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How much of a difference does tire width make on road bike performance?

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How much of a difference does tire width make on road bike performance?

Old 09-29-19, 02:04 PM
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alpharalpha
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How much of a difference does tire width make on road bike performance?

I used to have an Cannondale with 23mm tires that had great performance but was difficult riding as almost any bump/crack in the road could affect the rims. I am considering purchasing another one since I have such fond memories of that one, but am wondering how much of a performance difference I could expect if I went with 28mm instead; or could I even go as far as 32mm?
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Old 09-29-19, 02:09 PM
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More than you'd expect, less than really matters.
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Old 09-29-19, 02:34 PM
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Even going from 25mm to 28mm was immediately noticeable with less road chatter, less hand/shoulder fatigue and just more enjoyable on longer rides.

Performance, can't say I noticed a difference. Then again, I am just an average recreational rider.
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Old 09-29-19, 02:36 PM
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I found that going to a wider tire (32) really improved my personal performance. I can go faster on average over a wider variety of road surfaces over longer distances with less body fatigue. I am also more confident in a variety of road and weather conditions and more confident going down hill and taking turns at speed. There is also a nice variety of super armored tires in the bigger sizes. You can pass people fixing flats (well, slowing to ask them if they need any help, of course).
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Old 09-29-19, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
Even going from 25mm to 28mm was immediately noticeable with less road chatter, less hand/shoulder fatigue and just more enjoyable on longer rides.

Performance, can't say I noticed a difference. Then again, I am just an average recreational rider.
went from 25s to 28s...so much better, completely different feel of the bike. I was much much faster because I was more comfortable for the 2.5hrs i ride.... you should def do this....and dont get 28s and fill to the same pressure..find you a chart online...i run 85lbs front and back. Ran 95lbs on the 25s

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Old 09-29-19, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by alpharalpha View Post
I used to have an Cannondale with 23mm tires that had great performance but was difficult riding as almost any bump/crack in the road could affect the rims. I am considering purchasing another one since I have such fond memories of that one, but am wondering how much of a performance difference I could expect if I went with 28mm instead; or could I even go as far as 32mm?
Properly inflated 23mm tires won't be damaged by most bumps/cracks in the road. For me, that's 80 front, 110-120 rear with a 200# total weight. I use the Berto Tire pressure app as a starting point/upper limit and go from there.

Now, when I ride my bike with 28mm tires, I run 60 front/90 rear and the difference in feel for bumps in the road is very noticeable. Definitely a softer/smoother ride. On smooth surfaces it really makes little difference, but as you get to rougher surfaces you will gain by not being bounced around so much.

In terms of performance, buy top quality tires in whatever size you end up with, properly inflate them, and you will get very similar performance.
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Old 09-29-19, 03:07 PM
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Depending on the model, you may not be able to fit 28mm tires.
Try 25, with a little less pressure.
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Old 09-29-19, 04:41 PM
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Here is an article that you may find informative--I sure did!: https://www.roadbikerider.com/the-ti...-jan-heine-d1/
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Old 09-29-19, 05:40 PM
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I would never even consider buying a road bike that could not clear 32s at a minimum, as that is the smallest I will probably ever run.

But thatís just me.
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Old 09-29-19, 07:22 PM
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The roads around here are poorly maintained. Broken asphalt and poorly performed patchwork(they really go for the lowest bidders here) everywhere. I won't ride with anything narrower than 30mm as it would slow me down and put me at a higher risk for mishaps.

If your riding surfaces are better it may not matter as much. As the poster above stated, check clearances. Even if you can't go up to a full 32, 28 will still make a noticeable difference.
Originally Posted by freeranger View Post
Here is an article that you may find informative--I sure did!
Great article. I've had the habit of pushing my pressures toward the high end on my road tires. I think I'll back them off a bit and check my tires' response to laden force to gauge ideal pressure.
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Old 09-29-19, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by spindlehead View Post
I found that going to a wider tire (32) really improved my personal performance. I can go faster on average over a wider variety of road surfaces over longer distances with less body fatigue. I am also more confident in a variety of road and weather conditions and more confident going down hill and taking turns at speed. There is also a nice variety of super armored tires in the bigger sizes. You can pass people fixing flats (well, slowing to ask them if they need any help, of course).
tire size doesn't play as much a role in your cornering performance, it's the rubber softness that matters, and plenty of progressively faster practices so you get the feeling of approaching the edge of mechanical grip.

here's a video of a guy absolutely railing on 23mm tires at high speed

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Old 09-29-19, 09:55 PM
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Tire type makes more difference in performance than size. A supple tire (Rene Herse/Compass) in any size, will beat a heavy flat resistant tire like a Gatorskin every day.

Having said that, if we are comparing identical tires in various sizes, rider weight needs to be factored in. As a feather weight at 135 lbs, I find the 28mm Chinook Pass to offer the best performance. I also have two bikes with the 32mm Stampede pass, which are also great, but I think would be better for heavier riders than me.
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Old 09-30-19, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
Properly inflated 23mm tires won't be damaged by most bumps/cracks in the road. For me, that's 80 front, 110-120 rear with a 200# total weight.
That depends on the tire\rim combo. My wife has a Trek 2.3 road bike, it came with 23's. she would pinch flat every other ride, even when I pump up the tire to 110+ lbs before each ride. I was making both of us crazy. I got her a set of 25's, no more snake bites.
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Old 09-30-19, 08:27 AM
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This has been debated endlessly, and the consensus shifting, since I began cycling and that's only been 13 years +/-

When I migrated from 700c-32 to smaller diameter higher pressure tires, no question the performance improved. Drifting back to wider tires, even better. Mine are all 26-28 now. It depends on the tire itself, and a tire pressure sweet spot for that tire.
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Old 09-30-19, 08:34 AM
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I'm a big fan of 25-28mm tires on road bikes. I find 23mm tires squirrely on imperfect surfaces. The slight weight/aero penalty for going up a size is more than made up for by the reduced road buzz and sure-footed crossing of cracks and gravel/sandy spots. Running lower pressures on a wider tire also increases your contact patch which is nice when crossing metal manhole covers or paint on wet days. I've got 25mm on my road bike and 32 on my mutt bike and the difference in average speed over 50 miles is less than 1 mph. This despite the fact that the mutt is a flatbar and about two pounds heavier.
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Old 09-30-19, 08:49 AM
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Huge. Bigger = better. I just test rode a Jones LWB with 29*3.0 tires and it rode better than anything with about 10-11 PSI.

Sub 50MM tires are for a sprint finish and not actually riding.

Others can fight me but the science bears this out.
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Old 09-30-19, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
That depends on the tire\rim combo. My wife has a Trek 2.3 road bike, it came with 23's. she would pinch flat every other ride, even when I pump up the tire to 110+ lbs before each ride. I was making both of us crazy. I got her a set of 25's, no more snake bites.

True, as the actual mounted width will vary with tire/rim combo. Any pressure calculator is best used with a measured mounted width and weight to best reflect reality. Rider technique and road quality also plays into this. If your roads are such that you can't avoid hitting potholes, then a wider tire will always give you more protection. I'm curious what something like the Berto calculator would give you?


Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
This has been debated endlessly, and the consensus shifting, since I began cycling and that's only been 13 years +/-


When I migrated from 700c-32 to smaller diameter higher pressure tires, no question the performance improved. Drifting back to wider tires, even better. Mine are all 26-28 now. It depends on the tire itself, and a tire pressure sweet spot for that tire.

I think this plays a lot onto the actual road surface. I have seen it most on my gravel road riding. Started with 30-32mm tires on my gravel bike and was being bounced around a bunch. Switch up to a 38mm tire and suddenly I can pedal right over 99% of the bumps. More comfortable and faster. The right 50mm tire will even roll very fast. But, go too wide and you fall off the other side of the curve and while comfort may go up, so will rolling resistance.


Conversely, a local bike club has Tuesday night rides on a road course. It was just repaved last fall and only sees limited traffic when the venue races cars. The pavement is as smooth as you could ever wish for without a pothole or crack in sight, so I will add 10-20psi to my road bike tires without any ill effects.
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Old 09-30-19, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by alpharalpha View Post
I used to have an Cannondale with 23mm tires that had great performance but was difficult riding as almost any bump/crack in the road could affect the rims. I am considering purchasing another one since I have such fond memories of that one, but am wondering how much of a performance difference I could expect if I went with 28mm instead; or could I even go as far as 32mm?
You are considering purchasing another Cannodale? Which model Cannondale did you formerly own? A lot of those were super stiff. So a jarring ride and problems with your rims could be about a lot more than just 23 mm tires. I am using 23 mm Tufo Calibra clincher tires on Mavic Open Pro 28 hole wheels with latex tubes and I am able to run them at 80psi front and 90 psi rear and I weigh ~ 195#. The ride on my titanium road bike is pretty good over most road cracks and also manageable for moderate chip seal. Downhill cornering on chip-seal roads with 23's is a bit dicey though.
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Old 09-30-19, 09:26 AM
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The real benefit to skinny tires comes at higher speeds because they have less frontal area.
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Old 09-30-19, 10:50 AM
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In theory, wider tires would be a bit worse in a head wind . For me , that has not proven to be true. I ride 28mm minimum tire width and in my area works good. As previously stated , the fatigue factor is huge. I have one bike left with 23's and it is going to get changed before the next long ride on that bike. My Super Mondia allows for wide tires and I am running 27 x 1.25" tires that , when inflated , check 1.390" . I like the wider tires for comfort and safety. It is less likely to catch a groove in the asphalt and much better on gravel roads. Joe joesvintageroadbikes.wordpress
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Old 09-30-19, 11:40 AM
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I see 28-32, maybe even 38 kicked around here as the consensus ideal width for road riding. This is absolutely not the case, you can go FAR wider and enjoy MUCH better efficiency at FAR LOWER psi. I would guess most of the commenters here have not ridden a bike with 29+ tires.

If you insist on getting another CAAD roadbike please know it's really a RACING bike engineered for a sprint finish, not actually made to be ridden in normal conditions. That said, if you're just in love with the aesthetics or whatever then I suggest getting 650b rims and running the highest tpi casings you can find in the maximum possible width at the lowest possible psi.

Unless you're training to compete in one of the Ground Tours, then you'll thank me later.

I started out commuting on a track bike with 28mm tires @ 50/60 PSI; I am now on a CX bike with 33mm tires @ 35-20 PSI (they're tubulars, very hi TPI count casing). The 29+ bike I just test rode absolutely SMOKES my CX bike even with it's hi-TPI/super supple sew up racing tires at very low pressure.

The only downside is you'll feel it in a sprint but if you're not trying to break away from a peloton regularly (you're not) then look at bikes built on the 27.5+ and 29+ platform. Don't ask me, ask science.


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Old 09-30-19, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
Tire type makes more difference in performance than size. A supple tire (Rene Herse/Compass) in any size, will beat a heavy flat resistant tire like a Gatorskin every day.

Having said that, if we are comparing identical tires in various sizes, rider weight needs to be factored in. As a feather weight at 135 lbs, I find the 28mm Chinook Pass to offer the best performance. I also have two bikes with the 32mm Stampede pass, which are also great, but I think would be better for heavier riders than me.
I can throw my weight behind this statement. I'm one of those heavier riders (270s right now, lowest I've been in forever was high 250s, heading back that direction right now), and I ride the Compass Stampede Pass 32mm tires. I run 90psi (listed max) on the rear and 80psi on the front. Not all of the roads that I ride are terrible surface quality, but some definitely are, and a couple stretches are downright awful with many large cracks in the road surface of over an inch width. When I got a road bike again around 9 years ago it had 23mm tires on it, and I almost immediately switched to 25mm and noticed a big difference in comfort. Went to 28mm on the rear but the front couldn't fit it (depending on the tire, and even ones that fit were just squeaking by). With my new bike a couple years ago (Lynskey R260) it'll fit not only these 32mm tires, but would fit larger if I wanted. I've considered giving 34mm a go, but these 32mm Compass tires are just a pleasure to ride on. There are stretches of road where the surface was so bad on the 25/28 combo I still had to slow down somewhat, where I can go full speed on the 32mm tires. I imagine the 34mm would just make the truly bad stretches of road that much more pleasurable to ride.

ps: I tried an experiment for a couple weeks where instead of topping off the tire pressure before each ride, I let it naturally deflate by that couple psi or so per day to see what the rides would feel like at progressively lower pressure. Based on the last time I'd checked the pressure one day I went out on a ride with an estimated 75psi or so in the rear (and less in front) and got a snake-bite flat hitting some bump in the road (think it was a big dip in the road surface around a manhole cover), with the tire going flat seconds later as I made a sharp turn and came the closest to totally eating it that I've ever gotten while actually recovering and not crashing. So for me, almost certainly due to the weight, using that 90psi max pressure for the Stampede Pass 32mm tire is non-negotiable. That's still much less than the 120psi or so I road on my 25s, and it feels much nicer.
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Old 09-30-19, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by SethAZ View Post
I can throw my weight behind this statement. I'm one of those heavier riders (270s right now, lowest I've been in forever was high 250s, heading back that direction right now), and I ride the Compass Stampede Pass 32mm tires. I run 90psi (listed max) on the rear and 80psi on the front. Not all of the roads that I ride are terrible surface quality, but some definitely are, and a couple stretches are downright awful with many large cracks in the road surface of over an inch width. When I got a road bike again around 9 years ago it had 23mm tires on it, and I almost immediately switched to 25mm and noticed a big difference in comfort. Went to 28mm on the rear but the front couldn't fit it (depending on the tire, and even ones that fit were just squeaking by). With my new bike a couple years ago (Lynskey R260) it'll fit not only these 32mm tires, but would fit larger if I wanted. I've considered giving 34mm a go, but these 32mm Compass tires are just a pleasure to ride on. There are stretches of road where the surface was so bad on the 25/28 combo I still had to slow down somewhat, where I can go full speed on the 32mm tires. I imagine the 34mm would just make the truly bad stretches of road that much more pleasurable to ride.

ps: I tried an experiment for a couple weeks where instead of topping off the tire pressure before each ride, I let it naturally deflate by that couple psi or so per day to see what the rides would feel like at progressively lower pressure. Based on the last time I'd checked the pressure one day I went out on a ride with an estimated 75psi or so in the rear (and less in front) and got a snake-bite flat hitting some bump in the road (think it was a big dip in the road surface around a manhole cover), with the tire going flat seconds later as I made a sharp turn and came the closest to totally eating it that I've ever gotten while actually recovering and not crashing. So for me, almost certainly due to the weight, using that 90psi max pressure for the Stampede Pass 32mm tire is non-negotiable. That's still much less than the 120psi or so I road on my 25s, and it feels much nicer.
^ Great example of why narrow tires are not only uncomfortable and inefficient but can be dangerous.
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Old 09-30-19, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
The real benefit to skinny tires comes at higher speeds because they have less frontal area.
Benefits to very skinny tires:
- Lighter = they spin up quicker if you're in a sprint situation (less mass to get moving)
- Less rolling resistance on a drum testing unit or inside a velodrome (not real life riding situations)

If neither applies, then avoid.
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Old 09-30-19, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
I'm a big fan of 25-28mm tires on road bikes. I find 23mm tires squirrely on imperfect surfaces. The slight weight/aero penalty for going up a size is more than made up for by the reduced road buzz and sure-footed crossing of cracks and gravel/sandy spots. Running lower pressures on a wider tire also increases your contact patch which is nice when crossing metal manhole covers or paint on wet days. I've got 25mm on my road bike and 32 on my mutt bike and the difference in average speed over 50 miles is less than 1 mph. This despite the fact that the mutt is a flatbar and about two pounds heavier.
The efficiency gains in running much wider tires at much lower pressures will FAR outpace the MINIMAL aero loss of running wider tires.
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