Continental Top Contact Winter Tyre review
With the cold weather comes the threat of ice especially on cycle paths and country roads. There have been tyres around for a few years that have heavy treads and small studs for very icy or snowy conditions but these in my experience have quite limited usage for road use, being both slow and noisy when not on snow. So I was interested in the opportunity to test a set of tyres that are specifically for cold wintery conditions. Could I keep them on all winter or would I be changing back as soon as the ice melted?
The unusual tread on the Continental Top Contact Winter Tyre is the first thing that stands out. The tread is in three parts, first there is a standard touring tyre type thread to help dispel water when wet, in second level the normal smooth rubber between the treads has been removed to a very fine "micro" tread that give the impression of snake skins. Lastly the tyre has a hairy appearance from the tyre beads, which though it wears away quite quickly from the centre, stays for the side treads of the tyre.
On use the tyres give reassurance in wet, slippy and cold conditions especially on roundabouts and bends - though I think it is best still to be cautious.
My normal tyres are 32mm Schwalbe Marathon Supremes which are a reasonably lightweight folding touring tyre with only a small about of tread, so changing over to the Conti winter tyres (with 5mm extra width) was always going to be a noticeable change and as expected they were noticeably slower. For such a grippy tyre though the difference is surprisingly small (possibly about 10-15%) on my reasonably flat 6-mile route to work.
The slight decrease in speed is compensated by a very comfortable ride and improved traction on off-road tracks and trails where there are leaves or light mud. Moving to these tyres for winter gives the option to continue using tracks throughout the winter months that can be tricky on normal touring/hybrid tyres.
Overall for winter tyres these perform well and though they will probably not give the same protection as studded tyres, the subtle tread gives noticeably better grip without too much loss of speed. I would be happy to leave them on my Spa Cycles Steel Tourer throughout the winter months. Any extra effort can easily be compensated for by an extra slice of cake!