Fixing a flat tyre on the side of the road during the winter is about as much fun as paying taxes or sitting in traffic. Fortunately, the best winter road bike tyres will not only reduce the chance of a puncture, but also use compounds designed for wet weather that increase grip and don't roll like they are made of plastic.
Depending on where you live, winter cycling will take on a different definition and just because it doesn't snow in a particular location, it doesn't mean it's not winter — not everybody rides in Oslo in January. So now that summer is nearing its inevitable end and the days are starting to feel shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, it's time to get your bike ready for the colder months, which means putting your best road bike tyres into storage and getting some winter-capable rubber on board.
But which tyres do the Cyclingnews tech team pop onto their rims when the weather takes a turn for the worse? Read on to find out, and if you want to find out what separates the best winter road bike tyres from the rest, and what to look for when choosing a winter tyre, jump to the bottom of the page to find out what to look for in a set of winter road bike tyres.
Best winter road bike clincher tyres
Best for puncture resistance
Sizes: 23-32c | Weight: 280g (28c) | TPI: 180tpi | Price: £55 / $80 / AU$98
Continental reckons its Gatorskin is the most popular training tyre in the UK. We obviously can't back that claim up, but we know they're a common choice for winter weather. And while temperatures aren't the coldest in the UK, the country certainly knows what winter weather looks like.
The Gatorskin is best known for its bombproof resilience to punctures and its durability, so if your winter riding often means dealing with the thorns, grit and glass that gets washed into the road, then Gatorskins could well keep you rolling.
However, on the subject of 'rolling', that's where the trade-off comes; the high puncture resistance results in a tyre that is slow.
Pirelli P Zero Velo 4S
All weather tyres backed by motorsport expertise
Sizes: 23-28mm | Weight: 250g (28mm) | TPI: 128tpi | Price: £50 / $64.90 / AU$75
Pirelli made quite a splash with its re-entry into bicycle tyres with the P Zero range, and the Velo 4S serves as the brands all-season tyre optimised for wet and cold conditions.
The tread is made from Pirelli's SilcaSmartNet compound which is fast-rolling, and the Italian brand says the tread is based on its FGD (Functional Groove Design) which is borrowed from its Diablo Supercorsa motorbike tyres said to maximise wet weather grip - take this claim with a grain of salt.
Under the hood, the Pirelli P Zero 4S features an aramid fibre strip for puncture protection and a 128tpi carcass. We just wish they would offer them in the iconic red and yellow logos for the added cool factor.
Specialized S-Works Turbo
Best for milder winters
Sizes: 24-28c (700c) | Weight: : 220g (26c) | TPI: 120tpi | Price: £37.50 / $70.00 / AU$85.00 / €39.90
The S-Works Turbo might not be marketed as an all-weather winter tyre, but it's relative affordability, good levels of grip, supple casing, and quality construction make for a tyre that is capable of performing year-round.
Not only is the tyre supple, grippy and fast enough to run on your best summer bike, the S-Works Turbo is so well made that it will happily stand up to the worst winter might throw at it. In fact, one of the Cyclingnews team members has run these tyres for three British winters - including sub-zero and snowy days - and can only remember a single puncture (26c, butyl tubes, budget alloy wheels)
That puncture protection comes courtesy of Specialized's Blackbelt technology, and the Gripton compound has an extremely low rolling resistance.
Of course, if snow, ice or thorny back roads are a common occurrence, then there are tyres with better winter-protective capabilities, but if your winter riding is predominantly spent on cleaner unfrozen surfaces, then the S-Works Turbo is a fantastic choice.
Continental Grand Prix 4 Season
A hard-wearing grippy option
Sizes: 23-32mm | Weight: 280g (28mm) | TPI: 330tpi | Price: £54.99 / $76.99 / AU$107.24
Falling somewhere in the middle of the nuclear bomb-proof Gatorskin and the race performance-oriented GP5000, the Grand Prix 4 Season offers added puncture protection and durability without sacrificing too much in the realm of rolling resistance.
Available in sizes from 23c to 32c, the GP 4 Season sees a double layer Vectran breaker to keep pointy road debris from meeting your tube, and features the German brand's polyamide fibre DuraSkin sidewall to stave off cuts.
The GP 4 Seasons don't get the BlackChili treatment, but the tread is made from a relatively soft compound that grips well in the wet and has proved to be surprisingly hard-wearing.
Michelin Power All Season
Best for fast rides in mild winters
Sizes: 23-28mm | Weight: 270g (25mm) | TPI: 95tpi | Price: £45.00 / $40 / AU$62
Michelin's Power tyres cover a wide range of performance levels, and the All Season clincher is designed for wet roads. Michelin used a new resin in the All Season's Grip Compound which, according to Michelin, offers a 15 per cent improvement over the Pro4 wet weather tyre, is faster, and more puncture-resistant - especially in the cold.
In the real world, the All Season tyre does offer notably better grip on wet roads than the Competition (the latter is still better when it's dry), and the All Season will outlast the rest of the tyres in Michelin's Power lineup.
Keeping the tube protected from pointy road debris comes compliments of a Michelin-developed artificial fibre called Aramid Protek+ layer that adds a few grams, but also keeps your tyre levers safely in your pocket.
Schwalbe Marathon Plus Smart Guard
Best for commuting, touring, or 'long slow distance' riding
Sizes: 25-38mm (700c) | Weight: : 595g (25mm) | TPI: 67tpi | Price: £41.49 / $51.68 / AU$73.87
For those who believe that it's not winter unless there is snow on the ground, the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres are for you. They feature deep tread, rough and tumble sidewalls, and extreme puncture protection, but that all comes at a hefty cost: a 595g weight.
The Marathon Plus come in a wide range of widths and sizes and see Schwalbe's top level of puncture protection which sees 5mm of rubber under the tread made from recycled latex - don't expect to win any sprints with the added puncture protection as they aren't very fast rolling, but if you're commuting, audaxing, touring or simply riding without a care for average speed, then look no further.
Best tubeless winter road bike tyres
Schwalbe G-One Speed Tubeless
Best winter road bike tyres for rough and 'gravel-lite' roads
Sizes: 30-38mm | Weight: 330g (30mm) | TPI: 127tpi | Price: £70 / $73 / AU$114
A toned-down version of Schwalbe's G-One gravel tyre, the Speed version has the same basic tread pattern (well, more of a texture) and is made from the brand's TripleStar Compound. Starting at 30mm wide, it's on the larger end of what traditionally would pass as a road tyre, but they are still fast-rolling and comfortable, perfect for those who ride over rougher terrain.
The G-One Speed is built around Schwalbe's Microskin carcass, which is a fabric layer in the casing that helps the tyre hold air without the need for an inner tube. Under the tread is a V-Guard fabric puncture protection layer, and the brand's Snakeskin sidewall protection — Schwalbe calls this double defence.
If the G-One Speed piques your fancy, you'll need a bike that can handle wide tyres. At 330g per tyre, however, they're not likely to please the weight weenies among us, but that's mainly because you're looking at a wider tyre than most brands are offering.
Vittoria Rubino Pro G2.0
Graphine-enhanced road tyre
Sizes: 23-30mm | Weight: 270g (28mm) | TPI: 150tpi | Price: £39.99 / $52.99 / AU$74.99
Vittoria's Rubino Pro tyre is ideal for your longer winter base mile rides, with plenty of puncture protection thanks to the bead-to-bead tread wrap and the PRB nylon anti-puncture layer inside the casing.
The Rubino Pro also takes advantage of Vittoria's 3C Graphine Structure, which sees the single-molecule thick carbon material slotting in between the rubber molecules for additional puncture protection and extended life — plus they are tubeless-ready.
With a 150tpi casing, they are surprisingly supple and competitively light too at 270g (28c).
Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR
A do-it-all tubeless tyre that can carry on when winter ends
Sizes: 23-32mm | Weight: 300g (28mm) | TPI: 120 | Price: £50 / $56 / AU$87
Built around Bontrager's Hard-Case Lite carcass, the R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR has recently been revamped from a slick to a lightly treaded tyre. Bontrager says the proprietary TR-speed compound is faster rolling and longer-lasting than its predecessor, while also offering superior puncture protection.
The centre strip is still smooth with Bontrager adding light tread to the shoulders which becomes more aggressive as the tyre gets wider — claiming this increases cornering traction.
Bontrager has also added a new Nylon 105 breaker belt and says its own lab testing showed the tread lasting 75 per cent longer than its predecessor.
Panaracer Gravel King Slick TLC
The best for turning your gravel bike into a winter road mile muncher
Sizes: 32-38mm | Weight: 290g (32c) | TPI: 120tpi | Price: £44.99 / $62.99 / AU$85.49
Gravel King might be a slightly misleading name for these Panaracer tyres as they are likely to leave you under-gunned on anything more than a recently graded gravel-road. They are, however, fantastic winter road tyres if your bike has enough clearance.
Gravel tyres are, by definition, designed to stand up to a fair bit of abuse, so it's no surprise the 'Anti-Flat casing' and AX-Alfacord puncture protection is well suited to sharp road debris. The ZSG natural compound file tread is fast rolling and provides oodles of purchase even on steep, wet gradients.
These tyres are only available in 32-38mm widths (narrower versions are now discontinued, so you might find them if you look hard enough), which means many road bikes might struggle for clearance, but they make a great tyre to convert your gravel bike into a winter road mile muncher that's still capable of hitting the 'gravel-lite' trails.
What to look for in a set of winter road bike tyres
Can you put winter tyres on a road bike?
Absolutely, and it's highly recommended if you're planning to ride through the colder seasons. During winter, there are more likely to be wet and icy surfaces to contend with, so throwing on a pair of the best winter road bike tyres will help you to remain upright and stable.
Of course, the width and tread of the tyres you get will depend largely on how much clearance you have on your frame, especially if you're also running mudguards. Check with your bike manufacturer to find out what the maximum tyre clearance is, and take off a few millimetres for mudguards.
What's the best compound for winter tyres?
Creating the best compound for a winter tyre is a balancing act between offering grip and durability. Hard compounds usually roll faster and wear harder but don't offer much in the way of grip. Soft compounds provide superior grip but wear out at the speed of light. Water also reduces the friction required to cut rubber, so riding around on the wet roads during the winter will make your tyres more susceptible to sharp objects, regardless of the compound.
Why do you get more punctures in winter?
It's certainly true that puncture counts tend to go up over winter. Increased moisture, whether that's from rain, drizzle, snow or ice, acts as a natural lubricant that makes it much easier for sharp bits of debris to penetrate your tyres. There's also likely to be more debris lying around as a result of foul weather. That's why puncture protection is very important when choosing the best winter road bike tyres.
Luckily most tyres will have a sub-tread designed to stave off punctures. On the lower end of the price spectrum, this sub-tread will consist of an extra layer of rubber but as you move up in price the extra layer will be replaced by fabric-like Kevlar or Vectran to stop sharp objects before they can poke a hole.
Because tubeless tyres are filled with sealant, they will automatically seal most punctures before the tyre is completely deflated. Most of the time if you do get a puncture, you won't realise it until you get home and the rear of your bike is covered in sealant.
What's the best tread for winter road tyres?
Road tyres have various levels of tread, but regardless of the pattern, it's not likely to offer much - if any - additional traction. Car tyres have a square profile and need tread to displace water to prevent hydroplaning. Bike tyres have a round cross-section which is an ideal shape to prevent hydroplaning and the contact patch which looks a bit like a canoe is exceptional at displacing water. Plus to hydroplane a bike tyre you need to be riding at speeds unachievable with human legs.
Is it better to have wider tyres during winter?
The benefits of wide tyres have been well established; they are more comfortable, offer better grip and there have been plenty of independent tests showing they are faster, too. How wide a tyre you can run will be determined by your bikes clearance, and also the width of your wheels' rims. Aim for the plumpest casing that will fit in your frame and still allow your wheels to properly support the sidewall.
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