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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.
My first thought when fitting the Gator Hardshells was that when I meet a mate in the morning who holds a first cat racing license, will I get dropped on the main road thrash? These are described as tyres for fast commuting, fast touring and training. Will they grip the road on the half mile one in 5 climb just outside my front gate when I get out of the saddle? Will they stick to the gritty wet road when I want to slow down on the other side of that hill? What will they be like in freefall down the big dipper hill on my commute where 50-55 mph is normal? Then there is the A4 into Bristol, a quick and un-technical route crawling with commuter drivers, innumerable traffic lights and bus lanes littered with tiny shards of broken glass specially placed there by some all powerful bicycle hater to put cuts in your new tyres and puncture you if you are working to a deadline that day or just have to get home by something O’clock.
Where better to start with a folding tyre than to see if it does actually fold without getting a permanent kink, damaging the bead or delaminating the tread. I stretched it out like a rubber band, took a loop and folded it over on itself, keeping both sides parallel and completely opened out flat. The result was surprisingly good, a very neat and tidy package with no excessive kinking or stress. No problem keeping this in a back pocket with a rubber band around to stop it springing apart, or in an under the saddle pouch.
The Gator Hardshell looks a bit plain from a distance but a closer look will lift the spirits as it's a nicely detailed tyre. In terms of tread pattern this is close to slick, with a discreet tread pattern towards both edges, logically where I would want it. There is a mesh pattern on the sidewalls and a fairly large Continental and Gator Hardshell decal.
For those of you who like to know the technical stuff, I apologise but I didn’t think that I would just copy it out, I prefer to actually try something and then tell you whether it did the advertised job or not. However, on the technical front, these have a super-duper puncture resistant band buried inside which the manufacturers have translated into “Poly-X-Breaker” and “Duraskin” and the casing is 3 layers thick folded back and forth on itself. The layering extends to the sidewalls, which in most other tyres it does not, all in all durability and performance combine very well to make an exceptionally good training, touring and fast commuting tyre. Sizes available are 23mm, 25mm and 28mm.
Time to unite tyre and rim, sometimes a tricky operation. On a pair of Mavic Aksiums the first side went on with a good strong twisting rolling action and just made it without the need for a lever, in went the tube and the second bead rolled over the edge of the rim without the need for a lever either. Whether I could do the same with a dirty and wet tyre at the roadside or with cold hands is another matter. The tyres tested are 25mm, that’s wider than my usual 21mm or 23mm choices but all the same they don’t look excessively lardy. Having inflated these to 110 psi they cleared the seat tube on my Cinelli Super Corsa training bike so there should be no problem fitting all but a fag paper clearance frame.
My commute is 16 miles each way with 1200 feet of climbing, nasty muddy country lanes with gravel down the middle for 3 miles before I reach the main road, in my view the perfect testing ground for any tyre where the manufacturers make claims beyond round and rubbery.
The steep hill proved no problem, despite the wet and muddy road surface, the descent although steep is dead straight and there were no problems slowing rapidly for the bend at the bottom. The next test came four miles later, Pennyquick Hill a long and steep descent with high speed traffic and a cross wind as well as two minor junctions at the bottom, where someone might not judge your speed on a bike correctly and chance their arm. I let go, freewheeling at 46mph and happily in control. The the bit that I was dreading came next, meeting up with a beast on a bike for the full on through and off session to Bristol. This was, and I cannot lie, too difficult to sustain, the flat sections were okay at 28mph, the long drags slightly up hill felt very hard, not that it is ever easy. I got dropped. Of course I blame the tyres, who wouldn’t? My pride wouldn’t permit me to admit that I’m just not good enough anymore. The only thing left that I can blame and that won’t argue back is the tyres. That might be wrong or unfair, but one of us is at fault and it’s not me, is it?
So they're not quick enough for racing but if I was planning on a serious fast touring holiday it would be hard to find something else this good to rely on. They should reward you with exceptionally long life, puncture resistance, a very comfortable ride at speed and not least, given my findings and the manufacturers claims, very good value for money over the life of the tyre. The folding version is of course a luxury that you must decide whether you want to pay a few more pounds for.
Not bad at all. If you are tired of throwing money at tyres for training these are quick and reliable. The 25mm I found a little too bouncy/comfortable. I would opt for the 23mm.
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Make and model: Continental Gator Hardshell 700x25
Size tested: 25mm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Aimed at the fast commuter who demands speed and puncture resistance then a fastish, reliable, long life tyre, better than many. For the road man a perfect winter training tyre, or for the audax rider or high speed tourist, just what you need. I found it exactly as described.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Seems to resist cuts very well. I have ridden eight times over a mile long stretch where the hedges have been cut and where the thorns are lying on the road and still no damage. A fairly sticky rubber compound, corners nicely at speed.
Compared against the manufacturers claims, it does exactly what they said.
A softer ride than I am used to.
I haven't killed these tyres yet but if they continue to perform as advertised the price per mile might become very attractive.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They fold very neatly, resist punctures exceptionally well.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
They look very boring.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 46 Height: 6\\\' 2\\ Weight: 80 kg
I usually ride: Cinelli Super Corsa Ultegra My best bike is: Pinarello Paris Dura Ace
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, Tandem