Thursday, June 20th, 2019

On Tyres (Tires): 700 x 23/25 Road Tyres & Thoughts

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FiammanteBuying Road Tyres is probably the second most subjective thing after buying saddles for a bike.

There are all sorts of attributes and price ranges.. so for the purposes of this post I want to focus on Road bike tyres for race bikes. This means that the size of the tyres will be between 700×22 and 700×25, typically 700×23.

There are several brands that lead this category of tyres (in no particular order):

  • Continental
  • Specialized
  • Michelin
  • Vredestein
  • Vittoria
  • Bontrager
  • Schwalbe
  • Hutchinson

There are probably more, but these are the main ones in the market and in your average bike store. Within these brands the price ranges are typically (in UK pounds) between 10-60. The difference in this price range includes:

Folding vs. Wire Bead – Wirebead is cheaper and heavier and can’t fold. Cheaper tyres are generally non-folding, and are generally easier to put on.

Tubular vs. Clincher – Unless you are really willing to fuss about with your equipment and have money to blow, don’t bother with Tubulars. Clinchers are the typical thing you find in most stores, they use inner tubes. Tubulars supposedly feel better, roll faster, and can be replaced quicker than a clincher (if they’ve been pre-streched and pre-glued), but frankly, you need expensive wheels, they aren’t necessarily easy to find in your average bike store, you have to carry a whole tyre (the tyre has the inner tube sown inside) with you, and you need to muck around with glue. If the glue fails or if the tyre wasn’t glued right to the wheel, you run the risk of it coming off on a corner.. not good.

Threads per Inch (TPI) count“This is a common spec for tires. The higher the TPI number, the thinner and more flexible the tire fabric is. Thin-wall (high TPI) tires tend to be lighter and have lower rolling resistance, but they’re more easily damaged by road hazards.” – http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_tp-z.html

Puncture Protection – kevlar or other layer between the base layer (carcass) and the rubber. Can vary in thickness and how far around the tyre it goes. Doesn’t mean your tyre is puncture proof.. Just postpones the inevitable.

Construction Quality – This is kind of hard to assess visually, but effectively it is how often the tyres fail due to poor construction. I’ve had some fail on me, nothing to do with punctures.

Rubber compounds – Dictate wear and tear as well as rolling resistance

All these variables will affect the feel of a bike ranging from slippery-when-wet to fast-and-grippy to bomb-proof and harsh. This is where things get subjective.. you may want a tyre that is slightly less fast, but that you don’t have to worry about puncturing..  For example, let’s say you wanted to get decent winter (rugged) tyres… all the brands have models that kind of fit into that role. They will generally be a bit heavier and slower than a summer racing tyre due to the beefier puncture protection and perhaps sidewall protection. Some may have a sticker rubber which would wear out faster in a dry hot summer day as well as perhaps slow you down a bit (but I am too slow to notice the difference). Below is a quick list of models per brand (I haven’t used all of them) that would fall into the ‘winter’ category:

  • Continental – Gatorskins and 4Seasons
  • Michelin – Krylion Carbon
  • Vredestein – Fiammante DuoComp
  • Vittoria – All of the models that end in ‘Tech’ + their Open Pave
  • Bontrager – Hardcase
  • Schwalbe – Durano, Durano Plus, Blizzard
  • Hutchinson – Intensive and Fusion 2
  • Specialized – Armadillo

Alternatively, you might want to blow some cash on some fast summer tyres and maybe you only use them on a circuit where there are no potholes and glass on the ground.. you may get away with a lightweight, low puncture protection tyre in that case.

That said.. here are some tyres I’ve tried:

Michelin Krylion Carbon – These tyres are for me the perfect balance between training, racing, cost, and durability. They’re not expensive, but they last quite a long time, survived some amazing pot-holes, cuts, and road crap, and although they don’t feel as fast as the Conti 4000s below, they are good enough.

8.5/10

Continental GP 4000s – These tyres are fast. They feel good. They perform in all conditions at a level that I feel is better than any of the other tyres I’ve tried so far. However, they are not rugged. First, I had one blow out a sidewall and second I had one that ripped apart at the seam (I think it was a defect). Their puncture proofing is limited to the tread area, so sidewalls are susceptible to pinches and or other kinds of exotic flats. I recommend these, but for summer or racing. They’re not cheap to be replacing often. By the way, do not confuse the 4000s with the older 4000. there ‘s’ at the end of the 4000s is a different model, not the plural version of 4000.

Here is a very good review and comparison of various tyres where the GP4000s comes out victorious.

I currently have this tyre on my race bike.

9/10

Continental GP 4Seasons – These are also not cheap. However, they do seem to perform well enough. I did get a flat on them the very first time I used them, making me feel that perhaps they weren’t as rugged as I thought, but they then were relatively trouble free until I had a long stopping skid that wore the tyre down to the core. They felt good riding, if not a bit harsh, but corner well.

8/10

Specialized All Conditions Pro – These came with one of my bikes when I bought it. They had a nice color scheme (red, white, black). They feel nice, but are not durable. I wouldn’t buy them if they hadn’t come for on my bike for free. Big gash only after a few rides in the summer.

6/10

Specialized Armadillo – These things are bomb-proof. If you want something that isn’t going to give you problems, this is it. However, in exchange, you will have one of the toughest tyres to put on, one of the harshest rides on the planet, and one of the ugliest tyres on your bike. Their cost/benefit ratio makes them worth it though if you commute or just don’t want the hassle of changing tyres with cold hands. I don’t use them anymore because I found the weight and harshness of the ride annoying.

9/10 (for what they are made for, ruggedness)

Vittoria Zaffiro Pro – I don’t have a complete opinion on these just yet as I just got them. They were cheap and highly recommended. My test ride so far has shown them to feel nice and supple. Let’s see how they hold up in the long run and in wet weather.

Update: These tyres cut up like sliced cheese. They also punctured way too easily. I gave up on them and removed them.

6.5/10

Vredestein Fiammante DuoComp – Again, just got these… cheapest from this brand (20 pounds), ride is not so supple though, and I had some fishtailing going on in my rear tyre whilst riding in the wet. So far not impressed, but it hasn’t been long enough and they are still bedding in.

Update: These bikes turned out to be quite hard-wearing and decent. They make good dry-weather training tyres.. they just seem a bit slippy in the wet.

7.5/10

Michelin Pro 3 – These tyres failed to impress me. Basically, they are Michelin’s equivalent of Conti’s 4000s. However, the ride felt ‘bouncy’ and they lasted me for such a short period (flats and cuts) that I was just not willing to pay the high ticket for them to give them a second chance. Just not impressive considering the alternatives.

7/10 – Fast, but too fragile for me

Vredestein Fortezza Tricomp – Just bought them and tried them out a few times. Wow… I felt slow. Really.. maybe I’m becoming more sensitive to rolling resistance on tyres, but they felt noticeably slower than my GP4000s set. I decided to read around and found someone else that had a similar experience. I’ll give them another shot later, but for now I’ve taken them off my bike to try other tyres. No comment on durability yet.

TBD

Schwalbe Durano and Durano Plus – I’m combining this review since I could only get stock of one of each, so I put the more protected Durano S on the rear tyre of my winter bike and the Durano on the front. So far, these things have been bullet proof through the shards of glass and flits around the Richmond park area. Grip feels decent, and ride isn’t uncomfortable. I can recommend them as durable training tyres.

9.5/10 (for what they are made for, ruggedness, whilst remaining comfortable)

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