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

by David Arthur   December 16, 2014  

Schwalbe Marathon Plus 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.

Specialized All Condition Armadillo £30

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.

Schwalbe Durano S Tyres w/RaceGuard  £34.99

 

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.

Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite tyres  £34.99

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.

Vredestein Fortezza Senso Xtreme tyres  £45.00

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 Pave CG Open Clincher £52.99

An expensive choice but many swear by the venerable Open Pave Evo 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.

Continental Grand Prix 4 Season £54.95

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.

Hutchinson Intensive Road Tubeless tyres  £56.99

 

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.

47 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

+1 for Armadillos, the elite folding version is a very reliable choice, 2 for £50 at Websters online.

drmatthewhardy's picture

posted by drmatthewhardy [417 posts]
7th December 2014 - 17:38

1 Like

My vote would be the schwalbe marathons they are bloody brilliant I have ridden over four thousand miles on the set on my board CX which by the way is a great do it all bike.

This week they rolled over a bridal way carpeted with the residue of the hacking farmers flailing hedge trimmer which was about a mile in length. How many tyres would have survived that, I have ridden bridal, road and forest trails, even red routes at trail centres on them and not a drama, in the thick gloopy mud they spin but hell they're worth it.

As far as I'm concerned I wont buy any other tyre, they are quite simply the best.

posted by 124g [16 posts]
7th December 2014 - 20:29

1 Like

Vittoria Pave's. One and a half winters, no punctures. the tubular version will be even better ride than the clinchers, and you can run them softer with no chance of pinches as you hit pot-holes. What a lovely plush ride. mmmm.

posted by edster99 [207 posts]
7th December 2014 - 20:41

0 Likes

The Vittorias lasted for 3 months until the rear was down to the canvas; super tyre, plush and smooth, but not that long lasting.

posted by crikey [272 posts]
7th December 2014 - 21:07

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I've given up on Gatorskins having never actually worn one out, every single Continental tyre I've owned has suffered a sidewall failure (this includes Grand Prix, GP4000's, Gatorskins (wired and folding). The only ones that are still going are Travel Contacts, though they get ridden rarely. The other problem with Gatorskins is that I don't rate the grip in the wet, things get pretty sketchy when there's moisture around. This year I've gone for Michelin Pro4 Endurance after recommendation from a number of friends and they're doing a good job at the moment, the grip is good and they seem fairly supple too.

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
8th December 2014 - 9:15

1 Like

+1 for the 4 Seasons 25s (although I'm actually running 28s on my Croix de Fer and loving the extra cushioning). I agree on the sketchiness of Gatorskins. Well, perhaps not quite sketchiness...I don't get enough feel from them and therefore just don't trust them as much.

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [584 posts]
8th December 2014 - 10:10

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Had a problem with defective Vittorias - missing clincher area and blew right off the rim (one during a ride, so could have been painful).

Vittoria didn't care a toss (no reply) nor Chicken, the UK distributor. At least they responded, but fobbed me off on the retailer, who replaced the 1st tyre (which wouldn't stay on a rim at install) but again ignored the problem with the 2nd tyre (problem showed up later). It's an obvious defect if you are looking for it, but hard to spot on a new tyre.

In the USA, they would be more attentive, but the UK has lax consumer protection (heck, they don't even recall dangerous cars here) so buyer beware. My money goes to companies with customer service.

Ride your own ride

posted by CanAmSteve [169 posts]
8th December 2014 - 10:21

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I have been using Bontrager Racelite Hardcase tyres for years in all weathers but nearly always on-road. I have never had a puncture with them. In the last 2 years I've done over 6000 miles on the two bikes which have these fitted and I have yet to replace one.

posted by Fifth Gear [10 posts]
8th December 2014 - 11:18

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CanAmSteve wrote:
… , but fobbed me off on the retailer, who replaced the 1st tyre (which wouldn't stay on a rim at install) but again ignored the problem with the 2nd tyre (problem showed up later).

[…]

In the USA, they would be more attentive, but the UK has lax consumer protection …

In the UK it's the retailer that you have the contract with under the Sale of Goods Act, so they weren't necessarily fobbing you off, merely pointing you in the right direction to take action. If your replacement tyre is faulty as well though, it does sound like a bad batch which you'd expect the retailer to take up with Chicken, once they've given you a refund or another replacement.

The UK actually has pretty good consumer laws. People just don't always take advantage of what they're entitled to.

posted by ped [174 posts]
8th December 2014 - 15:33

1 Like

+lots for Marathon Plus on my daily commuter.
+lots for Durano Plus on my weekend steed.

I tried Armadillos years ago but didn't find them very durable, and less puncture-resistant than M+. That was a while back though - they may have improved.

posted by Duncann [91 posts]
11th December 2014 - 17:36

0 Likes

8000 + km on Marathon plus tour and no punctures Smile

The glass is 50% capacity.
www.bikeramble.com

mrfree's picture

posted by mrfree [38 posts]
15th December 2014 - 22:33

1 Like

I think I read somewhere that repairing tires with superglue is a no-no as it sets hard and as the hole is usually point shaped the glue would eventually work its way to the inner tube and puncture again.

posted by Chrisbpr [14 posts]
15th December 2014 - 22:43

2 Likes

Tried the Vredestein tyres on the strength of this article and was seriously impressed. Fantastic ride even at high pressure, just seemed to float along and great grip on some fairly 'cra**y' roads at the weekend. Felt quick too compared to the 4 Seasons which always feel sluggish.

posted by edd23 [46 posts]
15th December 2014 - 23:13

0 Likes

Vittoria came out with a new tyre this spring. Where have you been? The stripe is on each side of the centre, and it is available in 27mm. Get with it people!

velocodger's picture

posted by velocodger [7 posts]
16th December 2014 - 0:47

1 Like

Ditto that, country lanes in south east anyway, require something robust and Durano Plus fits the bill. 2500 winter miles on mine thus far and plenty left in them yet. (Zero punctures)

posted by pmr [175 posts]
16th December 2014 - 9:05

2 Likes

' +lots for Durano Plus on my weekend steed.'

*steve*, man. Not *steed*. It's not a horse.

posted by andyp [1077 posts]
16th December 2014 - 10:42

0 Likes

ped wrote:
[In the UK it's the retailer that you have the contract with under the Sale of Goods Act

Yes, very true. But while the laws regarding the interface between retailers and consumers are quite good (possibly even better than outside the EU) the "meat" is missing from the sandwich. The manufacturer did not deign to respond and the UK importer, after a dialogue which described the issue and my offer to return the tyre at my expense for evaluation (and hopefully, replacement) was uninterested.

So, I suppose I could go to Small Claims Court for my ~£20 tyre, but instead I'll just share my experience and refrain from spending any of my money on Vittoria in the future. As the article shows - there are plenty of other options

Ride your own ride

posted by CanAmSteve [169 posts]
16th December 2014 - 13:09

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I've had Conti 4000s for a couple of years, usually get about 5k miles out of them. The front one gave up on me last weekend, sidewall split so the inner tube was pushing through it. You don't go very far without having to replace a tube when that happens! I didn't spot the hole til after the second repair, outside a pub which had just opened, so should have stayed there! I now carry a short bit of old tyre in my kit in case it happens again.

My ride buddies have Gatorskins, but they seem to have more punctures than me and do a lot less miles.

Just got a Vittoria Open Pave, the hardest tyre I have ever had to get on the rim, maybe just a marginally undersized one? Seems as good as the 4000s so far in terms of grip and road feel, although will be interested to see how long it lasts.

posted by Daveyraveygravey [107 posts]
16th December 2014 - 13:16

1 Like

Vittoria Rubino pro folding year round for me. <£20 and considering I weigh 95kg & lasting 2 winters and about 8000 miles with only 4 punctures, 2 of which were when they were on their last legs was pretty good going, plus you don't break your fingers changing them.

Might try the conti's in the future but only if there is an offer.

Switching the tyres round seems to extend their life.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [397 posts]
16th December 2014 - 13:18

2 Likes

I've had very good experience with Vittoria Rubinos as a cheap and reliable tyre. I've been using them for all year riding for 3 years now (two pairs), with 3 punctures overall. I have the 23c version but they do a 25c aswell.

posted by Masterchief [2 posts]
16th December 2014 - 14:04

1 Like

Vittora CG pave are brilliant, I've had no wear problems since fitting in September, I average 120 miles per week.

HMCC

Beefy's picture

posted by Beefy [174 posts]
16th December 2014 - 15:35

0 Likes

Schwalbe Duranos are excellent, light and durable. Both those and my old Bonty RXL All Weathers (since replaced by a new model) have done 20,000+km between them with a grand total of one puncture and have been spot on in some pretty filthy conditions.

Gator skins, on the other hand are garbage. One ride with a borrowed one on the rear = 120km of slithering round with no grip before being dumped on the Tarmac. Borrowed tyre so it wasn't coated in release agent or anything, it was just useless.

posted by 5th [36 posts]
16th December 2014 - 18:35

1 Like

Gatorskins. 5000 miles a year, the odd puncture, last about 18 months to 2 years.
No sliding at all.
Roll fast enough for me.

Bontrager Racelite. Only used one and got one puncture in 10 months.

Both are good for commuting, but I still prefer Gatorskins.
Perhaps weekend warriors are after something else.

posted by fret [33 posts]
16th December 2014 - 19:23

0 Likes

For total peace of mind Schewble Marathon plus they are bomb proof. Wink

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [264 posts]
16th December 2014 - 21:16

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Rubino pro's for 19.98 a pair delivered..unfortunately only in 23mm at that price, but don't let the long dispatch time put you off, i ordered two pairs when they were a ridiculous £8.99 each and they were delivered inside a week in their oem packaging, i've liked them for years..excellent recreational tyres and generally plenty tough enough for winter riding

http://goo.gl/OrnA9X

Or for those with deeper pockets the vredesteins at £44.95 a pair in 23 25 and 28mm..if you buy with something else and go over £50 use the XMAS12 code and it gets you 12% off

http://goo.gl/bqajBW

Merry Christmas

bendip's picture

posted by bendip [9 posts]
17th December 2014 - 1:37

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-1 for the Specialized Armadillo Elites. I had a nasty accident in the wet on mine, with less than 25 miles on them (although they may not have been at fault).

I've also never had any luck with Conti sidewalls. Every single one I've had has gone there. Saying that, I've switched to 4 seasons 25s and 28s on my bikes on the grounds that "they must have improved by now". D Oh We shall see!

Nic

http://worldofnic.org
1992 Specialised Allez Epic
2009 Ribble Winter Aluminium

nicdoye's picture

posted by nicdoye [24 posts]
17th December 2014 - 11:19

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Vittoria Rubino and GP4000s (or any 23-25mm slick)? Guess you´ve never experienced winter then... Wink

Pflanzgarten stole my virginity

posted by AndreasVH [0 posts]
17th December 2014 - 15:26

0 Likes

road.cc - you should instigate some sort of user poll, so people can vote for their fav winter tyre or saddlebag or cleat or whatever.

Its basically what people are doing in this comments section, but its a lot more difficult than it should be to ascertain what the consensus is.

posted by Kadinkski [42 posts]
20th December 2014 - 20:55

1 Like

Tread pattern does not give traction, 'sipes' are a red herring to give visual confidence - its all about rubber compound, carcass construction and usuable pressure range Wink

posted by hampstead_bandit [225 posts]
20th December 2014 - 22:12

1 Like

I have done the best part of 30000 miles on Conti 4 seasons and GP4000S in the last four years. I have only had a sidewall go once and it was due to a misaligned brakepad set by the LBS. I can readily admit to having had the odd puncture due to having worn the tyres to shreds but for my home territory, 4 Seasons on the commuter/winter bike and GP4000s on the best bike works perfectly.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [329 posts]
21st December 2014 - 0:29

1 Like