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Continental Gator Hardshell Tyres (2010)

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Price: $59.95

Manufacturer: Continental

Website: http://www.conti-online.com

"Could this be the dawning of the age of puncture-free training?"

by Ben Atkins
Riding in the winter can be pretty depressing. Sadly, the knowledge that the miles you’re laying down now will make the nice ones in the summer all the more pleasurable just can’t make it any more fun. This can be an rendered even more miserable experience by the fact that the weather causes all sorts of debris – from thorns to stones to all kinds of sharp stuff – to wash onto the road into your path. The winter puncture is a horrible thing.

According to Continental, the Gator Hardshell was developed in response to demands from commuters, as well as racers, for a tyre that was even more puncture resistant than the standard-setting Ultra Gatorskin. What it has produced is a tyre with an even wider Poly-X breaker belt (the layer between the tread and the casing to protect against punctures) a tough Duraskin layer that covers more of the sidewall, and even more material in the tread layer itself.

All this extra material makes for a tyre that is just over 10% heavier than the Gatorskin but, Conti says, even more puncture resistant.

Because much of the demand for the tyre’s development comes from commuters, the Gator Hardshell is officially part of Conti’s “Urban/City/Trekking” range. With the northern hemisphere winter almost upon us though, it ought to fit right in as a solid training tyre.

Conti supplied me with a 25mm wide folding set for our test. At 280 grams (9.9 oz) each they’re almost twice as heavy as some of the lightest out there, but not all that much heavier than many racing tyres. Noticeable though, when compared to Conti’s top-end racing tyres, is that the rubber compound itself is markedly less sticky. Like its Gatorskin predecessor the Gator Hardshell is built for durability, and Conti’s excellent Black Chilli compound – despite its fantastic grip – is not as hardwearing as a commuter or training tyre needs to be.

Out on the road I hardly new that I was on commuting tyres when rolling along. Despite its reinforced casing the tyre didn’t feel overly stiff at a variety of pressures between 100 and 120 psi (~7-8.5 bar). Only on corners did it give away the fact that it was not an all-out racing tyre; I didn’t have any serious skids or crashes, but never felt able to push things too hard. Having said that, these were training rides over familiar roads and so I never had any need to either. Unless you’re training or commuting over seriously technical terrain you probably won’t need any more grip than this.

The proof of the pudding with a tyre like this is its durability though, and this is where the Gator Hardshell really wins at this time of year. Winter punctures can be really demoralising and you end up wasting valuable training time as you fix them in the cold and rain.

I managed quite a few miles on these, over a variety of surfaces and in a variety of weather, and they still look like new. More importantly I managed all this without getting a single flat. Winner!

The recommended price is a little steep, but tyres can usually be picked up much lower; and anyway these could potentially last the whole winter – and think of the savings on tubes and patches! While I won’t be racing on these tyres come summer, it’ll take something pretty special to get them off my wheels before the spring.

2 Community Product Review(s)

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Le bonk's performance rating: 

Le bonk's value rating: 

Le bonk's rider type: Recreational Rider

Product use by Le bonk: Less than a month

Equipment used when testing:
Commuting in the dark:
Riding at dusk without lights (never a good idea!), took a turning to go home down an 11% gradient hill. Once descending I realised that the council had skimmed the road...damn i thought before hitting a huge pothole at 25mph (i was being catious), i felt for sure that i had punctured, as I would on any other tyres i've used previously...not the case...Continental...I love you!!!

Le bonk's review summary:
Awesome. Puncture resistant, save for a 6 ich nail!!

Product Strengths:
Winter Punctures I have two words for you...

Product Weaknesses:
Heavy compared to summer tyres. Notice the increased weight.

Similar products used:

Nick Nicolini's performance rating: 

Nick Nicolini's value rating: 

Nick Nicolini's rider type: Commuter

Product use by Nick Nicolini: 3 months

Equipment used when testing:
Commuter - 25 - 30 miles RT

Nick Nicolini's review summary:
I bought these to replace the Maxxis Re-Fuse tires that came on my bike. These are suppose to be Maxxis best puncture resistant tires and longer lasting. I went through two of these in 2500 miles or so and had about 5 flats total for both tires. Upon replacing the first I noticed the new tire immediately showing road abuse.

I put the Hardshells on about 500 miles ago riding the same route and distances daily and I can not find a cut or mark in them. By 500 miles the Maxxis were showing ware with the ride beginning to flatten. Not the Hardshells there is hardly any signs of wear of any kind.

I also found the ride more comfortable and the handling improved.

Product Strengths:
Cut resistance
Riding Comfort Improved

Product Weaknesses:
None at this time

Similar products used:
Maxxis Re-Fuse

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