Editor’s Note: Not long ago, a Premium Member wrote in to ask if we could update an article we ran in 2011 in which a couple of us on the RBR Crew provided a quick rundown of our favorite tires, and why we liked them.
It was an excellent idea. So good, in fact, that I immediately decided to make it a regular feauture – providing a rundown from RBR Contributors on our favorites across the spectrum of components, nutrition, clothing, accessories, you name it. We’ll start with tires, and we already have drivetrain components lined up for a future issue. (Note that for the sake of scope, we’ve kept our choices to what we ride on – or how we equip – our “everyday” or “most-ridden” bikes.)
We also want to hear from readers on your favorites! Join in the fun either by commenting below this article or using the form at Tell Us About Your: Favorites (you can always find it in the Talk to RBR section on every page of the site.) We’ll gather up your submissions and run them as a follow-up to this article (and future RBR Favorites pieces).
I’ve decided not to “categorize” these individual RBR Crew submissions, but you’ll notice that our equipment choices are fully informed by the type(s) of riding we do (makes sense, right!). The distance riders among us choose tires that work well for distance (comfort, carrying loads, etc.), the high-mileage riders choose tires based on value and durability, etc. You will surely “self-select” into the group that most resembles the type of riding you typically do.
Enjoy, and let us hear from you about your own Favorites.
– John Marsh
My tire choices have changed since I last wrote about them. Like most riders I’ve gone to wider tires, especially since my Rivendell Roadeo has lots of clearance. I’m riding Conti 4Seasons 28s at [PAC Tour’s Desert] Camp, and I also use them much of the time on the rough farm and ranch roads of my home in Western Colorado. Continental is notorious for undersizing their tires, but the 4Seasons are close enough to 28mm to give acceptable ride quality.
I’m also pleased with Compass Stampede Pass tires in 700×32. They’re more fragile than the 4Seasons but work great on our roads in almost all conditions. When the goathead thorns are out, I sometimes use a bit of sealant to appease the puncture gods.
I’m still riding the same Continental GP4000 700 x 23c tires on my everyday ride, my beloved and special 1999 Litespeed Vortex. Special because it’s entirely 6Al/4V-titanium (a tougher alloy than the common 3Al/2.5V) – and it also started as sheet titanium, not tubing!
Back to the tires, if they weren’t so expensive I would have a pair of Vittoria’s Open Corsa CX 700 x 25c tires to put on my Vortex for longer rides when my bad back sometimes starts aching. I was provided them courtesy of TruVelo (when I tested TruVelo wheels), who told me they’re their favorite performance tires. They wear a lot faster than the Contis but the wider size and apparently thinner tread result in significantly more comfort. While I’m waiting to win the lottery, though, I’ll be fine on my Contis.
I’ve always been an endurance rider primarily interested in comfort, reliability and capacity to carry stuff on the bike. In my home area around Boulder, Colorado, a major pass can take me 3 – 4 hours, so I need enough water and food for that long, and I need to be able to carry extra clothes, since it might be snowing on top!
I prefer multi-hour and multi-day rides without any support or even access to a bike shop. I might not even go by a mini-mart on an all-day ride, although for multi-day rides I like towns with motels, cafes, etc., unlike the camping tours I did years ago. I have two primary bikes: a Merlin, one of the original Merlin’s from ’92, on which I do single-day rides. On the Merlin, I ride Continental Grand Prix 4-season 25mm tires. I have a Novara Randonne (REI’s house brand touring bike), which I got last year. I can put on racks and carry enough stuff for a multi-day trip. On that bike I run Schwalbe Marathon Plus 32mm tires – great for touring off paved roads.
Like Jim, I still ride the same brand of tires I’ve ridden for years: Vredestein. But like Fred, I’ve since moved to 25mm tires pretty much exclusively. Vredestein a couple of years ago renamed the top-end model I ride “Fortezza Senso” (used to be called “Fortezza Tricomp”). What appealed to me in the past about these tires still does: they handle great, they’re durable, I get very few flats (can’t even remember the last one), and they work well for me as an all-arounder: local rides with my buddies, fast group rides on weekends, trips to the mountains, an occasional tour. And since I moved to 25s, I’ve lessened the air I run in these tires (now I air to 90psi front, 95 rear once a week, then let the pressure dwindle). The combination of wider with less pressure has added to the comfort level, to be sure.
When I first started riding, I tried a bunch of different clincher tires before settling on Michelin Krylion Carbon (now Pro4 Endurance) tires for their good combo of performance and puncture resistance. Three years ago I joined a racing team and switched to Continental GrandPrix4000SII. Full disclosure: the team is sponsored by Continental and I am required to race on their tires, but can ride whatever I please any other time. I quickly realized the Conti’s were a step above the Michelins in every category – comfort, grip, longevity and puncture resistance. I now use these tires for racing, training and commuting, with very rare flats and run 25s exclusively for better comfort and grip.
I do a lot of miles, 10,000 or so per year, so I go through a lot of tires. Couple lots of miles with all of the crap in the road in Southern California and tires don’t last too long. One ride changed my whole viewpoint. I bought a pair of high-performance Michelin Pro4 Comp tires ($75 each) and on the first ride, hit a piece of glass which sliced the rear tire. From that point on, I only go to Performance Bike and buy their Forte Pro+ Road tires, $19.00 on sale. For that meager price, you get all of the technology of the higher priced guys including 120TPI casing, Kevlar bear, armor clad and dual compound. You can’t beat them for the price and performance!
I’ve used Continental Grand Prix 4000 and then 4000s for years. However, I’ve gone from 700x23c to 700x25c on my main road bike, a Trek ProjectOne Domane. Unfortunately, my second road bike, an Independent Fabrication, doesn’t have the clearance for a 25c in the front, only the rear. There was a period of time where I think the quality control for the Continentals was sub-standard and the soft sidewalls of the tires slit easily. I was forced to replace the tires at 1,000 miles. But it’s gotten better recently and I’m back to getting 3,500-4,000 miles, even on the pothole-ridden roads of Chicagoland. These tires may provide a little harder ride but I rarely flat, so I find it’s a good trade-off.
I ride Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX, 25mm, on my No. 1 bike (a Ti Kish). On my 24mm wide rims they measure a beefy 29mm. I air them to 80 psi front, 90 rear for my 170-175 pounds on our good Canadian backroads, and the ride is sublime. I average one flat per year on this bike and wear out one tire per year in about 2,500 miles – down until I can see the threads through the tread.
My choice for tires now are also Continental GP4000S, 700x23c clinchers. I used to always ride tubulars (back when that was all that was available!) and they still provide the best grip and road feel, but I like clinchers’ ease of use. For years I used Michelon Pro, Pro3 and Pro4, but when I bought a new bike with the Continentals, I could immediately feel the difference and improvement in road feel and response compared to the Michelins. I liked the Michelins’ price – I could usually find deals on them and they came in blue, which matched my bike. Harder to find deals on the GP4000s and no colors. They do wear better than the Michelins. I am plenty satisfied with the feel and smoothness of the 23c tires and have no plans to go with wider tires. I even ride the 23’s on gravel occasionally.
My tire choice for the past few years have been the Continental GP4000S, 700x23c, although since I have new Alto Cycling wheels I’m thinking of trying 25mm width soon, both for comfort and to see if it adds an extra aerodynamic effect. I find the tires to grip well and last longer than any other high-performance tire I’ve tried. Just like many of the others, I hardly ever puncture.
Tell us what your Favorites are by commenting below this article or or using the form at Tell Us About Your: Favorites.
John Marsh is the former editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of "less than podium" talent, he brought our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That's what we're all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John's full bio.