It can be tricky to know which road bike tyre is best suited to your riding, so we’ve devised a guide to sort the puncture protection from the rolling resistance
It can be a little confusing when it comes to deciding which road bike tyres are right for you. ‘Great rolling resistance, lightweight and fast’ sounds tempting, but if you’re using them day-to-day you may have some more considerations than simply going for the most racy option.
Commuting on less than perfect road surfaces – especially during the winter – will mean you have different needs to racing on a closed circuit, for example. What we’d all love is a perfect compromise: as fast as possible, but not leaving us prone to punctures.
We’ve all been there, sitting at the roadside fiddling with tyre levers trying our best to change a punctured tube as quick as possible, usually whilst running late or just about fighting off hypothermia.
Sometimes these little mishaps happen and we can’t do anything about them, though if it’s happening to you on a regular basis, you may have the wrong type of rubber in contact with the road or the tyre might be worn out and in need of changing.
We have a couple of things to consider before we go in-depth. A standard road wheel size is 700c with the more common options of 23, 25 or 28mm widths. Traditionally, 23mm widths are put on race bikes, 25mm for training and 28mm widths for a mixture of hard and rough roads.
Indeed with modern technology allowing for better tyre construction, we’ve seen a small shift in how different width tyres are used. For example some racers now like to use 25mm tyres.
Generally speaking, the narrower the tyres the less comfort is on offer, with decreased rolling resistance providing a faster experience for dry, summer cycling. Wider tyres can deliver better comfort; puncture protection and grip, mainly at the cost of weight and speed (increased rolling resistance), better for the wintery roads.
The three main categories to look out for are: puncture proofing, the tyres’ rolling ability and grip levels. Whilst in an ideal world we’d have all three, in reality we have to limit one to increase another.
Which one is right for you?
Time of year, type of terrain, weather and price can all be factors in which tyre is right for you.
Time of year
Summer brings good weather, clean roads and nicer bikes so it seems ludicrous that we would stick a slow rolling and heavy-duty tyre on our bikes. If a fast racing tyre is your thing you’ll be expected to have lowered protection from punctures with a thinner puncture protection belt to help reduce weight and rolling resistance, which will help that fast feeling we all desire.
However, winter, which we all know brings with it bad weather, gritty harsh roads and more casual rides allowing us to pick the bigger, chunkier tyre to save us from being victims of the dreaded flint or glass puncture. Larger tyres allow for lower pressures that help absorb the bumps, increasing grip and comfort too. Watch out for mudguard clearance though as larger tyres could be limited if you have minimal clearance.
If you commute in town – you’re likely to need a more heavy duty option. Broken glass and general debris mean you’re way more likely to slit your tyres. Zip isn’t everything here so you’ll want to look out for a hardwearing tyre too that will give you some longevity for the money you outlay.
What are we really paying for? In basic terms we pay for technology in the rubber, quality of the construction and weight. Cheaper options tend to lack in grip, puncture protection and are usually supplied with a steal bead. Rigid steal beaded tyres, other than being harder to transfer around off the bike, are heavier than folding alternatives. Though cheaper, they can also be a pain to put on and pull off the wheel, mostly at the expense of your thumbs!
Although you may feel that a cheaper option is ok for you, some tyre manufacturers ensure their compounds work well in a good range of temperatures, meaning either grip, protection or longevity works better all year round. It may be a big outlay but might pay to save money in the long run.
Wear and tear
Keeping an eye on your tread is important too. Not only for the life of the tyre, but watching out for stuck glass or flints that haven’t penetrated just yet. Ideally, cleaning your bike regularly and giving your tyres a quick once over before each outing could save you a puncture during your ride, unless you pick something up en route of course.
Some tyres come with wear markers. These can be small dotted grooves in the middle of the tyre itself that will slowly disappear overtime. If you have no wear markers, you may need to think about replacing the tyres.
As you’ll know, it doesn’t matter how well you prepare, you’ll inevitably get a puncture… there, we’ve said the P word! In your pocket or seatpack you should carry at least a set of tyre levers, puncture repair kit, two tubes, a mini-pump and a business card just incase you have a complete blow out, it does happen.