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Ground Control, What tyre should I use?

March 12, 2014

Whether you have a bike that rides like a Cervélo Rca, or handling skills akin to Zdenek Stybar, the tyres which adorn your wheels will inevitably have an effect on your ride. Admittedly, any tyre will often 'do', and actually getting out and riding regardless of its suitability is of course paramount. But there are always, always gains to be made, so we've put this blog together in order to make that choice not only easier but hopefully more advantageous too. 

Now, if you're anything like us, then you will indeed have been lulled by Mother Nature into a sense of optimism about the weather which lies afoot. Hopefully, it isn't misguided optimism, but if it so happens that we have more arduous conditions in store - or of course if you live in Belgium - then Continental's Grand Prix 4-Season tyre is possibly the one for you; robust, puncture resistant, grippy, extra thick sidewall, and long lasting. It really is the winter tyre to end all winter tyres, and as is becoming increasingly popular we might also suggest opting for the 25mm version, for more comfort and road grip. 

Continental GP4 Season Tyres

And if the weather is just that miserable that going out on a bicycle would be bordering on lunacy? The dreaded turbo trainer which case:

Elite Turbo Trainer Tyre

The Elite Coperton is designed for use on turbo trainers ONLY; the hard compound rubber will provide you with zero comfort or traction on the road but will sit on a rotating rubber cylinder without wearing down for hours upon hours.

But if we err less on the side of caution, and more on the side of springtime enthusiasm; something a little less hardcore, with more suppleness and speed, would be the training tyre of choice for umpteen thousand riders around the world...the Continental Gatorskin. As the name suggests, the tyre has a tough shell with plenty of TPI (threads per inch), and comes with both 23mm and 25mm options; the quintessential training tyre, and equally at home in sportives of all terrain. 

Continental Gatorskin Tyre

At £26.95 - despite it being worth every penny of that - many of our customers are understandably after something similar, but cheaper. Naturally, we first joke about Veloflex tubular's being a little easier on the wallet, before pointing them in the direction of Specialized's Espoir Sport. At £20 last year it was a bargain, but after its 2014 reduction down to £15 it is a downright steal, and the choice of commuting tyre for a few of us in store. Similarly to the Gatorskin, it is available in 23 and 25mm, with the same emphasis on durability, but as expected with the £15 price tag it isn't one to be using come race day. 

Specialized Espoir Tyre

Moving along the spectrum a little further, and we come to Vittoria, one of the hallowed manufacturers where tyres are concerned, with their Rubino Pro. The Rubino gives its slightly more malleable construction away by the fact it folds; a sure sign of a smoother ride. Vittoria still advertise the tyre as a training choice, but based on a personal experience we'd say it's more than capable of taking on the sportive scene...maybe even a little light-hearted racing.

Vittoria Rubino Pro Tyre

Anything beyond this threshold can safely be considered a race worthy tyre; supple, light, fast-rolling and smooth. Continental's GP 4000 are the staple robe of many a racer's rim, and with their reliability, over the years it's easy to see why. They are admittedly not the fastest of tyres in a straight line, but the extra grip and courage they provide for cornering may well make up for that. 

Continental GP4000sII tyre

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Mavic's offering of the Yksion, which is weighted far more in favour of speed. And when we say weighted, we mean light-weighted as the Yksion tips the scales at only 190g, which when paired with the slick surface makes for a very speedy tyre.

Mavic Bike Tyre

Mavic has also added a neat little feature in providing two variables of the Yksion; the 'Powerlink' and the 'Griplink'. The former is made from a compound of rubber designed to aid power transfer to the road and reduce rolling resistance, whereas the latter is supposed to increase grip into corners with a stickier compound. The notion of using one of each isn't to be disregarded either; Griplink on the front and Powerlink on the back. 

So what's the best tyre we have in store? Some say The Stig stitches every thread by hand; others that he retired from driving in 2010 due there being no automobile option. All we know is it's the Vittoria Corsa CX. Available as a tyre (Open CX) as well as the pictured tubular, there is no doubt that in terms of grip, speed and resilience, the Corsa CX is not merely the best compromise...but the best across the board. To be used sparingly, on only the best wheels, if not just for the mechanical benefits, then also for the placebo effect that a grade A tyre always gives. 

Vittoria Corsa Evo CX Tyre

So now that we have the tyres covered, and you've come to a decision about which is best going to suit your needs, the next vital piece of the puzzle is pressure. A tenuous subject may be; everyone has their own opinion, and more than likely won't think twice about voicing it, but for some basic guidelines, here's a wee chart. 

Whether you go for a 23mm or 25mm again will be dictated by what sort of rides you're intending to use the tyre for. A 25 will provide more comfort, more grip, and...wait for it...LESS rolling resistance, because of how the 'flat spot' of tyre contact with the road is distributed. On a 25, the contact area is shorter and wider, whereas with 23mm it is longer and narrower, which physically dictates a greater rolling resistance. However, narrower tyres are more aerodynamic and can be pumped up to higher pressures. The verdict: 25mm for training and rough-road racing; 23mm for anything else. 

This is just a small account of the various options out there obviously, and to be perfectly honest trial and error is just part and parcel of finding the optimum tyre. But hopefully, this will have made things slightly easier when the time comes to choose your next pair.

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