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Best winter road bike tyres 2021: Stay puncture-free

Cyclist magazine
10 Mar 2021

Keep a grip on the road and avoid punctures with the best winter road bike tyres

With rain reducing grip and washing debris into the road, winter conditions force tyres to work harder to fend off punctures and prevent you from sliding out.

Not a time to be rolling on a set of fragile lightweight tyres, a grippy pair of all-weather tyres can help you battle through winter and spring until summer comes around again.

However, nowadays fitting winter tyres doesn’t mean resigning yourself to something sluggish. The best options now balance grip and wear, feel and durability. Invariably still a little heavier than summer racing treads, increasingly there’s nevertheless plenty of options for speedsters too.

And don't forget tubeless. If you’ve got compatible rims, swapping your tubes for a generous helping of sealant could help seal many punctures before you even know they’ve occurred. You can find out more with the Cyclist guide to tubeless tyres here

When picking winter tyres, it’s also worth considering going a little wider than normal. Not only will the wider contact patch provide more grip and comfort, but it’ll also let you safely run lower pressures to deal with greasy conditions. Of course, check the clearance on your frame and fork.

Whichever options you choose, below you’ll find a selection of the best winter road bike tyres as determined by the team at Cyclist.

The best winter road bike tyres

Goodyear Vector 4Seasons

Hitting that sweet spot between being reassuringly solid and not too heavy, these tubeless tyres from Goodyear are tough enough to survive a British winter, yet light enough that you’ll probably keep them on once summer finally rolls around.

Described as ‘tubeless complete’, this solution straddles the middle ground between true-tubeless systems which don’t require sealant and tubeless-ready models that do.

Basically, you pop in a diminutive 40ml squirt of sealant and the above-average density of the tyre’s construction prevents too much of it being wasted on sealing the tyre in place. Leaving enough to potentially heal cuts automatically, it results in reassuring levels of security, and a decent overall system weight of 290 grams for the 25c tyre, plus 40 grams for the sealant.

Lovely and grippy on the road, the Vector 4Seasons are designed to work best with modern width rims, which will impart a pleasingly smooth profile to the tyre. They’re also happy to work with conventional hooked rims, or the flush hookless style increasingly popular on gravel and cyclocross wheelsets.

Having a personal preference for massively wide tyres, it’s also good to find these come in sizes up to 32c, something still a rarity among quality racing models. Of course, it’d be hard to describe the Goodyears as cheap, but given their excellent performance and the unlikelihood of a cut or gash writing them off, we think many riders will find them worth it.

Vittoria Rubino G+

It’s no easy task selecting a tyre from the Vittoria range, as there are so many excellent options. We went with the Rubino but it could easily have been the Corsa with its greater race bias.

Most of the range has now been upgraded to include Graphene in the compound, promising superior grip and durability without adding rolling resistance – Vittoria is pushing this miracle substance as the holy grail for tyres.

Rubino is all about puncture resistance and for those nasty winter days, it has a 120TPI, reinforced casing topped off with the 3C rubber compound that has a slightly harder centre and softer shoulders with the aim of extending wear life, all of which worked well in testing.

Read our review of the Vittoria Rubino G+ tyre here

Hutchinson Fusion 5 Storm

We had little bad to say about these Hutchinson Fusion 5 tyres on review, commenting on how they were lighter than most clincher setups despite not conceding much in terms of puncture protection.

The rubber felt supple and, as an added bonus, they are also tubeless-compatible. A great tyre that balances the needs of winter with the needs of riding fast. Also, being tubeless-compatible is a big bonus.

Read our review of the Hutchinson Fusion 5 tyres here

Pirelli P Zero Velo 4S

Better known for car tyres, Pirelli has dipped its toe back into the world of cycling with the P Zero range, including the 4S, its all-round, all-weather rubber for all four seasons of the year.

Pirelli claims its aramid fibre layup helps reduce punctures while its functional groove design allows for better grip, especially in the wet.

Continental Grand Prix 5000

Recently launched, the Continental GP5000 promises to improve on its predecessor, the GP4000, using Lazer Grip technology for more grip, an added Vectran Breaker layer for puncture resistance, and new Black Chili compound that reduces rolling resistance.

If that wasn't enough, Continental has also released the GP5000 tubeless, which has all the technology of the clincher just with the added benefits of tubeless. Basically, it's the best all-round tyre on the market has been made better.

Read our review of the Continental GP5000 tyres here

What's faster: GP5000 tubeless or clincher?

Schwalbe Durano DD

Carrying the name of DD or Double Defence, we should rightly be expecting a lot of the Schwalbe stalwart.

This latest version has been updated with a new fabric that Schwalbe calls Snakeskin, which runs across the whole width of the tyre.

This is a monofilament fabric that is said to offer improved cut resistance as well as stopping pinch punctures, this combines with the RaceGuard breaker belt making double D one of Schwalbe’s most puncture-proof options.

At 312g for a 25c it’s one of the heavier tyres in our round-up so it’s of little surprise that it feels a fair bit slower, but then its protection should more than make up for that and the compound gave trustworthy grip on wet roads. This evolution of a longstanding favourite offers superb puncture protection but isn’t the fastest.

Challenge Strada Open Road 

These days, ‘hand-made’ can send out mixed messages, but Challenge very much promotes it as a benefit because it means its tyres are not vulcanised – instead treads are glued on by hand.

What this means in practice is that the rubber remains softer, which is great news when you rely on that rubber to give you grip.

As you’d expect, it does bump up the cost though. Available only in surprisingly voluminous 25mm, they are listed as 300tpi and have one layer of breaker (PPS) to stop punctures and weigh a claimed 250-grams.

A herringbone contact patch gave good all-round grip and confidence, especially over road debris with the suppleness of the sidewall one of the standout features of the Strada along with tread durability. Sure, the performance benefits of a hand-made tyre come at a price, but it's one worth paying.

Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR

The R3 sits one step down from the pinnacle in Bontrager’s range. It’s a great and supple performer, available in 24 or 26mm widths – we opted for the larger size and yet it measured just 24.3mm on our wheels.

Constructed with Bontrager’s Hard-Case Lite protection built into the carcass, there was a surprisingly supple feel to the tyre.

As with all tubeless tyres, you can afford to run a slightly reduced pressure to give more traction as well as comfort without adding rolling resistance.

A treadless design hints at a more racy target market, as does the 329g weight – bearing in mind that there is no inner tube to add. A great introduction to tubeless tyres, with fast, grippy performance in all conditions

Buy now from Trek for £50

Specialized Roubaix Pro

Although nominally a 23mm tyre, the Roubaix Pro uses a higher volume carcass to provide additional comfort (it measures closer to 25mm in width).

They’re very tough indeed while remarkably still grippy and not too much of a drag on tarmac, making them a fantastic winter workhorse. Hard-wearing and versatile at a great price, their high volume fends off pinch punctures.

Read our full review here.

Michelin Pro 4 Endurance V2

Although heavier than some tyres, this doesn’t seem to slow down the Michelins. Coming up quite wide, the extra mass is also due to the enhanced puncture protection that covers the span of the tyre. It seems to work.

The tread itself is also super durable without giving away any grip, meaning fewer worries about either slipping or flatting. Cheap for a high-performance tyre, their reliability and weight belies a surprisingly racy disposition

Panaracer Race D Evo 4

Japanese-made Panaracer tyres continue to impress as they evolve.

As the name hints, the Race D is aimed at the durable end of the race market so they are high on grip in either wet or dry conditions, which is thanks mostly to the ZSG dual-compound rubber.

Evo 4 is the latest version of the Evo design, with a bead-to-bead layer of ‘3D casing’ material plus a Pro Tite breaker belt to stop intrusions penetrating the main body.

This does a good job of minimising punctures, and at 240g (size 25c) that’s clearly not at the expense of excessive weight.

Recently updated to work better with on-tren wide rims, overall volume has been increased. The result should be both smoother rolling plus a better-profiled transition when cornering.

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