I’ve ridden three brands of tires since I started road cycling four years ago. Continental Gatorskins, Specialized Espoir Sport, Turbo Pro and Turbo Elite, and Bontrager AW1’s.
I’m a big anti-flat kind of guy so generally speaking I put more weight on flat protection than anything else. My first pair of decent tires were purchased at cost because I know a lawyer who works for them… The tires were very fast and they were wonderful for cornering but they left a lot to be desired when it came to getting flats. After my second flat and a busted belt I decided to go in a different direction. I went through a pair of Specialized Espoir Sport’s next and liked them well enough. They didn’t corner like the Gatorskins but they didn’t go flat either. I was quite okay with giving up a little performance to forgo changing tubes on the side of the road because a pebble managed to embed in the rubber and work through the Kevlar lining (seriously). Then I bought my Venge and that came with a set of Turbo Pro’s. Now I liked those. They were rough slicks so they handled great and were decent on flat protection. If memory serves I didn’t get a flat with those. They were a bit pricey at the time though so I opted for a set of Turbo Elite’s when the time came. I got one pinch flat with those but that was more my fault than anything else.
Then, on recommendation from one of the mechanics at the bike shop, I decided to try Bontrager AW1’s. They were touted for their superior flat protection and extended wear and they lived up to their billing. There was only one problem: They’re slow. It’s like you’re pedaling in mud. I’ve heard reports of people dropping as much as a mile and a half an hour because of them. Even so, that didn’t stop me from buying a second set when the time came. I figured I’d muscle through with a little extra “want to”. The flat protection on the AW1’s is nothing short of stellar. I’ve got more than 1,000 miles on this tire since this happened:
They’re that good. Still, as you can see by the wear it’s time for a new set of tires anyway and I decided to go back to Specialized. Puddle of Mud was a great band but it’s hell to try to ride through. I’m going back to the Turbo Pro’s – but this year they did away with the 23’s and are offering 24’s and 26’s
I put the new tires on last night. Hopefully I’ll be able to give them a go in the next few days but it’s doubtful. The forecast is atrocious.
So for the record, my experience is:
Continental Gatorskins – fast but terrible flat protection.
Specialized Turbo Pro – very fast, excellent handling, decent flat protection.
Bontrager AW1 – s-l-o-w, decent cornering, astounding flat protection.
Pick your poison.