It is like spinning a roulette wheel, which is about the right description for choosing a suitable tyre for use on Hampshires lanes. The year to date has seen the use of three makes of tyre and nine punctures.
January and February were cold, wet, icy and windy and my Boardman Hybrid sported Vittoria Zaffiro which for the princely sum of £8.50 each produced good grip and rolling resistance, the one puncture was from a piece of steel wire and over the period the carcases were clean with no significant cut marks.
The Cannondale road bike was called into service in March, clad with Mavic Aksions, within a week a first puncture as tube and tyre were destroyed by a flint that was obviously as sharp as a scalpel. A new tyre for £25 and despite another puncture weeks later the tyres held up well with no visible damage.
Mid April was the date for our coast to coast ride from Whitehaven to Sunderland and in the run up I succumbed to the pressure of the internet reviews and purchased a set of Continental GP4000s, with Black Chilli compound for extra grip and a Vectran Breaker for puncture protection. At £30 a trye they must be good and the reviews are mostly positive. The coast to coast went well with no punctures or tyre problems but the C2C is not Hampshire and when back on home county lanes the story was very different. The soft compound cut up badly and flints went straight through the Vectran Breaker, culminating in punctures seven, eight and nine last weekend and with less than 1,000 miles the carcasses were so badly cut that I put back the Mavic Aksions I had previously used which by comparison looked brand new.
My head is dizzy reading reviews of tyres claiming the best puncture protection, grip, rolling resistance, but I am convinced if manufacturers used Hampshire Roads as a testbed they may be a bit more circumspect with their claims. The roads are strewn with flints and gravel that wash from the fields, the days of the mechanical council road sweepers are long gone due to budget cuts and coupled with thorns, wood chips and debris from tractor driven hedge flails the chances of punctures are high.
While we all seek the best performance I am not sure the cost of some of the expensive tyres offers value for money on Hampshire Lanes. I am aware that GP4000s are described as race tyres and assume this description is a gentle let down to the longevity you can expect. I have just purchased a set of Michelin Pro 4 to try on the Cannondale for Sunday best and I am temped to try Shwalbe Durano for winter use but with Vittoria Zaffiro at £8.50 I can replace them three times over and I am not convinced there is a noticeable performance difference, well certainly not at my level. The search for Nirvana continues.