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  1. #1
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Fast tires, slow tires... does it really matter?

    After all, this is the +50 forum. But even so, I still find myself wanting to improve and go faster. And yet there are the inevitable times of 1 step forward and 2 steps backward in my riding.

    So I was riding with a group the other day and the strongest and fastest guy at the end of the ride tells me my tires are slow. Really? And all this time I thought it was me.

    But seriously, I have a hard time believing that tires can/will make a difference... at least, at my level of riding. I figure in my area, I'm good for about a 17 mph avg at this time of year. Could be better. Could be worse. I've always felt that my ride was far superior to my abilities and level of conditioning.

    In any event, I have 2600+ miles on my current favs... Conti GP4000s tires and know it'll be time to order up a new set in the not-too-distant future.

    So for the plus 50 crowd (non-racing), do tires really make a difference I'd likely notice? I really like a tire I can count on for durability and reliability and the GP4000s tires have fully met that expectation. If I can find a tire that will be reliable and bump my speed by 5 mph without costing any more, I'm all for it. Any suggestions?

    I've tried the OEM Bontragers... not crazy about them. I've tried Vittorias... and they're fine.. but I can't really tell any difference. I've worn out several sets of the Conti GP4000s tires and have liked them a bunch. However, I'm open to other suggestions.

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    What tires did the faster guy ride?

    What color was his bike?

    I find that Red bikes are faster.
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
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  3. #3
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Zips.

    But I wanted to check his DNA anyway. Not sure he was 100% human.

  4. #4
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    This past June I rode my third 100 mile ride at The Tour de Cure on The Speedway 500 Mile Race Track at Indianapolis.
    When I ride there I put on lower spoke wheels and 700 X 20 racing tires.

    I am not any faster, but it makes the ride more fun.

    This year I was Lapped (about 5 times) by a young woman on a Cannondale T-1 touring bike with heavy tires.
    My other bike is a T-1.

    Her She is:

    Rear Rack, Back Pack, 700 X 35 tires

    Last edited by 10 Wheels; 12-18-11 at 09:07 AM.
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    I commented once that it would probably take laboratory-grade instruments to measure the rolling resistance difference of tires. Another poster commented that, in this day of Power Taps, it's actually possible for an ordinary guy to do that.

    That said at 17 MPH, compared to the power required to push your torso through the air, everything else is small potatoes.

  6. #6
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Well now I am a data geek.. but I don't have a PT or any way to objectively measure fine differences. While I acknowledge that a lot of small potatoes added together make for a big potato, I'm not sure how many small potatoes I have left. And the tire difference seems like really small potatoes in my thinking.

    I'll price shop those Zips and just see if they're worth considering over my usual GP4000s... or maybe another set of Vittorias... or maybe the latest Michelin versions. But if I only get 1500 miles out of a different tire, it won't be worth gaining an additional .05 mph avg.

  7. #7
    Senior Member TomD77's Avatar
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    I ride at pretty much the same speed as you but almost always by myself in some out of the way rural areas. Minimizing flats is my hot button, couldn't care less about a fraction of a MPH, even assuming the difference would be measurable in my case. I have only Conti Gatorhardshells on my bikes. I had some trouble with rimtape from a few months back, but other than that I've worn out 2 sets (over 8000 miles) with one flat. And that piece of road debris would have flattened a truck tire.

  8. #8
    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    Perhaps what he meant to say was your wheelset is slow, heavy. GP4000s always test out as fast tires, hard to believe you'd gain much of anything by a change. Perhaps it's the size...running 25s? Perhaps he was suggesting you should be on 23s like the rest of the roadie crowd.

    Tires make a difference but I suspect he improvement over GP4000s would be neglble if you stayed with clinchers. I ride Schwable R1s on one bike, I suspect they are faster but by so little that wouldn't make the buying decision.

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    As shocking as it might seem, you can gain more "speed" by inflating any tire to the max psi allowed.. ride comfort vs speed your choice

  10. #10
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    "So this is Christmas and how have you done "Thank you Mr. Lennon. Be grateful for those small potatoes, fellow riders, be grateful ! My Christmas wish is for fewer "ghost bikes" and more riders for the"Ride of Silence".Happy Christmas to all you "vintage" cyclists!

  11. #11
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    I have 700x23s now. Stock wheelset though. It would be nice to upgrade them too, but I suspect that is another small potato in the mix. I just passed the 10,000 mile mark on this bike so there are going to be a number of other items needing attention before I can address the wheelset.

    Regarding tire pressures, I seem to recall discussions about that in the past and max pressure was not the answer to the best speed question. I don't recall the specifics right now.

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    I guess my attempt at tire humor fell flat..... in a perfect world in a velodrome with perfect surface a skinny tire pumped to the max WILL be faster than one aired up for ride comfort.

  13. #13
    your god hates me Bob Ross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    So I was riding with a group the other day and the strongest and fastest guy at the end of the ride tells me my tires [Conti GP4000S] are slow.
    He may have been "the strongest and fastest guy at the end of the ride" but he was still an idiot.

  14. #14
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    If you're riding Conti GP4000S in the 23 size, there aren't many faster tires and the differences are so small only a machine could measure. As far as pressure, there's nothing wrong with inflating near or at max. Some people use less just to improve comfort and the pressure depends upon weight.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  15. #15
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomD77 View Post
    I ride at pretty much the same speed as you but almost always by myself in some out of the way rural areas. Minimizing flats is my hot button, couldn't care less about a fraction of a MPH...
    The proverbial +n, where n is subject to + inflation.

    How a tire feels is a different question though. I put a set of Conti Ultras on a bike once because they were the only thing available at that time. I took them off at the first opportunity.

    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    Regarding tire pressures, I seem to recall discussions about that in the past and max pressure was not the answer to the best speed question. I don't recall the specifics right now.
    The explanation is usually given as this: More air than necessary will make the wheel move up and down when it hits a bump. The result is loss of forward momentum and the expenditure of energy. In addition, it makes the ride less comfortable, significant over a long distance. Of course this depends on the road surface and how compliant the frame/fork is.

    On the other hand, sidewall deformation does absorb energy, so a harder tire on a smooth surface should roll more easily. As a racing buddy says, there is a reason why competitors for decades used sew-ups with as high a pressure as possible.

    I buy the comfort argument and the argument that road surface matters. However I don't compete so I don't care if my tires aren't giving me that last .01%. And if I'm ever stopped fixing a flat somewhere I'm averaging zeroes into my speed and that's a heck of a loss, now isn't it?
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  16. #16
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by choteau View Post
    I guess my attempt at tire humor fell flat..... in a perfect world in a velodrome with perfect surface a skinny tire pumped to the max WILL be faster than one aired up for ride comfort.

    Max Pressure=Max Inflation. Hard as a Rock for a Rock-Hard Ride Might indeed be faster on a glass-smooth road surface.

    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    I have 700x23s now. Stock wheelset though. It would be nice to upgrade them too, but I suspect that is another small potato in the mix. I just passed the 10,000 mile mark on this bike so there are going to be a number of other items needing attention before I can address the wheelset.

    Regarding tire pressures, I seem to recall discussions about that in the past and max pressure was not the answer to the best speed question. I don't recall the specifics right now.
    http://www.bikequarterly.com/images/TireDrop.pdf

    I keep about 50 psi in the lightly-loaded 32mm front tire on my long wheelbase recumbent. Would go lower if the sidewall didn't say 50 psi minimum.
    Last edited by JanMM; 12-18-11 at 10:09 AM.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    GP4000s do well in rolling resistance tests. If you like them I would not change.

    Wider tires have less rolling resistance than narrow tires. 20mm tires have more rolling resistance but are slightly more aero, assuming you're using narrow rims. They also handle and ride poorly. I like staying upright in races. I won't use them.

    As inflation pressure increases rolling resistance on a smooth surface decreases. But on a rough surface, like nearly all the roads we ride on, it's different. As pressure increases there is more vibration, which takes energy. So at some point resistance starts to rise with rising pressure. The point that happens at is different for different tires and road conditions. I've found that going by the Michelin inflation chart (which goes by rider weight) works well. Using it I reduced my inflation pressure by 10psi which resulted in a better ride and cornering and no change in rolling resistance that I could feel. In fact it felt a little faster on rougher roads but I may have been imagining that.

  18. #18
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I am not a speed merchant but ever since I started riding 20 years ago I have been into mileage. Long offroad Enduros where the main thing is to finish. Anything that will aid me to do the distance with less fatigue has been my priority. One of the reasons why I used 1.8 tyres instead of 2.1's that had more grip and drag. When I went road I spent about 6 months on a 26 tyre that had drag. Changed to Michelin PR's in 23 and was happier. So I am still not a speed merchant but I can do the distance.

    On the tyre front- there are tyres that have more puncture resistance- tyres that have more grip- tyres that give a comfortable ride and you have to choose what you want and require. For me it is any tyre that rolls well and has sufficient grip. The two recognised "Performance" tyres that fit these criteria are Michelin PR's and Conti 4000s. So what the other rider was going on about-I don'r know. Unless he was on a full race tyre.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member OldsCOOL's Avatar
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    Scientific/empirical data aside, the best way to test a tire is on your bike and on a regularly ridden route of yours.

    My Trek 460 had Vredestein Ricorso 700x23's on it when I decided they needed to go after 5yrs of riding. So I bought a set of Bontrager "B" series 700x25's and felt the difference in the first few cranks of the pedals. It was that obvious. They are a slower, heavier and wider tire than what I had. These are also the tires that are now full of holes, flat topped and still give me a dependable ride. But...they are getting tossed. I want that more responsive feel that this bike is designed to give. The Bontragers definately dampened that feel.

    I'm going back to a "responsive" tire, the Michelin Krylion's 700x23.
    Having a flat tire as part of the total cycling experience is highly overrated. Knowing how to fix one quickly is not.

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  20. #20
    Senior Member OldsCOOL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    Regarding tire pressures, I seem to recall discussions about that in the past and max pressure was not the answer to the best speed question. I don't recall the specifics right now.
    As opposed to low pressure? There is a reason why your car will generate more MPG when tires are inflated properly (I suppose that might translate to better rolling resistance in a bicycle tire). I've kept my PSI just under 100psi and dealt with the increased road feel.
    Having a flat tire as part of the total cycling experience is highly overrated. Knowing how to fix one quickly is not.

    '85 Trek 460 road racer

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  21. #21
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    The GP4000s are within a couple of watts of the best clincher when tested @ 25mph. At 17mph the difference would be proportionately less and you'd never be able to tell, much less measure, a difference on the road.

  22. #22
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldsCOOL View Post
    As opposed to low pressure? There is a reason why your car will generate more MPG when tires are inflated properly (I suppose that might translate to better rolling resistance in a bicycle tire). I've kept my PSI just under 100psi and dealt with the increased road feel.
    Proponents of 15% tire drop (I count myself in that camp) would say that there is a point of diminishing returns for increasing pressure in a tire. At some point, based on weight load and tire air volume/size, increasing pressure will greatly decrease comfort and control and only very minimally decrease rolling resistance. With skinny tires and riders who aren't flyweight, optimum pressure may well be max pressure, but for people like me rolling on 32-40mm tires, optimal pressure can be much lower than manufacturer max. I'm by no means a fast guy, but no slower with the lower pressures I've been running the last year or so. After decades of running at the max pressure on the sidewall.

    If the most important goal is max speed at any cost, then rock on - on rock hard tires!
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  23. #23
    Senior Member John_V's Avatar
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    I have had extremely good luck with my Kenda Kryterium 700x25 tires on Mavic wheels that were OEM on my road bike. One year and 3,100 miles on the tires and not 1 flat. And that includes five charity rides (including an MS150) and twice a month club rides through downtown and out to the islands. I'm wanting to replace them with the same tires but can't seem to find anyone that carries them. I'm also not a speed demon and not too concerned about trying to keep up with the younger crowd. My average speed is between 17 and 19 mph, slower or faster when I feel like it. Besides, I have an aluminum bike so being a weight weenie doesn't come into play, either.
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  24. #24
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    But seriously, I have a hard time believing that tires can/will make a difference... at least, at my level of riding. I figure in my area, I'm good for about a 17 mph avg at this time of year. Could be better. Could be worse. I've always felt that my ride was far superior to my abilities and level of conditioning.

    In any event, I have 2600+ miles on my current favs... Conti GP4000s tires and know it'll be time to order up a new set in the not-too-distant future.

    So for the plus 50 crowd (non-racing), do tires really make a difference I'd likely notice?
    I'm a big believer that tires make a noticeable difference. My perspective on comparisons run more to stock Kenda vs Forte Strada, but I have no doubt that the "faster" tires really are faster.

  25. #25
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    OP, are you sure he was referring to your tires, and not your wheels? I ask because you mentioned he had "Zips", and Zipp is known more for their wheels than their tires. Plus the GP400S is very well respected by the racing crowd.
    "If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."

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