Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Tire Width Tradeoffs

Old 10-09-06, 02:49 PM
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Tire Width Tradeoffs

I have been riding 23mm 700c tires forever but am getting old and am starting to think about safety. I'd like to switch to a 35mm or wider tire to improve stability and reduce my chances of falling, but am concerned about an increase in weight and rolling resistence. Any suggestions on an ideal width that will give me better stability with minimal performace sacrifice? I have been trying to find a curve that shows how cycling efficiency drops with an increase in tire width, but haven't seen one. Is there one out there somewhere?

Thanks.
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Old 10-09-06, 02:58 PM
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What kind of brakes does your bike have?

700 X 23c leads me to think that you have a road bike. If that's the case and it has typical road caliper brakes, 27mm or 28mm is probably the biggest tire that will fit between the brake pads even with the QR open.

That aside, if everything else is equal, a slightly wider tire will allow you to use slightly less air pressure and not increase your rolling resistance.
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Old 10-09-06, 04:31 PM
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Some road racing bikes can't even handle a 25mm tire because of the seat tube position. Unless you have cantilever brakes, it is very unlikely that you can fit a 30mm or wider tire.
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Old 10-09-06, 04:42 PM
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get 25's. you may be able to fit 28's but if its a road bike probably not larger. definately no 35 tires will fit.
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Old 10-09-06, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by blpate
I have been riding 23mm 700c tires forever but am getting old and am starting to think about safety. I'd like to switch to a 35mm or wider tire to improve stability and reduce my chances of falling, but am concerned about an increase in weight and rolling resistence. Any suggestions on an ideal width that will give me better stability with minimal performace sacrifice? I have been trying to find a curve that shows how cycling efficiency drops with an increase in tire width, but haven't seen one. Is there one out there somewhere?

Thanks.
Define 'getting old? How much do you weigh? I'm 47 and about 230 and have found 28s and narrow 32s to be my sweet spot between performance and stability/comfort on rougher roads and paths. My age has little to do with it...but then again I'm still a spring chicken.
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Old 10-09-06, 05:44 PM
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I have been riding 23mm 700c tires forever but am getting old and am starting to think about safety. I'd like to switch to a 35mm or wider tire to improve stability and reduce my chances of falling, but am concerned about an increase in weight and rolling resistence.
Impossibile to switch from 23 -> 35mm and not notice a huge rolling resistance penalty.
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Old 10-09-06, 09:06 PM
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I noticed a big difference going from Conti Top Tourings at 700x35 to Gatorskins at 700x28. The rims couldn't really handle smaller than 28, and I've been pretty struck by the difference. A touring bike should be able to handle 35s, but a road bike might not.

I definitely notice the difference in comfort AND speed from 35 to 28. Give it a shot... if they fit, that's great, but you might want to take it a step at a time.
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Old 10-09-06, 09:24 PM
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My bike (Trek Pilot 1.2) came with 700x28s. How much of a performance upgrade & comfort degrade do you guys think I will get by going to 25s?

Dan
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Old 10-09-06, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by chinarider
My bike (Trek Pilot 1.2) came with 700x28s. How much of a performance upgrade & comfort degrade do you guys think I will get by going to 25s?
Depends on a lot of factors, including how much you weigh and how hard you pedal. Also depends on what tires you have now and what you switch to. Some 25mm tires weigh half as much as some 28mm tires and that will give you a noticable difference in feel, though average speed differences will depend on your fitness level and how much you like climbing.
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Old 10-10-06, 12:24 AM
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Originally Posted by chinarider
My bike (Trek Pilot 1.2) came with 700x28s. How much of a performance upgrade & comfort degrade do you guys think I will get by going to 25s?

Dan
Yes, you would be fine going with 25's from 28's. You will notice very little comfort degrade unless you like to ride on chip and seal with lower psi levels. Performance should increase but only a tad.
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Old 10-10-06, 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by blpate
I have been riding 23mm 700c tires forever but am getting old and am starting to think about safety. I'd like to switch to a 35mm or wider tire to improve stability and reduce my chances of falling, but am concerned about an increase in weight and rolling resistence. Any suggestions on an ideal width that will give me better stability with minimal performace sacrifice? I have been trying to find a curve that shows how cycling efficiency drops with an increase in tire width, but haven't seen one. Is there one out there somewhere?

Thanks.
You have several problems going from 23's to 35's. The first and most important is frame and brake clearance. It sounds like you have a road racing bike; if so the 38's are too wide to fit between the brakes and maybe too wide to fit between the frame. Second thing is that your rims won't handle that size of tire, which is a mute point since the wider tires won't fit on your frame anyways.

The widest tire your going to be able to get on that bike is a 25 and maybe a 28. But this should not be a big deal for you. I'm 50+ and I ride on 25's and feel plenty stable and would have no thoughts if I switched back to 23's; I had a friend in California who was 81when he stopped riding and rode centuries all the time on 25's and was never concerned about it; he got concerned that if he did fall he would probably break something with no hope of healing (he died last year of cancer at 84).

The only reason I switched to 25's form 23's was to get a tire that would wear longer, and would not get caught following cracks in roads, which where I use to live had major road problems with no money to fix them.
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Old 10-10-06, 04:42 AM
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The sweet spot for non racing road tyres is somewhere between 25 and 32mm.
25 are better for fast sporty day rides such as centuries.
28 are good all rounders and can be used with care on rough roads and trails.
32 are good for mixed riding with trails, foul weather winter riding and loaded touring.
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Old 10-10-06, 06:35 AM
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I went from 32mm (1 1/4") to 25mm (1") and the first thing I noticed was a much less stable, albeit more agile ride. For steady MUP only riding, a slightly wider tire might make the ride feel easier. Otherwise, skinnier is nimbler.
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Old 10-10-06, 06:48 AM
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Hahaha, I ride 20mm tires ... have for months and months. This is what happens when you work at a shop and buy the close-out Rubinos that no one else will touch (over and over again).
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Old 10-10-06, 10:02 AM
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Depending on your tire choice your speed may increase. Wider tires have lower rolling resistance but if you spend a lot of time riding faster than 20 mph then the increased size may come with an aerodynamic penalty.

The latest issue of Bicycle Quarterly has an article on 150 tests they did on eighteen tires and the results are interesting. I doubt if you'll find any other magazine doing scientific testing at this level. One of their discoveries was that a tire that feels fast isn't necessarily fast. These articles aren't published on the web. You have to buy the magazine but if bicycles and bicycle equipment interest you, you will not be disappointed.

http://www.vintagebicyclepress.com/vbqindex.html
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Old 10-10-06, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by blpate
I'd like to switch to a 35mm or wider tire to improve stability and reduce my chances of falling
Check with Atomic Zombie..http://www.atomiczombie.com/product-overkill.htm
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Old 10-10-06, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by blpate
I have been riding 23mm 700c tires forever but am getting old and am starting to think about safety.
What type of safety issues is the OP referring to? I'm 60 and have just started road riding on a bike with 25mm tires, and I feel really comfortable with it. Are narrower tires less stable in corners or something? I guess I would be a bit nervous riding in the rain or on a rough road, but so far everything has been OK.
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Old 10-10-06, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by johnny99
Depends on a lot of factors, including how much you weigh and how hard you pedal. Also depends on what tires you have now and what you switch to. Some 25mm tires weigh half as much as some 28mm tires and that will give you a noticable difference in feel, though average speed differences will depend on your fitness level and how much you like climbing.
Bike came with Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase 700x28. I weigh between 145 & 150lbs. I was inflating them to max (120 lbs) till about a month ago when I read a thread about tire pressure recommending lower pressures. Since then I been putting about 95 in the rear & 90 in front. Seems a little more comfortable, but the difference doesn't jump out at you.

Dan
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Old 10-10-06, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by chinarider
Bike came with Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase 700x28. I weigh between 145 & 150lbs. I was inflating them to max (120 lbs) till about a month ago when I read a thread about tire pressure recommending lower pressures. Since then I been putting about 95 in the rear & 90 in front. Seems a little more comfortable, but the difference doesn't jump out at you.

Dan
I ride 25's and weigh 160 and I only put 100 in the rear and 90 in the front so your doing the air pressure right. You could try 85 in the front and test it but don't go any lower.
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