Tyre choice has a huge influence on your ride - most road riders prioritise puncture resistance and grip in the wet over winter and low rolling resistance come summer
Sorry to shatter your dreams – but if you’ve not already worked it out, then someone has to bring the bad news: the colder months are fast approaching and it’s soon time for UK riders to roll out the winter armoury.
That includes winter tyres, which are typically designed to decrease the number of punctures that would otherwise hit the pause button on your rides, and provide better grip in the wet.
If you’re outside the UK, or for whatever other reason want to prioritise the characteristics of summer tyres, you’ll be looking for a more supple compound which carriers a lower rolling resistance.
Wider tyres have become more popular across the seasons. Where once 23mm rubber was the uniform issue ‘choice’, now 25mm is the norm but many riders go for 28mm to better maximise the added cornering grip and comfort on offer from this once scandalous choice.
Paired with the right rim, wider tyres can be more aerodynamic, too. However, it is important to check the capacity of your frame before investing.
We’ve rounded up a selection of the tyres that we’d recommend. With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Puncture resistant road bike tyres for winter
Specialized Roubaix Pro road bike tyre
Balancing ride quality with puncture protection and weather proofing is an art, and we feel Specialized has cracked it with the Roubaix Pro.
The 120 TPI count sets it out as an endurance option, and the compound used is the brand’s own in-house ‘Gripton’.
Bead-to-bead Endurant Casing provides puncture protection which is lighter than the Kevlar and Nylon used elsewhere, and this is paired with BlackBelt technology (a strip of woven material running under the tread).
Pirelli Cinturato road bike tyre
Designed to be hardy – suiting everything from gravel rides to commutes – these come in four widths from 26mm to 35mm. We found they felt swift enough on the road and coped well with rocky off-road sections.
Pirelli’s Smartnet Silica tech offers grip in the wet whilst Armour Tech fends off punctures with extra sidewall protection.
We’ve yet to get a pair on long term test – but you can check out our first impressions here. UK availability is limited at the moment – so keep your eyes peeled for these later in the year.
Schwalbe Durano road bike tyre
The Durano is a longstanding offer from Shwalbe and they’ll be a longlasting set of shoes for your road bike.
The Durano’s roll well for a winter tyre, and we found a slight give in the bead made life easier for our thumbs getting them on the wheel.
While the RaceGuard protection belt made for a harsher ride than the other tyres on test, we were confident that these wouldn’t easily puncture and didn’t compromise grip in any way.
Continental GP 4 Season road bike tyre
These are a mix between Continental’s GP4000S race tyre and it’s heavy-duty GatorSkin.
They’re tougher than the GP4000S, yet a softer compound means they’re faster rolling than the GatorSkin, giving great versatility and durability.
We also find the grip in the wet to be much better on the 4 Season than the Gator Skin – they even managed to keep us upright when we unwittingly rode through an oil spill.
Excellent puncture and sidewall protection means riders should get good mileage from these tyres without puncturing.
Vittoria Zaffiro Pro road tyre
The Zaffiro tyre from Vittoria is not a ‘high end’ option – but it is exceptionally durable and a tough casing means that we’v enjoyed many a puncture free long ride aboard these.
They’re also significantly cheaper than the more supple options out there – the trade off is that they don’t roll quite so quickly and feel a little bit more clunky in the corners – but if you’re not targeting speed on your winter rides, that shouldn’t be too great an issue.
They come in three sizes: 23mm, 25mm and 28mm.
The fastest road bike tyres for summer riding
Continental GP4000 S II road bike tyres
A hugely popular road race tyre, the GP4000S II is a tyre that provides excellent rolling resistance as well as being puncture resistant enough to survive the perils of UK roads.
Our testing also shows that it performs well in terms of aerodynamics when fitted to a wider rim.
Panaracer Race A Evo 3 road bike tyres
A good value option that we found provided a fast ride thanks to low rolling resistance whilst still offering an adequate barrier against sharp objects.
Hutchinson Fusion 3 Kevlar ProTech road bike tyres
A light and puncture resistant tyre, that impressed us with its expert level of grip. A good quality and high performance tyre, though the price tag is a little dearer than we’d like to see.
Michelin Pro4 ENDURANCE V2 road bike tyres
Looking for a comfortable tyre that will suit long days in the saddle over questionable surfaces? These tyres from Michelin could be the answer. We loved the cushioning of the 28mm version (23mm and 25mm also available), but also felt that there wasn’t too greater speed penalty.
Puncture resistance and grip were good, too.
Bontrager R4 320 road bike tyres
A notably fast tyre, this option from Bontrager proved to be one of the quickest rubber slicks we’ve ever tried. They roll well, and corner well. Just don’t expect them to be long lasting, despite the price tag…
Vredestein Fortezza Senso All Weather Clincher road bike tyres
A tyre that performs well in gritty, wet weather conditions, offering plenty of puncture protection whilst still ticking the boxes when it comes to speed, ride quality and grip.
Challenge Elite Open road bike tyres
Very delicate tyres, that might not provide the greatest level of protection against punctures, but will roll quickly. Fits tightly on the rim, so if you do flat, allow plenty of time for repair…
Michelin Power Competition road bike tyres
A replacement for the Michelin Pro4 Service Course, these are quick tyres that saved us from punctures.
We didn’t feel they rode as well in the wet as others, so perhaps not the best choice if you’re expecting summer showers.
Vittoria Open Corsa G+ road bike tyres
Without shadow of a doubt, a tyre for racing. The G+ stands for Graphene, which Vittoria have incorporated into the tread of this tyre.
We did find that the width of this tyre was greater than listed, and we did find that it seemed to be a bit of a magnet for road debris. However, it’s super fast and provided plenty of resistance to punctures.
Types of road bike tyre
There are three types of bike tyres on the market – clinchers, tubulars and tubeless – they each have their pros and cons:
Clincher road bike tyres
First up is the clincher, the choice of the majority of road riders. This features a bead around the outside of the tyre which hooks under a lip on the rim, with a separate inner tube running inside. The main advantage of this system is convenience, with the inner tube being easy to change in the event of a puncture.
Tubular tyres road bike tyres
Next is the tubular tyre. With this design the inner tube is sewn into the tyre, with the whole thing then attached to the wheel using glue or rim tape. This is the choice of a lot of racers due to the generally lower rolling resistance and weight, but can be impractical when you puncture.
Tubeless road bike tyres
Finally you’ve got tubeless tyres. These are similar to clinchers, but with the tyre sitting firmly enough against the rim to hold the tyre’s pressure, eliminating the need for an inner tube all together. The tyre is then filled with sealant, which plugs cuts or gashes in the rubber.
This system greatly reduces the chance of punctures, although the snug fit that is required between the tyre and the rim can make tubeless tyres fiddly to fit.
The puncture protection offered by tubeless tyres is very impressive. To see how impressive watch the video below where we hammer nails into a tyre!
Rolling resistance vs puncture protection in road bike tyres
The three main categories to look out for are: puncture proofing, the tyres’ rolling ability and grip levels. Whilst in an ideal world we’d have all three, in reality we have to limit one to increase another.
In order to boost puncture protection, manufacturers will usually add an extra layer – a Kevlar or Vectran breaker in most cases – to catch foreign objects before they reach the tube. The tougher these layers are, the heavier and more sturdy they’ll make the overall rubber – hence the trade off.
Ultimately, you need to decide what’s more important to you. Riders commuting on less than perfect road surfaces – especially during the winter – will mean you favour puncture protection, whilst a rider racing on a closed circuit may be more concerned with rolling resistance and grip.
Road bike tyre width
We have a couple of things to consider before we go in-depth. A standard road wheel size is 700c with the more common options of 23, 25 or 28mm widths.
Traditionally, 23mm widths are put on race bikes, 25mm for training and 28mm widths for a mixture of hard and rough roads.
Indeed with modern technology allowing for better tyre construction, we’ve seen a definite shift in how different width tyres are used. For example most road riders now like to use 25mm tyres as they handle better in the corners and can lower rolling resistance by dampening out uneven surfaces.
Generally speaking, the narrower the tyres the less comfort is on offer, with decreased rolling resistance providing a faster experience for dry, summer cycling.
Wider tyres can deliver better comfort; puncture protection and grip, mainly at the cost of weight, and are better for the wintry roads.
Adjusting road bike tyres for the season
Summer brings good weather, clean roads and nicer bikes so it seems ludicrous that we would stick a slow rolling and heavy-duty tyre on our bikes.
If a fast racing tyre is your thing you’ll be expected to have lowered protection from punctures with a thinner puncture protection belt to help reduce weight and rolling resistance, which will help that fast feeling we all desire.
However, come the colder months many riders will opt for winter road bike tyres to counter the associated bad weather and gritty harsh roads, to save them from being victims of the dreaded flint or glass puncture.
Larger tyres allow for lower pressures that help absorb the bumps, increasing grip and comfort too. Watch out for mudguard clearance though as larger tyres could be limited if you have minimal clearance.
Choosing road bike tyres for your terrain
If you commute in town – you’re likely to need a more heavy duty option. Broken glass and general debris mean you’re way more likely to slit your tyres.
Zip isn’t everything here so you’ll want to look out for a hardwearing tyre too that will give you some longevity for the money you outlay.
Road bike tyres and price
What are we really paying for? In basic terms we pay for technology in the rubber, quality of the construction and weight.
Cheaper options tend to lack in grip, puncture protection and are usually supplied with a heavier, steal bead. Rigid steal beaded tyres, other than being harder to transfer around off the bike, are heavier than folding alternatives.
Though cheaper, they can also be a pain to put on and pull off the wheel, mostly at the expense of your thumbs!
Although you may feel that a cheaper option is ok for you, some tyre manufacturers ensure their compounds work well in a good range of temperatures, meaning either grip, protection or longevity works better all year round.
It may be a big outlay but might pay to save money in the long run.
Tyre wear and tear
Keeping an eye on your tread is important too. Not only for the life of the tyre, but watching out for stuck glass or flints that haven’t penetrated just yet.
Ideally, cleaning your bike regularly and giving your tyres a quick once over before each outing could save you a puncture during your ride, unless you pick something up en route of course.
Some tyres come with wear markers. These can be small dotted grooves in the middle of the tyre itself that will slowly disappear overtime. If you have no wear markers, you may need to think about replacing the tyres.
The fastest road bike tyres tested
In addition to field testing out on the road, engineer and elite rider, Dan Bigham has helped Cycling Weekly calculate the rolling resistance of the different sets of road bike tyres. The lower the rolling resistance, the faster the tyre and the difference can be huge.
To do this, each set of tyres were ridden on rollers, allowing us to record the speed achieved for a given power output. For consistency, the tyres were all inflated to 100psi using a digital gauge and ridden on flat rollers.
For the test we exclusively used new tyres and a PowerTap hub was calibrated and used for power measurement.
Each tyre was ridden at 280W for 5 minutes to allow it it warm up, whereupon they were ridden at a constant power of 300W for 5 minutes.
To ensure even weight distribution, the rider maintained a constant position on the hoods and the weight of the bike and rider was recorded before each test.
Any slight differences in weight or power output were factored into the final calculations. The Fit. Files were put into Matlab and the inertia was corrected for each tyre.
The results of different tyres are tabulated below.
|Tyre||Max PSI||Weight (g)||Width (mm) (measured)||TPI||Watts at 40kph*||Rolling ranking|
|Michelin Power Race||116||217||26||180||35.2||3|
|Vittoria Corsa G+||145||239||27||320||35.1||2|
|Schwalbe One Tubeless||130||231||26||127||35.6||4|
|Mitas Syrinx Racing Pro||120||245||25||127||43.6||9|
|Vredestein Fortezza Senso||130||237||25.5||120||45.1||10|
*Travelling at 40kph with system weight of 85kg
** For the rolling resistance test all tyres were 25mm apart from Hutchinson which were 23mm
As you’ll know, it doesn’t matter how well you prepare, you’ll inevitably get a puncture… there, we’ve said the P word!
In your pocket or seatpack you should carry at least a set of tyre levers, puncture repair kit, two tubes, a mini-pump and a business card just incase you have a complete blow out, it does happen.