From sometime in 2007 to sometime in 2009, we ran a Street Tire Survey on Bicycle Fixation. It has taken us nearly a year, but we have finally collated the results, which we present in the graph below.
These are impressions of several tires submitted by users thereof; they are not technical evaluations. We asked riders to rate their tires on a five-point scale for several characteristics, then averaged the results for each characteristic, and averaged the averages to determine an overall rating for each tire. The survey was intended to gather users' impressons of tires in utility service--commuting, touring, shopping, and general travel--not sport riding. We asked how long each tires lasted, how well it gripped on wet and dry pavement and on dirt roads, how well it resisted punctures, how comfortable it felt, and whether it was worth the money. We averaged those factors together for the overall rating, and also averaged the responses on road quality. Five points is the highest rating, one point the lowest.
A high price can pull down a good tire's rating, while extreme flat resistance can raise a sluggish tire's score. We did not ask whether tires felt fast: to repeat, we were interested in a tire's suitability for utility riding.
We did not include any tires that received fewer than three responses, and most received much more. Panaracer Paselas and Schwalbe Marathons received the most responses, so their ratings will be the most accurate.
|Make/Model||Wear||Dry Grip||Wet Grip||Dirt Grip||Flat Resistance||Comfort||Value||Overall Rating||Road Quality|
|Continental Grand Prix||4.67||3.67||3.00||1.67||4.00||3.67||3.33||3.43||3.00|
|Continental Town & Country||5.00||5.00||4.67||4.00||4.33||5.00||4.67||4.67||2.67|
|Continental Ultra Gatorskin||4.83||4.17||3.33||2.50||4.83||4.17||3.50||3.90||2.50|
|Geax Street Runner||4.50||4.25||3.50||2.50||4.25||4.00||4.00||3.86||1.75|
|Grand Bois Cypres||3.00||4.50||4.25||2.75||2.00||5.00||2.75||3.46||2.25|
|Michelin Pro Race 2||3.00||5.00||4.33||2.50||4.00||5.00||2.00||3.69||2.00|
|Michelin Transworld City||5.00||5.00||4.33||3.33||4.33||4.67||4.33||4.43||2.67|
|Col de la Vie||4.80||4.40||4.20||4.20||4.20||4.40||5.00||4.46||1.8|
|Panaracer Pasela Tourguard||4.30||4.23||3.92||3.08||4.62||4.08||4.16||4.06||2.36|
|Schwalbe Big Apple||4.60||4.80||4.50||3.25||4.00||5.00||3.2||4.19||2.00|
|Schwalbe Marathon Plus||4.90||4.78||4.38||3.67||4.89||4.22||3.56||4.34||2.22|
|Schwalbe Marathon Supreme||5.00||4.60||4.00||3.80||5.00||4.40||2.6||4.20||3.40|
We also asked for comments from respondents. A sampling of those comments follows.
Original article follows:
When you're on the bike every day, you get the chance to wear through a lot of tires, and you find out pretty soon which ones do a good job of keeping you attached to the road, and which ones aren't so good. Here's a quick review of several I've used over the last twenty years and found to stand up well to the demands of hardcore urban commuting. I have used each tire for at least 500 miles, and usually for several thousand, before reporting on it.
My present favorite tire (as of late 2010) is the Schwalbe Marathon, the "plain" Marathon, HS368. Comfortable, highly flat-resistant, not too slow, and extremely grippy on dry or wet roads and most unpaved road surfances. Not even very expensive. I'm also riding, on another bike, the vittoria Randonneur Pro, which si very comfortable over bumpy roads but is so sluggish that I can't wait for the present pair to wear out. I will replace them with Marathons.
The Avocet tires listed below are no longer available. But I wish they were!
The king of tires! Round, sticky, fast, smooth-riding, great in corners, excellent in rain, and the belted version is impressively resistant to flatting. Lasts a good long while too. If you ride mostly pavement, there is no better tire, I think. Great on rough or even shattered roads as well as smooth paths. Available in 26" and 700C in skinny to fat sizes. Like all Avocet products, a little hard to find, but well worth the search. Comes in belted and unbelted versions. Note: No longer available!
Avocet Cross Kevlar
An excellent all-around tire: strong, heavy, belted, with a deeply-incised zigzag tread that works very well on any sort of pavement, and acceptably on dirt roads too. Soft, possibly natural, rubber gives you confident cornering, strong construction lets you carry heavy loads over potholes and spilled bricks, and the handsome tread grips through rain, on hardpack, and even in mud if it's not too soft. (The same tread acts as little paddlewheels that scoop rain up to your face, so you'd better have fenders for wet weather rides.) I got about five thousand miles (or about one year) out of a rear tire; the rubber seems to degenerate from smog after that long, and the tire then starts flatting. I typically would have no more than one flat in the first 5,000 miles, and then two or three within a few weeks, when I would regretfully replace the tire even though it was not yet worn out. I say "regretfully" because they cost approximately $35.00 each. Available in three widths for 26" wheels, and three for 700c. There is an unbelted version, which I would not recommend if you live in places like Los Angeles, where the streets are paved with broken beer bottles. The current version is made of an even sticker rubber. I recommend this tire if you ride dirt roads a lot but are still mainly a pavement rider. Note: No longer available!
Bontrager Race Lite
A high-pressure nearly slick road tire that is fast and sticky and resists flats fairly well. Ride is a bit harsh, but it's a pretty good tire that's easy to find and not too expensive. Bontrager seems to give its tires similar names, so make sure you get the belted one if you ride on iffy roads.
Much beloved of touring riders and inexpensive as well, I'd call this a decent but unexciting tire. Feels a bit slow and "squishy," and doesn't climb out of longitudinal pavement cracks very well. Has a pretty but useless siped tread pattern. If the budget were better I'd replace the ones I got for free, but they aren't bad, just not as good as the Avocets. There is a belted version (the "Tourguard") that I have not tried.
Ritchey Tom Slick:
An almost-slick with deep edge grooves, now available only in 26" and 700C. I ran the 26" x 1.4" for years on a Bridgestone XO-2, but never liked them. While they are comfortable and stick well in wet or dry, they always felt slow to me, and on dirt roads they just slip and slide around. Some people love them, but they always made my rides a little weary.
Schwalbe Marathon Plus:
Todd Edelman, of the Green Idea Factory in Prague, tested a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires in 26x1.5 (559x37). Here is his report:
Cornering is fantastic, even when they are pumped up above the recommended limit. I feel like I can lean over really far. However, they are a little slow, and of course heavy, but keep in mind that I needed an all-year tire for city streets (and it snows here). I thought about getting the 1.25 model but we have cobblestones.
It is incredibly reassuring to know that it is highly unlikely I will get a puncture from most urban threats: glass, tacks, bits of wire. I think they are probably very long lasting, but cannot guess how long. The reflectorized sidewalls are good as they eliminate the need for fragile reflectors, and they also look less dorky. These seem to be the most popular higher-end tyre with bike messengers here.
I rode this tire on my old Centurion when I returned to commuting a few years ago; it was the first belted (armored) tire I used, and it worked well, though it didn't last very well. I don't believe the version I used is still made, but Specialized markets a number of tires under the same name, and if they are indeed advancements over the old rubber I was using all those years ago, they would be worth trying.
Of course, there are other good tires around, but these are the ones we've used out there in day-to-day urban traffic. I haven't put prices because prices change week to week and store to store. As we try more tires, I'll add them to this article.