My massive cycling pay rise

How cycling to work has boosted my true hourly wage by over 22%

A couple of years back I wrote an article comparing the costs of different modes of commute in Edinburgh.

I was recently given a sniff of a rival job with a five figure pay rise, but it would have meant a similar length of time commuting (bike or car) with a far inferior route. I’m one of those annoying people who enjoys their job, but even if I’d been interested, it would actually have been a pay cut in true wage terms. Can you imagine trying to explain that to a recruiter?

The true wage

Take the number of hours in your contract and your salary net of tax and you have your nominal hourly wage – but that’s only half the story.

For a fair comparison you really need to account for the costs associated with a job (having to run two cars for the commute, for instance) and also the time you spend off the clock needs to be added to the hours that you’re chained to the desk (commuting, answering email out of hours, and so on).

The resulting figure is your true hourly wage, and my premise is that if you can get yourself to the point where you have a fun, healthy bike commute without traffic trouble, you can give your true wage a massive boost.

My “motor bloater” persona

In “how I saved a house deposit cycling to work” I calculated that the cost of running our actual car was just over £2100 a year. For my current commute of 5500 miles a year, fuel would add another £900 or so, taking us to a nice round £3k if I needed to buy another car so I could drive to work.

If I did drive then a gym membership would be essential. The majority of Scots might be bloaters, but I don’t want to be one of them! The Edinburgh Leisure option doesn’t break the bank at £560pa and is what I used to have.

I’m lucky to have no need for office clothes despite working for a high power multinational and I generally resist the expensive lunch options, so I’m going to be generous and zero those costs off against the clothes and lunch I’d be spending on anyway (even a Greggs and Starbucks add up – £5 each working day is over £1100pa). Childcare would be the other major factor for many readers, but I’m not paying for it, so I won’t include it.

On the odd day that I do have to drive to work, I leave at least 50 minutes before I need to be at my desk, and allow an hour to drive home. I take an hour’s lunch (unpaid) which I’d certainly rather spend elsewhere, if it wasn’t for the core hours on either side. In total that’s almost three hours a day travelling to/from/sitting unpaid at the office on top of the time I have to be there to work (which is thankfully quite a lot fewer hours than the industry average – one of the reasons I’m a big fan of my current job).

On this basis my true hourly wage is somewhere around £14/hour.

Now, in real life

However, the reality is that we don’t need to run a second car, and I gave up my Edinburgh Leisure membership years ago. I’m still on the same £800 commuter that I built up three years ago, and might have spent a couple of hundred on chains and clothes, so let’s be pessimistic and write that all off now, making it £350pa of direct extra cycling costs. I’m already better off than my motor-bloater persona to the tune of over £3k a year…

My commute is almost entirely pleasant – we splashed the cash on a house that is directly connected to a couple of Edinburgh’s few long-distance segregated cycleways, so I can sometimes manage a whole week of rush hour commuting without being overtaken at all.

Including time to get changed, I have to allow 90 minutes per day to commute by bike, but since I try to get an hour’s exercise on days when I’m not working, I’m only going to add 30 minutes’ worth to the time cost of the job (it’s probably fair to include some of my commuting time, as I doubt I would choose to bike 22 miles a day if I had an independent income – a third is pretty much an arbitrary proportion though).

In summary then, cycling to work saves me over £3k a year in costs and also an hour a day, or 225 hours a year. Calculated with these numbers, my true hourly wage has jumped to over £17 an hour.

That’s a cool 22% pay rise, and I’m enjoying it every day. The only way it could get better would be to cut down on the number of hours I spend in the office for the money, which is possible, but not straightforward.

It’s also worth noting that this is not a uniform benefit by any means. The less you earn, the bigger the impact of cutting out the car or public transport has on your bottom line. If I earned minimum wage I’d be 50% better off rather than 22% (although the utility of the comparison is limited, since the typical minimum wage earner probably doesn’t run two cars and pay over £500 for a gym membership).

How accurate is Strava power / calories?

What happens if you compare PowerTap power / energy to the figures calculated by a service like Strava?

No surprises here…

I’ve been putting in a lot of miles over the last few weeks on different bikes. I don’t have power on all of them, so it’s been quite interesting to see how many watts / calories a service like Strava will calculate compared with the real amount as measured at the wheel.

This downhill segment provides a particularly stark contrast:

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Crikey, Strava is out by around 3500 – 4000% (average of 6.67W measured, 252W calculated)… not a very good result!

The picture is better when you look at the overall energy use, which makes sense as you’d hope optimising a fake power figure for cycling mainly on the flat is a much easier job. Across these six runs, Strava calculated an average of 660kJ versus 558kJ measured, which is only an error of 15.5%

Finally, what about going uphill (a short segment at 4% gradient)?

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In this case the calculated power is significantly lower than reality: 11.8mph for 263W (calculated) versus 11.5mph for 292W (measured), an error of 13.7% (allowing a couple of small assumptions to normalise speeds).

Beware calculated figures! Depending on the ratio of ups and downs on your ride, you don’t even know if they’re an over or an underestimate…

Manufactured conflict: postscript

Despite re-alignment, the natural line to take to enter this new path is still on the “wrong” side of the road…

When even stupid design goals aren’t met

I posted recently about the redesign of a cycleway in Edinburgh which has manufactured conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.

One prominent part of the discussion around this step back in bike/walking provision is the weird way that pedestrians have to walk out onto the “wrong” side of the road then walk across the road onto the pavement, where previously the path just led them naturally onto the pavement.

Apparently this re-alignment is because there “had been reports of conflicts arising with cyclists travelling on the wrong lane and vehicles manoeuvring at the end of Barnton Avenue.”

Ignoring the obvious issue that Edinburgh Council’s design team seem to have forgotten that legally, cyclists are vehicles, and ignoring the issue that vehicles manoeuvring at the end of a mile-long cul-de-sac are basically nowhere to be seen – the natural line to take to enter the new path is still on the “wrong” side of the road.

The chicane could potentially be reversed, but I think at that point a desire line would open up around the boulders on the right instead. I keep thinking the paved gutter there invites a cut-through.

So pedestrians have to dodge through a chicane and walk over the road to get to the pavement because… planners don’t understand how cycling works?

How ironic is that?

Incidentally, I have no idea who the silver fox on the bike in front is – hundreds and hundreds of people cycle on this route and I know about three of them personally. Someone elsewhere suggested I had a ready supply of actors to try and show up Edinburgh council, but that’s quite unnecessary!

ASA-compliant cycling: low life expectancy

If you want to live more than five minutes cycling in the UK you *absolutely cannot* afford to cycle as timidly as this!

If you want to live, get out of the gutter

The ASA kicked up a storm a while back with its ludicrous and widely-condemned verdict that cyclists must be shown cycling in the gutter in the mainstream media.

This week the ASA issued a humiliating climbdown, but too late for this pair of Edinburgh cyclists who I passed on a commute the other day.

Holy shit, if you want to live more than five minutes cycling in the UK you absolutely cannot afford to cycle as timidly as this:

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that these people were killed under the nearside of an overtaking HGV. You can see how little hesitation the three motors in front of me in the queue have in taking up the invite to pass. The internet is littered with the names of cyclists killed by truck drivers in circumstances like this, including more than one in Edinburgh.

Safe responsible cycling means getting in the way of dangerous driving. It’s easier said than done, but I’d rather have a shouting match with a moron every six months than be six feet under.

Road without pavement?

…or pavement without road? A critical look at the contradictions in provisioning “space for cycling” and expecting it not to compete with pedestrian interests.

Or pavement without road?

As the debate about manufactured conflict on Edinburgh’s cycleways continues, there have been encouraging signs that I’m not alone in wondering why people are suddenly held to a much higher standard when they leave their car at home.

Less than chivalrous behaviour behind the wheel is seen as lamentable, perhaps, but certainly understandable, even inevitable. When the same person is persuaded to try cycling instead, any failing on their part becomes a moral panic, not just bringing down wrath on them but on all of the other 43% of UK citizens who own bikes!

I’ve already written about my scorn for collective responsibility (twice!). In this post I’d like to try and stir some thought on the other great question of our times: why is it seen as less than legitimate to use a shared cycleway for… cycling on?

I was prompted to write this post in particular by yet another CCE debate. The point has been made many times that people drive at similar (or greater) speeds on roads where peopler are walking, with or without pavements, so cycling behaviour is both expected and still a massive improvement. Someone replied:

A cyclist brushing by a pedestrian at 20mph on a shared space route doesn’t feel like a brush with a slow moving vehicle.

Make driving in town wholly unattractive … thus freeing up road space for safer cycling.

Then remove the shared space routes; it doesn’t work, and will never work, while people see them as a belt along as fast as you can pedal, (motorised)traffic-free cycle route.

They’re not; they’re for pedestrians and more vulnerable, less road-confident, or just those out for a meander, cyclists.

If you want a “hard-going” route into town at maximum pace, use a road. Not a shared space. It doesn’t work, and causes unnecessary animosity.

A question of expectations

Edinburgh’s West Approach Road was built onto the North British rail line which ran into Princes Street Station (demolished in the late 60s). It’s an unfriendly tarmac canyon which speeds traffic for a little over a mile, saving drivers a few minutes at either end of the day:

edinburgh-west-approach-road

Let’s suppose for a moment that the Council decided to seize the forum’s advice boldly and re-allocate the West Approach Road for cycling. They’d probably want to let some greenery grow at either side and have a narrower strip of tarmac, but everything about the route is otherwise spot on – good gradients, well lit, etc etc.

At last we’d have a route which re-allocated space to cycling, one which wasn’t contentious with pedestrian lobby groups, a virtual paradise!

But wait… Edinburgh Council have done *exactly this* with another stretch of the same railway line. Just a few hundred feet from the paving of the West Approach Road, the same railbed has been (slightly more sympathetically) tarmacked and presented to the city as a key commuter route which is not accessible to cars:

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Naturally it’s wildly popular with people cycling between the West End, Leith, and anywhere else in the northern half of the city. And what do we say about it?

“remove the shared space routes; it doesn’t work, and will never work … use a road”

Crikey.

Cycle routes for cycling on

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks this process of self-hatred is weird. I don’t want to condone nasty cycling any more than I would condone nasty driving, but if we have any realistic aspirations for cycling as an everyday (continental style) activity, we have to understand that people must ride somewhere.

Some of them will go faster than others, and if the West Approach Road ever is converted to a shared cycleway, we *will* see this exact debate play out again. It is not realistic to imagine that we can create separate cycle space free of pedestrian conflict, because almost by definition, cyclists and pedestrians will compete for anywhere that fear of violence at motorists’ hands is removed.

Shouldn’t we be honest about the fact that creating cycle space competes directly with other modes (pedestrian as well as motorised) but that it’s still eminently worth doing?

Shouldn’t we be up front about the fact that not every driver is perfect, and so taking people out of their cars in the process of making a more liveable city inevitably results in less-than-heavenly cycling, but that this is still a huge leap forward?

Because if even cyclists don’t believe this, what hope anyone else?

Manufactured conflict

Two way traffic (and pedestrians) are forced into head on conflict which just didn’t exist before, and has been completely manufactured by the redesign of the path…

Public funds squandered making vital cycle route less safe?

In the north-west of Edinburgh a short stretch of tarmac links the city centre with West Lothian and Fife, converting tens of thousands of car journeys from the gridlocked A90 to virtually car-free bike commutes.

Just twenty minutes hard riding will take you from the edge of Edinburgh at Cramond Brig Toll to Haymarket, or down to Leith – without ever suffering from the city’s dodgy drivers.

Recently the city decided to spend a sackload of cash giving this path a facelift, the primary benefit being path lighting to improve personal safety. (Unfortunately an unlit wooded path doesn’t convert all that many car commutes to cycle ones in the winter months, especially – if you can forgive an anecdote – amongst the women I know who would otherwise use this route.)

In short order the contractors came in, repaved the path and added in the handy stud lighting that has proven so popular on the Union canal. So far, so good…

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Then the rot started to set in. Within days, trenches were dug across the path and half-buried bricks put in, to prevent cyclists getting too comfortable. Giant slow signs have been painted everywhere for the benefit of occasional dog walkers, putting them in a strong bargaining position when Fenton is allowed to hospitalise a hapless commuter.

Finally, a chicane has been put in at the top of the path along with the city’s favourite “tramline” tactile paving (naturally no space has been allowed for cyclists to negotiate the paving before the chicane, they’re right next to each other).

Incredibly, the city actually paid to *remove* the existing path entrance and even put giant boulders across it. Now two way traffic (and pedestrians) are forced into head on conflict which just didn’t exist before, and has been completely manufactured by the redesign of the path:

Apparently this has been done because “we are under a lot of pressure from residents there to tackle excess speeding from cyclists”, according to a council source. (Strava reveals that the 85th percentile cycling speed is under 20mph and the official Stats19 data shows there were no injuries, even slight ones, to any pedestrian or cyclist in the ten years from 2000-2010, but hey ho).

Take a look at the video. Is that really what residents wanted? Couldn’t they have enjoyed walking along a path that’s twice as wide where cyclists start off on the opposite side?

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Image pinched from the discussion on the CCE forum, by Kaputnik

Ironically the far side of the path (I didn’t bother uploading the whole video) is considerably narrower as houses have been built hard up to the tarmac, with typical lack of foresight. There the council has installed speed tables because residents’ driveways preclude chicanes.

The moral would appear to be that it’s OK to drive at 20mph but cycling at that speed is reckless, optimistically ignoring the fact that 95% of the people cycling through *are* drivers who’ve given up the cut-and-thrust of Edinburgh’s roads. (While you wouldn’t drive on such a path, after you remove oncoming traffic and parked cars from the width of Edinburgh’s actual roads the space you’re left with to drive in is not dissimilar).

I don’t pretend to offer any kind of solution to the odd nutter on a bike, other than pointing out that we should be using the available space to make wide paths when it’s so easy to do so. Unfortunately so long as the only alternative route is a multi-lane road where traffic is either completely stationary or belting along at 40-50mph, a lot of commuters are going to switch to an attractive empty cycle path, and every so often one of them will annoy a pedestrian.

It’s still better than putting them back in their car.

Cycling near Lochinver, Assynt

80 miles and 7700 feet of paradise riding in north-west Scotland – amazing roads, better scenery…

80 miles, 7700+ feet of ascent

Dave Barter’s Best British Bike Ride…

Last weekend we were in the right place at the right time to take on the ultimate route in Dave Barter’s excellent Great British Bike Rides guidebook.

This is an amazingly scenic 80 mile loop around Lochinver and the hills of Assynt – you get to see Sulivan from 360 degrees (literally). Photos courtesy Rob T of ARCC…

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Some of Britain’s best mountains too… Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor and Sulivan, Canisp and Quinag behind.

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Looking across to the Summer Isles

The roads are fantastically quiet and predominantly singletrack, except for a fair pitch in the middle along the deserted and very wide A837. The route has a respectable amount of ascent – 7,700 feet – but there are no classic climbs, just a never-ending rollercoaster of sharp coastal grades, topping out at 25% or so.

All things considered the riding is absolutely world-class, and easily justifies the monstrous 5+ hour drive from central Scotland.

We took a leisurely six hours on this circuit, stopping off for toasties and a bitter shandy opposite the Summer Isles. I managed to sneak a KOM in, which topped off a perfect day.

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The Drumbeg road: Scotland’s hilliest?

I deliberately haven’t broken this route down as I have most of my others, since you should support Dave Barter by buying his excellent guidebook instead.

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Route map / elevation profile

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Beside Loch Osgaig

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The highly deserted A837 “main road”

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A 25% pitch on the Drumbeg road – mile after mile of hairpins, blind bends… perfect terrain!

What are you waiting for? It’s only three hours drive north of Inverness! 😉

The Recumbent Attribution Error

It’s easy to blame the bike, but really, bad driving is universal and we shouldn’t be fooled into having a safety debate over superficial differences…

Don’t be lazy when trying to find something to blame

As spring gets into full swing, I’ve dusted off the recumbent to put some miles in ahead of Saturday’s 400km Southern Uplands brevet.

After getting used to the usual antics of drivers between Balerno and the city centre – close passes, cutting in and out of lanes, aggressive driving and horn use – it’s been pretty refreshing to enjoy bags of passing room, no cutting up and no aggression.

I don’t believe this comes from some mystical power of the recumbent to soothe the angry beast behind the wheel, but simply because it jars people out of the well-worn groove that “it’s only a bike, I don’t need to give him much room”, or “it’s only a bike, how dare he hold me up from speeding to the next red light”, or whatever.

Something interesting did happen the other day though, as I was motoring along Slateford Road at over 25mph in the morning peak. See if you can spot the driver who apparently failed to see my recumbent?

It’s not close, I merely chose this as an illustration of the principle – hands up if your default response to this sort of situation would be “well, what does he expect riding around on an invisible bike?” or maybe “he got lucky, he could have been taken out if the distance had been a bit less”?

For my part, I was mildly vexed that the driver had pulled out on me when I was going so fast – only by flooring it was he able to keep the car in front until I rocketed past at the next set of lights. However, after countless thousands of urban miles, I know better than to take the lazy option of thinking that a bike which is at any distance just a few fractions of a degree lower than another bike is actually going to be hard to see.

Instead, my experience tells me that while there’s no meaning difference in visibility (or conspicuousness?) you’re never going to eliminate that proportion of bad driving that comes from not looking at all, or more likely – being seen perfectly but the driver ultimately doesn’t care.

This was illustrated nicely immediately afterwards… take a look at the full clip:

Nobody would ever suggest that the driver who pulls across multiple lanes of rush-hour traffic didn’t see the white car – that would be ridiculous. We find it easy to attribute this kind of driving to a total failure to look or (more likely) a high risk threshold / unhealthy disregard for the safety of others.

Throw a recumbent into the mix though, and even fellow cyclists are worryingly prone to tacking the blame for any mishap on the height of the vehicle (am I that much lower than the car in the video? Really?)

This “recumbent attribution error” is so common that I can’t even be bothered to find any examples (if you like, try googling for Councillor Michael Stanton, who infamously told a registered disabled constituent that he should have gone to Dignitas, the Swiss euthanasia clinic, rather than ride a recumbent, and you should find some robust discussion).

In my experience of riding a recumbent in rush hour Edinburgh, the only safety disadvantages are found in a few niche, easily avoided circumstances. They’re massively outweighed by the huge safety benefits of removing almost all the wilfully terrible driving that a cyclist normally receives.

In fact, it’s easy to argue that it’s probably a lot safer because it forces the rider away from the temptation to, say, skim the side of parked cars on the approach to a side street, so you just don’t do it. Combined with the mirror, taking a much more positive road position is probably half the advantage, with the rest coming from drivers’ apparent fear to be aggressive towards you.

I’ve been meaning to write something on recumbent safety for years but just can’t get into it as a topic – probably because whenever I ride mine, it feels so safe that I can’t understand why I keep going back to a normal bike for the rat race.

Hoy on cyclists’ collective responsibility

Maybe if you want respect you do have to earn it, but here’s the thing: cyclists aren’t really interested in “respect”. What we want is not to be killed or maimed.

Why do celeb cyclists keep getting it wrong on group punishment?

“Even Chris Hoy hates you!”, a BMW driver shrieks at a bemused middle manager who’s just trying to get to work by bike. After swerving at him a few times and maybe throwing a half-empty Starbucks out of the window, said BMW driver roars off in search of a fresh vulnerable road user, leaving our hero to try and pick up the wreckage of his day.

Confused much?

There was a feature in the Torygraph last week titled “Chris Hoy: my anger at dangerous road cyclists” in which Hoy seems to have done his level best (whatever his intentions) to perpetuate the myth of collective responsibility.

This is the nasty idea that your physical safety outside your home depends on some kind of group reputation, aka “respect”, which has to be preserved by everyone who ever buys a bike. Hoy’s message to Scotland’s cyclists? “If you want respect you have to earn it”.

Hmm. I want my colleagues at the office to respect me, but even if they don’t, they sure as hell aren’t allowed to hit me with deadly force in the car park.

You’d think it would be straightforward to stick to condemning dangerous, aggressive, or outright violent driving without getting into the murky waters of victim blaming and whether or not “she deserved it”, but apparently not.

Exactly why your health should be hostage to any of the millions of Britons who can easily buy a bike and piss all over the highway code is not an idea that is fully developed. Anyone who’s been involved in a similar article knows how it goes, and we could just chalk this up to the media agenda, but perhaps because it’s a bit close to home, I feel the need to stick my boot in.

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I just pulled this driver up at random from public video footage – no particular connection with the article, other than the broad daylight offending. Where’s Jensen Button or Lewis Hamilton to tell us motorists need to earn respect if they want to avoid getting points and killing people?

Extrajudicial violence

In Scotland we have built an incredibly hostile road environment, where extrajudicial punishment of cyclists for real or perceived failings is routine and the response of the police and judicial system is timorous and ineffective.

For better or for worse, so long as Scotland’s motorists are able to run rampant with impunity a significant number of those who choose to get about by bike will choose to opt out of the niceties of the Highway Code.

Just a couple of minutes from my house, drivers park fully on the pavement outside a new block of flats, forcing pedestrians to walk on the busy A70 at all hours of the day and night.

I won’t try and develop a moral hierarchy in the space of one article, but we should be able to agree that if you were one of the people who had to dodge traffic walking past that block of flats every day and you went on to buy a bike, you’d probably find it pretty easy to justify hopping onto the pavement for a few seconds yourself. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, right?

I’ve written before about my lack of success with Police Scotland even when a motorist committed a blatant offence in High Definition video (then proceeded to wave his mobile under my nose while explaining why it wasn’t his fault), although others have had more luck than me.

The right to life doesn’t need to be earned

Maybe if you want respect you do have to earn it, but here’s the thing: cyclists aren’t really interested in “respect”. What we want is not to be killed or maimed.

Imagine if the civil rights movement had been referred to every misdemeanour committed by a coloured person and told “if you want respect, you have to earn it”.

Imagine if people complaining about poor rape conviction rates were pointed to (random) crimes committed by women and told “if you want respect, you have to earn it”.

I could go on, but hopefully the point is clear. The right to life is not something that you can forfeit because a stranger on the other side of the country who happens to own a pedal-powered vehicle once pissed your assailant off. For some reason pavement cycling and red light jumping annoys motorists more than driving on the pavement and jumping red lights committed by other people in cars. So be it.

Chris Hoy is just the latest celeb to shoot his mouth (and foot) on this subject, following hot on the heels of luminaries including Bradley Wiggins (who with majestic irony was smashed off his bike moments after explaining that cyclists just needed to obey the law and everything would be OK).

Maybe next time Sir Chris could just say “pavement cyclists? Whatever. Ask me when 85% of drivers* don’t admit to speeding and using a mobile phone”.

Failing that, perhaps he could follow the example of Usain Bolt, who conspicuously doesn’t give safety advice to pedestrians at all…

* your mileage may vary

GP4000s II vs Pro 4 Service Course

Continental GP4000s or Michelin Pro 4 Service Course? Which of these top-flight road bike tyres is best for you, and where’s cheapest to buy them?

Michelin and Continental: who makes the best road tyre?

My review of the Continental GP4000s II is one of the most popular on the site, and I notice this week that they’re now up to a cracking 41% discount on Wiggle.

However, this year I’ve also been dabbling with the dark side and fitted a pair of Michelin Pro 4 Service Course slicks to my main road bike. These are also going for a song at 40% off. Clearly this is the time of year to grab a bargain on some new road tyres…

These two tyres are very much targeted at the same audience. I’m basically a long-term GP4000s rider whose tyre geekery means I can’t resist picking up different tyres when I catch a good deal. After the popularity of my Ultremo comparison, I decided to put together another overview to help you decide which tyre is right for you.

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Comfort / handling: Michelin Pro 4 Service Course

The Michelin Pro 4 reminds me distinctly of the Ultremo ZX when it comes to comfort and handling – it’s definitely my preferred tyre over the GP4000s in this respect.

The GP4000s has fantastic rolling resistance but it can sometimes feel workmanlike on the bike, with the Pro 4 providing a little more plushness, whatever the lab tests might suggest.

In fairness, both of these tyres are leaps and bounds ahead of the cheap rubber that is supplied as OEM kit on many new bikes, so if you’re looking for a first upgrade you can’t really lose.

If you already run one of the top-flight tyres there’s less advantage to be gained. The GP4000s, to me, loses out just a little and this is probably because the tyre has a higher level of durability designed in, so you just need to take your pick.

Durability: Continental GP4000s II

Continental struck gold with the design of the GP4000s, hitting almost the perfect balance of grip and durability with their Black Chilli rubber.

While the Pro 4 Service Course is a big step forward over the Pro 3 in terms of tread cuts, and while I’m still running through my first set, I can’t see them matching the impressive total mileage I’m used to expecting from the GP4000s.

While the feel of the Michelins suggests to me that they just won’t see out the Contis, I could be wrong. I’ll update this with a final mileage estimate when the time comes.

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Weight: Michelin Pro 4 Service Course

My actual Pro 4 tyres weighed in at just over 200g each (a little heavier than claimed), making them pretty much a wash against the 205g GP4000s. Let’s be completely honest here- 10 or 20g won’t make an appreciable difference to you anyway, regardless of the fact that it is rotating weight.

It’s just not a significant component of your power-to-weight ratio given that the mass of rider plus bike for the average reader of this site is probably going on for 100,000g (100kg).

In the interests of fairness, I’ve given Michelin the nod here as their label weight is slightly lower.

Puncture Protection: Continental GP4000s II

When the Pro 4 Service Course was released, much was made of the revised tread and carcass which promised much greater cut resistance than its predecessor. While I’m sure that’s true, the GP4000s remains the reference model for me when it comes to puncture protection on a racing tyre.

The GP4000s features a Vectran fibre breaker layer which does an excellent job defending the tyre from unwanted penetration. I’d still choose the Pro 4 over something like Vittoria’s Open Corsa, but I don’t find the tread quite as reassuring on the Continental tyre. We’ll see if I change my mind after running this set into the ground, as my experience of the GP4000s is that it tends to be fine until a spate of punctures near its end of life – my Pro 4s are still a way off needing replaced, even at the rear.

Sidewall protection: Continental GP4000s II

I haven’t had any sidewall issues with the Pro 4, so it might seem unfair to put the GP4000s in front in this category. It’s just my feeling based on running each tyre through my fingers that the construction of the Pro 4 Service Course is a little more supple (and thus a little more slender) when it comes to the sidewalls.

While I’ve even ridden on unsealed surfaces on the GP4000s I would be extremely hesitant about doing so with the Pro 4!

As with Schwalbe’s Ultremo ZX, Michelin have consciously chosen to emphasise a supple tyre – if you want a fast tyre which is a bit more rugged, take a look at the Pro4 Endurance (the new Krylion) which Wiggle have at a nice 41% saving. That tyre incorporates extra protection at the expense of some rolling resistance – just a decision you need to make.

Continental GP4000s in the mud

Rolling resistance: Continental GP4000s II

The Michelin Pro 4 Service Course is a lovely supple tyre that really eats up the road. Over this Easter I put in almost 250km looping around the Border hills on single track roads, and even when the top dressing had started to weather I still felt it was seriously rapid.

However, there’s no question that Continental hit the ball out of the park with the GP4000s and Black Chilli – a recipe that has remained unchanged for years but still performs at the highest level on rolling tests.

My gut instinct based on riding these tyres is that the Pro 4 slightly edges it, based on road feel. However, road feel is a poor substitute for CRR tests, and the figures I’ve seen online aren’t suggesting Continental’s engineers will be losing much sleep over the Pro 4.

At the end of the day the difference is paper thin, so I think you’d be better off deciding between these tyres based on other factors.

Styling: Michelin Pro 4 Service Course

Neither of these tyres really looks that great, in my opinion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but the GP4000s is too plain and the Pro 4 isn’t much better. If you want a great-looking road tyre, the Ultremo ZX is where it’s at.

Not that cycling has ever been about looks, right?

GP4000s-vs-pro4-feat-final

Conclusion: GP4000s II

While the Pro 4 is a little more economically priced than the GP4000s, the hassle of changing tyres (or avoiding it!) is worth much more to me than that. Both tyres perform closely enough that overall I’d prefer Continental’s track record of resilience with the GP4000s for putting in the serious miles.

On the other hand, as with the Ultremo, the Pro 4 Service Course is a winner in terms of ride quality and for a Sunday bike or special days out, why not? I’m certainly in no rush to take mine off for another set of the GP4000s, even if they don’t roll quite as quickly in a lab.

gp4000s-vs-pro4

Looking for a good discount?

At the time of writing, both Chain Reaction and Wiggle have hefty discounts on the GP4000s II and Pro 4 Service Course tyres. Take a look:

  • Continental GP4000s II: Wiggle have a 41% discount while Chain Reaction are doing 33% off.
  • Michelin Pro 4 Service Course: Chain Reaction have a 40% discount while Wiggle are doing 44% off.