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Diff tire widths front and back?

Old 09-23-12, 07:24 PM
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Diff tire widths front and back?

I have a few steel framed road and touring bikes. I have been going with Pacela Tourguard 32mm (700c) or 1.25" (on my bikes that have 27" wheels). Works fine for me but i was on a 50 mile recreational ride today and was wondering if thinner tires might feel sportier, more agile, but on other hand i like the safety of wider tires on potholes, grates, etc.

I have one bike with 25mm cheap tires i havent gotten around to changing yet. In fact this model tire is so bad I got 3 flats in 1 day on a bike with these cheap tires. But anyway, since i am planning on getting new tires for that bike i wasnt sure if 32mm will fit so i swapped out a front wheel from one of my other bikes that has Pacela TG 32mm to see if it will fit. It does.

So then i road this bike around a little with 1 25mm tire in back and 1 32mm tire in front to see how it changes the handling. It feels sportier/ more agile before swapping in the 32mm tire obviously.

Then i tried putting the 25mm tire/wheel on the bike that has a 32mm tire in back. I rode this around a little. It feels sportier/more agile now of course.

But if i were to ride around with a bike 32mm in back and 25mm in front, i lose the benefit of a wider tire in terms of safety, in front. But I like the handling/feel better. I think it makes sense to keep 32mm in back because most of the weight is in back, especially on my commuters with racks etc on back.

So i am wondering do you think it is worthwhile to go a little thinner in front? Say 32mm in back an 28mm in front, for commuter or light touring use, or generally recreational use, ie long rides, say with Pacela TG? The reason would be to make the bike feel/handle a little sportier but still use 28mm for safety of width, and keep 32mm in back because most of the weight is in back.
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Old 09-23-12, 08:12 PM
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I think it makes all kinds of sense to stagger the tire sizes according to the relative front & rear loads. If you want to optimize performance, margin of safety, and cost on both tires, that's the best way to do it. If you're carrying a significant dead load, it also helps to bias it forward as much as practicable (e.g. front panniers).
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Old 09-23-12, 08:16 PM
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No big deal. It probably won't make a huge deal in feel, but it won't hurt you. On one bike, I have 38mm front and 32mm rear. On another, I have 28mm front and 32mm rear.
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Old 09-23-12, 08:23 PM
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I hear it's comfortable to go wide front and skinny rear. I always wonder how the bike would handle with a wider front and a skinnier front like a motorcycle. Honestly, I would do the latter just for looks...
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Old 09-23-12, 08:24 PM
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Just because a skinnier, higher pressure might 'feel sportier' doesn't necessarily mean that it is better performing. Might be the case, or, it could perform worse than a wider tire at a lower pressure.
https://www.bikequarterly.com/images/TireDrop.pdf

Nothing wrong with trying different approaches.
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Old 09-23-12, 09:30 PM
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I'd say ride quality and tire weight is what really gets noticed when tire sizes get changed and tire quality really determines those. Have some Michlin Pilot City tires in a 700 x 40c size that are a LOT heavier then the Schwalbe Marathon Supremes in a 700 x 50c size currently on the bike. The ride quality was also much worse for the Michlins because of the nature of the flat protection they used on that model.

A wider tire gives better braking up front and better load capacity in back -both at lower PSIs. People keep saying big tires are slower, but its not a reality. Regardless of the tire size - if the tire has a round profile - you'll just be riding on the crown anyway. HEAVY tires can be an issue, but today, for a premium, you can get wide tires that weigh no more (sometimes less) than the most commonly used smaller touring and commuting tires.

Rather than stagger tire sizes - I'd suggest just different tire pressures for front and back.
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Old 09-23-12, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by bulldogs2k
I hear it's comfortable to go wide front and skinny rear. I always wonder how the bike would handle with a wider front and a skinnier front like a motorcycle. Honestly, I would do the latter just for looks...
I quite like the combination; I ran my commuter with a 26x2.35 up front, and a 1.25 in the rear. The handling changed surprisingly little, it still rode fine. If a combination that extreme works, a few mm here and there isn't going to matter.
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Old 09-23-12, 09:55 PM
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Not only smaller in the front but different tires. I'll use a Gatorskin or Hardshell on the back and something lighter and smoother in the front, like a GP4000s, on a loaded bike. On my 27" commuter I use a Zaffiro on the back which is probably 11/4, but lightweight Bontrager Selects 1/8 or Paselas on the front. The difference in handling and acceleration is noticeable.


Safety? I don't know what that means in this context, but puncture resistance and load carrying ability is a plus for a rear tire when you are using a rack...
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Old 09-23-12, 10:14 PM
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Safety in my context refers to ability roll over potholes, cracks, train tracks, debris, uneven surfaces etc. with greater safety due to width of tire. I rule out 23 and 25mm.
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Old 09-24-12, 05:47 AM
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I run two different sized tires on my commuter right now, but the real difference is in the pressures I run them at and composition of the tires. Up front is a Panaracer T-Serv, which although nominally is a 1.75 is closer to 1.6 since these run a little small. In the rear is a Schwalbe marathon in 1.5". The Panaracer is noticeably more rubbery in constitution and this combined with its 75 PSI give me a little cushion on Seattle's very rough roads. The Marathon is definitely stiffer in construction, it's not just that I'm running it at 100 PSI. Being a big clyde it seems to help having a tire with stiff sidewalls running at high PSI. Lesser tires and pressures seems mushy and to cost me some forward momentum.

I've been tempted to try something really skinny in the rear and a wider tire in front, but I have to admit to being concerned that it'd look funny! I briefly had a wider tire on the rear and a skinny (1.25") tire up front and thought even that looked odd. I admit to being vain about how my bikes look!
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Old 09-24-12, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Medic Zero
I run two different sized tires on my commuter right now, but the real difference is in the pressures I run them at and composition of the tires. Up front is a Panaracer T-Serv, which although nominally is a 1.75 is closer to 1.6 since these run a little small. In the rear is a Schwalbe marathon in 1.5". The Panaracer is noticeably more rubbery in constitution and this combined with its 75 PSI give me a little cushion on Seattle's very rough roads. The Marathon is definitely stiffer in construction, it's not just that I'm running it at 100 PSI. Being a big clyde it seems to help having a tire with stiff sidewalls running at high PSI. Lesser tires and pressures seems mushy and to cost me some forward momentum.

I've been tempted to try something really skinny in the rear and a wider tire in front, but I have to admit to being concerned that it'd look funny! I briefly had a wider tire on the rear and a skinny (1.25") tire up front and thought even that looked odd. I admit to being vain about how my bikes look!
Man, I was wondering why you run 75PSI in a 1.6 tire. I dunno if need higher pressures in 26" size compared to 700, but my commuter has 700x42 which is 1.6" and I run about 45 PSI in them. I'm also only 160lbs, but I suspect you probably could lower the 1.6" tire to 60 PSI and still be ok if you + bike are under 300lbs.
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Old 09-24-12, 07:54 PM
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When i commute on my MTB, I run a 1.5" 100 psi rear and a 55 psi 2.1" front. The wider, lower pressure front absorbs more road vibrations, while the high pressure smooth, narrow rear provides good rolling resistance. I don't care too much about responsiveness, since I'm only riding at about 15-16 MPH on my commute.
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Old 09-26-12, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by jsdavis
Man, I was wondering why you run 75PSI in a 1.6 tire. I dunno if need higher pressures in 26" size compared to 700, but my commuter has 700x42 which is 1.6" and I run about 45 PSI in them. I'm also only 160lbs, but I suspect you probably could lower the 1.6" tire to 60 PSI and still be ok if you + bike are under 300lbs.
I'm around 275 right now and the bike is quite heavy. Sometimes I'm carrying a heavy chain and a U-lock as well. I'm also riding in a very hilly area. IIRC that is what the tire is rated for too.
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Old 09-27-12, 12:57 AM
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I dont know now if i would want thicker tire in front or rear now. My idea originally was thinner in front to make the handling more sporty. But from the above posts, most people like the thicker tire in front. Also issue of different model tires and differnet psi, so i am lost with this subject now. Too many options. My idea was thinner tire in front for sportier ride. Thats not the most popular reason for diff widths it seems.
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Old 09-27-12, 03:41 PM
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Almost all setups will have a significant rearward weight bias. From that point of view and maintaining similar load margins front & rear, it makes sense to run either a wider tire on the rear, or a higher pressure rated tire on the rear, and run it at a higher pressure than the front. This practice is common with high performance and utility motor vehicles. Specialized riding situations (e.g., off-road, "curb-hopping") may dictate a modification of this approach.
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Old 09-27-12, 05:26 PM
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From https://sheldonbrown.com/tires.html

  • [h=4]Narrower Front, Wider Rear[/h] If lightness is the primary goal, tire width/weight is limited by the risk of pinch cut flats, a.k.a. "snake bites." Since there is more weight carried on the rear tire, you can get away with a slightly narrower tire in front than you can in back.
  • [h=4]Wider Front, Narrower Rear[/h] A wider front tire makes sense in many applications, however, when handling and ride comfort are considered. A wider tire will generally provide better cornering traction than a narrower one, assuming appropriate inflation pressure.


For a while I had a slightly wider tire in front. I did like the way the bike handled that way but eventually I switched back to using the same size tires in front and rear since I like the convenience of having them the same.
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Old 10-01-12, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by GaryinLA
I dont know now if i would want thicker tire in front or rear now. My idea originally was thinner in front to make the handling more sporty. But from the above posts, most people like the thicker tire in front. Also issue of different model tires and differnet psi, so i am lost with this subject now. Too many options. My idea was thinner tire in front for sportier ride. Thats not the most popular reason for diff widths it seems.
It all depends on your situation. If I lived somewhere that was flat and had nice roads I'd be tempted to go back to a Continental Gatorskin on the front (1.25"x26 @ 120 PSI), because it did feel a little sportier. I don't know if I was actually any faster, but I felt faster and it was definitely a little more nimble, especially dodging road debris. Once I switched back to wider tire up front I was struck by how much cushier my ride was over the horrible roads in Seattle and my wrists hurt a little less and so I decided to stay with wider for now. When I move to somewhere with wider roads (& have hopefully gotten rid of the 60 extra pounds I'm carrying around my waist) I think I'd like to try a skinny tire up front again.
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Old 10-02-12, 09:53 AM
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+1

I use 28mm Front and 32mm rear.
The front wheel is lighter and more aero dynamic (important as I commute at speeds over 20mph) and faster, while the rear wheel gives me more cush, pinch flat protection, and ability to carry loads on my rear rack.

I think it is odd that some people want a thicker tire out front. Your front tire typically carries only 40% of your weight. That means that you should be using it near the minimum inflation rating for the tire. That has taken care of any vibration, bumpiness, cornering, braking problems for me. Try it, your bike will be much happier with lower tire inflation in the front.

The only advantage I have seen for a wider front tire is in loose sand/dirt/mud. The extra width there makes a big difference.

another advantage for staggered tires is easy inflation pressure staggering. If I put 90psi in a 28mm front and a 32mm rear tire, I am at the low range for the front tire and the middle of the range for the rear tire. This is exactly what the tires want for optimum performance given a 40/60 weight distribution.


Originally Posted by old's'cool
Almost all setups will have a significant rearward weight bias. From that point of view and maintaining similar load margins front & rear, it makes sense to run either a wider tire on the rear, or a higher pressure rated tire on the rear, and run it at a higher pressure than the front. This practice is common with high performance and utility motor vehicles. Specialized riding situations (e.g., off-road, "curb-hopping") may dictate a modification of this approach.
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Old 10-02-12, 10:02 AM
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I find bigger tires a lot slower, but honestly that is only an issue over 15mph. Below that the bigger tire is probably better.

smaller tires are a lot lighter, have less rolling resistance, and are more aerodynamic. Its been proven, but those tests really show the difference only makes a difference at speeds over 15mph.

I know that velonews talks about larger tires having less rolling resistance, but that is only at the same PSI. Who the heck inflates a 32mm and a 25mm tire at the same PSI?

Originally Posted by Burton
People keep saying big tires are slower, but its not a reality. Regardless of the tire size - if the tire has a round profile - you'll just be riding on the crown anyway. HEAVY tires can be an issue, but today, for a premium, you can get wide tires that weigh no more (sometimes less) than the most commonly used smaller touring and commuting tires.
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