If you're going to carry on riding through winter, the cold, wet conditions are best handled with heavier, grippier and more puncture-resistant tyres than your summer rubber. Fortunately there are plenty of winter-specific tyres out there.
Compared to summer tyres, winter tyres are typically wider, with thicker tread and beefier puncture-prevention under that tread, and usually a bit cheaper — nobody likes trashing expensive tyres
Fixing a flat in the cold and wet is a miserable job, so it makes sense to use tyres with better puncture resistance to avoid it
If possible, go for a grippier tread compound too to help keep you rubber-side-down in the wet
Want to defy even snow and ice? Look at tyres with metal studs that'll grip even the slippery stuff
You'll get more punctures in the winter thanks to the rain. It washes glass, flints and debris into the road, where they lie in wait for an unsuspecting cyclist to trundle over. Water also makes a good cutting lubricant, helping anything sharp cut into your tyres. There's nothing much worse than fixing a puncture when it's lashing down with rain, apart from waiting for a friend to fix a puncture in the rain, that is.
The first aim of winter tyres is puncture resistance. Most manufacturers offer such tyres so there's really no reason not to switch and make your winter riding low-fuss. Such tyres usually have some sort of puncture prevention layer 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. Tyre makers usually use thicker, firmer rubber for the tread and stiffer sidewalls, which affect 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 make for a harsher feel. That's where increasing the width of the tyre can make a difference. All other things being equal, a wider tyre has lower rolling resistance, so going fatter can compensate for the increased resistance of a stiffer tyres. You can run fat tyres at lower pressures too, regaining the comfort lost by the change to stiffer sidewalls.
The best winter tyres feature a thick reinforced breaker belt sandwiched between the rubber tread and carcass. This prevents 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 dictates the level of grip for the most part, though if you're riding rough surfaces there's some evidence that a light file tread is better than a slick tyre.
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 or fatter 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.
We've focused mostly on robust, puncture-resistant tyres, but as StuInNorway points out in the comments, there are parts of the UK where snow and ice is a big factor too, so to that end we've added a couple of studded options. A tyre with a deep tread pattern will provide some grip on fresh snow, but once it's packed down hard, or turned to ice by a thaw-freeze cycle, the only thing that will grip is a studded tyre.
The Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Tubeless Complete tyre – as opposed to the Tube Type – is surprisingly quick and supple for something that is also robust enough to deal with all the grit and flint being washed out of the verges this time of year. Its new design makes it a step above the rest too when it comes to tubeless capability.
The Vector 4Seasons are part of Goodyear's Ultra High-Performance (UHP) line-up, which focuses on optimising low rolling resistance and weight, and, in the Vector's case, dealing with year-round road debris. It's quite a difficult balance to achieve but Goodyear has done a good job. The Vectors have proved themselves to be highly durable in all sorts of horrible conditions, and punctures haven't been an issue.
The Dynamic:Silica4 compound has a tacky feel to it and grip levels are very impressive, giving loads of confidence in fast bends or when tackling roundabouts while keeping up with the flow of traffic.
The Goodyear Eagle Sport is an entry-level road tyre from one of the world's big brands, and it delivers well above its price point.
Now, a low-cost tyre that offers 'durability' is often code for a plasticky compound that lasts forever but sends the rider into the ditch on the first wet corner, so it was with some trepidation that I took the bike out, freshly shod with the Eagle Sports. Happily, it was a dry day and the tyres behaved impeccably. The second outing was on sodden roads with localised flooding. Surely, this would be the litmus test... No, after a few cautious turns I began to trust the Eagle Sports to stick to the line and for the whole of the rest of the test period I never had an anxious moment.
'Aha,' I hear you say, 'but that tenacious grip means the tyres most be slow and draggy.' Again, no. They feel lively from the off and the stats don't lie: up one local Strava climb, the fearsome 'Past the Chinese', I notched up a PB out of 32 passes, without being aware of trying particularly hard. A fortnight later, just to show it wasn't a fluke, I did it again.
The Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite Road tyre offers plenty of grip, a supple ride and decent puncture protection. Rolling resistance is impressive too, and it's not a bad price either.
Bontrager says that the R3 is one tyre that can do it all: 'Fast enough for race day, yet durable enough for every day.' That isn't too far off of the mark.
Taking corners and roundabouts flat out, I certainly felt confident that the Bontragers weren't going to wash out when really cranked over onto their edge. The compound really feels like it grabs hold of the asphalt in the dry and it also works in the wet too, although obviously not to the same degree.
Michelin's Protek Urban Aramid tyre offers a fantastic mix of grip, efficiency, comfort and enhanced puncture resistance. For keen commuters and city riders, it's a choice that fulfils all the most important practical criteria while still providing a rewarding ride experience, and all at a very reasonable price.
Available in either 35mm or 40mm, there's more than enough cushioning to deal with rough city streets and broken surfaces. I tested the slightly thinner 35mm option and it seems like the perfect middle option for quick urban riding, with enough insulation from road imperfections to protect without feeling like you're wallowing around.
The tyre's protective qualities don't just extend to your soft bits – underneath the surface is a layer of what Michelin calls 'a new generation of Aramid puncture protection' designed to keep you rolling longer between flats. It's a little hard to gauge exactly how effective this is without trying to wantonly destroy the tyre, but in day-to-day use, they haven't come a cropper yet. Meanwhile, a reflective stripe on the sidewall helps to keep you seen.
The Hutchinson Fusion 5 All Season 11Storm is a fast, grippy and durable tyre with easy tubeless installation at a price that matches key rivals, packaged here as a pair with everything you need to get them up and running.
Hutchinson was a pioneer of road tubeless tyres back in the early 2000s and while it doesn't have the market to itself anymore, it is still producing top-quality tyres. These Fusion 5 All Season 11Storms are ideal for mixed weather conditions, with lots of grip in the wet and durability that should easily cope with the harshest roads.
Although you can buy the tyres separately, for £39.95 each at rrp, the kit includes two tyres and everything you need to get up and running and convert your tubeless-ready wheels to accepting the tyres: tubeless tape to cover the spoke holes, tubeless valves with removable cores and a plastic tool for removing said cores, and a bottle of the company's own Protect'air Max sealant. For £89.95 that's pretty good value.
The E-One is designed specifically for e-bikes, but that doesn't mean it's restricted purely to bikes with batteries. With a new compound that gives excellent grip levels and durability, plus a thicker tread that benefits puncture protection, the only real trade-off is the extra weight. The new Addix Race compound is very sticky and grip is amazing in both the wet and dry. On high-speed descents the way they cling to the road allows you to really let the bike go, and the supple rubber gives plenty of feedback too.
Ritchey has gone inverse with the tread on its Alpine JB WCS Stronghold tyres to create a tyre that grips on light gravel and rough sections of broken country lane while also offering a smooth ride if you want to get a shift on on the tarmac. A very impressive all-round tyre choice indeed.
If you're wondering, 'JB' stands for Jobst Brandt, an engineer and author who was a big influence on Tom Ritchey. Brandt wrote the seminal book on wheelbuilding, The Bicycle Wheel, designed some of the very first electronic bike computers for Avocet, led epic rides in the Santa Cruz mountains that were famous for disregarding the traditional attachment of road cyclists to Tarmac, and spent his summers exploring the minor roads of the Alps, hence Alpine in the name of these tyres.
Brandt was also an advocate for inverted-tread tyres for dirt riding. In the days before website forums he was a prolific poster on the Usenet cycling groups where he detailed a press launch for Avocet's inverted-tread mountain bike tyres in which they proved faster in timed tests. Brandt claimed that finding was glossed over by one of the magazines and not reported at all by the others. We like to think he'd be pleased to see the idea return in these tyres.
The Panaracer T-Serv PT Folding tyres are intended for urban city use. We found them to be swift-rolling, comfortable, dependable, middleweight all-rounders: the sort of tyres capable of inducing plenty of smiles and with scope for weekend touring. Puncture resistance and wet grip are both very good, and of course the width makes for decent bump handling if you're unable to avoid a fresh pothole.
Note: the 32mm version we liked is currently out of stock everywhere; link above goes to 35mm tyre
The Rene Herse (formerly known as Compass Cycles) Barlow Pass tyre is a tubeless-compatible (TC), ultra-supple tyre that delivers an astonishingly smooth and grippy ride. If your bike can't fit them, maybe you need a new bike. They're that good. Their width, puncture resistance and deep tread rubber make them especially suitable for winter, but they're fast and comfy enough to use year-round.
The Corsa Control G+ is the beefed-up version of Vittoria's well-respected Corsa G+. It's a great alternative to many winter-specific tyres, offering levels of rolling resistance and grip seen on your summer lightweights without compromising durability.
Compared to the standard Corsa G+ the Corsa Control G+ has a wider tread to protect the sidewalls, and the tread is 0.4mm thicker. There's a breaker belt beneath the tread too, to help reduce punctures. This extra bit of depth does mean the Corsa Control G+ feels firmer to ride than the equivalent Corsa G+ model so you lose a little of the comfort. The high thread count still makes these tyres much more comfortable than many designed for poor conditions. And we had no visits from the puncture fairy during our testing.
The Pirelli P Zero Velo and Velo 4S tyre marks a very impressive return to cycling for Pirelli after a half-century hiatus. This tyre is fast, comfortable and long lasting.
The Velo 4S is based on the same technology used to develop the standard Velo tyre that Jack reviewed earlier this year. That includes the company's own SmartNET Silica compound, 127tpi casing and construction in the Hutchinson factory in France. This 'winter' version uses a rubber compound that has been tweaked to improve wet weather grip, and there's extra siping along the top of the tyre, though we all know that such grooves make nada difference.
Pirelli has also increased the thickness of the tread, but underneath there is the same aramid fibre puncture-resistant belt as the regular tyre. This belt is only located underneath the tread and doesn't extend to the sidewalls. This does contribute to the low weight; at 250g this 28mm tyre isn't giving away much to the regular version it's based on, but it won't offer the rugged sidewall of some other tyres.
IRC might not be the most familiar tyre brand in the road bike market at the moment, but its Formula Pro Tubeless X-Guard road tyres offer exceptionally good performance, with easy tubeless installation and great durability. The price does put them at the top end of the tyre market, though.
The Formula Pro is the Japanese company's high-performance road bike tyre and this version gets added puncture protection. Underneath the tread is the X-Guard belt of cross-woven mesh fibres that boosts puncture protection by 47%, IRC's claim not ours, without compromising rolling resistance and performance.
You're going to need plenty of room in the frame for these 35mm snow and ice tyres and their steel spikes, but they're renowned for their grip on everything from snow to black ice. If you want a general-purpose winter tyre for your hybrid, crosser, or gravel/adventure bike, these are the way to go.
If you've got a mountain bike, or a gravel bike with lots and lots of room in the frame, and want to go completely hog-wild in the snow, take a look at the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro Evolution.
If you want a budget option, there's a Schwalbe Winter with fewer spikes in a 30mm width that might even fit many modern road bikes. They'll set you back about £40, and you can get away with just running a front studded tyre, though obviously a pair is better.
Previously known as the S-One, these 30mm all-rounders from Schwalbe live up to Schwalbe's billing as 'the special one'. They're light, fast and grippy, and thanks to Schwalbe's Tubeless Easy with Microskin feature, they mount tubeless with an ordinary track pump. If you can fit them, you should.
The Donnelly Strada LLGs are good, all-round winter training tyres. They're quick, comfortable and grip well at a competitive price. They roll smoothly too, though the 60 tpi versions we tested aren't quite as smooth as the same tyre in a 120 tpi casing, but they've proven hard-wearing.
Fast-rolling and capable of tackling bad road conditions and even venturing away from the tarmac, Panaracer's Gravel King tyres are a really good option for the winter with rugged durability and great traction.
Panaracer initially introduced the Gravel king as a 26mm tyre, but has kept up with the times, producing fatter versions as bikes have evolved to better cope with crummy roads, and to venture away from the Tarmac. The 32mm and 38mm versions are particularly stellar.
The Specialized All Condition Armadillo Elite II 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, 28 and 32mm widths are also available.
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 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.
Panaracer's Race D Evo 3 tyres feel confident in the turns and roll well enough, but don't appear to be wildly different to many other tyres with some kind of puncture resistance. Durability does seem very good, though.
The Evo 3s are an update to the Evo 2s tested on road.cc back in 2015 – the price is the same and the weight comparable too. The Evo 3 also gets the same 'hard in the middle, soft on the edge' tread compound which Panaracer is calling ZSG Dual Compound. The main difference with the Evo 3s is the way Panaracer is doing the puncture protection – something it calls 'Protite'. Rather than having a separate breaker strip layer in the tyre, the puncture protection is incorporated into the tread rubber. Panaracer claims this increases puncture protection by 25% and reduces weight.
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.
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.
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 280g for the 28mm version 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.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.