Winter Treads

Yes, that’s treads, not threads – this ain’t no fashion blog, and you’d all look stupid having me advise you on what to wear this winter… *ahem*, where was I?…

Winter tyres – what are the options then, now that we’re heading for that time of year? Here’s my take…

It will surprise… well, probably very few of you that my winter tyre of choice is the Vittoria Pavé – I love Vittoria tyres and run Open Corsa CXs (much to the dislike of a few of my riding buddies) most of the time on my Baum. When it turns to winter it seems logical to continue my allegiance and run the Pavé, and in recent years that’s exactly what I’ve done. I like the extra volume (I run the 24c version, although there is a 27c too), low weight and the compound is nice and tacky so there’s grip a-plenty, regardless of conditions.

That’s not to say they’re perfect though I have to say. When they’re new they’re great and resist punctures perfectly well. But that tacky compound equates to a fast wear rate, and when the tread gets low they become quite puncture-prone. Being Vittoria means they’re not cheap by comparison either.

The fall back for me, and many a roadie’s winter favourite is the Continental GP 4Season. And rightly so. Available in 23 and 25c – the latter of which offers a sofa-like ride – these aren’t far off bombproof for a lighter weight tyre. They’re plenty grippy enough and wear much better than the Pavés… except they’re not as pretty…

Sticking with Conti, there’s also the Gatorskins – not a tyre I’ve personally used, but I know many a rider who uses these for their commute. Slightly heavier, but also offer an extra bit of protection even compared to the 4Seasons.

Schwalbe offer their Ultremo now in a ‘DD’ version. Stop sniggering you filth-mongers – it means ‘Double Defence’, and refers to the extra puncture protection on offer. It uses the same compound as the normal Ultremo so it should still be nice and grippy, and despite the extra protection there’s not a significant weight penalty. There’s also the Ultremo Aqua, designed purely for extra grip in wet weather. I’m told the compound is so sticky you can hear it sticking if you use them in the dry!

Of course the likes of Hutchinson, Michelin and others all offer alternatives worth seeking out too.

But do you really need to switch to an all-out winter tyre? I’d argue not. Sure, you might not be running tyres that are necessarily designed for winter, but on that basis and when you think about the UK weather, shouldn’t we all be running year-round tyres with extra puncture protection anyway?

Last winter myself and a couple of other ride buddies ran Conti’s GP24s – the same tyre we’d been running all season. It’s a slightly bigger volume tyre and so offers an extra level of cushioning and comfort, whilst not compromising on grip and offering only a small penalty on weight (over the GP4000S at least). They’ve proved to be pretty resilient too – I’ve recently been commuting on the very same set that I spent most of 2010 on, and I’ve just put that same set on my winter bike.

So there it is. Want the best and not worried about the need to replace them a bit sooner than others (not to mention the pose-factor of that lairy green stripe), then go for the Pavés. Something more resilient and a little heavier, then Conti offer a number of options. Light weight with extra defense or extra tacky and Scwalbe might be worth a look. But don’t rule out continuing to run your normal treads and saving yourself the need to switch.

I have a set of Pavés sat in the wings that are vying for attention – do I fit them, or stick with the GP24s?…

Rich [@RichTheRoadie]