Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Commuter tires: the Continental 4 Seasons review

Choosing tires always feels like such an important decision.  They're obviously an important aspect of a bike's setup, the interface to the environment, and a powerful fashion statement.  It's not a fleeting decision; tires last a long time -- or they're supposed to -- and while you can change them if they're wrong it's a pain and it makes your hands black.  I can only imagine that the weight of this decision is akin to drafting a fantasy football team -- or maybe even a real football team.

And probably much like a football team, you wouldn't want to use the same tires from year to year.  No, you'd want to toss out the thing that worked great (in my case the Panaracer T-Serv tires that I sold with my single speed) and change it up.

MSRP $80 (!!!), street price $60+.

I love my (700x23c) Continental Gatorskin tires on my road bike so much I decided that the Continental 4 Seasons were the tires for me.  After all, I do ride for 4 seasons.  The marketing blurb struck a chord in my heart: 

A tire meant for road riders who do it the real way - ride all the time, on all types of roads, in all types of conditions. [...] Get the speed and dependability you need with the 4 Season, built for the long haul road rider.

Perfect! At the time I found them on sale for $47 so the price wasn't just stupid.  I was starting off riding in the winter, so I figured it was a perfect test.  These are lightweight tires at 240g for the 700x25c.

Well, my first rear tire only lasted 300 miles or so before the bead blew out on an otherwise serene ride into work.  Luckily it blew out right near work, so I could walk the bike in the last couple blocks.

I made a halfhearted attempt to get Continental to warranty the tire, but they never got back to me.  I couldn't find my receipt.  I ordered from the internet.  So I walked into my LBS with my head hung low and paid full price for a replacement.  I figured that by paying the price of a one-way airplane ticket across the country, I'd probably be able to at least get that many miles out of it.

Well, after approximately 3,000 miles this is what my rear tire looks like.  (The danger of having full fenders on your bike is that you can forget to check your rear tire.) 

I have to say that I find it a little ironic they're called "4 seasons", since they only seem to last two.  Maybe by "long haul road rider" they actually meant, "someone that takes a short spin on the weekends -- weather permitting".

Maybe 3,000 miles is expected (though it looks like I should have replaced these hundreds of miles ago), but it seems a little premature to me.

I will say that the tires have good grip and they did as well as could be expected on icy trails.  Probably the softness of the rubber is what's accounting for the wear.  I did get a flat once when I drove over glass on the nearby trail, but one can only expect so much of rubber.

So, your mileage may vary.  (Hopefully your mileage is greater than mine.)

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