puncture resistance

What Is The Most Puncture Resistant Touring Tyre? Lab Testing Results

Punctures are the bane of a cyclist’s existence. Often unexpected, punctures seem to always stop you in your tracks in the least convenient of places. We can combat most punctures by using heavy/slow touring tyres. But is there an all-around touring tyre that is light, fast and puncture resistant?

The website Bicycle Rolling Resistance carries out all kinds of lab tests on bike tyres. They focus mostly on rolling resistance but also conduct a tyre tread and sidewall puncture test. We are fortunate enough to have data available of 19 different touring tyre models to examine.

Let’s take a look at the most puncture resistant touring tyres, and weigh them up against the fastest rolling tyres.

puncture resistant

The Test

The Bicycle Rolling Resistance team position a 1 mm thick needle over the centre of the tyre tread and sidewall (not at the same time). They then add weights to the needle until the tyre punctures. To ensure that the results are consistent, they conduct this test five times per tyre tread and sidewall. A score of 10 means it will take twice as much force to puncture a tyre when compared to a score of 5.

Tyre Tread Results:
Vittoria Randonneur – 21
Continental Top Contact Winter II – 17
Continental Top Contact II – 16
Schwalbe Marathon Racer – 16
Continental E.Contact – 16
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme – 15
Schwalbe Marathon – 14
Schwalbe Energizer Plus – 14
Schwalbe Marathon Mondial – 14
Schwalbe Marathon Almotion – 13
Continental Sport Contact II – 13
Continental City Ride II – 13
Schwalbe Marathon Plus – 13
Vredestein Perfect-E – 13
Vittoria Voyager Hyper – 12
Schwalbe Kojak – 12
Continental Contact II – 11
CST E-Series Reach – 10
Compass Bon John Pass – 8

The Vittoria Randonneur required almost 3x the force to puncture than the lowest performing tyre, the Compass Bon John Pass. Continental had three of their tyres in the top five, suggesting that their protection belts are very effective.

Tyre Sidewall Results:
Continental E.Contact – 8
Continental Contact II – 7
Vittoria Voyager Hyper – 6
CST E-Series Reach – 6
Continental Top Contact II – 6
Continental City Ride II – 6
Schwalbe Marathon Mondial – 6
Schwalbe Marathon Almotion – 5
Continental Sport Contact II – 5
Schwalbe Marathon – 5
Schwalbe Marathon Plus – 5
Continental Top Contact Winter II – 5
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme – 4
Schwalbe Energizer Plus – 4
Schwalbe Marathon Racer – 4
Vredestein Perfect-E – 4
Vittoria Randonneur – 4
Schwalbe Kojak – 3
Compass Bon John Pass – 3

The Continental E.Contact required almost 3x the force to puncture than the lowest performing tyres. While the Vittoria Randonneur was at the top of the list for tread resistance, it was bumped right down the bottom of this test. Continental again had many tyres perform well in this test.

rolling resistance

Puncture Factor

Bicycle Rolling Resistance uses a metric that they call ‘Puncture Factor’. This is the puncture resistance score above, multiplied by the tyre thickness. This probably gives a more accurate depiction of resistance, as thicker tyres tend to prevent more punctures by extending the physical distance debris has to travel to puncture a tyre.

Tyre Tread Puncture Factor Results:
Vittoria Randonneur – 120
Schwalbe Marathon Plus – 117
Continental E.Contact – 106
Schwalbe Marathon – 102
Schwalbe Energizer Plus – 98
Continental Top Contact Winter II – 94
Schwalbe Marathon Almotion – 86
Schwalbe Marathon Mondial – 85
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme – 75
Schwalbe Marathon Racer – 74
Continental City Ride II – 72
Continental Top Contact II – 70
Vredestein Perfect-E – 62
Continental Sport Contact II – 55
Schwalbe Kojak – 47
Continental Contact II – 46
CST E-Series Reach – 44
Vittoria Voyager Hyper – 40
Compass Bon John Pass – 23

The Vittoria Randonneur, with its amazing needle score, still came out on top. The Schwalbe Marathon Plus was breathing down its neck thanks to its 9mm thick tread. It’s interesting to note that Schwalbe tyres score better when we factor in tyre thickness (three of their tyres are in the top-five).

Tyre Sidewall Puncture Factor Results:
Continental E.Contact – 15
Continental Contact II – 14
CST E-Series Reach – 11
Continental City Ride II – 11
Schwalbe Marathon – 8
Schwalbe Marathon Plus – 8
Schwalbe Marathon Mondial – 7
Schwalbe Energizer Plus – 6
Continental Top Contact II – 6
Vredestein Perfect-E – 6
Schwalbe Marathon Almotion – 5
Vittoria Voyager Hyper – 5
Continental Sport Contact II – 5
Continental Top Contact Winter II – 4
Vittoria Randonneur – 4
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme – 3
Schwalbe Marathon Racer – 3
Schwalbe Kojak – 2
Compass Bon John Pass – 2

The Continental E.Contact again tested best in terms of sidewall protection. This can be attributed to the fact they’re designed for high-speed electric bikes which require a stiff sidewall casing for imperfections in the road. The Continental Contact II and City Ride II also scored particularly well for the sidewall test.

rolling resistance

Puncture Resistance vs. Rolling Resistance

While the Vittoria Randonneur and Continental E.Contact tyres took out the two puncture resistance tests, they have also shown to be the slowest touring tyres available out of the 19 tested.

In my article about tyre rolling resistance, I show you how using high rolling resistance tyres can actually slow down your speed more than carrying 30kg (66lbs) extra. That’s a lot, so it got me thinking…

By ranking both the puncture resistance and rolling resistance test scores, then combining those rankings together, I could get an idea of what was best overall.

Combined Puncture and Rolling Resistance Scores Based On Ranking:
1. Schwalbe Marathon Almotion – 7th Puncture / 1st Rolling
2. Schwalbe Marathon – 3rd Puncture / 6th Rolling
03. Schwalbe Energizer Plus – 5th Puncture / 7th Rolling
=3. Schwalbe Marathon Supreme – 8th Puncture / 4th Rolling
04. Vittoria Voyager Hyper – 12th Puncture / 2nd Rolling
05. Schwalbe Marathon Plus – 2nd Puncture / 14th Rolling
=5. Continental Sport Contact II – 11th Puncture / 5th Rolling
=5. Compass Bon John Pass – 13th Puncture / 3rd Rolling
06. Continental Top Contact II – 8th Puncture / 9th Rolling
07. CST E-Series Reach – 10th Puncture / 8th Rolling
08. Continental E.Contact – 1st Puncture / 19th Rolling
=8. Continental City Ride II – 7th Puncture / 13th Rolling
=8. Continental Contact II – 8th Puncture / 10th Rolling
=8. Schwalbe Marathon Racer – 9th Puncture / 11th Rolling
09. Schwalbe Marathon Mondial – 6th Puncture / 15th Rolling
10. Vittoria Randonneur – 4th Puncture / 18th Rolling
11. Schwalbe Kojak – 12th Puncture / 12th Rolling
12. Vredestein Perfect-E – 9th Puncture / 16th Rolling
13. Continental Top Contact Winter II – 10th Puncture / 17th Rolling

To help visualise some combined puncture/rolling resistance rankings, here are the scores displayed on a scatter chart.

The Best Overall Touring Tyres

The Schwalbe Marathon Almotion is the combined rolling/resistance test winner, followed closely by the Schwalbe Marathon.

Picking between them is a matter of prioritising speed or puncture resistance. If you’re after a lightweight tyre, the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme is ~30% lighter than the Marathon Almotion as well as being almost as puncture-resistant and fast.

Lake Hume

Choosing Your Puncture Resistant Touring Tyres

If you never want to think about punctures again, I’d suggest using:
Vittoria Randonneur ($30)
Schwalbe Marathon Plus
– Continental E.Contact

BUT… if you’re keen to reduce your rolling resistance but don’t want to compromise too much on protection – it’s hard to look past the Schwalbe Marathon ($33). These are the most common touring tyres for a reason.

If rolling resistance is your priority (the best touring tyres can save you 1-2km/h) then you’ll want to get your hands on some Schwalbe Almotion tyres ($54). I’ve been using a set for over 2000km now and haven’t yet had a puncture. Plus they feel really fast under my loaded touring bike.

Wanna help support CyclingAbout? Grab some tyres from Amazon by using the links above & CyclingAbout gets a tiny bit from each sale. No cost to you, easy as pie!

Have You Read About Touring Tyre Rolling Resistance Yet?

  1. A very useful comparision! I just changed my tyres recently to Shcwalbe Marathon Plus, from Schwalbe Marathon, thinking, it will be better. After reading your artilce, I would have been better off with the (lower cost) Schwalbe Marathon, or invest in the Almotion. Do you think it’s worth changing tyres now? Or after how much time would it worth to upgrade the tyres, so I have some use of them? I guess tyres cannot be sold second hand…

  2. I wouldn’t suggest changing to the Schwalbe Marathon from the Marathon Plus because there is only 8.4w extra resistance. But if speed is important to you, it could be worth switching to the Almotion because it starts to become more significant at 16.8w difference.

  3. What a line up of articles for this month. I for one appreciate and recognize the time involved so Thank You.

    My Marathon Supremes seemed to fair well so no need making any changes in this area.

    Did you consider testing the Big Bens, or Apples, and Big Ben Pluses. I am shocked at how fast these heavy tires roll. The fact that their speed is attributed to their shock absorption abilities might not be reflected with your rolling resistance test or would it?


  4. As always a fascinating look at a range of products.

    I wonder what the results would be if you’d factored in a third parameter, namely mixed surface tread. I don’t tour; I ride a combination of pavement and dirt routes and am, admittedly, a bit of a(n elder) wimp in that I’m not very fast or agile—I do not like skidding. So my 29er’s Mondials give some confidence-inspiring bite on gravelly/dirt trails. My low end bike w/stuff weighs about as much as a high end touring bike tricked out.

  5. I didn’t conduct this testing. The work was done by BicycleRollingResistance.com. Let me draw some conclusions about how the Big Ben/Apple tyres may test based on other tyres:

    Big Ben Plus – At 50mm wide and with Greenguard protection, it is very similar to the 47mm Marathon which rolls at 22.6w @ 60psi. The 37mm and 40mm Marathons are marginally quicker, so perhaps we can expect the Big Ben Plus to roll between 24-25w.

    Big Ben and Big Apple – We can look to the Marathon Racer which uses the same Raceguard protection. In 35mm width it rolls at 22.6w @ 75psi. With the extra width and lower pressure, I’d suggest they would both come in between 25-26w.

  6. Actually I meant factoring in soft surface riding to this test. Anything to cause my choice, Mondials, to rise in the findings 😉

  7. I’m also curious about the Big Apple – I run 26 x 2.35 and they feel good but slow. If $ isn’t an issue, should I switch to Almotion? I also love how easy it is to take on/off (the BA). I recall with an old pair of Marathons that they were living hell to remove – are Almotions easier?

  8. The Almotion is a folding bead tyre, so I can get them on without tyre levers. 🙂

    I’m almost 3000km into using the Schwalbe Almotions and haven’t had any flat tyres. Very happy with how they’re going so far. I’ve taken them on some of the roughest dirt roads in Australia too…

  9. Is it still possible to update the test? We are using “cheap” Land Cruiser Plus 26×2,0 tires on a tandem. In my opinion they are puncture resist (officially they are Level 5 on a Schwalbe’s 6 grade scale) and I have just replaced them – after 10000+ km (two years, on tarmac (at 35C), mud, gravel, ice and snow (at -10C).
    Did they look “normal” after such a usage? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/12a96cf3b5ac9dd1b30a3976fd542da7072777086c396de2a3351d0e566f6c8c.jpg

  10. hi a very interesting article thankyou.my gravel bike came with schwalbe g ones tubeless 35 mm,whats your opinion of these please as im leaving on a tour in asia soon with some long rides on gravel and rocky roads also a fair bit on tarmac do you think the g one suitable?im looking to take a spare set of tyres just in case.cheers for any advice

  11. There’s two versions of the G-One Tubeless 35mm tyre. Both have exceptional puncture protection and great rolling speeds. The main downside is that they wear out a bit quicker than a touring specific tyre like the Marathon Almotion.

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