Group test: Four-season road tyres

A close-up of a bike wheel from  the top as the bike is being ridden along a path. There's mud on the mudguard
Year-round riding demands road bike tyres that are tougher, grippier and perhaps wider than summer-only rubber. Cycle magazine editor Dan Joyce tests four pairs

Winter means wetter, slippier roads with more puncture-causing debris, and more potholes due to frost cracking. A set of tougher tyres will make shivering at the roadside with a flat less likely.

How tough? It’s a trade-off. You can buy Schwalbe’s bombproof Marathon Plus in the same 28-622 size as the tyres featured here but it’s 750g. That’s not a problem for commuting but the weight, drag and ride feel will suck the joy from club runs, training rides or audax events.

The tyres tested here are lighter and faster rolling. They’re all designed for use with innertubes. Four-season tubeless road tyres do exist, and we’ll be testing some soon, but the benefit of sealant isn’t as pronounced as it is with fragile race rubber because tougher tyres don’t get as many holes poked in them in the first place.

It’s also generally easier to get non-tubeless tyres on and off non-tubeless rims than if the rims, tyres or both are tubeless – something you may appreciate with cold hands.

I tested 28mm versions of all these tyres, fitting them to 17mm-wide Kinlin XC-279 rims. They’re on the wheels of a Spa Audax Mono, which meant a lot of out-of-the-saddle climbing on wet roads. I also did repeated roll-down tests.

1. Continental Grand Prix 4-Season

Price: £65.95. Available from: Continental.

THE GP 4-Season costs more than Continental’s other popular tough tyre, the Gatorskin. It should be more puncture resistant as it has two strips of Vectran under the tread, in addition to the bead-to-bead DuraSkin layer the tyres share.

I didn’t notice that, although puncture resistance is good, but the GP 4-Season’s wet roads grip is much better. I was more confident cornering at speed on these than the other tyres in the test – a combination of the Max Grip Silica compound, a slightly larger volume and my previous experience with these tyres.

Rolling performance was good rather than excellent.

Sizes: 23-622, 25-622, 28-622, 32-622. Weight: 296g. Width: 29mm.

Verdict: Reassuringly good wet roads grip. Not the fastest rolling.

A close-up of the Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tyre showing the logo on a bicycle wheel

2. Michelin Pro 4 Endurance

Price: £49.99. Available from: Michelin.

Like the GP 4-Season, Michelin’s Pro 4 Endurance has been around for years. Apart from being available in 28mm now, it doesn’t seem to have changed.

But that’s no bad thing: the last time I tested the Pro 4 Endurance it was faster than every tyre I tried that was tougher than it and tougher than every tyre faster than it. It remained so in this test. Only the Pirelli was as quick in roll-down tests and only the Schwalbe seemed tougher.

While the Pro 4 Endurance does have a dual compound tread, I was less inclined to take corners without braking than with the GP 4-Season. It was a little harder to fit than the other tyres.

Sizes: 23-622, 25-622, 28-622. Weight: 283g. Width: 28mm.

Verdict: Surprisingly quick tyre that is tough enough and not too dear.

A close-up of the Michelin Pro 4 Endurance tyre showing the logo, on a bike wheel

3. Pirelli P Zero Race 4S

Price: £62.99. Available from: Pirelli.

The P Zero Race 4S is the lightest tyre here. On the road it felt nice and supple – more like a summer tyre than a winter one. Even as I was fitting them, I thought they would be the fastest rolling. They were: jointly with the Michelin.

Puncture resistance, which I assessed by stabbing all the tyres with sharps since I didn’t get any flats during the test period, seemed comparable to the Continental and the Michelin through the tread. The more pliable sidewalls, which doubtless account for its ride feel, put up less resistance.

I didn’t test the grip to the limit but didn’t have any dicey moments in what were grim post-storm conditions.

Sizes: 26-622, 28-622, 30-622. Weight: 263g. Width: 27.5mm.

Verdict: Winter tyres with a summer feel – fast rolling and light.

A close-up of the Pirelli P Zero Race 4S tyre showing the logo, on a bike wheel

4. Schwalbe One 365

Price: £51.99. Available from: Schwalbe.

New for 2024, the One 365 is a like-for-like replacement for the Durano DD. It’s the heaviest tyre here, with the stiffest sidewalls and the hardest to penetrate tread. To no great surprise, it was the slowest rolling – although not as far behind the GP 4-Season as I thought it would be.

Grip is good. It’s the only tyre here to have reflective sidewalls. Given that it’s also the toughest tyre here, the One 365 would be the best candidate for commuting. Even there, though, I think it would be eclipsed by one of its stablemates: the One Plus, formerly known as the Durano Plus, which was my first choice urban road bike tyre.

Sizes: 25-622, 28-622, 32-622. Weight: 334g. Width: 28.5mm.

Verdict: A tough tyre that feels lacklustre in this exalted company.

A close-up of the Schwalbe One 365 tyre, showing the logo, on a bike wheel

Overall verdict

The Schwalbe One 365 is the toughest tyre here but also the heaviest and slowest rolling, which is fine for solo riding but would bother me on club runs. The Continental GP 4-Season was my favourite tyre for wet and twisty descents. You’re paying a lot for that, however, and while it is tough it’s not quite as quick as you might wish for a road tyre at this price point.

For me, it’s a choice between the Pirelli P Zero Race 4S and the Michelin Pro 4 Endurance. Both give away little to summer tyres in terms of rolling performance, yet still have good enough wet roads grip and puncture resistance. The Pirelli has a nicer ride feel, the Michelin is cheaper and seems more robust.

First published in Cycle magazine, December 23/January 24 issue. All information correct at time of publishing.

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How to choose the best all-season road tyres

1. Width

Wider tyres can be run at lower pressures, which means more comfort on bad roads and more grip on wet ones. If your bike has sufficient clearance, embrace the fact that you can now buy proper 28mm (or even 32mm) road tyres.

2. Tread

Tread patterns aren’t required for road bike tyres except as a visual wear gauge. Rubber can’t dig into tarmac and bicycle tyres won’t aquaplane in the wet. Compound is what counts. Dual-compound tyres have softer rubber on the ‘shoulders’ of the tyre for cornering, harder in the centre for longevity and efficient rolling.

3. Casing

A higher TPI number (threads per inch) means thinner thread, which gives a more supple casing and a nicer (and usually faster) ride. A lower TPI means a stiffer casing made from thicker threads that don’t cut as easily. All tyres tested have lighter folding beads rather than wire.

4. Puncture resistance

While a thicker tread will also improve puncture resistance, road bike tyres primarily use one or more synthetic anti-puncture layers under the tread, such as Kevlar. Some have similar protection for the sidewalls.

5. Rolling performance

These may not be race tyres but rolling performance is still important in most road bike situations. Lighter, more supple tyres generally roll best but usually have less puncture resistance.

A close-up showing a cross section of a Continental Grand Prix 4 Season folding road tyre