Complete review of my new Continental Sport Contact Tires. A lot of people who ride recumbent bicycles are choosing to ride 559 road slicks. The options for quality road slicks in 559 that are lightweight, durable, and provide quality puncture protection are pretty limited. The Continental Sport Contact 559 x32 which I will be reviewing here is one of those options. I've ridden the Specialize Fatboy and the Schwalbe Durano 1 1/8th folding tires and now I'm going to be riding the Continental Sport Contacts in the 32mm 1.3 size.
I had hoped to find a pair of Schwalbe Kojak folding tires in the same size to review but not only could I not find a pair I couldn't find anything near the price of the Continental Sport Contacts. Last year I purchased the Schwalbe Durano tires for review (You'll find them here in the review section) for about $42 each if I recall correctly plus shipping. The Kojaks in the folding version run $50+ each plus shipping.
Because I didn't want to wait I went ahead and bought them from a sporting supply place online... and it was kind of a mistake. While the pricing was good at $58 including shipping, the wait was dismal (10 days to ship one State!). In 2009 Continental was shipping these tires with free tubes... I don't know if this is a promotion or is ongoing, but I didn't get any free tubes with my Sport Contacts. Well I saved a few dollars but I didn't get the tires in any faster. The Sport Contacts I received were made in India, I do not know if there is a Taiwanese Version or a German Version. I would definitely prefer a German Made tire if possible. There is a slight glitch in one of the sidewalls of one of the 2 tires I purchased, and I'm hoping it doesn't turn into a blowout down the road.
Before I write a bunch more of this and that about these tires I'd like to post a bunch of photos for people who like me can appreciate the value of images as much as the value of text in an article. The review will continue after the photos.
Click any picture to see a larger size.
Back on point. I also considered the Ritchey Tom Slick and the Panaracer T-Serv. But after all the reviews I read of the Sport Contacts I am convinced (at least for now) they are the way to go.
The rubber on the Sport Contacts feels a bit more sticky and a whole lot more pliable than the Fatboy's. It's also thicker on the sidewall than the Fatboy's. In comparison to the Durano tires (keeping in mind I have the folding version) the tread fills a bit thicker and the side walls about the same. Both the Schwalbe and the Conti feel like a higher quality tire when you have them in your hands. And they should be as they both cost a lot more than the Fatboy tires.
Mounting the Conti Sport Contact to the front wheel (Mavic 717) went pretty smoothly. I was able to mount the front tire with just my fingers and thumbs. It was a bit stiff but not overly difficult. The back tires was a bit more difficult as the Deep V Rim (I have no idea if this is a Velocity Rim or not) was just harder for me to mount. Fortunately I have a Tire Bead Jack (See other reviews here on the site) which made it much easier. I wouldn't want to have to change flats on either wheel on the road however. I was running a tire liner under the front of the Durano but I am choosing not to use it on the Sport Contact. My hope is without the tire liner the lower rotational mass will make climbing a bit easier (The Sport Contact is heavier than the Durano, but lighter sans the liner). The rear wheel on my bike I desperately want to replace as it's built like a tank with 14 gauge 36 hole spokes on a Deep V with a Shimano 105 hub. The think must weigh 5 lbs. I'm hoping when the budget allows to replace it with a DT Swiss 240, and a Synergy Offset with Sapim CX-Ray spokes. I've been very happy with the Mavic 717, DT Swiss 240, DT Swiss Revolution front wheel I had built. The new front wheel has kind of spoiled me!
I like to write reviews - real reviews based on my own "hands on" experiences. To me there is nothing worse that finding a "Review" that is nothing more than a rehash of a press release or a blurb about a product that is based on no real world experience with that product. I find those "reviews" all over the internet and usually written by people who know little to nothing about the product they are supposedly reviewing. You may not agree with my assessments about products I review, but at least they are the real deal.
I chose the Conti Sport Contacts in the 559 x32mm size because they fit my bike. I'm not sure the additional height and weight of a 1.6 would work on my bike. I've run Fatboys which are 1.25 with no problems (No Brake or Fork Rubbing) so I was sure these would work. As you can see in the pictures I've included a comparison of a nearly new Fatboy. I read good and bad about the Tom Slick, but I'm not a huge fan of Ritchey because they are more of a design house that outsources everything to someone else. But with these Conti's being made in India who knows... maybe the Tom Slicks are made by the same people on another line? But given the choice I go with the OEM whenever possible. I also read some less than flattering reviews of the Tom Slicks to go along with the good reviews. I really didn't find anyone saying anything bad about the Sport Contacts. I've also run the GEAX Street runners in the past and loved everything about the way they ride and absolutely hated changing out the flats every 5 miles. The Sport Contacts are supposed to be pretty flat resistant.
My Schwalbe Durano's have been really good tires. They have about 1,000 miles on them and look hardly worse for the wear... seriously they almost look brand new. At 900 miles my Specialized Fatboys were literally coming apart at the seams and small chunks of tread had come apart. I got 1,200 out of the Fatboy's but the last 300 miles I was sweating a blowout. And while Fatboy's have good rolling resistance and are decent in the weight category they are a rough riding tire in my opinion. My Durano tires on the other hand are a decent riding tire at recommended mid range pressure, but a bit doggy if not inflated to full max 8 bar. They perform well at full PSI but slow down as PSI drops. The problem with full PSI (8 bar 115 PSI) in the 1.1 folding I was running is they tend to transmit a lot of road "noise" to my spine. By this I mean they ride rougher, but faster when fully inflated.
Again I thought the Kojak in the 1.3 folding would be the answer. But no luck finding them, and they are so damn expensive. The Kojak 1.3 wire bead is very reasonable, but also hard to find at times. The wire bead Kojak is actually heavier than the wire bead Sport Contact. If I were not so tired right now I'd look up the exact weights. The folding Kojak is lighter than the Conti Sport Contact of the same size.
At least that is what was published on their respective sites as I recall. The Schwalbe is 3mm wider as well, but that means little to me. The compounds and construction are different so the only real way to tell is to just ride them and decide if you like them or not. My hope is the Conti will ride smoother than my Durano tires and provide me with much more road comfort. I understand the rolling resistance is supposed to be very good. But when you are reading reviews on Mountain Bike sites you have to take them with a grain of salt. Most mountain bikers going from knobbies to slicks are going to say they roll good no matter what. As you know the recumbent is a different beast!
I just completed my first ride on the Sport Contact tires and fortunately I am very happy with the performance. The roll equally if not better than the Durano tires I replaced. The rubber compound is a bit stickier and hopefully this trait will carry through out it's useful life. I doubt they will last as long as the Durano tires which show almost no wear as mentioned above. The asphalt here where I'm riding on the sides of the roads is extremely course and the Sport Contact tires smoothed that out by at least 50%! This is likely due not only to the more supple construction, but the increased air volume and lower tire pressure. I ran them on my first ride at exactly 6 bar (85 psi) maximum recommended inflation. These tires are also a lot more forgiving on the spine than the Specialized Fatboy tires. They are 50 grams lighter than the wired Kojaks (which are just slightly wider my a mm or two). I think I've found the tires I'll be riding from here on out unless the Kojak folding tires somehow magically drop $40 off the price of a pair or the Sport Contact tires become available in a folding version.
I should also note that I have a lot more confidence on these tires a I lean into turns. There is minimal but present sidewall tread which combined with the type of rubber and additional width at lower pressure which are no doubt to account for the increased sense of handling. On the Durano tires I crashed a couple of times at slow speed when the backend would slip out from under me during light braking or even acceleration in any debris, dirt, or loose material. I also crashed on the fatboy tires when I got caught in a surprise thunderstorm. Slicks, water, and my bicycle don't make a pretty combination.
Happy riding, if you're on the fence about slicks try the Sport Contact - very nice ride for the size and price, in fact I doubt you'll find better. If you're wealthy then go ahead and try the folding Kojak.
I'll revisit this review after I have close to a 1,000 miles so I can comment on the durability.
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