By Stefan Abram
A puncture-proof tyre is a great option for added reliability when commuting or leisure riding.
Fixing a puncture is a pain at the best of times but are all the worse when you’re trying to get somewhere on time, or just wanting to enjoy a ride without the threat of deflation looming over you.
We're sorry to admit this, but a pneumatic tyre will never be truly puncture-proof - there will always be some chance that you will sustain a puncture. The alternative is to go down the route of the solid tyres, such as those offered by Tannus.
However, toady’s pneumatic tyres can be constructed so as to be effectively puncture-proof and the bone-shaking ride that solid tyres deliver means that in the vast majority of cases a robust pneumatic tyre will be the best rubber for the job.
If you are only cycling short distances around town, opting for the absolute toughest tyre may well be your best choice. But if your rides are a little longer, you may well benefit from factoring speed and comfort into the equation.
There are some tyres that, although not the toughest, are nevertheless still really robust while allowing you to zip along at a fair pace.
Best puncture-proof tyres
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Specialized Nimbus Armadillo Reflect puncture-proof tyre
Specialized’s Armadillo casing has a reputation for fending off flats. The durometer (hardness) of the tread compound comes in at 70a, which is relatively hard. This has the effect of making the tyre more durable but sacrifices some grip.
With a reflective strip around the sidewalls of the tyre, side on visibility is greatly increased. This is of particular benefit for evening commuters as it increases your visibility to drivers coming into a roundabout.
Schwalbe Marathon Original Green Guard Rigid City puncture-proof tyre
An extremely versatile tyre, it comes in the standard 700c, 650b, and 26 inch options, as well as 20 inch and 16 inch for folding bikes. The sidewalls have been strengthened in the latest iteration, thus they are more resistant to cracking at low pressures.
Increasing their range of use even further is that the main sizes have been tested and approved for e-bikes up to 50 kph and all sizes are good for e-bikes up to 25kph. Aiding its puncture protection is a ‘GreenGaurd’ layer, made of recycled latex products and 3mm thick.
Continental CONTACT Speed City puncture-proof tyre
Contrary to other puncture-proof tyres, Continental has opted for a ‘skinwall’ sidewalls rather than a ‘gumwall’. This reduces the weight and also makes the tyre more supple and increases comfort. The trade-off of this is that it becomes more important to maintain at least the minimum tyre pressure and scuffing curbs is best avoided.
The Micro diamond tread pattern is shared by Continental’s Competition World Tour tubular tyre, and provides grip on loose surfaces and lower rolling resistance. Two anti-puncture layers are placed under the tread and reflective sidewalls are also an option.
Michelin ProTek Max City puncture-proof tyre
This tyre certainly isn’t a lightweight, but it is a durable option that is also rated as e-bike ready and is most certainly durable. In addition to the standard 700c, 26-inch options, 24 and 20-inch versions are available as well.
All come with reflective stripes on the sidewalls and the puncture protection is provided by a 5mm thick strip running under the tread.
Bontrager hard case ultimate reflective puncture-proof tyres
With a more aggressive tread pattern than others on our list, this is a tyre better suited for mixed terrain riding, such as along canal towpaths. The sidewalls have been strengthened to better resist pinch punctures, but this will come at the expense of a degree of comfort compared to those with more supple side walls.
A reflective sidewall strip aids visibility, while the 60a durometer rubber stands to offer a little more grip, although it won’t be quite as durable as others.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
A more road bike oriented option from Schwalbe, the Duranos have proved their reliability over many a winter. Unlike some other tyres, these did not present a struggle when mounting them on the wheels.
Their narrow width combined with the puncture resistant qualities did make for a somewhat harsher ride, however.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The combination of speed with puncture protection make this a good choice for those who don’t want to be slowed by having to repair a flat or by the tyres themselves.
Coming in a huge variety of different sizes, with 700c, 650b and 26-inch options, these present a versatile offering.
Vittoria Zaffiro Pro
Best road bike tyre for out and out puncture protection
The Zaffiro tyre from Vittoria is not a 'high end' option - but it is exceptionally durable and a tough casing means that we've 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.
What to look for in a puncture-proof tyre
Wider tyres can be run at lower pressures tan narrower tyres without increasing the risk of punctures. This can make them more comfortable and gives you more grip, useful if you are an all-weather cyclist.
You should make sure that you don’t go too wide for you bike though, as rubbing will damage your tyres and can damage your frame - as well as slowing you down.
Tubeless provides many benefits, decreasing weight, decreasing rolling resistance and increasing resistance to punctures as they can self-seal.
However, tubeless sealants do dry out (with the exception of Finish Line’s offering, but that has had a mixed reception at best) and this can happen surprisingly quickly in hot weather. Orange Seal themselves say in the right (or rather, wrong) conditions sealant can dry up in as little as a month.
With the sealant dried out, the tyres become significantly more vulnerable to punctures. For a commuting or town bike where simplicity and reliability are most important, the need to keep topped up on sealant makes tubeless tyres as less compelling option in this area. Although heavier and with greater rolling resistance, a puncture-proof tyre will won’t need a second thought once it is set up.
Puncture protection versus speed, comfort, and grip
There is always a trade-off between puncture protection against speed, comfort and grip. If you want truly puncture-proof tyres, solid tyres are the choice for you. But for most people, the sacrifices are just too great.
There are pneumatic tyres that are effectively puncture-proof, significantly faster, and comfier. For the overwhelming majority of people these represent a far better compromise.
But it is always going to be a very individual choice, with the right tyre for you depending on your unique combination of road surface and preferences.
Threads per inch
Rubber coats the outer of tyres, but beneath that are the threads that make up the carcass. Some manufacturers opt to use a smaller number of thicker threads, whilst others use a greater number of thinner threads.
A higher number of Threads Per Inch (TPI), will make the tyre more supple. However, the thinner threads are not as robust and are damaged more easily than their thicker alternatives. A tyre with a moderate TPI count makes the best compromise for a robust tyre.
Tyres will generally enlist a variety of compounds for different performance enhancements. Along the centre of the tyre, a harder compound tends to be used, being longer lasting and more resistant to punctures.
The compounds on the side tend to be softer, offering more grip in the corners. This part of the tyre doesn’t spend as much time in contact with the ground, so wear is less of an issue.
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