Continental Ultra Gator Skins
Continental Ultra Gator Skin clincher tyre £18.95
If you include their predecessor then I have personally had this model tyre fitted to at least one of my six bikes over the last seven years; most of the time I use 700 x 25 or 28c on my two Audax bikes, one used as a winter club riding and work commute bike, the other saved for longer tours and for summer club riding.
It is for this style of riding that many buy this tyre, which is designed to give a fast ride with good grip from the light tread pattern and yet still offer a useful degree of puncture resistance. This it achieves with Conti's full ‘DuraSkin’ sidewall casing and a Kevlar reinforcing breaker layer under the tread. The DuraSkin layer also makes the exposed sidewalls more tear resistant. The tyre's profile is such that it is often chosen by those who ride a bike with race bike clearances all year round, many choosing to use them during the winter months.
As I have used them for many years, you can conclude that I must have found then to perform exactly as described above, since that is indeed was that very kind of tyre I was looking for. You would be correct, as I would not continue to use them otherwise. I would also add that I have found them to be durable. So; review done, top marks all round for this tyre then? Well; no!
The reason being that I would estimate that there will be as many who disagree completely with my findings as there are those who have found them to perform exactly as I describe. Many users comment that they have not found them at all puncture resistant or durable; they may well give a fast ride and a good level of grip, but so do their summer tyres; if they wanted to live with the punctures they would have continued to use them! So, why have I and many like me found them to be puncture resistant while others have not?
Well, one reason could be that, being aware that many owners do have problems, I am very strict in making sure that I run them at the correct tyre pressure. Especially on commuting bikes, it is quite easy to allow the pressure to drop slightly without a daily top up. I pay extra attention to this, as I know that those who, like me, have found them to be reliable also make sure that they never let them fall more than a few PSI under the recommended pressure. Another often-heard comment is that many Ultra Gator Skin riders find them to be puncture resistant when new but far less so as the tyre wears down and long before it is worn out.
I have found this only to a limited extent, mine remaining puncture resistant right up until they are worn to the extent that I would normally be considering changing them anyway. Only when near that time have I found that I got several punctures in quick succession. So, why have I found them durable when others have not? One theory is that, since I have used them on several bikes, on each of which the mileage may be quite low per year, I can get two or three years' wear out of a tyre. In the past it was common practice to buy tyres well before they were to be used, then store them in a cool dry environment to allow the rubber to mature. It would then become harder and more resistant to punctures. My bikes are stored indoors, so in effect the tyres are also well matured long before they start to get worn down.
In conclusion, although opinion is divided, I for one will continue to use them as a fast, puncture-resistant and durable tyre, although for sure, now I have said how wonderful they are, you just know that the next time I go out on them…...