Where the Rubber Meets the Road

There’s plenty of room for personal preference when it comes to choosing tires. For city/utility riding I like a tire at least 32mm wide with some flat protection built-in and a decent amount of tread for occasional forays onto gravel, dirt, or glass-filled gutter. There are a wide variety of tires on the market that meet these criteria; the following are a few of the most popular:

I’ve been enjoying the Panaracer Pasela lately, though I’ve ridden all of the above and like each for different reasons. What’s your favorite city/commuting/utility tire for everyday use?

30 Responses to “Where the Rubber Meets the Road”

  • Dennis says:

    Wondering what type of light/flashlight you’re using and how you attach it?

    Thanks!

  • Alan says:

    It’s a Fenix L2D. You can read all about it here:

    Fenix L2D

    Now back to your regularly scheduled program (tires).. :-)

  • Donald says:

    I have ridden Specialized Armadillos for a number of years and have hardly had any flats. I go for years without a flat, even on tours fully loaded and my 6’4″ 230 lb. self. They are expensive, heavy, hard to get on and off the rim, and seem to wear a little quickly. This round I thought I would try a different brand. I ride 27″ so that limits my options to 1 1/4″. I put on Continental Ultra Gatorskins about two months ago and have already had three flats. They are much easier to get on and off the rim. (Except for yesterdays flat on the rear wheel in the rain. What a greasy sloppy mess) Yesterday I pulled a small piece of glass out of the tread zone that would not have even phased the Armadillos. I will probably keep riding them for now but my plan is to go back to the Armadillos eventually. I might consider Schwalbe Marathon Plus in the future but some of the prices on these tires are amazingly high. I guess I am living in the past but I could outfit four tires on my first car for two bike tires today.

    Sacramento, California

  • Croupier says:

    I’ve been lucky enough to test a wide variety of tires these past couple years for Easy Racers. Coming from a BMX background, I pretty quickly realized on my first 700c bike that the tires weren’t going to hold up to the same abuse that a 20″, 2″ wide tire was. However, I still prefer a pretty narrow, fast tire on my city bikes.
    This led me to A) Conti Gatorskins. Durable as what all, and very fast, but with a somewhat limiting tread in the narrower sizes. They never agreed with the sand that accumulates around here. If I were any further from the sea I would probably rub these all the time.
    B) Schwalbe Stelvios were fast and light, and even seemed to grip better than Gatorskins (a lot like the old Avocet slicks) but without that belting and sidewall they were just too prone to flats. I had similar experiences with Schwalbe’s Durano.
    C) The Maxxis Detonator is an underrated tire. There are a few that I’ve ridden in the past three years or so that I’m not mentioning here but the Detonator, I have to say, really impressed me and I ran it for far longer than I expected to. I tried a 700x25c, which is narrower than any of the others that I’m recommending but I got hardly any flats and at some point near the end of my trial I decided to beat the hell out of them and they held up really well. However, the tread was… eh. It’s still a road cyclist’s training tire.
    D) My favorite tire and the one I use right now is the Panaracer T-Serv Messenger Tire. In 700x28c it is a bit grippier than you’d expect any tire of that width to be but that’s not to say it’s slow. I don’t know how else to say it but, it doesn’t get flats! I hear that a lot of bike shops don’t carry it which is a real shame. Seek it out! Any bike shop that uses J&B Importers as their distributor can order it for you, and I think the other major distributor, QBP, might carry it too. That’s covers almost every bike shop in the country.
    Hope these narrower recommendations help some of you out.
    A note on the Schwalbe Marathons vs. Marathon Supremes. The Supremes are awesome wet weather tires but the original Marathons do it all. If you’re after something fatter I would save your money and go with them. I’ve never tried the Marathon Plus.

  • Troy Hudson says:

    I spend almost equal time on three different bikes so I’d have to say on my old ’54 CCM I have Kenda whiote wall baloons that are on their sixth season with one flat. My fixie has been running Stelvios which are great and grippy and hold up pretty well for track skids but the best set of tires would have to be WTB’s Cross Wolf (700×32). They hold up incredible well. You can put 85 lbs into them for a road ride and then drop the pressure down to 30lbs for a cross ride through any type of terrain. I run 55lbs when using my cross bike for commuting and they have served me well. I have two sets of Tufo tires and have to say they did not fair well for the high price of them. They ARE however very light and the tubular clincher design rocks! Just a bit on the delicate side. Didn’t want to admit that they were so great but..well done WTB.

  • Scott Wayland says:

    My commuter has a mix: a regular Schwalbe Marathon on the rear and a Marathon Racer up front. My commute is short, so I put slime in the tubes so I can ALWAYS make it to the bus. When I first roll down my hill, I can feel the wad of slime spinning the wheel in a wobble–odd. But the goop spreads out quickly as does the ride. Works for me.

    As for Marathons vs. Marathon Plus, the Plus is a great, very puncture resistant tire, but it is incredibly heavy. Just a dead feeling tire, although probably no worse than most other tires and a heavy slime tube like mine.

    Schwalbe has a new tire out, the Marathon Supreme, which appears to be the real business, but the price is, er, astronomical. I’ll probably get some for my next tour even so. A fast, light, virtually puncture proof tire sounds wonderful. Reports I’ve read are very positive.

    Scott

  • John Pickett says:

    I use a 700X35 Panaracer Pasella with Tour Guard on the rear of my Tour Easy. I came upon this tire by chance at a local bike store. I like them a lot. On the front of the Tour Easy I have a Schwalbe Marathon (20 – 406- x35). They give good traction and have all but eliminated the problems I had with the front wheel sliding out. I have the same tires on my Bike Friday New World Tourist. They were a nightmare to mount which I think is an issue with the wheel not the tires. Finally on my 10+ year old Specialized Sequoia I have Schwalbe Marathons (700×28). I bought them because I could not find the Pasellas I wanted as it was late in the cycling season. I had a great deal of trouble getting these tires on the rims – which I have never had before with this bike. Twice the tires blew off the rim with a BANG. The bike also handles strangely with these tires. (Could just be the combination of tire width. and narrow handlebars.)

    Bottom Line: for me I prefer Panaracer Pasellas with Tour Guard.

  • Dann says:

    For years I rode the Continental Top Touring tires, but they have been out of circulation for some time. Last year, I switched to Vittoria Randonneurs 700×32 (not the cross) front and rear. I have taken off 40 lbs., down from a lifetime high of 250 lbs., so I put these tires to quite the test. The back tire went 4,600 miles without a puncture, riding through glass shards, metal bits, plastic tail-light debris fields, etc. But, once the tire started getting punctures, it flatted almost every day. The front is still going strong, now at around 6,500 commuting miles. These tires are grippy in the wet, in sand, in broken glass – making hard turns coming down hills in all conditions. My only complaint is they have a maximum tire pressure of 75 lbs. For a while, I followed the recommended tire pressure, until a LBS wrencher told me he pumped his Randonneurs to 90 psi without any problem. I rode these tires at 90 psi for several months (still am on the front).

    Now, with the Vittoria still on the front, I’ve replace the rear with a Shwalbe Marathon. At first, this tire felt very weird. Lots of mushiness, like the sidewalls were real weak. I run them at 100 psi, and that seems to take out most of the side sway. However, after “just” 2,000 miles, I got my first puncture in the Schwalbe. When I heard that always disconcerting “whoosh . . . whoosh . . . whoosh,” I thought the older front tire had picked up a glass/metal shard (I had just rode through a very recent auto-accident debris field). I stopped at the traffic light, felt the front, but it was still firm. The light changed, so I didn’t get a chance to check the rear – but, I didn’t get far; the rear deflated within half a block.

    When the Marathon wears out, I most likely will go back to the Randonneurs, as they are a very good tire for the price. However, I will check out the Schwalbe Marathon Supremes.

  • Alan says:

    I’d like to try out Supremes sometime as well – they look like a very interesting tire. Regarding Continental Contacts, I’ve been commuting on them daily for over a year with zero flats.

  • Harry H says:

    I use either Jack Brown Blues (700×33.3) or Nifty Swifty’s (584×32.8) for my commute bikes. I like the width, the way they handle, and how well they handle road debris. I’m going to try some Schwalbe Mara Supremes (700×40) here shortly. I’m excited to try a wider tire and see if I can feel a difference in the ride.

  • greenobike says:

    Currently, Ritchey Alfa-Bite 700×35. One spring I left the winter cross tires on, and I haven’t gone back since. Has it really been 20 years?

  • David Harris says:

    Big fan of Continental tires and have them on both of my bikes. I have the Sport Contacts on my Lightning P-38, and Grand Prix 4000 on my Litespeed Classic. My experience with them is that I get high miles and almost no flats. I ride mostly country roads at about 3,000 miles/year.

  • Simon N says:

    I’ve been riding on Marathon Supremes (35c) for a few thousand ks now, and they’re bloody fantastic.

    That vectran stuff is invincible. I’ve pulled things out of my Supremes that would have slashed regular Marathons to ribbons. It holds the casing together to the point I’ve given up supergluing the gashes in the rubber – it doesn’t make a difference. I keep the pressure just a touch below the max (say 78 of a possible 85psi), amd the tire simply refuses to bulge or deform no matter what I do to it.

    Unlike regular Marathons they grip like nobody’s business. Unlike Marathon Pluses they have a round cross section (makes for better cornering).

    Not the lightest, nor the cheapest, but definitely the best tires I’ve run.

  • Alan says:

    @Simon

    Thanks for the report on Marathon Supremes, Simon. They’ll be my next tire purchase.

    Alan

  • Chase Williams says:

    I have been commuting on Kenda K-Rad 26×2.3 tires and I love them. I wanted a beefy commuter bike so I built up an old Cannondale mountain bike frame with drop bars and a rack. I love the look of big tires so I had to get the widest ones I could fit, naturally. Even though they were designed for urban stunt riding, they actually roll very nicely. I am easily able to keep a pace of 20mph on flat ground on my commute from Sac to Davis. They are very tough and I can just roll over most things in the road without a worry. They are a bit on the heavy side but once you get them wound up they don’t want to stop.

    On the flip side, I used to run some Vredestein Fortezza’s on my old road bike and those things were strong. I rode those tires all over Humboldt county and had maybe one flat. I took those tires over some of the roughest pavement not to mention miles of dirt and gravel roads.

  • Roland Smith says:

    After a pice of glass cut right through the protective layer in my Schalbe Marathon (40-406, type HS308) rear tyre, I put on a Schwalbe Marathon Plus (35-406, type HS348). It was quite difficult to get the plus around the rim. I keep it at around 5.5 bars, which is quite hard but rolls well.

  • cyclepete says:

    This winter, I wanted something that could handle an inch of snow without problem. My normal summer tires are essentially slicks and they become exactly that in snow. I didn’t want to have to put on my studded tires unless we got a major snowfall.

    I decided on the Marathon Cross. It worked out well, giving me plenty of traction on 1-2 inches of snow. It’s a bit heavy and slow so I will probably swap my summer tires back on.

  • Rider says:

    I like a tire with a reflective sidewall, because I commute in the dark in the mornings.

    The only tire I could find with glowback sidewalls in a 28 (the largest tire that would fit in my fork) was the Panaracer T-serv.

    Nice tire. I’m happy with it, and, man, do those sidewalls bounce back when you hit them with a beam.

    I think reflective tires are more common in tire sizes 32 and up.

  • Vincent says:

    The strongest tire I know is the Marathon XR. I use it (size 37-622) for years on my upright bike: very long life (easily 15.000 km on the rear wheel and 25.000 on the front one) and very good puncture resistance.
    Since I ride a recumbent, I still use the MarathonXR (size 50-559), even stronger than the 622 and more comfortable, but high rolling resistance.
    I tried a pair of Marathon Supreme (the first version, 2007) on about 10.000 km: It’s not so strong but lighter, (the material is more tender, that’s why the grip is better). It rolls better but the anti-puncture was not as good as on the XR. Anyway, since my test, Schwalbe has changed their anti-puncture technique, which is now the same on both tires.
    I actually try a pair of Nokian AWS (All Weather Slick), which has the same qualities as the Supreme ((even better grip), but with the same kind of anti-puncture protection as Marathon plus (and that leads to a heavier tire).

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    Interesting discussion.– thanks for bringing up, Alan. My favorite tires on my utility bike (an inexpensive but very capable Schwinn Sierra Al) are Continental Town & Country. Great in all weathers and conditions except ice, when I switch to Nashbar studded tires. My Surly LHT now has Schwalbe Marathons which I put on at the 1000 mile mark on the bike’s frame. I’ve been riding them for 1500 miles and they’re great. Maybe I’m jinxing myself but have had no flats with it. On my old Schwinn road bike with 27″ x 1.25″ rims I recently mounted Continental tires, near slicks, cannot remember the name. I debated the more expensive sturdier Schwalbe tires, but have been very happy with the plain Marathons. No tread wear that I can see, no cracks, no cuts, and I’ve ridden over sharp stones and glass, on cobble and dirt roads, and dropped into deep potholes. The Conti T&Cs have been long-lived tires as well — I got over 4000 miles on the first set before sidewalls began to show some minor cracking.

    An aside — I’ve been getting inexpensive Nashbar and Performance inner tubes for years, but last year when I flatted a WTB Slickasaurus on the LHT, I installed a Continental tube. Superior presta valve to the bargain tubes, and seems to be better rubber, too.

  • Alan says:

    Thanks for your input, Tamia.

    I too like brand name tubes. I’m a big fan of Schwalbe tubes and they’re all I use anymore; they require less frequent refilling and, like Continental tubes, the valves are higher quality and easier to work with.

    Regards,
    Alan

  • Bill says:

    I really like the 35 mm. Vittoria Randonneur Pro (folding version, the non-Pro is wire bead). They measure about 34 mm on my narrow rims, would probably make a true 35 on a wider rim. I think they roll at least as well as the Paselas they replaced, but are more flat resistant and have reflective sidewalls.

    I’ve seen a 28 mm wire bead version with all-white tread, might be cool looking on the right bike.

  • Barry says:

    I mounted Marathon Supreme (35mm) on my Crosscheck and am in love. Yes they are expensive, but consider the price of your bike and how the tires add or subtract the overall feel and handling of your bike. These tires feel great.

    I mounted a Marathon Plus (20 in) on my recumbent. It is very heavy but bulletproof and probably unnecessary for my use. By the way, if you’re into self inflicted frustration, try mounting a stiff 20in Marathon Plus on a small rim.

  • Ken Pendergrass says:

    Continental Ultra GatorSkin is the best I have used. 180 tpi and it’s very much a race tire / commuter. Mine have over 2000 miles and still showing mould marks. I use 700 28.
    Ken

  • Dave says:

    I rode Marathon Plus over this last winter and managed to escape the puncture fairy (I ride up to 600 miles a month). However, they are just so depressingly dead…

    I also struggled with their cornering at speed. Something a little squirmy and unpredictable bit me a few times, and eventually I got rid for a pair of Continental GP4000s-es. These are racing tyres, but the ride quality is fantastic and in summer, I like to enjoy my commute and can put up with the odd puncture :)

  • Doug D says:

    I have some plain Marathons that came with two of my bikes, I find them a little slow.
    Marathon winter are a great studded tire for winter commuting.
    For my every day bikes I have been gravitating to wider tires. I really like the Schwalbe Big Apples for commuting, errands and weekend tours. They wear out fast but they ride really nicely. They are easily a gear faster than the plain Marathons for me.
    I have ridden through several sets of Panaracer Pasela TGs and I still have them on my Cross Check – they are durable and reasonably fast. I wish they came wider than 35 though.

  • Helton says:

    For mountain bike all around use (including much gravel and sometimes mud) I’ve been very satisfied with the Bontrager Connection-Trail (which comes OEM in most Treks): good grip, comfortable, low rolling resistance, and doesn’t wear out fast. I’d buy a dozen of them without any doubt. Cannot say the same about Schwalbe Marathon XR: a bit too slippery when wet, and makes the bike go slower (unless you inflate it a lot, but then it completely loses its “air spring” comfort.

  • Carolyn Ibis says:

    This is good that you post this. A day after reading this, I was talking to someone who knows bikes. I just got my Rocky Mtn. Hybrid in June and he says the tires on my bike are showing more wear then it should be after 524 kms. It has Kenda Kwest 700X32C A.V. tires on it, but not sure the quality of them. Are bike companies like car companies, in that they put cheap tires on? Then it’s up to the buyer to upgrade the tires when they need to be replaced?

    I’ll have to see if my local bike shop has any of the suggested above.

  • Carolyn Ibis says:

    Oops, got the hybrid bike in Febuary.

  • Lief says:

    I rolled 400miles with 700x23c Serfas Secas and got 5 flats so I dumped them like a hot potato.
    I replaced them with 700x23c Schwalbe Duranos and went 2500+ miles in the NW winter rubbish filled gutters without a single flat.

    Pictures on my blog – http://blief.zwise.net/?p=701
    Because of my FWD MBB recumbent Cruzbike Silvio (and my still-learning-how-to-pedal-smoothly up-a-hill-self) I wore through the tread on the front wheel and unfortunately suffered a sidewall-gash on the back big enough that I don’t feel safe riding on either one any longer – the back one was probably only about half-worn.

    I always felt I had plenty of grip – so if small and (relatively) lightweight is your thing, I recommend the Durano, at any width.

 
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