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, and to make your life easier we’ve rounded up some of the best winter road tyres available.
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 also come along a great deal (we certainly don’t miss puncture protection strips) and is now largely inspired by multi-ply composites used originally in bulletproof vests — you can now have a barrier between road debris and your inner tube without feeling like there’s wood in your tyres.
We’ve split this guide into three areas: lightweight winter tyres, heavy duty winter tyres, and gravel tyres.
While it may be tempting to go for the heaviest-duty tyre you can handle lugging about, puncture proof tyres really have got a lot better in recent years, so it’s worth delving into our longer reviews to see whether one may work for you.
If you’re still regularly plagued by punctures, it may also be worth investigating whether or not a tubeless setup could work for you. Even adding a bit of tubeless sealant to your inner tubes can help.
Tread: Deep treads moulded 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, so are largely unnecessary on smooth surface. Regardless, 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 inner tube is less likely to get pinched and punctured. Fatter tyres feel more comfortable, afford more control on rough surfaces and oodles of tests have shown they often roll better than narrower ones.
Compound: The real key to grip is the compound of the rubber; a soft compound tyre will be very grippy, but will wear fast and have a higher rolling resistance. Harder compounds 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.
The best winter road bike tyres for 2019
Best lightweight winter road tyres
If you value performance over out-and-out puncture protection, one of these hardy yet fast tyres are likely for you.
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The Durano is the winter tread by which all others are measuredCycling Plus / Immediate Media
Ahh, the venerable Grand Prix 4 Season. This is one of the more classic winter tyre options out there and is quite common as OE spec — and with good reason!
The DuraSkin carcass has been proven to be incredibly resilient to tears and punctures without sacrificing too much comfort or speed, and the supposedly winter-specific rubber compound performs very well in wet conditions.
At full RRP, the Grand Prix 4 season is a little pricey, but it can often be found online with a healthy discount.
And just for the sake of clarity, it’s worth pointing out that this tyre is very different from the legendary Grand Prix 4000S II, a much lighter weight, performance oriented tyre.
Designed explicitly for riding in foul weather, Vredestein’s Fortezzo Senso clinchers feature a lightly patterned tread and a compound that is said to have been designed specifically for riding in the wet.
Our 25mm test tyre weighed in at a respectable, but not that feathery, 246g.
The Senso also features ‘Full Protection’ — this means that a woven, puncture resistant polyamide layer protects the whole tyre, not just the central tread.
The Pro 4 Endurance replaced the popular Krylion with promises of extra grip without compromising longevity, secure handling and easy speed.
The new dual rubber compound has certainly proved to be sure-footed enough for a knee down approach to dirty, wet descents and it rolls well too, with the generous carcass meaning smooth float and sustained speed on rough tarmac despite a bead to bead puncture-proof layer.
We previously rode the Pro 4 Endurance right through spring and found that the compound certainly resists cuts, abrasions and general wear and tear better than the old Pro 3.
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The Radiale doesn’t have the most generous carcass, but is still very grippyCycling Plus / Immediate Media
Maxxis’s Radiale construction race rubber is phenomenally confident and quick in wet conditions, but it’s low in height and tall in price.
Using a radial rather than cross-ply carcass construction makes it amazingly supple for such a shallow tyre and it glides over rough surfaces and maintains momentum beautifully as long as you dodge bigger bumps and holes.
The overhanging triple compound tread with sipe cuts gives outstanding wet weather grip while still feeling race fast. Bead-to-bead reinforced durability is proving impressive too, and wear rates are perfectly acceptable.
The best heavy duty winter road tyres
If you like to use your road bike for commuting, ride on particularly bad or debris strewn roads or just hate punctures, one of these heavy duty tyres may suit your needs.
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While very heavy, the RiBMo is a great option if you ride on particularly bad roadsCycling Plus / Immediate Media
The Panaracer RibMo (Ride Bicycle More) tyre is actually marketed as an urban/commuting tyre, but makes a perfectly good, albeit slightly sluggish, training tyre — no surprise given the 25mm version we tested weighed in at a meaty 351g.
The tyre is available in both folding and wire bead versions, but we’d always recommend going for the considerably lighter folding version. If you plan on using the tyre, make sure you pack a set of solid tyre levers as the super-stiff sidewall can be a bit of mare to get on and off the rim.
If you like to ride on really poor roads — like, really poor — or want to use your road bike for commuting, you may want to consider one of the options from Schwalbe’s enormous Marathon range.
The super beefy tyre has a super thick tread and hefty, well reinforced sidewalls — sidewalls that are also embedded with a reflective strip and a dynamo track of all things.
The Marathon Plus — a true behemoth of a tyre at over 700g — is also available, but you really have to be riding in some extraordinarily bad conditions to need these on your road bike.
We actually tested the 40mm of the Marathon Racer and it isn’t available in a huge range of sizes, but most modern disc equipped bikes should be able to squeeze the 30mm version in.
The best winter tyres that are also good for gravel
If you see yourself indulging in the odd gravel dalliance, or just want a tyre that will perform well on loose surfaces without being too sluggish on the road, you may want to consider one of these gravel tyres.
Hutchinson Sector 28
4.5 out of 5 star rating
While very light, the Sector 28 isn’t afraid to stray off the beaten pathBen Delaney / Immediate Media
We tested the lighter, dual-compound 120tpi version of the Strada LGG and found they handled gravel with ease without feeling overly draggy on the road.
Cornering capability isn’t up there with the very best racing tyres, but you’re less likely to be going full-sideways in the winter anyway.
If you go for anything other than the rather handsome tan wall version, you’re a fool. The tyre is available in 25, 28 and 32mm version and we recommend you get the fattest tyre you can fit into your frame and fork.