Since I live in an area where the streets often have a lot of broken glass on the road I used to get a lot of flat tires, so a few years ago I started using Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires on my main road bike. The Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires offer triple flat protection: a Kevlar belt provides puncture resistance, anti-pinch ribs stop pinch flats, and bead to bead woven construction dramatically reduce your chances of cutting your sidewalls. However, they offer more rolling resistance than I would like and they don’t handle well in the rain. Several of my friends use the Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Folding Tire (formerly known as Ultra GatorSkin) and they rave about how well it performs, so I decided to give them a chance and am certainly glad I did.
After riding over 1,000 miles on my first pair of Continental GatorSkin tires I have to say I dearly love them! They seem to have a lot less rolling resistance than the Bontrager Hard Case tires, and they handle much better in the rain as well. This tire has a smooth center tread and “grips” on the shoulders that allow you handle corners even when there is a lot of debris on the road. As for glass, I ridden through a lot of recently and the tires still look line new.
My biggest test with these tires came last week on hot asphalt. You might have heard the old joke that those of us in the far north only have two seasons: Winter and Construction. The truth is that we have four seasons (almost winter, winter, still winter, and summer). Anyway, last week it seemed like every major road with 30 miles of my house was getting a new layer of asphalt—and one day I got forced into riding over fresh, piping hot, asphalt. The moment I hit it I could feel the temperature rise—the soles of my feet were really hot and I was scared to stop or even slow down! However, I made it through without any problems.
I asked my friend Eric, a Navy commander on the East coast, for his opinion about these tires and he said, “I weigh 220 pounds without any gear or water bottles and put the GatorSkins through the paces. I’ve ridden hard on milled roads, over gravel, off the road onto crud, across Indiana, on lousy Park Service roads at 100 F and have had two flats in 3 years. One was from a stem failure and the other from a puncture (sharp rock, I guess). I buy one new tire every 2000 miles and put it on the back and rotate the old one to the front. While the front tire has a flatter profile, the ‘corners’ are generally pristine and ready to service some pretty staggering turns at speed. They are great tires. I even put the wider ones (28 mm) on my commuting bike and get those with the hard bead. They are bullet proof, which is probably suitable for the neighborhood near the base.”
Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Folding Tires come in several sizes, including: 26×1 1/8, 650 x 23C, 700 x 23C, 700 x 25C, 700 x 28C, 700 x 32C, and 27 x 1 1/4. Some of these sizes are available in both foldable and wire-bead. I use the 700x25C and it has a maximum inflation of 120psi, but Continental recommends you run them at 95psi. However, since I am not a lightweight rider I keep mine inflated to 120psi.
These tires retail for around $65 (depending on size), and should be available from just about any bike shop. By the way, these tires are handmade in Germany.