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I commute on city streets and have had two punctures in 5 months: first a roofing nail, second a small shard of glass.

Punctures are a nuisance.

I've read some people recommend Schwalbe "Marathon" tires. A comment in reply to Are 'road tires' worth it for commuting? also mentions "Conti Gatorskins, Specialized Armadillos, Soma Everwears, et al."

Is there anything to distinguish one from the other? For example if an LBS stocks Conti Gatorskins should I say, "No, I'm looking for Marathons"? Or are they more or less equally effective (price and, more importantly but less easy to measure, puncture resistance and rolling resistance)?

My wheels are 700x32.

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Frankly, any Tyvek-belted tire from a reputable tire manufacturer will be so much better than standard tires that finding the "best" is really not relevant. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 24 '11 at 15:18
    
@Daniel I thought it was Kevlar. –  ChrisW Aug 25 '11 at 3:43
    
Yep, Kevlar -- I'm always getting those two confused. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 25 '11 at 10:38

10 Answers 10

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Might as well chime in on my favourite tyre...

I have Marathon Plus on my 20" wheeled folder and Marathon (front) + Marathon Plus (rear) on my MTB.

The smaller wheel size is more aggressive with anything it finds in the road and I tried some pre-production Conti efforts on that but they were only good for a few months, after that I was picking punctures up on a weekly basis.

As for the MTB, the reason I have the Plus on the back but not the front is that the front wheel doesn't carry that much weight compared to the back. It also flicks stuff up that goes under the rear tyre. for instance a piece of glass, flat in the road and minding its own business, in the wet will get unseated from the tarmac by the front wheel and the back wheel will then catch it good and proper.

I have yet to have a flat on the Schwalbe tyres I own, so I would recommend mix and match with 'Plus' on the back.

Also, the British Post Office use them for their post bikes. Their posties do not go at Tour de France speeds, however, they have a bigger fleet of bicycles than anyone else in the UK and they use the Schwalbe tyres because they are better.

I also like it how Schwalbe just do tyres. I have met the guys and they have the product focus and have done a really good job listening to customers and getting the most out of their far-East supplier. The product really has came a long way from the 'Swallow' tyres of yesteryear.

I used to swear by certain 'Panaracer', 'Michelin' and 'Specialized' tyres, however those were false dawns. Schwalbe Marathon Plus is the real deal if you don't want to have to bother yourself with punctures. Get them!

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My punctures have been the front tire. –  ChrisW Aug 26 '11 at 3:41

The Schwalbe Marathon Plus (not just the Marathon) is widely regarded as the most flat-proof tire out there. It's also heavy and expensive, but if your priority is avoiding punctures, I don't think it can be beaten. ISTR reading about a round-the-world rider completing 50,000 miles on a pair without a flat.

Specialized Armadillos are not, in my experience, particularly flat-resistant, although there might be a beefier version than the one I was riding on. I have no experience with the Gatorskins.

Anyhow, there are definitely differences between flat-resistant tires. There are even differences between Schwalbe Marathons variants.

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Which of the Marathon variants would you recommend for ... me? If the Marathon Plus is extreme (in a class of its own), does have any significant disadvantages compared with normal tires (because if it does I don't see those disadvantages being advertised on their web site)? –  ChrisW Aug 19 '11 at 14:29
    
Like I said, the Marathon Plus is heavy and expensive (like 2 lb per tire). And from what I've read, has a "dead" ride. So those are all disadvantages. If you prowl around Schwalbe's website, you'll see that they score their own tires in terms of durability, speed, grip, and protection—you can decide for yourself how far you want to go in each direction. Schwalbe isn't going to advertise disadvantages themselves. –  Adam Rice Aug 19 '11 at 17:38
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I switched to the marathon plus after getting 3 separate glass punctures in the stock tyres in one week. They felt slippery for the first week so I didn't cycle very fast or lean much but after that week I trusted them and they felt fine. They make the bike a little heavier to lift and a little slow to accelerate but they're fine when you get up to speed. I didn't get any punctures with them and plan to buy them again. –  Phil Johnstone Aug 20 '11 at 12:42
    
I've been using Specialized Armadillos for a couple of years now, after a run of getting a couple of punctures a month. My commute to work passes several construction sites by the river, and there's often small shards of metal on the road. So it may depend on what causes your flats, I plan on getting Armadillos again when I need to replace these ones. They're cheaper than Marathon Plus, and have been good enough for me so far. –  Wilka Aug 25 '11 at 9:23

Just to chime in about the Marathon Plus, I used to have punctures all the time. I'd say every month at least. I switched to Marathon Plus after baulking at the price and have never looked back. I've used them now for years in 35-559 and 47-559 ETRTO and done about 50,000km with them on Sydney streets that are full of glass and debris and I've had one puncture, and they last longer than an ordinary tire too. (The puncture happened whilst cornering, when I ran over a screw which flipped up and into the sidewall)

One problem was that they can be VERY hard to get on or off the rim, depending on your rim. Hopefully you won't be doing that too often though. However, I used to swap them out for knobbys for a bit of mountain biking occasionally. I have changed a few tires but never ones as tight as the Marathon Plus. I'd come away with sore hands and blisters after half an hour, until.... I found this video on YouTube

Follow that and you'll be changing the tire in 5 mins like any other tire. Brilliant!

I find the Marathon Plus are perfect for commuting, and fast. This page lists sizes http://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_tires/road_tires/marathon_plus
ETRTO is the most consistent sizing to look at. You'll need 622 ETRTO for a 700c rim. So 32-622 or 37-622 for example.

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I can't speak for the Marathon or Marathon Plus, but I've got some puncture-resistant experience to share.

We did a 400 km (250 miles) trip, over a dozen days, on various surfaces (more on that later) using Continental tires for the two bikes and Schwalbe Big Apple tires for the children trailer (Burley).

And we're really glad we did replace the standard tire from both bikes and trailer as we didn't experience any flat, we didn't re-inflate any of the tires even once.

Our trip was mostly hard dirt (maybe 60-65%), plus some asphalt or concrete (30-35%) and some gravel/sandy/other grounds. Overall, we didn't feel the tires to be heavy or anything like that, but we were heavily loaded anyway (trailer for me, rear bags for my companion), so it doesn't mean much. I can say I felt reduced drag from the trailer when we switched from the stock tires to the Schwalbe, as well as slightly smoother ride over gravel and lightly bumpy roads.

Now for the puncture part... With my 'big' trailer, I had to make my bike go over lots of thorny stuff to avoid holes and rocks and other hazards on the track, the worst part during about 15-20 kms (9-13 miles). So both my bike's wheels plus the left wheel of the trailer went over lots of thorns, and probably the other bike some also (as she hadn't a two-wheeled trailer behind, she was more free to avoid thorns, holes, rocks, etc. than me). And I hit a lot of 'bad' stones, some of them quite sharp, but always at reduced speed (< 10 kph / 6.25 mph) to avoid sending the trailer flying.

We didn't fully appreciate the puncture resistance before we met some other cyclists who just went over the same thorny/rocky/bumpy section as we did, and spent a lot of time fixing tires/tubes as all of them experienced punctures.

So we're very happy with our tires. I'm not 100% sure of the actual model of the Continental, GatorSkin doesn't ring a bell and the tread doesn't look right. I think they're in fact this: Continental Travel Contact. There is also a 'City' model: Continental City Ride. Note: I picked the website in search results, not suggesting it at all, we bought our bikes and had them fitted with new tires in a local bike shop.

Hope this helps :)

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My current tires (which came with the bike, described by the LBS as "a reliable commuter") are Continental Contact. My "2 punctures in 5 months" of commuting means "2 punctures in 5,000 km", which was one puncture too many. The first was a nail, which I forgave it: but the 2nd was just a shard of glass which stuck in the tread and caused a slow leak. –  ChrisW Aug 26 '11 at 3:26
    
Well, the Contact are not the same as the 'Travel Contact' or the 'City', I think the protection is different (specific thick rubber vs kevlar or similar material). –  jv42 Aug 26 '11 at 7:21

There are several categories of "puncture resistant" tires.

Simplest is probably not the tire at all, but an extra-thick tube. Some are available with a non-uniform wall thickness -- thickest on the outer surface that would be against the tread area of the tire. (These are generally advertised as "thorn resistant" -- in some parts of the US thorns are the biggest puncture hazard, apparently.)

And there are hole-sealing gels that you can inject into the tube.

After that are the Kevlar-belted tires. Some with just a thin belt, and some much heavier.

And there are various types of "solid" tires.

(Two punctures in 5 months is doing pretty well. I probably averaged two punctures a month before I started running Kevlar-belted tires.)

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A couple more options are a kevlar or thick liner than you and inside a tire (Tuffy is one brand), and a tube that already has hole sealing gel inside it. Slime makes some. –  xpda Aug 20 '11 at 0:51
    
Correct! Should have thought of those. But then I haven't had a puncture in years, so the topic isn't really "fresh" for me. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 20 '11 at 0:52
    
"Two punctures in 5 months" is "2 punctures in 5,000 km." The first was a nail but the 2nd was merely a shard of glass. The mechanic at my LBS suggested (as he was changing the first puncture) that Slime was too heavy to be worthwhile (but they do sell Marathon Plus). Which "Kevlar-belted" tires do you use, yourself? –  ChrisW Aug 26 '11 at 3:38
    
Currently I'm running the Performance Bike (US mail-order company) house brand. Before that I think I ran Avocet "Cross K". (Replaced them when the rear tire became completely bald.) (When I was commuting regularly I was doing about 150 miles a week, plus a few hundred in touring each year.) –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 26 '11 at 11:33

I cycled 8000km (5000 miles) a few months ago on Marathon Plus Tour 700x35c. I didn't get any punctures on a fully loaded touring bike (45kg + 70kg rider). Sure there is extra weight in the tyres but the time/money/effort I saved by not having to worry about fixing a flat, and carrying a smaller pump and no spare inner tubes, they are worth it.

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I commute on Schwalbe Road Cruisers, and since running over something like this (but shorter) I now carry a spar tubes again. –  Chris H Jul 30 '13 at 15:41

For skinnier commuting tires, I prefer panaracer ribmo or panaracer t-serv. Ribmo tires tend to be heavier, but have a lot of rubber, so they are good for fixed gear riders who skid frequently, very flat resistant. T-serve tires are a very good balance between weight and protection. It's very rare for me to get puncture flats when using either of these tires.

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Use a protector like this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Tuffy-Bicycle-Tire-Liner/dp/B0048LO6BQ

I've NEVER had a flat since I put it in my mountain bike 5 years ago. An only one in the road bike (2 years ago), but it was because I run over a nail.

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If I was only getting two flats in five months I probably wouldn't bother with puncture resistant tyres. My commute is a mix of suburban streets, highway and city roads. The highway is full of debris from vehicle accidents or stuff that has fallen off trucks and trailers, and the city streets always take me past construction sites where there is rubbish or stuff dropped by tradesmen, etc. I was getting a puncture every two weeks or so, and twice I had two on the same trip. After the second double I upgraded to Schwalbe Marathon Plus. They feel heavy but these are commuting tyres, not racing slicks, so I'm OK with that. Since then I have only had one punture in about eight months, and that was a 45mm posidrive screw that was seriously bent into an arc of about 120 degrees and went into the sidewall just under the rim.

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I never really understood this obsession with puncture proof bicycle tyres. Bicycle tyres are lightweight and full of air. If a 3 inch nail is heading for your tyre then it IS going to puncture it, no matter what tyre it is. It`s mostly luck and recommending one tyre over another because you didnt get a puncture with it makes me think that person was on his lucky streak at that time.

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My limited personal experience is two punctures in the first 5 months; followed by no punctures in the 10 months after that, after changing to Marathon Plus tires. The Marathon Plus tires are quite noticeably less "lightweight", and (subjectively) make the whole wheel feel stronger: e.g. I'm more confident riding them at speed over cracked road surface (roads in Toronto crack because of frost heave), and riding the bike to places (e.g. beyond the public transport routes) where getting a flat would be a nuisance. –  ChrisW Jan 9 '13 at 13:47
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Yeah, I don't agree with this at all. Either you've never ridden puncture resistant tires, didn't keep them inflated properly, or ride on pristine roads (in which case you don't need them). Sure things like nails are almost always going to go through (although even in my experience I've seen good puncture resistant tires prevent flats in situations where I'm pretty sure cheaper tires would have failed me, but they stop a lot of smaller (and more common) things like glass shards and car accident debris. –  Kibbee Jan 9 '13 at 14:56
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When the "lucky streak" runs 5 years or more one begins to suspect it's not just luck. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 9 '13 at 16:16
    
I've been over thorns on kevlar city tyres on a dirt track, no puncture. Knobbly MTB tyres just behind me both got punctured. They work. Of course, they won't stop everything. –  Chris H Jul 30 '13 at 15:43

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