Continental's Contact Plus tyres are tough and portly but surprisingly fast options for everything the concrete jungle can chuck at you – provided, of course, your frame's clearances can cope.
These days it seems bigger is better: the Contact Plus is offered in five 700C widths, from 28 to 47mm. I've been testing the 37-622 (listed as 35mm on the side of the tyre) and 42-622. I was just about able to park the former in my cross-inspired fixed-gear build's rear triangle without mudguards – increasingly less of a problem for disc braked tourers and gravel bikes, but double check if you're riding a more traditional rim-brake build.
In light of this and their spec, I wasn't surprised to discover the 42mm offerings weighed 998g apiece – not outlandish by genre standards, but still heavier than the seriously heavy duty 26x2in models presently adorning my Univega.
Their size and the wire beads do mean, for the most part, they're a doddle to mount, with directional arrows to help. You might want a single lever to scoop them aboard deep-section hoops, otherwise it's a tool-free affair, requiring just a pair of strong thumbs.
Belt 'n' braces
Comparisons with Schwalbe's Marathons are perhaps inevitable. These are rated 7 for puncture/cut prevention and I wasn't surprised to discover they use a thick rubber layer beneath the tread – just like the Schwalbes. This is the main point of defence, flexing and pushing any sharps out with a capillary action, though they also employ a Kevlar strip beneath for added protection, should anything sneak past.
Hitting the mother of all potholes, with a nine-inch nail lurking beneath, while hauling the kitchen sink, might do it, otherwise you'd be very unlucky to flat. Deliberately riding through thorns, shards of glass, tacks and anything else that usually has our senses screaming with alarm has made no impression to date. There's not even a nick in the casings.
Operating pressures of 50-73psi for the 42mm, and 56-85psi for the 35mm aren't anything out of the ordinary and give some scope for additional grip during really wet rides or a slippery winter. Generally speaking I've run them around the 70psi mark, which has catered for most scenarios. Acceleration isn't on par with a big slick, but they aren't difficult to coax up to speed and keep at a decent tempo.
I've been happy enough letting rip at 35mph along local 1-in-4s, and pushing them hard into corners. Wet manhole covers/similar ironworks call for a bit of common sense, but railway crossings, cattle grids and so on haven't taxed them – or spooked me.
The big pocket of air guarantees a smooth-as-you-like ride over lumpy tarmac and takes the sting out of those occasional unavoidable holes and ruts.
Something like the Maxxis Roamers are a notch or two quicker, especially on the open road, but the Contis have felt a good deal more dependable. This is a consideration for touring and long, dark commutes, or when riding with children, say on the tagalong, where reliability is paramount.
The water-channelling grooves do a decent job of flushing wet stuff out, taking muck, silt and flints away too. That said, it doesn't hurt to tickle them clean with a brush when treating bikes to a spruce-up.
So long as you're not going too mad, they're surprisingly comfortable off-road too – dirt roads, moderate forest trails and towpaths – great if you want to explore.
As an aside, when it comes to lights I'm a hub dynamo kind of guy, so I was slightly disappointed by the lack of dynamo track – the sidewalls are certainly stout enough. However, they do sport the familiar and extremely extrovert reflective pin-stripe.
Although there are faster 42mm tyres around, the weight penalty and more pronounced rolling resistance isn't going to be apparent on a heavily laden expedition bike, tandem, or off-road on an adventure type build for that matter. The 35mm section is noticeably quicker, much easier to mount, and my choice if you wanted a super-dependable four-seasons road-biased tyre.
Versatile, dependable and surprisingly quick-rolling big-section tyres
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Continental Contact Plus Tyres
Size tested: 42-622 (998g), 37-622
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?
Continental says: "For E-bikes, we have combined the SafetySystem Breaker with a highly elastic material. The result is an extremely puncture and cut resistant casing which, thanks to its high elasticity, gives especially low rolling resistance, saving battery power and the environment. The breaker also meets the demands of the higher speed e-bikes, of up to 50 km/h. The breaker is also adapted for the higher acceleration torque of e-bikes as well as the faster cornering speeds. The specialist tyre for fast e-bikes and rental bikes."
My feelings: Though this may be the target audience, the Contact Plus make a very fast rolling, highly invulnerable option for heavy duty touring and road biased duties on a cross/adventure/gravel build. Although by my reckoning and in the latter context, the 35mm section is superior to the 42mm.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Also from Continental: "In the course of the development of the new CONTACT Plus, a total of nine tyres has been compared with a competitor's tyre model in a susceptibility to piercing (blade) test. The Zedler Institute (Zedler – Institut für Fahrradtechnik und -Sicherheit GmbH, Teinacher Straße 51, D-71634 Ludwigsburg. Testing on 16.12.2016) underlined that the CONTACT Plus would perform 'distinctly more resistant' against the damages by pieces of glass and comparable items than the competitor's tyre."
The 37mm section is much sprightlier than its 42mm sibling, and my default for gravel/cross bikes, although the latter would be my preferred option for a heavily laden/rough stuff tourer and/or really poorly surfaced roads.
Seem pretty bombproof thus far...
Hefty, but both roll surprisingly efficiently.
The 42mm sections require more effort to coax up to speed but roll very efficiently without too much drag. Both widths offer sublime "magic carpet" ride over poorly surfaced roads and less challenging dirt roads/trails or towpath.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Continental Contact Plus tyres are far more versatile than their city tag might suggest. Surprisingly sprightly, both sections handle impeccably in all contexts, especially the wet, and to date have resisted every sharp I could encounter, while offering a remarkably refined passage over pock-marked, pot-holed streets and moderate trails too.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Pretty much everything, given the design brief.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not a deal breaker but a dynamo track seems a missed opportunity.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Versatile and surprisingly fast-rolling tyres for commuting, touring, trekking and e-bikes.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)