While we had the recent cold snap I changed my tyres back to the original mountain bike knobblies for a bit of extra grip in the snow/slush combo. I immediately noticed how noisy they were on the tarmac and how much I have been enjoying the commute using semi slick Continental City Ride tyres. The only problem I've had with the Continentals was a fair few punctures over the months, particularly if I ventured on country roads or tracks. Despite having them at decent pressures and inspecting them every few rides, bits of glass, slate and even thorns managed to work their way in. When I took them off this time I was shocked at how big some of the holes actually were. I wanted something that gave the on road performance I liked but with added puncture protection.
A Holy Grail? Perhaps. Before I took the knobblies off I wanted to look around at the options available. I had used tyre liners before and didn't like them. Filling the tube with slime was not an option that appealed as I: a) didn't want the mess and b) don't believe it works long term. Maybe different tyres would be the answer? A bit of in depth Googling led me to the Marathon Plus tyre from Schwalbe. These promise:
Punctures are a memory. The SmartGuard‚ layer made from a flexible, special rubber offers particular resistance to shards of glass and flints. Even a thumbtack cannot penetrate this protective layer. The SmartGuard belt does not increase rolling resistance. The MARATHON PLUS rolls as easily as a tire without protection.
There were some favourable independent reviews as well (at Bike Radar and Wiggle) so I got a pair at 26" x 1.75cm and have been riding them for about 100 miles so far - 70 on road and 30 on tracks/paths. Despite being a little on the heavy side they run nicely without the resistance of the knobblies, have sufficient grip for most of my riding and are quiet. They also have a bright reflective strip which I like for the present night light commute. I was a bit dismayed when I got a flat after just a few rides but was reassured to find it was a failed tube patch and not a new puncture.
All in all very pleased with them. I intend to report punctures against miles I get with them as well as my long term impressions later this year.