If you want to enjoy riding your road bikes and derive maximum comfort doing so, the first important thing you must do is to choose the most appropriate tires and rims.
You may want to concentrate on some great features like the tires’ rolling resistance, aerodynamics, widths (inch widths), types, whether they should be tubeless or not, their patterns, brands and so on.
At times, it is not easy to determine which tires and rims to settle for, but the best way to overcome this confusion is to ask yourself some of these simple questions: What is the main purpose for using the bike? For leisure or for every-day commuting? Which season of the year will I be using the bike the most? Summer or winter? Do I care about speed or not?
Your answers to these simple questions will help you determine which road bike’s tires and rims to eventually go for.
Normally, people don’t care about the kind of tires and rims their road bikes have, as long as they can move from one place to another. But as the desire to experience absolute comfort on bike riding increases, many bikers’ eyes are now opened to the fact they could do one or two things to enhance their biking experiences.
Stated here are some fundamental information you must understand: If all you need a bike for is to run around leisurely with fast speed, you may choose a tire that have great rolling resistance, fast and lightweight. But this kind of tire may not be suitable for your bike if you are using it for your day-to-day commuting.
A standard road wheel size is 700c (see all our road bike wheel reviews) with the prevalent options of 23, 25 or 28mm widths. As a custom, race bikes have 23mm widths while training has 25mm widths and a mixture of hard and rough roads have 28mm widths.
As a matter of fact, the narrower the tires, the less the comfort you can obtain from your biking. Because decreased rolling resistance provides unique opportunity for fast cycling during dry, summer season. However, you need a wider tire to experience better comfort, good grip and great puncture protection during wintry cycling.
Invariably, in addition to the other features described below, you need to consider only tires that offer good grip on the road, have better rolling resistance and possess high puncture protection. Although no tires have all the three great qualities, the best practice is to choose one or two of the admirable features and forgo the other.
Every road bike tire has two main parts: a casing and a thread. And all hook-bead clinches are also composed of beads.
- Casing: Casing is the fabric foundation of all road bike tires. It is made to restrain stretching while moving, but it is also expected to be flexible. This is why it is possible for tires to retain their shapes while running on the different road surfaces.
Modern tire casings are made of cotton, nylons, polyamide and aramid (Kevlar). The more the layers of any of these materials in a tire, the tougher and puncture resistance it will be.The two main examples of tire casings are: High TPI Casing (with a TPI of over 100 and containing very fine threads used in making a thin but supple tire’s casing) and Low TPI Casing ( with a 60TPI or lower, and are more thicker, durable casings for bike tires).
- Thread: This is the part of the tire that contact the ground. The primary goals of thread is to maximize qualities like aerodynamics, puncture proof, rolling efficiency and durability. Good thread makes it possible for the tires to have good traction on the road surfaces. Road bike’s tires are produced from two different materials: Compound (most tires are made from the mixture of butyl or natural rubber and contained additives like silicon, Kevlar or carbon black. Carbon black is instrumental in a tire’s traction on the road. ) and Thread Pattern (the examples of thread patterns are smooth, knobby and slick. Most road bikes have smooth threads).
- Bead: The bead is described as one of the two steel or Kevlar cables folded inside the edges of the modern hook header clinchers’ casing. The purpose of this is to provide a non-elastic tire that will not blow off by intense air pressure. Beads are also made of foldable and flexible aramid cables.There are two types of beads: Kevlar beads, which are also referred to as folding beads and make the tire lighter, foldable and flexible for easy storage; the second type is wire bead, which are also called steel beads and give better shapes to tires, but they are heavier than Kevlar beads.
There are three major types of road bike tires; each type has its corresponding merits and demerits. Highlighted below are the commonest tire types you can find in any road bike:
- Hook Bead Clinchers: These tires fit on modern rims which possess inward projecting ridges above the rim walls. You may notice that some old types of rims possess smooth flanges. You can get standard clinchers in different sizes, brands, tread patterns and shapes when compared to tubulars. They are generally lighter and have features that can withstand tire pressure.They can be used with all kinds of rims; cheaper and easier to fit in. But they do not offer the qualitative supple ride known for tubular or tubeless tires, and they are not mostly puncture-proof.
- Hook Bead Clinchers that are tubeless: You will see that they pretty look like hook bead clinchers, but they have a stronger and very visible bead that brings about an airtight seal when used with specific tubeless rims or a standard rim adapted to the tubeless.Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy: great ride quality similar to tubular’s; better ride efficiency because you won’t lose energy to the tube creep; no worries about pinch flats; run at lower pressures for great traction and comfort. But the downside of tubeless tire is that they are messy and more difficult to install. They are more expensive and difficult to repair.
- Tubulars: You can use this type of tire primarily for road racing, triathlons and cyclocross. What makes this tire unique is that its tube is integrated into the tire, and the tire casing surrounds the tube, stitched to form a closed tube. And then the tire will be glued to a particular tubular rim. The tubular rims do not have upright edges to hold the tire on because they lack glued attachment and beaded open casings. As a result of this, tubular rims are lighter than clinchers that have the same or higher strength.Other benefits include great ride quality, they are lighter than clinchers and have fewer pinch flats. The demerit is that they are difficult to install, more expensive, and the most difficult to repair.
There are different brands of road bike tires and rims you can choose from. They come in several prices, some are cheap and others may be expensive for you. Some are made with full carbon, full Aluminum and Alu/Carbon.
Some of the prominent brand names are Reynolds, Shimano, Easton, Marvic, Zipp, Powertap and Vuelta.
Width (inch widths)
Selecting appropriate tire width for your bike comes with experience, but not everyone pays serious attention to the fact that your tire width may have direct impact on your cycling comfort.
Two fundamental things you should know about your bike tires are their widths and diameters, expressed in millimeter or inch. The commonest diameter for a road bike is 700c while the width is 23mm, the configuration expressed as 700 x 23c. Of course, there are variations of widths you can always choose from.
Likewise, bike tires are measured using the International Standards Organization (ISO), which adopted more correct metric standards for tires and rims. Compared to the traditional sizing, for example 700c, the ISO tire standard is concerned with measuring the tire’s bead seat diameter accurately together with its width that had been inflated width.
For example, the ISO version of a 700×25 tire should be 25-622, whereby 25 stands for the inflated tire’s width in expressed millimeters, then 622 represents the diameter of the bead of the tire in millimeters.
However, the 622 is referred to as the Bead Seat Diameter (BSD); it is also regarded as the diameter of the rim’s inside where the beads of the inflated tire will seat. Have a look at the chart below which shows the commonest tire sizing equivalents:
|American size||European size||ISO||Rim outside diameter|
|20 x 1.75||500 x 45||44-406||422||16.6|
|24 x 1.75||600 x 45||44-507||523||20.6|
|26 x 1||25-559||573||22.5|
|26 x 1.95||50-559||573||22.5|
|26 x 1||650C x 25||25-571||585||23|
|700C x 25||700C x 25||25-622||634||25|
|29 x 2.10||700C x 53||53-622||634||25|
|27 x 1.25||32-630||642||25.25|
After digesting all the information provided in this section, if you still find it difficult to select the most appropriate tire width for your road bike, you may as well want to utilize this road bike size calculation.
Tubeless Tire: Yes or No?
- Tubes are the rubber bladders or butyl that keep the air in standard tubular tires and hook-bead clincher tires
- Latex tubes are seen to possess higher tube performance because they are lighter and suppler but they leak air very quickly; you need to re-inflate them more often, possibly after every ride.
- Butyl tubes don’t lose air as quickly as latex; so you may re-inflate only once a week.
- And butyl tubes can become lighter when you reduce the tire’s wall thickness. This may cause more tire punctures because of the inflexibility of the tire’s wall.
Unlike tires, tubes cover a range of sizes. For example, it is a known fact that a 700 x 28-32 tube is compatible with any tire between 700×32 and 700×28. Tubes are generally available with one of two valve stem types: Schrader (prevalent U.S. car valve stem) and Presta (skinny European-style stems).
All Schrader valves are known to possess screw-in removal cores which permit tightening or replacement in case there is leak or when you want to add tire sealant. Most Presta tubes lack removable cores; and sealant readily clogs those that have removable cores. Presta tubes can be found in different length stems to fit the depth of the used rim. The commonest is 35mm, but you can also see 60mm and 48mm.
Road Bike Tire Patterns
There are two kinds of tread patterns: tread for off-road use and tread for on-road use:
- Tread for off-road use: Treads can assist to improve your bike’s off-road traction in two interesting ways: The tread’s knobs can attach to the projections of hard, undulating surfaces and therefore reduce the possibility of slipping. While riding on soft, damp surfaces, the knobs reach into the surface and dig in for firm grip and great traction.
- Tread for on-road use: If you ride your bicycle only on the road, its tires don’t necessary need to have any kind of tread features. The best road bike tires should be able to run smoothly on road surfaces without any tread.
Hydroplaning occurs when riding on wet, soft road, when your bike loses traction and skids away. But you don’t have to worry about this because the pattern of your bike’s tire can withstand hydroplaning. Your bicycle’s tire has a curved, firm road contact, a structure that puts the water away to either side while cycling. More so, your bike’s tire is narrow and this reduces the contact with water that could have caused the skidding.
If your bike has knobby treads, they will cause worse traction on hard surfaces. Because the knobs can be made to bend under heavy side loads, which won’t occur in the case of a smooth tread. The bent knobs can disrupt your smooth handling of your bike and force the tires to falter why cornering or turning. So, watch out for knobby treads and avoid them!
A combination tread is a true combination of two or more different kinds of treads. The commonest design is to put a smooth ridge down the tread’s center, and having knobs on the sides. It is believed that the ridge will offer a smooth ride on road surfaces with good, inflated tires and the knob will be useful when the bike comes off the road or negotiating a turn.
Tire width and pressure are interwoven: if you want lower pressures, go for wider tires; and narrower tires often produce higher pressures. It is that simple!
The part of your bike’s tire that normally touches the ground surface at any time is referred to as the “contact patch.” As a matter of fact, the area covered by contact patch would be directly proportional to the overall load (weight) on the tire, and it is inversely proportional to the inflation pressure in the tire.
Take for example, if your bike’s rear tire is under the pressure of a 100-pound and your tire is inflated to 100 PSI (pounds per square inch), it is expected that the contact area of your bike’s tire will be approximately one square inch. Imagine you reduce the pressure to 50 PSI, your bike’s tire will surely come off the rims.
A tire should deflect a bit when put under pressure or load. This is why you have pneumatic tires that can absorb this little pressure. However, here are three observations a cyclist can detect about his/her bike’s tire inflation:
- Under-inflation: An underinflated tire will have more rolling resistance, prone to pinch flats and may even come off the rim during cornering, most especially, the wide tires on narrow rims.
- Correct inflation: A well inflated tire will have little rolling resistance, will not get pinch flats when used normally, will absorb minor rough surface, improve rider comfort, and will adjust to rough surfaces without jumping or losing its traction.
- Over-inflation: An overinflated tire will have slightly less rolling resistance on smooth surfaces, more prone to damage from sharp rocks and other road hazards, will give a harsh ride on anything but the smoothest road, and can bounce on rough surfaces.