubulars with the convenience of a wire on and should satisfy the most demanding of four seasons racers thanks to ultra high density 320 tpi casing, puncture resistant Kevlar belt and very modest weight. However, ours initially demanded the mighty “Speed Lever” to persuade the ultra supple casings aboard a common or garden Mavic wheelset so resist the desire to mount them in the heat of competition unless you have a finely honed knack for seating stubborn tyres in seconds.
Vittoria Randonneur Trail are the closest I’ve come to genuinely competent dual-use tyres, capable of slicing through the singletrack and frolicking in the forests without being overly ponderous over asphalt. Perfect for off the beaten track expedition touring, the 700c siblings (35 and 38mm) lend themselves to cross bikes doubling as winter trainers/playthings. However, 1800g (pr) is quite considerable-especially in terms of rotating weight so urban terrorists and bikes on calorie-controlled diets should look elsewhere.