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How much of a difference does tire width make?

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How much of a difference does tire width make?

Old 08-26-08, 01:26 PM
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masterchief819
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How much of a difference does tire width make?

I'm a fairly new cycle rider and was talking to a more experienced one the other day. He was saying that I had real road wheels/tires, I'd be able to ride much quicker. I understand there is less friction, but are the differences really that noticeable?

btw, I ride a GT ZuM 5.0. Don't know if theres a better size description for my tires but they say 26x1.5 on the side. Here's a pic if youve never heard of the bike

http://www.performancebike.com/produ...7-GRY-SIDE.jpg

If road wheels and tires really would make a difference, are there any recommendations for a poor college student? One of my buddies that I ride with just bought a $4k road bike so I'm gunna have to do as much as I can to keep up with him! Thanks
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Old 08-26-08, 01:38 PM
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There are 2 issues here. If you are riding mountain bike tires with treads, definitely change them out for road slicks. You'll see an amazing difference.

The other issue is rolling resistance and honestly I would't worry about it if you are biking for transportation. You are not going to notice that much difference. This only will matter when racing where seconds count.

In general, small diameter wheels are going to roll faster, but there is some evidence that there is a limit to this. 23mm wheels can actually have less rolling resistance than 19 or 20 mm wheels in real world conditions (i.e. not on the track.) Also, latex tubes have lower rolling resistance than butyl (but are not as puncture resistant.) Otherwise, you are looking at differences in how the tire is manufactured. Different tires from the same manufacturer in the same size can have wildly different rolling resistance. More on this here for those who are interested: http://analyticcycling.com/ForcesTires_Page.html

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Old 08-26-08, 01:40 PM
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I'm no expert, but yes, skinnier tires and and riding a lightweight bike both make you faster without additional effort. Fatter tires make for a smoother and more comfortable ride, though. Since you're a poor college student, my recommendation would be to make no changes. Ride lots and your legs will get stronger and you'll go faster!

Brian
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Old 08-26-08, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by masterchief819 View Post
I'm a fairly new cycle rider and was talking to a more experienced one the other day. He was saying that I had real road wheels/tires, I'd be able to ride much quicker. I understand there is less friction, but are the differences really that noticeable?

btw, I ride a GT ZuM 5.0. Don't know if theres a better size description for my tires but they say 26x1.5 on the side. Here's a pic if youve never heard of the bike

http://www.performancebike.com/produ...7-GRY-SIDE.jpg

If road wheels and tires really would make a difference, are there any recommendations for a poor college student? One of my buddies that I ride with just bought a $4k road bike so I'm gunna have to do as much as I can to keep up with him! Thanks
Tires can make a difference but I don't know how much narrower you can go on the wheels you have. Those are 26" wheels and the more common size wheel for narrow tires is 700c. Your bike may not take a wheel that size and if it did, you may need different brakes.

A tire with minimal or no tread is going to be better than a tire with knobbies so maybe you have some options there. You don't need tread for street riding.

Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it too much.
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Old 08-26-08, 02:00 PM
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You'll notice a difference from knobbies and IMO most importantly your bike will *feel* alot more fun and sporty just being able to pivot side to side much easier on the narrow tires. For me just going to 25 from 35 made it feel like a whole new bike
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Old 08-26-08, 02:04 PM
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Friendly n00b advice -- keep the tires pumped up! No matter what tires you have, riding will be a lot more work than it has to be if your tires are squishy.
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Old 08-26-08, 03:10 PM
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I can't tell if you're riding knobby tires or smoother/slick tires. The only thing I would do to the bike is maybe swap the tires for something smoother.

Road wheels/tires (700c) may not even fit on your bike. If you're just commuting on it and it otherwise feels good, I wouldn't bother with the hassle of modifying it or trading it in for a road bike. It's a significant difference, but not THAT big to warrant the hassle.

Besides...26" tires have their own advantages. They absorb bumps and impact better and let you go through more hairy stuff. I swerve around potholes with my 700c road wheels.
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Old 08-26-08, 03:16 PM
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Performance also sells a 26x1.25" 90psi tire with minimal tread. We have those on our tandem and they are much zippier than the 26x1.5" lower pressure tires we tried before.
Don't think you are going to be able to change your bike into a road racing bike.
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Old 08-26-08, 03:29 PM
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That's a fine bike! I agree with the above, don't change anything but make sure your tires are aired up. On the street, I keep mine around 60 lbs. If I'm on dirt, I keep about 40 lbs with the knobbies. With this bike, you can bunny hop over curbs and other fun city riding.
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Old 08-26-08, 04:05 PM
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You don't need new wheels, just slicker tires that will roll smoother on the road. There are some tires like that for mountain bikes. They don't have to be really narrow - 1.5 inches should be fine. The biggest difference there is to be noticed is that it won't be as hard to push slicker tires as it is knobbies. Beyond that, narrower probably won't make that much difference. But I sure wouldn't go to the great expense of buying new wheels to put those tires on. That would be ridiculous.
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Old 08-26-08, 04:26 PM
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On the street, my Cannondale Rush 5Z with stock 26" knobbies rides like a typical mountain bike on the street -- difficult to maintain a speed, hairy on the corners.

I put 700x28 wheels & tires from my Bad Boy on it, and with the suspension locked out, it rode almost exactly like the Bad Boy (just a little heavier). Better cornering, better speed, etc.

I'm sure that I'd notice the same difference with narrower slicks on the 26" wheels.
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Old 08-26-08, 04:53 PM
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Not much in my experience. Slicks matter over knobbies, and aero position is better than upright, but fat versus skinny doesn't matter much (in tires).
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Old 08-26-08, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by idcruiserman View Post
Not much in my experience. Slicks matter over knobbies, and aero position is better than upright, but fat versus skinny doesn't matter much (in tires).
In commuting/biking for transportation, yes. In racing, no. Difference in race times due to rolling resistance on a 40k TT can be as much as the difference between using areobars and not using aerobars. While I put on the most bullet proof tires I can find when commuting caring about little else, I choose my racing tires (and tubes for that matter) very carefully.
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Old 08-26-08, 05:03 PM
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How much of a difference does tire width make?
The skinnier the tire, the smaller the footprint it will have and consequently, less rolling resistance.

However, in my experience for commuting purposes the differences in tire width are inconsequential unless less than perfectly clean, smooth asphalt is encountered. Then wider will give you an edge.
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Old 08-26-08, 05:05 PM
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As has been said, go smooth. Smooth tires roll way easier and are safer on pavement than knobbies. Knobbies can squirm on pavement and don't have as much rubber on the road.

Keeping the tires pumped up will make a bigger difference than tire width. A friend has an eBike with a computer that shows how many watts he's drawing. He says it makes a HUGE difference in watts if he doesn't keep his tires pumped up.

My bike came with 35s, I moved to 32s and like it, but I don't think I'll go any narrower. I ride some fairly rough roads (gravel) and even the 32s can get squirrelly when they've graded the road and there's loose gravel. On those days I almost wish I had something like 40s or wider but it's not too bad, and the other days (and the pavement parts) make up for it.
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Old 08-26-08, 05:16 PM
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Get the narrowest and highest pressure tire you can find. Specialized makes a bunch that fit the bill. http://www.specialized.com/bc/SBCEqS...EquipTires26_1
You might notice one is $ 18 a tire. They are good tires. My GF has them on her bik. No flats yet and she has at least a few hundred miles on them.
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Old 08-26-08, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by CommuterRun View Post
The skinnier the tire, the smaller the footprint it will have and consequently, less rolling resistance.

However, in my experience for commuting purposes the differences in tire width are inconsequential unless less than perfectly clean, smooth asphalt is encountered. Then wider will give you an edge.
If you are riding on rougher roads, large tires can be faster by giving you some shocks with the extra air.

I'd also disagree with filling up your tires to the max in these situations. In fact on road tires (which I know is not what you are riding), I pretty much never go over 110 psi, usually 100. 19mm road tires pumped up to 150 psi may feel fast, but the hard road vibration you'll get with this setup will slow you down in the end. That is one of the reasons mountain bike and cyclocross racers run tubular tires. So they can get the softer feel and additional traction tubulars can offer.

So, what I'm saying is if you ride rough roads or light trails, wider and lower pressure is going to be more comfortable and in the end faster.
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Old 08-26-08, 05:35 PM
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Yeah, I gotta agree, narrower is not always faster. If I were running 23s on my bike I'd have to take it really slow, because I'm riding pretty rough road a lot of the time and it would just pound the heck out of me on 23s. On the 32s I can keep up about an 18 MPH average.
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Old 08-26-08, 11:14 PM
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Get the $6 slicks from Performance. I have them and they're fine.
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Old 08-27-08, 10:39 AM
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My experience with narrow 26" tires in commuting is that they beat me up more than I'm willing to endure. I've tried 1.25" high pressure tires and didn't like the rough ride. 1.5" wide tires with high pressure work well - they offer decent compliance in the rough stuff but don't add that much rolling resistance.

My current commute bike is a Long Haul Trucker with 700C x 38 tires. I like this combination.

Of course if you're much lighter than me (I'm about 215 lbs), 1.25" (or 30-32 mm) tires may work well.
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