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Some people refer to tires that are more resistant to punctures as "puncture proof" tires. For example: Specialized All Condition Armadillo Tyre

Even though these tires are not really puncture proof, they do reduce a lot the chances of puncturing. So the advantage is obvious.

Apparently, they're not too expensive compared to regular tires. So, I was wondering why people would choose not to use these more resistant tires. What are their disadvantages?

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Well, they are more expensive. If not, I believe nobody would ever buy (nor produce a new bike with) non-resistant tires. –  jensgram Aug 26 '10 at 12:19
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jensgram: There are reasons why you would not buy/produce ONLY non-resistant tires. I would never put them on my road bike, as they are too heavy. –  Dan McClain Aug 26 '10 at 13:23
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Very nicely asked question! –  Dustin Aug 26 '10 at 16:20
    
If you have wide tires with presta (car style) valves then the self sealing slime stuff works very well. –  mgb Oct 20 '10 at 16:41
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@Martin Beckett - I think you mean Schrader valve which is what most cars would use. The Presta valve is specific to bikes. –  Sam Meldrum Jun 20 '12 at 7:23

12 Answers 12

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Though there no doubt are "puncture-resistant" tires that seek to accomplish that end by means of extra-thick rubber, for the past 15-20 years the standard for puncture resistance has been Kevlar belted tires, which look and ride like ordinary tires and weight essentially the same as ordinary tires (maybe a few grams more).

The Kevlar belt under the tread increases puncture resistance by at least a factor 10, eliminating most common glass/thorn punctures, and also reducing the tendency of the tire to "bruise".

Price wise, my recollection is that they are about 30% more expensive than standard tires, but they likely last that much longer (plus save a lot on tubes), so the cost is pretty much a wash. (The odd thing is that Kevlar-belted tires are so hard to find.)

Some people apparently confuse "Kevlar belted" tires with "Kevlar bead" tires. The latter are "folding" tires and are supposedly desired because they are a hair lighter than metal bead tires, plus they can be folded and stuffed in a pannier. But you can buy Kevlar belted with a metal bead (my preference, since folding tires are a PITA to install), and Kevlar bead tires are not necessarily Kevlar belted (in fact, most often not).

Update: Last Saturday I had my first puncture in maybe 5 years (maybe 2000 miles), while finishing up a 35-mile morning. Just got around to fixing it because it's been ungodly hot and humid. (Hitched a ride home the last two miles, since there was no way to fix the flat in 95-degree weather on a 4-foot shoulder in the sun with traffic whizzing by at 70 MPH.)

The culprit was apparently a construction staple that had pierced the tire just outside the belt, gone through the sidewall of the tube, and then punched a bigger hole in the inside diameter of the tube.

I do notice the tire is wearing a bit thin, so I'll probably have to replace it within a year or so. I'm dreading trying to find a 700/35c road tire with Kevlar belt, though -- the catalogs are now full of off-road tires and cater even less to the touring market than they did 5-10 years ago.

OK -- To make this into a direct answer to the question, the main disadvantage of Kevlar belted tires is that you forget how to change a tire, you do it so rarely.

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I've been using Kevlar-belted tires for a while; no flats yet. Near the end of the life of my previous pair, when they were wearing a bit thin, I actually managed to tear a bit of rubber (1-2 cm long) off the central strip. I didn't notice when it happened, and suspect I rode for a week with the belt exposed there. I'm pretty sure they work. –  Jefromi Jun 20 '12 at 23:02
    
I believe some brands like Gator Hardshell tires also put some of the protective "magic" into the sidewalls. This can add a tad bit of weight. I'm told this makes the ride rougher, though I can't tell the difference. –  James Schek Jun 24 '12 at 0:27
    
The question was about disadvantages, and the only two you mention are cost and punctures. This reads like a counter to the other answers. I don't think it's up to your usual standard. –  Kohi Jul 4 '12 at 23:30
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I ain't got no standards. (I was basically attempting to clarify the question, particularly about what is and isn't "puncture resistant".) –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 5 '12 at 0:09

You are trading in 'road feel' and perhaps increasing your rolling resistance for durability.

For example, a set of Vittoria Open Corsa tyres have 320 tpi (threads per inch) and are quite supple. They will, to some people, give the perception of a smoother ride with less rolling resistance. The same could be said for many of the higher end race tyres.

By adding a puncture resistant layer or 'belt' you can reduce the suppleness of the tyre and increase your rolling resistance.

http://www.rouesartisanales.com/article-1503651.html

Typically if you are commuting or just putting in long training miles I would recommend a puncture resistant tyre. If you are racing, TT'ing or participating in an event where you are worried about mere seconds, I would perhaps not use a puncture resistant tyre and choose weight and reduced rolling resistance first and foremost.

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I have a pair of the Armadillo tires for my road bike, and they've helped quite a bit (we have a lot of thorny plants in my area, see my question here).

The downsides to this tire as compared to the tire that came with my bike:

  • The Armadillo is much skinnier than my previous tire (my choice, they do have larger sizes)

  • The Armadillo has less tread than my previous tire - I can go faster, but I have to be careful in wet conditions, as this tire can slip a lot easier. I've found riding in sand/dirt/loose gravel can be nearly impossible, depending on how loose it is. I have the All Condition tire.

  • Because the Armadillo has the thick (I think it's Kevlar) weave, it doesn't flex as easily. This makes your tire want to "skip" off of objects, instead of flexing and rolling right over them.

That said, I do prefer the Armadillos over my stock tires - since switching, I haven't had a single flat, and I've put about 500 miles on them so far (riding through the same areas where I got punctures before).

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It's not the lack of tread that reduces your grip in the wet, it's the hard rubber. More durable rubber conforms to the road surface less, reducing the size of the contact patch, and with it, the level of grip. –  headeronly Jul 8 at 14:43

To go in a bit more detail:

  • Puncture resistant tires are puncture resistant because they are made out of a thicker, tougher rubber. Thicker and tougher means heavier in every sense. The tire, rim and wheel are the places where weight really matters the most, and even small increases can really slow you down.
  • 'Puncture Resistance' is more of a marketing scheme than anything else. Regular tires, if kept at their recommended pressure, are already very puncture resistant, but no tire is puncture proof--everyone gets flats. It's a trade-off between a few less flats and a bit more weight.
  • Perhaps a better investment would be Puncture (or Thorn) Resistant tubes. These tubes are not quite twice the price of a regular tube, are not quite as heavy as a puncture-resistant tire, and still allow you to use any tire you want. Unfortunately, they are a little hard to find sometimes.
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However, sometimes, they are just more puncture resistent by virtue of more advanced materials. I got gatorskins that were no more heavy or thicker than the stock tires that came on my hybrid bike, but they sure did cut down on the number of punctures. –  Kibbee Jun 17 '12 at 17:38
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I don't know how this answer ever got upvoted so much -- it's pure BS. A good "puncture resistant" tire is simply a tire with a Kevlar belt, and is not noticeably heaver than a standard tire. And they are an order of magnitude more puncture-resistant than their un-belted brethren. –  Daniel R Hicks Jun 17 '12 at 20:13
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I don't really buy that the weight matters significantly more on the tire/rim. Sure, in terms of making it more work to accelerate, it has a very slightly bigger effect than weight elsewhere, but the time when weight really gets you is when you're climbing, and the work you're doing then is the same no matter where the weight is. –  Jefromi Jun 20 '12 at 22:58
    
Puncture resistant doesn't necessarily mean a lot of extra rubber or extra weight. However, a lot of 'commuter' tires are engineered in such a way, such as the Panaracer RiBMo or the Specialized Armadillo. However, tires made using advanced materials and include kevlar belts without lots of extra rubber may avoid the huge weight penalty, such as the Vittoria Randoneer Hyper. –  Benzo Jun 21 '12 at 14:18
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At the extreme end, this is definitely true. Marathon Plus tyres are thicker, heavier and more expensive than other tyres. But they're also hugely more puncture resistant than even a normal PR tyre (which are usually very similar to normal tyres). I've tried heavy tubes and was not impressed, they IMO better fit the description of "marketing speak". So I marked you down for factual errors. –  Kohi Jul 4 '12 at 23:32

Weight & Price are the two downsides I can see. Having said that, I suffered with thorn punctures for a long time and it got to the stage where I was fixing a puncture every single week. In the end I went to my bike shop and asked for a recommendation. Since then I haven't had a single puncture. The puncture-resistant inner tubes are about twice as thick as a regular inner tube. Unless you're into your racing and every gram makes a difference, I would definitely recommend fitting some thicker puncture-resistant inner tubes.

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Most of the other responders have covered most everything, but I thought I'd throw in a few more cents worth of comments. Everything has costs and benefits. Some riders spend big dollars for light wheels, so they are not going to erase those expensive gains with heavy tires. Personally, it would be better and cheaper for me if I dropped a few pounds off my waistline, so I am less interested in wheel weight and more interested in sturdy wheels and low maintenance tires which seldom flat.

I run 700x25C Continental Gatorskins on my main road bike. The wire bead version of this tire clocks in at around 300 grams (according to Continental). The folding version clocks in at 250 grams. As a point of comparison, Continental GP 4000 tires clock in at 240 grams. They are also folding tires (no wire bead means lighter). The difference in weight between the folding and wire bead versions is about two ounces; the difference between wire bead Gatorskins and very light racing tires can be around 150 grams (five ounces). The difference between light wheels/light tires and typical stock wheels/puncture-resistant tires (say, Mavic Aksium Race wheels with wire bead Gatorskins) could be as much as a full pound (16 ounces, 450 grams). That will be very noticeable to any rider.

In approximately 6500 miles of riding, I've had two flats. One was a cut by a piece of metal (pictured here; IMO, no tire would have stopped it), and one was a goat head thorn. Three or four riders in my cycling group are also riding on Gatorskins, and in approximately 10,000-12,000 miles on those tires-- including some long-distance riding, like San Francisco to San Diego-- at most one or two flats, total, not counting the ones I experienced.

One rider in my group was using a set of cheap tires, and repeatedly flatting... bits of wire, glass, you name it. He switched to Gatorskins, and I can't recall the last time he had a flat.

You can get tires with a greater puncture resistance than Gatorskins-- for example, Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, which are around 640 grams each (my scale), in 700x25C-- but they are considerably taller (may not fit on some bikes) and require some practiced skill to mount easily.

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I got sick of flatting while training on regular road tires. I went with some Continental Gatorskins and in two years have gotten only two flats - one involving a sharp stiff wire and the other a bent finishing nail. I have had no flats from glass or other road debris, and no sidewall cuts. Although not the lightest tire, they are not especially heavy and any small weight differential is more than made up by not having to break from a nice rythmn to fix a flat.

I am stunned at how effective these puncture resistant tires are, and wish I had switched to them earlier. I have also found them to be more comfortable, and they wear well. However, they are not inexpensive and my experience is that the Gatorskins are difficult to install. They tend to fit tight (this is confirmed by other posts on the web about installing Continental tires). I mount and and unmount the tire a few times (without the tube) before doing the final installation with the tube. This stretches the bead enough, so that I can be comfortable knowing that if I do get a flat I can remove the tire with the small plastic tire levers that I carry. It also avoids damaging a new tube on the difficult initial installation. Note: The performance benefits and installation issues discussed here may differ for other brands of puncture resistant tires.

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They are typically heavier than a "normal" tire, so the rotating mass will slow you down.

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Again, BS. "Rotating mass" is a red herring -- it doesn't slow you down any more than a non-rotating mass, and only slightly hinders acceleration. –  Daniel R Hicks Jun 17 '12 at 20:14
  • Weight
  • High rolling resistance
  • Price
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This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. –  Benzo Nov 1 '12 at 20:28

The biggest disadvantage occurs when you have the inevitable puncture... The "puncture proof" tires are quite difficult to remount (and even remove) due to the kevlar bead. Unless you have experience and very good strength in changing these tires, you most certainly will resort to levering the tire back onto the rim which typically results in tearing a new tube and having to begin the laborious process again. So expect that unexpected flat to require a few extra sets of tubes due to the risks in remounting the tire. The flip side is that a traditional tire will have punctures more often but be quite simple and often effortless to change the tube. Just be forewarned that being miles from home or even civilization, it is often better to know that puncture will take 10 min. or less to repair instead of much longer, with more frustration, and often ruining that spare tube(s).

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You confuse Kevlar bead with Kevlar belted -- you can have one without the other. Kevlar beads are used in "folding tires", and can indeed be harder to mount (especially the first time). But you can get Kevlar belted tires with a standard metal bead, and they are no more difficult to mount/dismount than a standard tire of the same size. And a "Quick Stick" will allow you to dismount/mount virtually all tires (except exceptionally narrow ones) with essentially zero chance of pinching/puncturing the tube. –  Daniel R Hicks Jun 17 '12 at 20:18
    
@DanielRHicks you have pointed out misunderstandings and unjustified claims in many-an-answer here; where's your knight-in-shining-armor answer so I can upvote it already??? –  Ehryk Jun 19 '12 at 8:34
    
@DanielRHicks, tell me more about this "quick stick", or should I start another question? –  James Bradbury Nov 1 '12 at 15:29
    
@JamesBradbury - The "Quick Stick" is a nylon rod maybe 7" long and 1/2" diameter, with a sort of crochet hook cut into one end. It takes a little practice, but except on exceptionally narrow/tight tires you can hook the stick under the tire and have it dismounted in about 30 seconds. Since the rod is fairly large diameter with a rounded end the danger of puncturing the tube is virtually nil. –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 1 '12 at 21:19

The obvious advantage is puncture resistance

There are several disadvantages:

  • weight
  • rolling resistance
  • grip
  • ride
  • cost

There are several levels of puncture resistance and a Kevlar belt is not the only means.

Let me tell you a story. After two years on a tire with moderate puncture resistance got my first flat and had to walk it home. I got on-line and bought THE most puncture resistant tire I could find ignoring all other factors. It is twice as heavy as the old tire (and feels twice as heavy), noticeably more rolling resistance, less grip, terrible grip in wet, and a harsh ride. I don't like it. If I get zero flats in two years compared to one not worth it.

Even racing tires typically come with some puncture resistance. Some time trial tires have none.

Means of puncture resistance

  • Puncture resistant material such as Kevlar.
    There are other materials such as Duraskin by Continental. The material may be only on the tread strip or include sidewall. Can even have a combination like a Gator Hard Shell.

  • Material in tread strip
    Not material specifically designed for puncture resistance - more material. Rubber or SmartGuard. Make the glass or thorn travel further. An example is the Marathon Plus HS 440.

  • Harder rubber
    Bounce glass and thorns off and also slow them down if they do penetrate

Pick your level of protection

  • Puncture resistant material in tread only
    This adds puncture resistance at a very small performance impact. Comes in all but very very cheap tires. Most racing tires even have this.
  • Puncture resistant material(s) in tread and sidewall
    Adds even more puncture resistance at still a very small performance impact. At this level it is more just a cost thing. A cheap tire is not going to have this extra material. An expensive tire will have better puncture resistance, performance, and ride compared to a cheap tire.
  • More material (e.g. rubber)
    Adds more puncture resistance but now you get into noticeable performance impacts.
  • Harder rubber
    Harsher ride and less traction.

Pick a tire for a combination of performance, ride, puncture resistance, and price.

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Cons: Heavier, more rolling resistance, some are prone to cracking on the sidewalls, tougher to remove.

Pros: Lasts for ages, great if you live in a city with a lot of serious potholes, good for rolling over different terrain, rarely have to change a tire.

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