Review: Continental Ultra GatorSkin

My last tires were Avocet Road 30 700x23C kevlar. I’m always partial to road tires with the least amount of tread on them and I love the head-turning advertising Avocet did on these back in the early 90’s. When I saw a pair on closeout, I had to buy a few to keep around in case I tore up a tire on a distance tour. Sure the tire case looks like human skin, but they’re light and cool to have around.

A couple years back, I decided that I better start using the tires and put them on my commute bike. But now I’m flatting too much. I guess 10 year old rubber just can’t take road and running path that forms the bulk of my commute. I’ll fold them up and keep them around if something drastic ever happens.

I’m sick of picking out rocks and thorns that always seem to puncture the rear tire casing. so I picked up a new set of commute tires from Performance. Unfortunately, their selection was pretty shitty so I resorted to trying Continental again:

Continental Gatorskin

Continental Gatorskin
Sunnyvale, California

Nikon D200, Nikkor 18-200mm f/2.8G VR
SB-800, Gitzo G1228LVL tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead
2sec @ f/5.6, iso 100, 116mm (174mm)

[Review after the jump]

Continental. Tire purgatory

I love the way Continental looks. As you might have read before, I hate the way Continental is overbuilt.

But, again, I love the way Continental tires look. I always fall into that trap and buy Continental when I’m in the store.

This time I accidentally got two slightly different tires. They’re both Continental Ultra GatorSkins, but one was 700x28C and the other was 700x23C. I meant to buy two 28C’s because I’m sick of flats—I should have looked closer. Oh well, I’ll put the 23C on the front tire which never seems to flat anyway.

Which way is forward?

The shtick with the tire is their DuraSkin sidewall lining. I love consists of a “extremely durable polyamide fabric” which I take it is Continental’s term for “a lot of rolling resistance.” I’ve worn away the sidewall of my old Avocet Cross tires (I assume it was from riding it in zero degree weather in Illinois) and since my commutes are super slow, I suppose it can’t hurt. I do like the look of the sidewalls, though I actually prefer the Continental’s trademark dark-thread sidewall more. It looks just fine when riding them.

The tire is mostly smooth but with a small lizard footprint-type inverted tread thing on the shoulder. What purpose does it serve? I don’t know, maybe it’s supposed to grip onto something. These treads have a staggered placement so there is definitely two ways to put these tires on.

I have no idea which way you’re supposed to put them on. Odds are, I probably put them on backwards.

Putting them on

The 23C came on easily in the front tire. Of course this is relative to my previous experience with Continental which means I still had to resort to prying them with the tire lever.

Maybe Continental stopped making their beads too tight.

Then I hit the rear tire. Multiple attempts to put it on. Two snakebites destroy two tubes. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck you! Damn-fucking-German-engineers-with-no-faith-in-physics! Fuck!” Okay, part of it may be these Performance ultralight tubes which I notice I destroy pretty easily. Plus I’m angry that they all have 60mm stems. Look Performance, not all of us have these super deep aero rims you know.

In any case, I drove back to Performance and got some Michelin tubes with a 35mm stem. It cost a little more but I’m superstitious. I’ve flatted 4 for 4 Performance tubes in the last month.

This time I was a little careful and didn’t use a lever. My fingers still hurt, but I got it on.

Ever notice how when you work your ass off to get tires on, the final bit flips in very easily? It’s like the tires taunt me.


We’ll have to see how they ride later. My guess is they ride just fine. After all, the only thing I want to do with them is ride on road and path to work and back without flatting.

Is this too much to ask?

6 thoughts on “Review: Continental Ultra GatorSkin

  1. yeah. no shit re: snakebites trying to put the continental on.

    i punctured two tubes trying to get the tire on my freshly built wheel only to wake up ion the morning to a slow leak.

    agh. now i’m trying to get the tire on a third time to no avail. WTF?

    there’s no way in hell it’s going on without a lever, but i probably already put holes in the tube at this point…

  2. I have a more positive experience with these tyres.

    Try using soapy water – just a little wiped on the edge of the rim/tyre at the place where you start/finish popping the tyre off/on the rim. It works like magic – trust me.

    I have to say i am very impressed with my Gatorskins. They went on an open pro rim easily, but were a bit tight on my front wheel – a mavic MA50 (much alike an MA2).

    My Gatorskins are the kevlar bead, so they are light. About 220g.

    I had cheap Vredestein Ricorsa tyres on before – gripped well but were heavy at 330g each! The Gatorskins (i have the 23 version) are light, FAST, and roll well. Grip well, dry or wet.

    The best part of all for me is the puncture proof bit. I’ve read a lot of reviews and seems that some folks have had luck, and some not with flats with the Gatorskins. I have to say i must have got a good pair because I’ve been riding 2 days on them, just checked the tyre and found embedded two evil triangular shards of glass about 5mm long and 3mm long, pointing straight in towards the tube – but still NO FLATS!!!! I was totally amazed.

    This alone has saved me two stops on the way to work to fix these (similar shards always punctured my Ricorsas). For me, these tyres rock!

  3. Hey Reub, thanks for the tip with the soap and water…don’t know why I never thought of that. Worked great.

    I live in NYC and commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan everyday…so my tyres get some shit. Just picked up the Gatorskin today. Feels great, hit some shards on the way home (way to break em in) and all is good. Really like the feel. The smooth tread is nice on the fixie. I recommend these guys,

  4. picking up a new bike today with these tyres fitted

    otherwise, I’m quite happy to use a lever for the last stage of a tyre if it’s stiff

    not teaching anyone to suck eggs but some air into the tube first so it rises up into the body of the tyre and plenty of kneading of tyre once on before inflating

    not sure I’ve ever buggered a tube refitting a tyre

    granted I’ve never used anything thinner that 1.3in Marathons

  5. I think you mean pinch flat, not snake bites. Snake bite happens when under inflated tyres touch the rim and pinch the tube on both sides, leaving a “snake bite”. Pinch is when the tube gets stuck under the tyre and punctures during inflation. Duraskin is only on the sidewall, shouldn’t affect the rolling resistance. I’ll really have to try the soapy water trick, sounds like a great idea.

    Anyway, I have been commuting with these for about 1800km and I just *love* them! Not a single flat, and light and *fast*. Maybe I’ll try the UltraSport next time as they are half the price of the UltraGatorSkin

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