Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Last week I told you about the cheap folding clincher road tire that I think provides a lot of bang for the buck, Schwalbe’s Lugano II. It’s a standard, not tubeless or tubeless-ready tire. Sometimes I can find them for about $20. If you missed the column, here it is: Schwalbe Luganos – Cheap Road Tires I Like.
At the end of the story I asked you to recommend your favorite cheap road tires. I hoped to hear about other $30 or less tires. But “cheap” means different things to different roadies, so I expected some recommendations for tires that I might not consider that affordable.
To draw the line somewhere, a maximum of less than $40 feels about right to me. I personally don’t want to pay even that much for training tires, but from last week’s comments it sounds like some roadies are okay with it – even $50. But to me $50 is just too much for a single training tire.
Still, since the goal here is to list tires YOU like, I have included your picks up to about $50 max. I’m going by the average price I find when searching online for the tire.
My Budget Tires Wish List
I’m looking for cheap tires that perform as nicely as high-end models. I want budget tires that last, that resist punctures, that aren’t heavy (not more than about 395 grams), that are easy to install and remove from wheels and I even want them to look good.
The most important criteria in my book, though, is the ride quality. I want tires that are fast; grip well on dry and wet roads; that corner great and that are compliant enough to smooth rough pavement for comfort and control on even the longest rides.
Comfort is something you feel. I think you can hear it, too. I like tires that “sing” when you’re cruising down a nice rolling blacktop ribbon over some lovely countryside – like here in Lincoln, Nebraska where we’re camped as I type this (photo). “Singing” is that ringing noise or hum that righteous rubber makes. Maybe you call it something else, but I bet you enjoy it as much as I do.
I give Schwalbe’s Luganos high marks on all these things.
Tires You Like
Next up are the tires you like. If you didn’t have a chance to comment with your favorite tires last week, please do so this time around. That way, this article and last week’s will be a valuable resource for finding great cheap road rubber for any roadie in need.
First to comment was George Straznitskas, who said “I’ve had Conti Ultra Sports on a training bike for >1,000 miles. No flats, decent ride, less than 30 bucks each on Amazon.”
My feedback: I searched for them on Amazon and found a pair of Continental Ultra Sport II folding tires, currently at $52.99 on Amazon ($26.50 each). Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/3BCrbYK. I could not find individual tires on sale at that low price. But that sounds like a nice choice, George.
Tire buyer tip: After looking online at many tire “stores” it looks like you can often get the best deals by buying pairs of tires.
A reader going by just “C,” wrote: “I have been using Continental Gatorskins and Specialized Armadillos on the winter and training bike.”
My feedback: The focus on both those tires is flat resistance, “C” – and they’ve been popular choices for that for a long time. In my opinion, the ride quality dips slightly as a result. But they are a fine choice for frequent flatters who need extra protection, which you do in the winter. It looks like Gatorskins go for about $36 each, so it’s definitely a cheap contender. Specialized Armadillos or more like $45 a pop, so to me they are not cheap enough.
Jack Hohag said: “After years of experimenting with various brands of tires, (recreational club rides,) I always return to the Continental Grand Prix 4-Season Road Tire. For a few years, the Continental Grand Prix 4000 was the choice; good cornering, smooth ride, but they were vulnerable to punctures, even with their Vectran puncture protection. The Grand Prix 4-Season tire also rolls and corners well, and has been almost bullet-proof for me. They also won’t break your bank; often on sale for under $50.” Another reader, Michael Grimes agreed.
My feedback: The 4 Seasons tires have a great rep for durability and decent performance, Jack – they’re just a bit pricey to make the cut.
NJgreyhead opined: “I ride training tires exclusively and have had very good luck (no f-l-a-t-s) on Maxxis Re-Fuse clinchers.”
My feedback: That’s a new one for me and at just a wee bit over $40 it almost makes the cheap tire cut. Here it is on Amazon where it gets great reviews: https://amzn.to/3zFZoVl.
“John” has another favorite. He commented, “Agree 100% that training tires should be reasonable cost. It is NOT just tread wear cost/mile but also the very real risk of a road hazard destroying a tire early in its tread life. I run Conti GP’s on my ‘event’ bike, but too $$$ for everyday use IMHO (road hazard $$ loss after just 200 miles of use is not my idea of a good day!).
My fav training clincher had been the prior generation Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick (excellent durability and typically got 3-4 k miles on rear as a 175# rider on typically bad Midwest chip/seal roads) and bought several when they were being closed-out. I’m now down to my last ones & looking for new go-to trainer. Not sold on Vittoria’s RP redesign. NOT a fan of Conti’s UltraSport (puncture-prone) or their Gatorskins ($$$ & too slow rolling though very durable). May give the Luganos a try.”
Ken Vining also likes this tire. He wrote, “I moved from model to model over the years, but I too bought a bunch or Rubino Pro Slicks a couple of years ago, making this about 6 years as my go-to tire. Great price, rarely issues with flats, no construction issues, and good mileage. Also, I purchased tubeless-ready rims a couple of years ago but haven’t made that jump yet — I like the Rubino Pro Slick too much.”
My feedback: Over the years I have ridden a few different Vittoria tires including the Rubino Pro Slicks and I agree that they are really nice tires. If you’re looking for them, they still might be available on eBay.com – where bike shops and individuals often offer previous or old model year items.
Lastly, I’d like to close with some nice tire tips from frequent contributor Kerry Irons. He said,
“I regularly get around 4,000 miles out of a Coni GP 5000 rear tire. That’s to the point of the casing just about to show (as measured by the Conti “wear dots”).
Tire wear is a function of power transfer through the tire, so a more powerful rider will wear out tires faster.. Front tires DO NOT wear out, if your definition of wearing out is rubber loss. I have put over 6,000 miles on a front tire with no measurable rubber loss. A worn tire typically loses 30 grams or more before it’s done, obviously dependent on how thick the tread is.”
Thanks everyone for your tire recommendations and tips! If you’ve got a favorite cheap tire that wasn’t mentioned, please comment with the brand, model and current price.
10,074 Daily Rides in a Row
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.
Doug Kirk, Madison, WI says
I ride 2500 miles a year on my best bike. I don’t ride cheap tires. Like with beer, life’s too short for cheap or uncomfortable tires, which means no Gatorskins which give a very harsh ride. I ride Rene Herse tires and replace the rear once a year. I do ride Gatorskins on my commuter bikes where transportation alone is the goal. I NEVER buy tires (or anything) from Amazon, preferring my LBS whenever possible. RBR used to promote supporting local bike shops but it seems that has changed.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for commenting, Doug. Regarding supporting bike shops RBR and I have always and will always support bike shops. Please note that many Amazon and eBay sellers ARE bike shops.
When recommending products it’s assumed you’ll check with your LBS first. Yet everyone does not have a LBS unfortunately.
Bike Fitness Coaching says
Jim, here’s your next article … On a group ride, should the group stop and wait for a tire change from ‘that guy’ that rides his race-day ultra-light tires then easily flats?
William Kennedy says
Jim Langley says
Ha, ha – good idea, Rick 😀
Tom Fleming says
The Continental Lugano is an attractively priced tire. However, in the bike shop I have seen many original equipment Lugano tires with tread separation early in their service life. I could not recommend them. I would recommend tires from Serfas. The tires offered under this brand can be had for the price of the Lugano with better flat resistance, approaching the Gatorskins.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for recommending the Serfas tires, Tom. I did a quick search and found some right away for under $20 here: https://amzn.to/37juWEB