With the arrival of poor weather, driving becomes more difficult and no one is surprised that the regulations require us to change the tyres on our cars from the summer version to the winter one. However, the same rules do not apply to bicycles and, above all, this is not a habit most cyclists have got into, although cycling would probably require more caution considering the small area of contact with the ground.
The dangers are more or less the same. The lower temperatures reduce tyre grip on the road surface (also known as chemical grip), especially when the asphalt is wet or damp. And weather conditions become harsher in autumn and winter, when rainfall and wind, in addition to water, bring dirt and debris onto the roads and the cold accelerates the deterioration of the asphalt. A combination of factors which makes the road more slippery and which makes the risk of punctures more likely, facilitated by the water that acts as a lubricant on external objects that try to cut and penetrate the tyres.
It is therefore advisable to switch from a summer tyre to a winter one, especially for those who continue to train or go to work by bicycle, even if the weather conditions are not agreeable.
The characteristics of winter tyres
Winter tyres feature three strengths:
1) The compound is formulated with polymers and dedicated technologies which allow the tyre to have optimal behaviour even on very cold surfaces, because it can both “reach optimum temperature” faster and deliver better performance at a lower temperature than a summer tyre.
2) The tread is designed to heat the compound faster, thanks to a design which, characterised by special grooves, is able to warp more freely in contact with the asphalt and therefore generate more heat compared to a smooth tread. Perhaps not everyone knows that, unlike car and motorcycle tyres, the tread grooves on a bicycle tyre are not required to expel water and avoid aquaplaning, but instead to generate a better footprint thanks to a more suitable operating temperature of the compound.
3) The carcass is reinforced to avoid punctures, a protection obtained with more complex internal structures and with technologically advanced materials such as aramid, both in the form of protective fabric, as well as - and this is a Pirelli exclusive for cycling - dispersed in a compound directly at the base of the tread.
The advantages of a winter tyre
Tyres which have been designed for the winter season firstly offer a better grip, thanks to the special compounds and tread patterns, especially when tackling wet surfaces or when the temperatures drop considerably. This improved grip also makes for a general increase in safety, including shorter braking distances, benefits that can grow further if you opt for a tyre with wider sections than the one usually used in summer. The structure of winter tyres, moreover, is more resistant to punctures and in the tubeless version it guarantees greater comfort and a further increase in protection.
Pirelli's solution: The Cinturato™ Velo TLR
For cyclists who want to use their street bicycle safely during the winter too, Pirelli has designed the Cinturato™ Velo TLR: a tyre that uses all the most advanced technologies to offer the best performances during the coldest months of the year. The Cinturato™ Velo TLR features a compound, called SmartNET™ Silica, which has been patented by Pirelli and that uses a particular form of Silica to obtain superior grip and handling performance on wet road surfaces. The Armour Tech™ carcass, another Pirelli patent for cycling, is super-reinforced against punctures. The result is achieved by using aramid in the reinforcing plies and by adding it in dispersion to the tread compound. For those who want even more safety, the Cinturato™ Velo TLR can be fitted in the tubeless-ready configuration, the set-up without the inner tube and with the use of the sealant that allows for a further reduction in the inflation pressure, guaranteeing greater comfort and grip, as well as additional protection against punctures.