Just before I went on vacation I bought a couple of new tires. The previous set, Continental Gatorskins, developed some problems. The front developed a minor bulge because a few of the belts busted when I hit a raised railroad track. The back picked up a rock that went right through the kevlar causing a flat and had been glued and retired as a spare, in case of emergency only, tire. The front was trickier to get rid of because it still worked just fine. Even at 35+ mph I couldn’t notice a “thump” when the bulge went ’round (it was at slower speeds that the problem was more evident). Heading down to the mountains called for caution though. The last thing I wanted was a tire problem out in the middle of nowhere, or worse, heading down a mountain at speed.
I ended up purchasing the Specialized 700 x 23c Espoir Sport with Blackbelt flat protection… Two run about the same price as one Conti at my LBS so I liked the price tag. Also, it’s an all season training tire – not a race tire. Heading to the mountains I was just a little more than nervous about riding in the rain on a slick.
300 miles into them and I’m very happy. No flats, no picked up pebbles. No busted belts or any other issue save one… It’s not a racing tire. I’ve taken to riding through tight corners sharply – it’s some kind of exhillerating. Not quite shooting down a mountain at 45 miles an hour, but it’s a lot more fun than taking things slow and steady. A few days ago, halfway into a hard right turn my front tire slipped a little bit and I had to wrestle it back without crossing into oncoming traffic. To be fair, it was a dead right turn and I was going a little faster than 25 mph – all of my weight on the left foot and leaning the bike down quite a bit to see how close to the right curb that I could exit the turn. I was pushing that turn harder than I ever had before.
That said, it handled everything else very well. If you’re looking for a reliable, yet inexpensive training/all season tire, I highly recommend this one.