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  1. #1
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    700c or 26 - Can someone help a newb?

    I am about to get back into cycling after a VERY long time. After a long search, I was ready to get a hybrid bike this weekend with decent components at a price I can afford, with 26'' tires (NOT a mountain bike), till someone suggested that I might be happier with one that has 700C tires - as it will go faster with less pedaling/effort. I did not really try the skinnier tire bikes.

    Now I am confused ... wondering if I should forget about the 26" wheel bike and start looking all over again for a 700c????


    I would gain slightly better (quality) components buying my friend's 26 incher than I can otherwise afford, but I am wondering if that means huffing and puffing to keep up with others with 700c tires if we are riding together?

    I expect most of the riding to be casual riding on paved trails, roads or sidewalks, with occasional non-paved/gravel use mixed in (e.g, when there is a break in the paved areas, *maybe* occasional soft trails etc).

    Will the tires really make a big difference in terms on speed and efficiency, say using about 30 - 45 minutes worth of riding as a benchmark (that's what I expect to start with)?

    Any advice will be very helpful and appreciated!

    Thank you.
    Last edited by newb2008; 05-01-08 at 06:25 PM. Reason: make it clearer

  2. #2
    surly old man jgedwa's Avatar
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    The diameter of the wheel is not really a significant factor for the kinds of riding you are describing.

    But, the width of the tire (and therefore, to some extent, the width of the rim that holds it) is. A narrow tire with little or no tread is much, much easier to spin on anything even close to smooth.

    Bike fit is always the most important thing. If your friend's bike fits you well, you might consider swapping out the tires (assuming it currently has wide, knobby tires) for narrower, smoother, lighter ones. The cost outlay to do this might be someplace in the 10.00-40.00 range per tire.

    Do be aware that narrow, high pressure tires transmit alot more road shock up the bike into your hands and butt. Big MTB tires are awful comfy; no two ways about it. But for me, I would rather learn to use my arms and legs to absorb shock and go with a far more efficient tire.

    jim
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    Villainous huerro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by newb2008 View Post
    I am about to get back into cycling after a VERY long time. After a long search, I was ready to get a hybrid bike this weekend with decent components at a price I can afford, with 26'' tires (NOT a mountain bike), till someone suggested that I might be happier with one that has 700C tires - as it will go faster with less pedaling/effort. I did not really try the skinnier tire bikes.

    Now I am confused ... wondering if I should forget about the 26" wheel bike and start looking all over again for a 700c????


    I would gain slightly better (quality) components buying my friend's 26 incher than I can otherwise afford, but I am wondering if that means huffing and puffing to keep up with others with 700c tires if we are riding together?

    I expect most of the riding to be casual riding on paved trails, roads or sidewalks, with occasional non-paved/gravel use mixed in (e.g, when there is a break in the paved areas, *maybe* occasional soft trails etc).

    Will the tires really make a big difference in terms on speed and efficiency, say using about 30 - 45 minutes worth of riding as a benchmark (that's what I expect to start with)?

    Any advice will be very helpful and appreciated!

    Thank you.
    All things being equal, skinnier tires will offer less rolling resistance and will be faster, but all things are never equal. Gearing, aerodynamics, and weight all make a big difference. Perhaps you could let us know which bikes you are considering and then we could give you a better idea.

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    Thanks, Jim! The bike has smooth 26'' tires (not the typical knobby mtb style), and it does fit me.

    I am wondering if 26 inch tires be ok given this scenario or in the long run will I find myself wishing I had gotten a bike with 700c tires. Maybe I should have mentioned this before - the terrian here is a bit hilly...gently rolling hilly sort, if that makes a difference in this case.

    The bike will see most use for non-competitve, weekend recreational riding. How long of a ride would depend upon on much I find out my legs can take! - will tire size be a signficant factor here?

    The 26 inch tire bike I was considering was a Cannondale Comfort 3. I don't really have a 700c candidate in mind...but maybe a Giant Cypress DX or REI Novara Corsa or the 700c version of the Cannondale? I think they all weigh about 30-32 lbs.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by newb2008; 05-01-08 at 07:33 PM.

  5. #5
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    People do cross country tours on 26" tires, so you can ride long distance. Some time trialers ride on 650 tires, which are smaller diameter, closer to 26" than 700c.

    I have riudden a 68 mile organized ride on 26" tires.

    My current primary bike is not on 26" tires, but I am switching more for the geometry than the tire size. From a comfort bike to a touring bike with 27" tires. (if it were a modern frame it would have 700c).

    I have a slight personal bias toward 700c, but it is more emotional than realistic...

    For a given width and spoke count, a 26" wheel/tire will be lighter, stronger and have lower wind resistance. There will be a miniscule increase in additional bearing resistance to partially offset the advantage... and the physics may show that a larger tire may handle large bumps better while a smaller tire is more maneuverable.

    EDIT: For an equivalent width, a 26" wheel/tire should accelerate and climb better than a 700c.

    All of the above assumes that the bikes are equal.
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  6. #6
    surly old man jgedwa's Avatar
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    Narrower is better for weight and rolling resistance. I run a bike with 26 x 1.25 slicks. That might be too harsh a ride for some, but I like it. Many run 1.5 or 2.0 tires to get quite a bit more cushion.

    Tire pressure is a big deal. Typical MTB tire pressures are very low; maybe below 65 psi. Real road tires can be in the 125 psi range. Slick, narrow MTB tires that would roll easily should be in the 85-100 psi range.

    Everything else equal, you will be at an equipment disadvantage hanging with your friends if they have road bikes. MTB's are a bit heavier, usually. The riding position is not ideal for aerodynamic riding either. If it has suspension, then you will loose quite a bit of power into the cushion also. All of these things can be overcome with legs, of course, but if you do a lot of it, you might find yourself wanting a bike for that purpose.

    Far be it from me to tell you how to spend your money, but it sounds like you should take your friend up on the offer of the bike. Once you get a taste for riding and a better idea of how you want to ride, you can always spend money later to get exactly what you want.

    jim
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    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    You can also look at getting a cross bike with more aggressive 700c tyres... the ride will be better than road tyres and you should not have any trouble riding off road due to the better traction the cross tyres offer.

    I rebuilt my comfort hybrid so that it now functions well as a cross country tourer and it has no trouble cruising at 30 kmh and is also very good on the trails and singletrack.

    You can buy bikes much like this off the shelf...


  8. #8
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    Thank you, everyone, for responding - I have gotten some very useful food for thought. I plan to go out and try a couple of 700c bikes.

  9. #9
    Lanky Lass East Hill's Avatar
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    Oh, and since no one else said it...


    Welcome to BF, and feel free to PM me with any questions !

    East Hill

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    TRY EMPATHY & HAVE LOVE IN YOUR HEART, PERHAPS I'LL SEE YOU ON THE ROAD...

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    Quote Originally Posted by newb2008 View Post
    ...Now I am confused ... wondering if I should forget about the 26" wheel bike and start looking all over again for a 700c????
    ...
    Any advice will be very helpful and appreciated!...
    The thing here is this:
    --with 700c wheels, you will have a wide range of tire brands and models to choose from, but they will only range from around 1" to around 1.5" wide or so.
    --with 26" wheels. you will have a range of tires as narrow as 1" and as wide as 2.3 inches--if the particular bike can take tires that fat--but of what tires are available, you will not find as many at the narrower widths.

    Generally, I advise new riders to get a 26" and then see what kinds of riding they end up doing and what tires they like, because you can put skinny tires on a 26" bike but you can't put fat tires on a 700c. If over time you end up only putting narrower tires on the bike, then next time around you can get a 700c and not be concerned about losing the wide-tire option you weren't using anyway.

    And it may have been said already, but the tire weight/width makes a BIG difference in how the bike accelerates and feels overall. A MTB with 2.1 knobbies will feel sluggish on pavement, but put 1.3" tires on it and you'll feel like you've got E.T. sitting in the front basket.
    ~

  11. #11
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    I would go for the bike with 26" tires because:

    (1) the tires are slicks - this makes a huge difference in the ease of riding;
    (2) the components on the bike are better; and
    (3) as discussed above, you tend to have more flexibility wrt tire widths with 26" wheels.

    (FWIW, I think the sweet spot for general purpose bikes is around 1.5"/32mm, which is widely available in both sizes).

  12. #12
    Senior Member Thor29's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug5150 View Post
    The thing here is this:
    --with 700c wheels, you will have a wide range of tire brands and models to choose from, but they will only range from around 1" to around 1.5" wide or so.
    --with 26" wheels. you will have a range of tires as narrow as 1" and as wide as 2.3 inches--if the particular bike can take tires that fat--but of what tires are available, you will not find as many at the narrower widths.

    Generally, I advise new riders to get a 26" and then see what kinds of riding they end up doing and what tires they like, because you can put skinny tires on a 26" bike but you can't put fat tires on a 700c. If over time you end up only putting narrower tires on the bike, then next time around you can get a 700c and not be concerned about losing the wide-tire option you weren't using anyway.

    And it may have been said already, but the tire weight/width makes a BIG difference in how the bike accelerates and feels overall. A MTB with 2.1 knobbies will feel sluggish on pavement, but put 1.3" tires on it and you'll feel like you've got E.T. sitting in the front basket.
    ~
    Actually that's not true at all. You CAN put wide tires on a 700c wheel. Ever hear of 29er mountain bikes? In fact, I have a set of Schwalbe Big Apple slicks on my commuter bike that are 2.3 by 700c. They are monstrously huge. Of course, the widest tire you can fit is limited by frame clearance and rim width. But it has nothing to do with rim diameter.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huerro View Post
    All things being equal, skinnier tires will offer less rolling resistance and will be faster, but all things are never equal. Gearing, aerodynamics, and weight all make a big difference. Perhaps you could let us know which bikes you are considering and then we could give you a better idea.
    Actually, all things being equal, wider tires will offer less rolling resistance. As you indicated, however, all things are never equal. Virtually everybody uses more air pressure in skinny tires. That generally repays the rolling resistance penalty but it makes them ride more harshly.

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    Well, this is turning into quite a learning experience. I went out and tried a couple of bikes - a Cannondale Comfort 4, with "CST Traveller w/Kevlar belt, 26 x 2.0"" tires (from Cannodale web site), and a Cannodale Adventure 4, with "CST Selecta w/Kevlar belt, 700 x 38c. The presssure range printed by the manufacturer on the tires was 40-65 for the 26 and 50-75 for the 700c, although I don't know what the actual inflation pressure was.

    I have to say that the bike with 700C felt easier to pedal and seemed to roll better, although in general bikes with 26" tires seem to fit me better (size small) and seem *slightly* easier to maneauver.

    (Incidently, they all had grip shifters, I am not sure if I like the feel of those compared to the trigger shifters, which seem to me to have a better feel in bikes within the same price range - not sure if this a widely shared opinion or 6 to half dozen).

    If I am understanding things right, if I were to replace the tires on the 26" bike with skinnier tires to get the width closer to the 700c tires, the feel will be closer to the 700C tire (in terms of rolling resistance and pedaling feel)? That certainly gives me more options for the fit if it were the case.

    I also plan to look tomorrow for 700C bikes that fit me better.
    Last edited by newb2008; 05-02-08 at 05:23 PM.

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    I just got my wife's Boulder SE MTB back from the LBS tonight after a once-over and tire/tube replacement. She went from 2.1 MTB tires to Serfas Driver 1.5s. After a quick run she said it was like riding a diff. bike. She locked out the front suspension and is quite eager for our Sat. Am ride.
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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Probably around 1968 they had the perfect offerings available. You could get the larger diameter narrow tires (27" X 1.25) for long distance roading. You could get the fat tire (26" X 2.125) for rough roading, and you could get 26 X 1.375 for city riding. Then, in the 1990's fashion took over and common sense lost in bicycling as mountain bikes took to the streets.

    I think you understand the advantages of the big+skinny and the fat-tire. I will explain the advantage of the smaller diameter narrower tire. The smaller diameter is better for accelerating. This is especially helpful in city riding where you have to stop frequently and adjust speed frequently. The smaller diameter is also easier for steering and manuverability.

    Now, I noticed some posts suggesting that fat slicks are OK. NOPE. Fat tires just are not as crisp of a ride on good pavement no matter what kind of tread. Also, the suggestion that you might as well buy the 26" because it has slicks is bad advice. I think any wheel for paved streets with a with over 1.375 is silly. Even 1.375" width is more than you need on today's vast expanses of well paved roads.
    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thor29 View Post
    Actually that's not true at all. You CAN put wide tires on a 700c wheel. Ever hear of 29er mountain bikes? In fact, I have a set of Schwalbe Big Apple slicks on my commuter bike that are 2.3 by 700c. They are monstrously huge. Of course, the widest tire you can fit is limited by frame clearance and rim width. But it has nothing to do with rim diameter.
    Yes that's true but it would be silly to pay for a 29" bike and then never put fat tires on it, and the only 29" bikes are pretty expensive (what's the cheapest non-single/fixie 29er bike around?...). It costs a lot less to go with a 26" if one thinks they may want big tires.
    ~

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike View Post
    Now, I noticed some posts suggesting that fat slicks are OK. NOPE. Fat tires just are not as crisp of a ride on good pavement no matter what kind of tread. Also, the suggestion that you might as well buy the 26" because it has slicks is bad advice. I think any wheel for paved streets with a with over 1.375 is silly. Even 1.375" width is more than you need on today's vast expanses of well paved roads.
    Am I correct to interpret that by fat slicks you mean slicks measuring about 26" x 2'' (sorry I am still trying to learn the lingo )? Would 26" tires with a width around 1.375" do the trick or get me 'close enough' (i.e get close to the easier pedaling/less rolling resistance feel of a 700 cc X 38 tire as compared to a 26" X 2" tire)?


    One of the guys I plan to occasionally ride with has a road bike...I know I won't be keeping up with him unless he slows down.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by newb2008; 05-02-08 at 10:16 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by newb2008 View Post
    Am I correct to interpret that by fat slicks you mean slicks measuring about 26" x 2'' (sorry I am still trying to learn the lingo )? Would 26" tires with a width around 1.375" do the trick or get me 'close enough' (i.e get close to the easier pedaling/less rolling resistance feel of a 700 cc X 38 tire as compared to a 26" X 2" tire)?


    One of the guys I plan to occasionally ride with has a road bike...I know I won't be keeping up with him unless he slows down.

    Thanks.
    Here is the deal: "ON GOOD PAVED ROADS", the skinnier the tire, the higher the psi, and the less tread the tire has, the easier it is to pedal. That is the bottom line. Thus, for the highest efficiency in going long distances at high speeds on good pavement, you see the spandex crowd riding 700 cm skinny tires with no tread. You also see many (most?) serious commuters riding skinny, high PSI tires.

    To me, a 2" wide slick is a silly thing. It says to me "oops, I bought a fat-tire bike when I should have bought a road bike, so I am trying to fix the mistake by putting slicks on my fat-tire bike."

    I do think that a 26" skinny wheel has it's place on paved city riding where you face common situations of stop-go and fast-slow. For this kind of application, you don't need anything wider than 1.375" (and even that is an odd size in these modern times).

    About your concern "One of the guys I plan to occasionally ride with has a road bike...I know I won't be keeping up with him unless he slows down.", there is one more factor which is more important than the bicycle and that is the rider. A strong rider can out-pedal a weak rider no matter what bicycles the two are riding. I have been on group rides where some young strapping dude on a fat-tire blows all the skinny tire riders away DESPITE the fact that the young strong dude has to pedal a lot harder per mile than the cats on lightweight machines. So, if your friend on the road bike has a pack of Marlborough in the glove compartment of his SUV and a Snickers bar in his pocket, you might be able to keep up with him in spite of his road bike.
    Last edited by mike; 05-03-08 at 01:36 AM.
    Mike

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    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I work with some of the most serious commuters in the city... I am their mechanic and a serious rider / commuter.

    There are not a lot of folks running 700:23's on their commute as the ride is usually too harsh, the tires are expensive, and the risk of flats is greatly increased.

    700:25 and 700:28 tires tend to be the most popular choice for folks who need to make time and travel farther without ending up their week feeling like they've been beaten up by the road and their bike.

    Slick 26 inch tires in a 1.5 to 2 inch range are very popular and perhaps it is only because I am a strong rider that I can roll some slick and fast rolling 26 by 2 tires at some very good speeds. Because these tyres are mounted to some very solid rims I can also go through and over stuff someone on a road bike and skinnies would dodge at all costs.

    On my folders I run slicker and faster 2 inch tires (20 inch) and not only do they roll quickly, the absorb a great deal of road shocks and like my mtb... I can roll over and go through stuff I can't dodge.

    If all we rode were glassy smooth streets with no perils, potholes, or debris super skinny tires would be the way to go and when I am looking to exceed 50 kmh and partake in little hammer fests, I run 700:25 tyres and might even run some 23's.

    My summer commuter is getting some 700:28 cross / randonneur tyres as I put don some insane diatnces on this bike and like touring... one wants to be comfortable as well as reasonably fast.

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    These posts have been *really* useful. So far I am not having much luck finding a bike within my budget that fits me AND has 700c tires. The size that fits me with 26 inch tires is a Small, but the 700C tires raise the top tube to make it too close for comfort. So, I guess I have two options at this point: 1. Keep Looking or 2. Get one with 26 inch rim and change to slicker and skinnier 26 x 1.5 tires, maybe something that inflates to higher than 65 psi.

    I guess my question to all you helpful folks out there, at this point, is this: I did not find the 700c tire bikes uncomfortable or harsh to ride. For an otherwise similar bike, would 26 x 1.5 tires feel much harsher than the 700c tires? If not, then I am thinking I might as well go ahead and get a bike with 26 inch tires.

    Thanks!

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    Villainous huerro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by newb2008 View Post
    For an otherwise similar bike, would 26 x 1.5 tires feel much harsher than the 700c tires? If not, then I am thinking I might as well go ahead and get a bike with 26 inch tires.

    Thanks!
    They shouldn't feel any harsher.

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    They will ride harsher. The smaller diameter means they react more to pavement irregularities.

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/650b.html

    Whether or not this means they are *slower* is another matter. I much prefer 700c over 26" slicks.

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    OK, what I have gathered from the feedback so far is that a narrower (1.375 - 1.5 inch wide) 26" diameter tire will come pretty close to replicating the rolling/pedaling feel of a 700C tire without feeling harsher, and would be faster for accelerating. The larger diameter tire will cover more distance per pedal stroke, and therefore will be slightly faster.

    I will proceed with the above understanding, so here is hoping I have not misunderstood anything.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by newb2008 View Post
    OK, what I have gathered from the feedback so far is that a narrower (1.375 - 1.5 inch wide) 26" diameter tire will come pretty close to replicating the rolling/pedaling feel of a 700C tire without feeling harsher, and would be faster for accelerating. The larger diameter tire will cover more distance per pedal stroke, and therefore will be slightly faster.

    I will proceed with the above understanding, so here is hoping I have not misunderstood anything.
    With all due respect, this has been one of the funniest threads that I've read in a long time. There are so many misconceptions being bandied about that I'd have to write a book to answer them all. If you understand all that has been written above, you are misunderstanding a whole bunch of stuff.

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