Choosing a Tire for Touring

Choosing a good tire for bike touring is an important key to touring success. While flats are usually not a huge problem, more of an inconvenience, you can avoid or eliminate them completely by getting high quality tires.

If you are considering taking your regular bike on tour with you and you don’t already have high endurance tires you should definitely think about upgrading.

When we toured the Danube with a few of our friends we really put the tires we had to the test. Broken glass, thorns and potholes are never uncommon in Eastern Europe and all of our bikes fared differently.

With our four bikes we had three different kinds of tires. Our bike and Sarah’s bike both had the Scwalbe Marathon tires,  Yoshi had the Vittoria Randonneurs with Mr. Tuffy,  and Otto had the Continental Gatorskins. Our bike has 20” x 1.75” tires and the rest of the crew has 700c tires.


Using this small sample of tires over the 1,000 miles we rode along the Danube the Schwalbe Marathons were the clear winners. Neither we nor Sarah ever got a flat. Not one.

Later on her trip Sarah did get a flat but it was somewhat unusual. She had picked up a small screw in her tread and it slowly worked it’s into the tire. To pull it out it was necessary to unscrew it with a screw driver. I suppose this is where the threshold of impenetrable is no match for sharp threaded objects

The Continental Gatorskins, on the other hand were the clear losers. Otto flatted several times often from pretty tame road hazards. There was one day in Hungary when he flatted, replaced the tube, flatted again, we then found a little pebble had embedded in the tire. He replaced the tube. Hit a pothole and flatted again. Cue frustration.


tuffyYoshi had good luck as well, but she also had the Mr. Tuffy under her Vittoria Randonneurs. Mr. Tuffy is a tire liner that goes between your tire and your tube to prevent puncture. It is a great tool to use of you already have tires that may not be up to par but don’t want to upgrade. It is cheaper than replacing your set of tires and works well.

In addition to the brand of tire you want to think about versatility. All of the tires discussed here were pretty similar in style. They all had modest but existent tread to allow for smooth road riding and enough traction to deal with dirt, gravel or whatever other terrain you may encounter.

In the city I always ride on skinny slick tires, but when I am on tour I want something a little more beefy.


I cannot recommend the Schwalbe Marathons enough. After our experience and Sarah’s experience with them I would rate them at 10 out of 10. They are ultra durable and flat resistant and they even have a reflective sidewall which adds extra visibility to your ride.

What tire do you tour on? Do you have any other tips or tricks for keeping your tires full of air?

If you found this review helpful you can click through to our affiliate that carries the Marathons and has free shipping.


2 Responses to “Choosing a Tire for Touring”

  1. Jeremy said:

    personally I recommend the best looking mismatched tires that can be found in the dumpster behind your local bike shop but then again I was infected with the brave little toaster meme long ago and am now terminal. as for the air loss, I’ve been spraying wd40 on my valve so that it springs back into the correct position lately. It may be in my head but I feel like I’m airing up less also spend the extra dollar on good bike tubes. Not really sure what that is over there but.. yeah

    May 5th, 2011 at 3:33 pm

  2. Ben said:

    Agreed! Toured my fully loaded bike (50+ lbs) 500 miles from SF to LA on these tires and not a single flat. Nice article and a totally awesome site. Keep up the great work guys!

    February 8th, 2012 at 10:56 am

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