A set of reliable and tough winter road tires are essential for enjoying the harder miles during the gloomy cold months.
Fixing a flat on the side of the road isn’t fun at the best of times, and when it’s 37°F / 3°C and raining sideways, it can be a day ruiner.
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The roads are generally dirtier in the winter months too, and the shoulders especially are littered with grit, meaning the probability of getting an unwanted puncture is higher than in the summer months.
So to help reduce the number of times we tend to a deflated tire in cold conditions, we’ve rounded up our tried and tested best winter road tires.
Better puncture protection comes at the cost of the speed enjoyed on summer tires, but still, it shouldn’t feel like you’re riding through molasses. The best modern winter tires are able to fend off the sharp objects and road debris without being an unacceptable drag on your ride.
A set of dedicated winter tires can also save you money. The harder wearing compound will last longer than a faster, but less robust, option.
Best winter tires for road cycling
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Michelin Pro4 Endurance winter tires
TPI: 3×110, Weight: 285g (28c), Widths: 23-28c
Coming in with top marks is Michelin’s winter offering. We were very impressed by how well these tires gripped in the corners and rolled on the straights.
Tested in the 28c option, they performed well in the Paris-Roubaix Challenge sportive, taking the edge off the impacts from the infamous pavé.
Only one puncture was suffered after about 1800mi / 3,000km of testing and, to be fair, it was an unusually large piece of road debris that proved to be the tire’s enemy.
Read more: Michelin Pro4 Endurance review
Specialized Roubaix Pro winter tires
TPI: 120, Weight: 300g (25/28c), Widths: 23-32c
With a range of size options, this is a winter tire that should fit the majority of needs. The parabolic profile aids with grip in the corners, making for confident descending.
Puncture resistance comes curtsey from its bead-to-bead Endurant casing. This is a lighter version of the Kevlar and Nylon used in Specialized’s toughest Armadillo tires, and Specialized now offers Roubaix Pro in a tubeless version too.
Rolling relatively quickly, the only downside we found of these tires comes from their weight, they are a little heafty by compared to its immediate competitors.
Read more: Specialized Roubaix Pro review
Panaracer Race A Evo 4 winter tires
TPI: 120, Weight: 245g (25c), Widths: 23-28
Over about 600mi / 1,000km of testing, there was not a single puncture, even when ridden on the tire-savaging cobbled and gravel paths. Rolling resistance was impressively low for an all-weather tire.
Thankfully, this upside isn’t at the expense of grip, for the rear wheel didn’t slip once, even when climbing 25 percent gradients. In the corners, there was never any cause for concern.
Read more: Panaracer Race A Evo 4 review
Hutchinson Fusion 5 All Season winter tires
TPI: 127, Weight: 204g (25c), Widths: 23-28c
The all-weather Fusion is a light, grippy, puncture-resistant tire, with the only downside being the cost. There were no cuts of note while on test, and no punctures and the bead snapped into place with ease on a number of different wheels.
Three different compounds of rubber make up the carcass of this tire; in the center is a harder durometer rubber, fending off cuts and lowering rolling resistance, while softer durometer rubber sits in the transition zone assisting general concerning. This is the softest compound is found on the shoulders and improves the grip in tight corners.
Read more: Hutchinson Fusion 5 All Season review
Continental Gatorskin winter tires
TPI: 3×60, Weight: 253g (25c), Widths: 23-32c
In attempting to bridge the gap between an all-out winter tire and a pure summer tire, the Gatorskins are neither the most robust nor the most supple—but then, they are not trying to be.
If more protection is needed a Hardshell version is available, but for many this intermediary between summer and winter will be a useful compromise. There is a huge variety of different versions on offer, from folding to wired, 23 to 32mm in 700c, as well as 650b and 26-inch options.
Read more: Continental Gatorskin review
Michelin Lithion 2 winter tires
TPI: 60, Weight: 235g (25c), Widths: 23-25c
Although these tires offered confident grip through the corners, we were left a little wanting when it came to steep, wet hills. You really need to keep pressure over the rear wheel to stop it from spinning out.
There were no punctures over the hundreds of miles that they were tested, and the Lithion 2 emerged from the glass-strewn streets of South London largely unscathed and holding air. However, they did prove a bit of a challenge to pop onto the rims when first setting up.
Read more: Michelin Lithion 2 review
Schwalbe Durano winter tires
TPI: 67, Weight: 410-530g, Widths: 23-28c
Relatively quick-rolling for a winter tire, the Schwalbe Duranos aren’t so tight you’ll be snapping tire levers and cursing invisible deities to get them on your rim.
Although the ride slightly harsher than some of the other tires on test, grip was not compromised, and they were resilient to punctures.
Read more: Schwalbe Durano review
What to look for in a winter tire for road cycling
Wider tires can be run at lower pressures, providing more grip and in-turn a more comfortable ride. They also tend to be a little more resistant to punctures. Although these are all valuable qualities in a winter tire, it is worth checking your bike’s clearances before sizing up to avoid any rubbing on the frame or mudguards.
Tubes or tubeless
Running tubeless does bring many benefits, less weight, better rolling resistance, the ability to run lower pressures, and to self-seal punctures. In some cases, this can make them a very compelling option, especially for amateur racers for whom a mid-race puncture spells the end of your day.
However, for winter riding, there are other considerations. With higher pressures of road tires, sealant (especially the thinner viscosity types) struggle so seal holes compared to a lower pressure system like in a cyclocross or mountain bike tire.
Even still, the chance of a puncture self-sealing is still quite high, making tubeless a great choice on a wheelset built for speed. But, when it comes to winter riding, prevention is better than cure and a traditional hard-wearing clincher setup delivers reliable performance.
There is also the cost to consider. Tubeless tires tend to be more expensive than their clincher cousins, so it can make economic sense to run a winter tire with tubes.
Speed versus puncture protection
Lower weight and lower rolling resistance will make you go faster but at the expense of puncture protection — there is always a compromise to be made. In the summer, the balance is going to be tipped in favor of speed, but puncture resistance won’t be completely forgone, for obvious reasons.
In the winter, when chasing seconds becomes of lesser importance, and the risk of punctures is greater, the scale tips the other way. But not completely. Although some may opt-out of solid tires, most of us will accept a small chance of punctures in return for the performance benefits of pneumatic tires, such as comfort, grip, and speed.
Threads per inch
The rubber on a tire is just the outer coating, beneath that are the threads that make up the carcass. Some tires use a smaller number of thicker threads, while others use a higher number of thinner threads.
With a higher number of Threads Per Inch (TPI), the tire tends to be more supple, but they are less robust and are damaged more easily; so a tire with a moderate TPI count is best suited for winter riding.
Tires will generally enlist a variety of compounds for different performance enhancements. Along the center of the tire, a harder compound tends to be used, being harder wearing and more resistant to punctures.
The compounds on the side tend to be softer, offering more grip when the bike is banked over in tight corners. This part of the tire doesn’t spend as much time in contact with the ground, so wear is less of an issue.