Buyers guide: The best tyres to get you through the winter
What to look for in tyres designed for winter riding, training and commuting + 10 of the best winter tyres
With the onset of winter you might be considering investing in tyres that will better resist punctures, and fortunately there are plenty of winter-specific tyres out there.
During the winter the roads can become coated in glass, flints and debris just lying there waiting for an unsuspecting cyclist to trundle over. And there's nothing much worse than fixing a puncture when it's lashing down with rain. Well apart from waiting for a friend to fix a puncture in the rain, that is.
Punctures are a funny old thing though. You can go months without the dreaded hiss then whammo you get three in a row. Luck, it seems, plays a big factor and it can desert even the most well prepared cyclists.
If, as the days draw in you're getting frequent punctures, then it is definitely time to change your tyres. Most manufacturers offer a tyre better suited to the winter so there's really no reason not to. The perfect tyre will have some sort of puncture belt under the tread and beefier sidewalls to stop sharp objects finding a way through.
There are downsides, and weight is usually one of them. But I'll take extra puncture protection over a bit more weight any day. Other things to consider are that to make a tyre less puncture prone can require using a firmer rubber compound, the sidewalls can be stiffer too, which both impacts upon the rolling resistance of the tyre and ride comfort.
The sidewall contributes heavily towards the feel of the tyre and so a heavier/thicker sidewall will impact on how they feel. That's where increasing the width of the tyre can make a difference. It's well known that wider tyres can offer rolling resistance as good as narrower tyres, and you can inflate them to slightly lower pressures than a 23 tyre. That will allow the tyre to be supple enough to absorb bumps and impacts. And the larger volume can be a nice additional comfort factor through the winter.
Look for a tyre with a thick reinforced breaker belt sandwiched between the rubber tread and carcass. This will prevent flints and glass from puncturing the delicate inner tube. The sidewall too can often be reinforced to preview the potholes and large bits of debris ripping through. Lastly, grip is another important consideration. The rubber compound, and not the tread pattern (which is largely irrelevant on a tyre with such a small contact patch) that dictates the level of grip.
A with all tyres, pressure is important, and especially so in the winter when the roads are most likely to be wet. As a general rule, the wetter it is, the lower the pressure you want to run your tyres at. While it might be fine to ride tyres inflated to 120psi during the summer when the roads are dry, it's a good idea to go a little lower the wetter it is. It's not unknown to go as low as 80-90psi. Many of the tyres below are 25mm wide and you have to take into account the extra tyre volume when setting the tyre pressure.
Regular cleaning goes without saying, and when you're cleaning your bike pay particular attention to the tyres. Glass and flints can get lodged in there and it's a good idea to remove them. A top tip is to fill the now vacant hole with a little super glue to plug it.
Panaracer Gravel King tyres £29.99
Fast-rolling and capable of tackling bad road conditions and even venturing away from the tarmac, Panaracer's new Gravel King tyres are a really good option for the winter with rugged durability and great traction.
The Specialized All Condition Armadillo features a Kevlar layer sandwiched inside the tyre and stretches from bead to bead. It goes a long way to prevent sharp objects from penetrating the tyre carcass and deflating the delicate inner tube. This tyre uses a wire bead which does put the weight up, the 23mm is 375g. 25 and 28mm widths are also available.
Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyre £31.99
Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres are essentially heavy duty, ultra reliable commu-touring tyres that inspire unprecedented confidence without feeling sluggish or barge-like, as the 970g weight for a pair would imply.
Schwable have many options and and the Durano S RaceGuard Tyres offer really good durability with plenty of grip in all conditions. The grip is good in both dry and wet conditions so would prove a useful addition to any bike during mixed conditions of a typical British winter.
Despite a puncture-resisting later, the Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite tyres roll quickly and gip securely in all conditions. The tread on the sidewall gives sufficient grip in the corners and the hard case has proven more than capable of dealing with the variety of grit washed onto the roads.
Michelin Pro 4 Grip tyres £41.99
Michelin's Pro 4 Grip tyre is the latest addition to the French tyre manufacturer's Pro 4 range, and uses a new rubber compound for increased traction in the rain along with a puncture belt to better ward off punctures. The practical upshot is a puncture resistant tyre with great traction in the wet, and little weight or rolling resistance penalty.
The Vredestein Fortezza Senso Xtreme tyres bill themselves, as suggested in the name, as extreme weather tyres - so perfect then, for three seasons of UK riding.
Vittoria Open Pave CG £52.99
An expensive choice but many swear by the venerable Open Pave CG for riding through the winter. It's an exceptionally good tyre and has been a favourite for pro cyclists in races like Paris-Roubaix, where its puncture resistance and superior grip comes into its own. Its distinctive green stripe may not be to everyone’s liking but the 240g weight for a 25mm tyre is on a par with the lightest here.
A lighter option is the Continental Grand Prix 4 Season. A tough Duraskin mesh and two Vectran anti-puncture layers beneath the tread make this a good choice. And at 220g it's a good weight, for the rider wanting a fast winter tyre. Conti's max grip silica rubber compound provides a good level of grip. A good choice for winter and one that can be used in spring and autumn too. If you desire even more protection, the Gator Hardshell is a good option, with a third layer of Polyamide in the sidewalls.
The Hutchinson Intensive Road Tubeless tyres are great for autumn, winter and early spring rides, giving a secure, comfortable ride, and should prove highly puncture resistant. But if you do get a flat, you'll need a good back-up plan.
Each of these tyres represents a good investment if you're planning to ride your way through the winter.