Continental Gatorskin tubular review

I’ve had these sitting on the shelf for ages, as I wrote about in my Ambrosio Nemesis review what seems like years ago.  I’ve finally got round to sticking them to the aforesaid rims, so how do they go?  The Continental tubular range doesn’t seem to engender a whole lotta love, and when I looked around on the internet for other reviews of this tyre there really wasn’t much out there.

Firstly, they’re black.  Black with that Continental mesh thing going on on the sidewall.  Visually exciting they are not.  One thing that makes them stand out from Conti’s clincher offerings is the file-tooth tread pattern, as opposed to the funky thing on the clinchers.  Meh.

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Excited yet?  No, me neither.

So, first inspection isn’t too exciting.  Conti’s tubs have a reputation for being – ah, a little stiff.  Hosepipe is a word often used.  Handling these does nothing to dispel your fears.  They feel solid – German, in fact.

This isn’t, however, all bad.  My Nemesis’s have normally been shod with Vittoria Paves, and there’s several bloody good reasons why they aren’t being replaced.  The first of these are:

  1.  The variable construction quality of Vittorias of late, specifically the Pave.  Three out of the last four through my hands have had appallingly misshapen base tapes, to the point where letting them deflate – as any latex-tubed tubular will do in about a week – meant the tyre naturally wanted to deform to the point where it pulled away from the glue job.  Yes, they have become that shit.
  2. The Pave has gone up from an official 24mm to an official 25mm.  In reality, the difference feels much bigger than this – it feels faintly balloon-y, next to the old one.  I was happy on the old size; the new one feels like overkill – great on a Sunday best ride, overkill for a race or throwdown.  The Conti is, despite the nominal 25mm size, much more akin in dimension to the old Pave.
  3. Cost.  Paves ain’t cheap and, on the roads around here, I’ll get about 1500 kms from a set.  If my previous experience of Conti clinchers is anything to go by, I expect to more than double that – and the Contis are half the cost in the first place.

The Contis mounted with the minimum of fuss.  They feel well made, the base tapes are even, no humps or ugly joins, no lumps of shit around the valve,  and they’re just – round.  Easy to mount evenly.  Because these are butyl tubed, they stay inflated, so I didn’t have to top them up before I went out to take them for a spin.  I rolled out with 85 psi in the front and 90 in the rear.

First impressions are that hosepipe might be a bit harsh – but plush is pushing it.  The ride is better than pretty much any clincher I’ve ridden, but it’s a way off the Pave magic carpet.  Pretty much what I expected, really.  I think I’d run these at 100 in a race or bunch shitfight, and at those pressures the difference in comfort is noticeable, but not painfully so.  Then again, in a race or bunch shitfight this wheel and tyre combination wouldn’t be my first choice unless it was pissing cats and dogs and there were long sections of unsealed road.  Generally, they’re my misadventure/Sunday mooch option: what I ride when I’m not riding to get somewhere – when I’m just riding for me.

So I got what I thought I would: a cheaper Pave alternative with its own set of compromises and its own set of strengths.  As a Sunday best, plush pair of tyres, there are better offerings out there – think Veloflex, if Vittoria have rubbed you up as badly as they have done me.  If you’re looking for a set of reasonable, well made tubs that should last a while, pennies and puncture resistance count – then these might tick enough of your boxes to deserve a good look.   They also come in a 22mm width, if you’re that way inclined.

For me though – I don’t know.  There’s just something – missing.   Good enough for winter, perhaps.  But for summer – for want of a better word – I’ll want something with a bit more soul, and cost be damned.

For fuck’s sake – it’s a tyre. 

Yes, I know.  Doesn’t mean I’m not right, though.