My thoughts on tyres

I thought it might be useful to do a comparison and reasonably concise account of the tyres I've used.  I'm going to avoid too much faff and try to be as objective as possible giving mileage, punctures and typical usage so you can get a good overall picture. As I don't have any testing facilities I'll have to give my opinion on things like rolling resistance and grip.  I'll try to update this as I ride more tyres.

Race tyres


Continental Gatorskin folding
23mm x 700c inflated to 100psi front and back
Mileage: 5000km - 4 punctures
1250km per puncture

These were used on the front and rear of my Cinelli, and I used them briefly on my randonneur bike Mr Ramen.  The tyres were typically used for club runs in the mornings as well as the occasional commute home and some other weekend recreational riding.

Performance: The grip is good but not fantastic, they tend to be a little sketchy in the wet.  Cornering is good as well, although not as sticky as other rubber I've used before.  The tread is basically smooth except for some textured triangular bits which I'm sure serve no purpose whatsoever.  The rolling resistance is pretty low and it feels like a pretty quick tyre.

Durability: I suffered 4 punctures during the 5000km which makes it an average of 1 puncture per 1250km or so.  For me at the time this would have been about every 6 - 8 weeks.  All the punctures bar one were through the main part of the tread, the last one was a terminal sidewall cut which was about 5mm long at which point I retired the rear.  The tread itself is approximately 3-4mm thick down the middle, it didn't cut up very much at all over the 5000km which was nice.  Towards the end of the 5000km it started to square off.

Conclusion: This is a reasonably economical training tire, with reasonable punture protection.  Since I bought this Continental released a "hardshell" version which is a bit heavier and supposedly more puncture resistant.  I was pleased that they didn't really cut up very much at all compared to typical race tyres, this is probably because the tread compound is a bit harder and less sticky than other race rubber.



Challenge Elite folding clincher
23mm x 700c inflated to 100psi front and back
Mileage: 600km - 2 punctures
300km per puncture

I used this to replace the worn out Gatorskin, I put this on the front and put the remaining Gatorskin on the rear.  I'd never tried any Challenge tyres before but I was a bit intrigued by the "open tubular" moniker, which I think is really just faff for a clincher.  The first impression I got was that the tread was very thin and the tyre was very light.  This is more of a full race style tyre rather than a training tyre like the Gatorskin.

Performance: The first ride I took I noticed the tyres are very sticky, the tread has a traditional shallow herringbone pattern on it which effectively makes it a slick.   The tread compound is soft and sticky, you can easily feel how sticky it is to the road which is quite confidence inspiring during cornering.  Grip in the wet is also very good, certainly better than the Gatorskins.  The ride is quite smooth and the rolling resistance also feels very low, this could be attributed to the high 225tpi thread count.

Durability: There has to be a cost for the grippiness and smooth, supple ride.  I had 2 punctures within 2 weeks, both penetrated right through the centre tread which is quite thin, maybe about 3mm or so thick.  Even when I first took them out of the box, you could feel how thin and supple the casing and tread are.  Make no mistake about it, this is a proper race tyre, they cut up quite easily as well.  Although I may have not ridden many kilometers on the tyre to get a proper idea of how durable they are, I think just looking at the construction you could take a guess.

Conclusion: This is a great performing tyre which is super grippy and rolls fast and feels lively.  However it is a very lightweight and somewhat delicate tyre, to be expected of a more race oriented tyre.  I'd probably skip this next time, as my preference is to not have to fix flats by the road and I'd rather put up with a slightly heavier tyre.

Challenge Strada Bianca folding clincher
30mm x 700c inflated to 65psi front and  75back
Mileage: 2500km - 5 punctures
500km per puncture

A more detailed review here.  I purchased these in the knowledge of my somewhat bad experience with the Challenge elites, however there isn't too much choice for high end tyres that are 30mm+

Performance: These are made from a soft sticky compound that sticks very well to dry asphalt as well as hard packed gravel.  The 260tpi hand glued construction gives it a very supple and smooth ride.  It positively floats over bumps and imperfections in the road and still feels very fast.  When inflated the profile is near perfectly round, probably due to the construction method, this combined with the sticky tread inspires confidence in the corners.  In the wet the traction is good, but not excellent as I was able to make it break traction several times on wet slippery roads.

Durability: The soft compound cuts up reasonably easily, however the PPS strip is quite effective in stopping glass and other sharp objects from penetrating through.  I have picked out a lot of glass stuck in the tread but stopped by the PPS strip.  The tread is wearing at an average rate so far, none of the cuts have rendered the tyre unusable so there is still plenty of life in it after 1000km

Update November 2014
I've had three punctures in the past 1500km which brings the rate down to about 1 puncture per 500km which is quite poor.  At this point I'm quite disappointed in the puncture resistance of these tyres.  Although they ride beautifully I don't particularly like to always have to change tubes all the time.

Conclusion: I really like these tyres as there is little else in this width and of this performance.  The grip is fantastic and they give a supple and quick ride over gravel as well as asphalt.  The downside is the cost of these tyres, also the traction in the wet could possibly be a little better.

Touring & Commuting tyres


Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/quad/

Vittoria Randonneur Pro
37mm & 32mm x 700c inflated to 60-70psi
Mileage: 5000km - no punctures

These were used on my randonneur as well as my 3 speed mostly for commuting day to day from home to work and around inner Sydney, this meant a lot of riding through glass strewn roads and a lot of potholes and debris.  The version I got has a reflective sidewall which increases side visibility greatly, I think almost all tyres used on the road should have these.  The stated widths are misleading, they actually measure at about 4mm narrower; this is so the manufacturer can give a lower weight for the stated width; the 37's measured at 32mm and the 32's measured at 28mm.  The Pro designation means it's a kevlar beaded tyre, it also has a anti-puncture protection strip which is red coloured and will show through once you've worn it down.

Performance: The initial impression with grip is quite good, the rubber whilst not super sticky is predictable and good in the wet or dry.  The ride is smooth and compliant over rough surfaces and can take on the occasional off-road jaunt quite successfully, just keep it to the hardpack and avoid loose gravel; the tread is a slick V shaped pattern.  Even though this tyre is the lighter kevlar version, the tyres just felt a bit sluggish and slow; however these are intended as heavy duty touring/commuting tyres.

Durability: This is where the Randonneur shines, in 5000km I did not get one puncture.  The impression I got taking the tyre out of the box was how heavy duty and solid it felt.  The tread with the anti-puncture belt must be about 6-8mm thick I would guess.  I rode through many many patches of broken glass with these tyres; it's like they just laughed at the glass and carried on through.  Throughout the 5000km there were very few cuts or nicks on the tyres, the rear tyre looked barely worn at this point as well, these are very tough.

Conclusion: These are not fast tyres, but I would have no hesitation using them for commuting or touring.  They are simply as tough as old boots and appear to last a very long time.  The size and lower pressure gives them safe and predictable handling on tarmac and the occasional hardpack path.  These are perfect for the low maintenance commuter, it's unlikely you'll ever have to worry about flats and you only need to pump them up once or twice a week. Oh and they are also very cheap in the wire bead version.

Panaracer Pasela TG
28mm x 700c wire bead inflated to 70-90psi
Mileage: 3000km - 2 punctures
1500km per puncture

These replaced the Vittoria Randonneurs on my randonneur, they came in the cream/white version.  They measure at the stated 28mm and have a very fine diamond knurled like tread with V shaped siping.  They are made by Panasonic in Japan, the ones I got are the TourGuard version, this features a kevlar anti-puncture belt.  As you can see in the picture, the centre of the tread has gone whiter which only started recently, maybe it's a reaction to the salt as it won't come off with a wet rag.  It hasn't affected the performance of the tyre at all though.

Performance: These were put on straight after the Vittoria randonneurs and it changed the character of the bike completely, the bike just felt so much more lively and brisk.  The Pasela is reasonably grippy on tarmac in the wet and dry and can handle towpath dirt quite well.  The ride over uneven ground is nice and supple giving predictable and responsive handling.  I found for my weight running 70-80psi on the front and 90 at the rear worked really well.   Funnily enough I weighed these and they were heavier than the 32mm Vittoria Randonneurs (which really measure at 28mm) by about 60g from memory, this is probably due to the wire bead in the Paselas, however they felt significantly faster and more supple - must be the compound.

Durability: So far I have not had any punctures, there are very few cuts or nicks on the tyres.  The tyre hasn't shown too much wear either.  The tread itself is probably about 5mm-6mm thick, not as heavy duty as the Vittoria Randonneurs but somewhere inbetween that and a race tyre.  I've ridden through some glass and that has made no impression on the tyre whatsoever, these feel like good durable tyres, not quite as durable as the Vittoria Randonneurs though.

Conclusion: I really love these tyres, they completely changed the character of my randonneur making it feel lively and quick.  They are pretty comfortable over uneven surfaces and potholes and combine that with good grip and durability.  They are somewhat inbetween a race tyre and a heavy duty commuting tyre, so they suit light tourers and fast commuters very well.


Update November 2012:
First proper puncture after a lengthy ride off-road on the front wheel.  I pulled it apart and found a tiny shard of glass which had worked it's way into the tube.  Not too surprised after so many kilometers, but after all this isn't a huge hulking tyre.
Update January 2013
I got a puncture on the rear wheel, again it was a shard of glass and a slow leaker.  Also my pump failed at the same time but luckily I was in a group where I could borrow someone elses.

Schwalbe Delta Cruiser
26 x 1-3/8 (37-590 or 650A) inflated to 50-65psi
Mileage: 4600km - 3 punctures
1533km per puncture

I got these go to on my Raleigh Superbe as they were one of the few tyres available in this once popular size, they are obviously aimed at older bikes as they also come in the old 28" size (ISO 635) and come in a nice cream colour which is the ones I got.  They come with a reflective sidewall which is great for city riding.

Performance: The rubber on these is pretty sticky, a little stickier than the Paselas and the Randonneurs.  I've now ridden with these tyres through ice, snow, rain, dirt and plain old tarmac in the wet and dry.  The grip is excellent, they really just stick to the bitumen.  I typically only inflate the front tyre to about 50psi and the rear to the maximum 65psi, this is due to the more rear weight biased geometry of the Superbe and this gives the front a nice compliant ride over bumps and potholes as well as good predictable handling.

The tread blocks are about 3mm tall which gives it better off-road performance than the Randonneurs and the Paselas because it lets it dig in a bit.  Rolling resistance is a bit sluggish but quite reasonable when you are at speed, subjectively I'd say it feels about the same as the Randonneurs in this regard.   The tyres give a really nice stable feeling over jittery potholes, expansion joints and cracks which you typically find in central London; what I really like about these is how settled the bike stays, it just seems to float over crap roads.

Update July 2012:
I've been riding in non-stop wet on these tyres for the past month and the traction is still excellent after 2700km of wear.  The tread is still sticky supple and comfortable.

Durability: So far there have been no flats, I can't see any nicks or cuts in the tyre at all.  The tread is quite thick, I'd guess about 8mm which includes an anti-puncture strip similar to the Randonneurs.  This is similar to the Randonneurs as well in that you can really just ignore glass and ride right through it as they won't make a scratch on these; you only really have to worry about nails and screws.  So far so good.


Update July 2012:
I suffered my first puncture on these after 2700km, the culprit was a piece of glass funnily enough.  I ran through a large patch of broken glass accidentally a few days before hand.  I then hauled some heavy loads which caused an embedded piece to slowly work its way into the tube through the puncture protection layer in the tyre.  It's never desirable to get punctures, but for the amount of mileage I got and crap roads its a decent innings.  Cosmetically you can see it's developed a fair few nicks and scratches, the tread itself is a little soft and sticky which is probably why.  This may be a slight tradeoff for the excellent traction compared to the Randonneurs which are harder but less grippy.

I suffered a second flat again from a shard of glass at the end of July which I wrote about here, not too happy with this.  The tyres generally have a lot of cuts on them now due to the soft compound used for the tread.

Update December 2012
The rear tyre is at about 30-40% wear now after 4600km or about a year.  This is a reasonably quick rate of wear for this type of tyre but not a surprise considering how soft the compound is.  New tyres are on order, although a different model.

Conclusion: I really like these tyres, not only do they look great they are also very grippy, more so than the Vittoria Randonneurs.  They ride very smoothly over rough surfaces including the occasional off-road detour.  The only downside is the rolling resistance which isn't great, however these are meant as commuting tyres and this is acceptable given the durability and puncture resistance.  Overall I think these are great, a better overall tyre than the Randonneur due to the better grip and is also similarly priced and comes in more sizes.

Update July 2012
After suffering two flats in 3000km of daily commuting over London roads, both times from small shards of glass embedding themselves in the soft rubber of the tread and eventually working it's way through to the tube on the back tyre, I am not too impressed.  I would have thought that these tyres would be nearly invulnerable to glass.  The rubber on the tread is quite soft and they tend to pick up lots of glass shards and end up getting lots of nicks and cuts all over.  The softness of the tread I suspect gives it its grippiness but sacrifices durability.  Even still, I would have thought the puncture protection strip in the tyre would prevent small shards of glass from puncturing through to the inner tube.

Update December 2012
After suffering these two punctures I decided to put some tyre liners into these which I wrote about here.  So far it's been smooth sailing in the past 1000km or so.   I've been a bit more disciplined with removing glass from the tyres which seem to embed themselves into the soft tread quite easily, last time I removed about 8 or so little shards from a few months riding.  I'm not sure if I would buy these again when this pair wears out, as I'd prefer that the glass didn't embed itself in the tyre in the first place.  Still I think the soft tread gives it superb grip in all conditions though.

Update December 2012 Part II
Rolling into the garage at work the other morning I heard a hissing sound, the rear tyre has gone again. Before I left work that evening I pulled out the tube and found that a glass shard had penetrated the tyre and the tyre liner causing the flat.  The rear tyre itself is getting quite thin, after about 4600km now it's not too far off from the red puncture protection strip.  At three punctures over this distance (about a years worth of riding) the rate of puncture is about 1500km which is decidedly very average.  I think that this tyre is more suited for recreational riding rather than day in/day out workhorse type cycling. The offer excellent grip and a good plush ride, however puncture protection and durability suffer. To that end I have ordered some new tyres to replace them, stay tuned.

Update January 2013
In addition to the puncture in December there is now a great big gash on the tyre, it looks like it's gone through the tread and protection layer and into the carcass.  There is a very small bulge around it, they still have a fair bit of tread in them but it looks like the beginning of the end.



Schwalbe Marathon HS368
26 x 1-3/8 (37-590 or 650A) inflated to 50-65psi
Mileage: 10 000km - 2 punctures
5000km per puncture

I got these to replace the Schwalbe Delta cruisers on my Raleigh Superbe as I was sick of the punctures I was getting.  The tyres were just too soft and cut up much too easily, a big cut left a bit of a bulge on the tyre and it was time to bin them as I had done a fair bit of mileage on them anyway.  The Marathons I bought aren't the Plus versions which are nearly double the weight due to a 10mm thick anti-puncture strip which runs in them.  These are the older HS368 version which is lighter and more supple, well at least for a city tyre.   I had heard that the Plus version road like they were solid, that they felt quite dead even if they were practically puncture proof.  The HS368 have the older Kevlar guard which I assume is a standard type of anti-puncture strip which is probably a lot thinner which explains why it weighs almost half of the Plus version.

Performance:  The grip on these is good, not outstanding but still very dependable and doesn't wash out in the wet or anything.  The tread is more patterned than the Delta Cruisers which probably gives slightly better grip on rough surfaces.  I feel that the Delta cruisers give a slightly better dry grip though, they just felt a little more sticky.  The ride quality of the Marathons is very similar however, quite good at the above pressures and soaks up many of the bumps on London roads.  They also feature a reflective band on the sidewalls which is a great safety feature.  The rolling resistance is very similar to the Delta Cruisers as well, while not a fast tyre, once up to speed it's not too difficult to keep it going.

Durability: After 1500km the tyre still looks like new, there are barely any nicks or cuts on the tyres at all!  Compared to what the Delta cruisers looked like at the same mileage I'm very impressed.  The durability is more like the Vittoria Randonneur, the compound is a bit harder and more durable if a little less sticky.  I haven't had one flat so far, and I'm doubtful that I will get many (if any).  Very impressed with their hardiness.  

Conclusion: The Marathons have a reputation as The touring/commuting tyre that is a gold standard; I can now see why.  I'm very impressed with their toughness and durability, even after 1500km of city riding through plenty of glass and debris the tyres still look great and I've never suffered from a puncture.  I think it confirms my earlier thoughts about the Delta cruisers, that they are meant more for weekend riders who ride occasionally.  The Marathon is the day in day out dependable tyre.

Update November 2014
After about 2 years of commuting on these and about 10 000km since I first wrote the entry on it I've had 2 punctures.  The first was a piece of glass which somehow made its way through the tread, the second was a very thin strand of steel cable, probably left over by me when I was cutting gear cables... whoops!   Otherwise I've been very happy with these tyres for commuting.  They are still in very good condition with only a handful of cuts and still a lot of tread left to go.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. One thing I would like to add is that sidewall cuts are repairable. Tire boots are not easy to purchase so I make my own by cutting a square from an older tire and removing the rubber. Larger cuts may require two boots, glued with their plies crossed. This is useful to prolong the life of tires such as the Continental GP4000S, which is reasonably durable but has a very fragile sidewall.

    ReplyDelete
  2. the test tyres used in Brazil were marked Orange it's likely the 2013 tyres could bear another colour differentiator. Sydney's Used tyres

    ReplyDelete