Winter training and commuting is hard enough without worrying about fixing a flat with frozen fingers on a dark road. Fortunately, there’s never been a better selection of winter road bike tyres combining trustworthy all-weather performance with everyday survivability.
The key to these real world advances has been the combination of technologies from seemingly very different areas. Tyre compounds and layups developed for racing use in wet conditions deliver a balance of late braking, hard-turning grip and rolling speed.
Puncture protection technology has come from multi-ply composites bred from bulletproof vests. You can now have a barrier between road debris and your inner tube without feeling like there's wood in your tyres. Protected tyres can feel as smooth and supple as race rubber. But which will best suit your riding, routes, bike and budget?
How we tested them
We tested each tire to the death in a diverse a range of conditions. We rode everywhere from the wet passes of the Lake District to descents in the South West, plus city commutes. We found out which you can trust on a damp twisting descent and which will shrug off a back country bridleway shortcut. To determine rolling efficiency, we rode all the conventional clincher tires (but not the tubeless Schwalbe Ultremo ZX TR) on a Powertap wheel on rollers to get comparative wattage data. Once the wheel was up to speed at at 30kph (in the same gear and with the same air pressure each time), we recorded the wattage required to sustain 30kph for one minute. Although outdoor rolling efficiency will likely be different, this method at least gives an apples-to-apples comparison.
£32.99 / $63.05
The Durano is the standard against which all-weather tyres are measured. Its tread life and puncture proofing performance was universally praised by our highest mileage, hibernation averse testers.
Watts at 30kph: 138
Schwalbe Ultremo ZX TR
£56.99 / $81.75
Schwalbe’s first tube-free road tyre has been well worth the wait, with performance and practical simplicity putting it straight in at the top of the tubeless tyre charts if you can stomach the cost.
Watts at 30kph: N/A (the tubeless tyre would not seal to the rim on our PowerTap test wheel)
Continental Grand Prix 4 Season
£46.95 / $79.95
Continental’s aptly named 4 Season always gets highly recommended in a cost-no-object context and for good reason. It's highly puncture resistant, and offers reassuring grip from its winter-specific rubber compound.
Watts at 30kph: 139
Hutchinson Intensive 2
£32.99 / £49.12
It's a little slippery to start off with, but Hutchinson’s Intensive 2 tyre rewards patience with remarkably tough and puncture-resistant long-term performance. Its wear life is outstanding, boosting its already good value.
Watts at 30kph: 159
£34.99 / $57
Panaracer have put their flat-dodging experience to good use in the Ribmo, creating a very durable tyre that's the toughest in this round-up without a doubt. We’ve thrown it at everything from rough summer bridleways to heavily-loaded urban winter commuting and it hasn't skipped a beat.
Watts at 30kph: 193
What to look for when buying winter tyres
Tread: Cuts in motorbike and car tyres help to squeeze water from under the tyre in really wet conditions. Bicycle tyres simply aren’t wide enough to aquaplane at normal speeds. Lots of riders naturally trust treaded tyres more than slicks, whatever the science.
Protective layer: The tyres here all use some kind of protective sheet under the tread to stop sharp objects puncturing the inner tube. Trying to balance extra protection but still allowing the tyre to be flexible and supple enough to roll quickly and comfortably is hard. Some tyres also include protective layers in the side walls to stop cuts.
Size: The bigger the carcass, the more air between you and the road. This means the innter tube is less likely to get pinched and punctured. Fatter tyres feel more comfortable and the latest testing shows they can roll better than smaller tyres, but they're heavier.
Compound: The real key to grip is the compound of the rubber, generally quoted as durometer numbers. Generally speaking, below 60 Duro a tyre will be very grippy but wear fast and be slow. Compounds over 70 Duro are fast rolling and wear well but are slippery. This is why many tyres have a dual compound that is harder in the centre than on the shoulders.