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Mixing/Matching Tire Widths: How much is too much?

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Mixing/Matching Tire Widths: How much is too much?

Old 10-14-08, 08:21 AM
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Mixing/Matching Tire Widths: How much is too much?

So for fall and winter riding, I'm riding a cyclocross bike that is pretty much set up like a road bike. One reason for this is I want to put on some slightly wider tires for stability and traction in all the extra fall and winter leaves/snow/salt or whatever.

To keep it simple and buy only one extra tire, I was going to follow Sheldon Brown's advice in this short article on mixing and matching tire sizes: https://sheldonbrown.com/tires.html#mixing.

What he doesn't address is how extreme of a mismatch is possible?

So my question to you is: In your opinion, how much of a mismatch is too much?

Here is a frame of reference: If I put my x38 cyclocross tire in the front and my x23 road tire in the back, would my bike explode or buck me off?

That's a big mismatch, but why not? My back tire would have low rolling resistance and my front tire would have more cornering traction for the winter grime on the roads.

Thanks for any opinions.
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Old 10-14-08, 09:33 AM
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Your bike would only explode if it's carbon.
The BF OCP weenies, however, may explode b/c you're mixing knobs with smooth.
But, IMO, as long as your tire colors match your bike and kit, it's all ok.
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Old 10-14-08, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Creakyknees
Your bike would only explode if it's carbon.
The BF OCP weenies, however, may explode b/c you're mixing knobs with smooth.
But, IMO, as long as your tire colors match your bike and kit, it's all ok.
I appreciate the response. The colors do match by the way, both have red walls. Red bike. Red helmet. Hell, I'm even considering adding some red cheerleader tassels coming out of the bar ends. So I've got my priorities straight, don't you worry.

But I'm guessing that because I'm on a forum where 300 people are slacking off of work... yet I have very little response... that no one here really mixes the width of their tires during the winter (or rides during the winter). So I guess the lack of answers might have answered my question.
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Old 10-14-08, 09:56 AM
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I ride on 25's during the winter, haven't crashed yet. Most I've mixed has been a 25 on the back and a 23 on the front.
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Old 10-14-08, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by eb314
I ride on 25's during the winter, haven't crashed yet. Most I've mixed has been a 25 on the back and a 23 on the front.
I thought the big tire goes up front for better cornering and shock absorbency.
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Old 10-14-08, 10:00 AM
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Try it and give a report later.
I have it the other way.
700 x 23 front.
700 x 28 rear.
But ,we don't have Winter here.
I ride with a group of retired bikers. Most have 30 years experience.
PSI seems to be more of any other factor when it comes to tires.
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Old 10-14-08, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by bryroth
I thought the big tire goes up front for better cornering and shock absorbency.
75 percent of your weight is on the Rear Tire.
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Old 10-14-08, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by bryroth
I thought the big tire goes up front for better cornering and shock absorbency.
It depends on your desired outcome. Fatter tire on the rear because most of your weight is back there is supposed to reduce rolling resistence. Fatter tire on the front is supposed to give you better cornering.
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Old 10-14-08, 10:27 AM
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On cars, they say to not mismatch tire types, like all-season or summer tires on one end and winter tires on the other. It's the balance of traction that would get screwy, and that will happen at the worst time -- which is when one end of the car loses grip.

I haven't tried mixing bike tires any further than the front/rear knob combos of MTB tires.
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Old 10-14-08, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight
It depends on your desired outcome. Fatter tire on the rear because most of your weight is back there is supposed to reduce rolling resistence. Fatter tire on the front is supposed to give you better cornering.
Bicycles and motorcycles corner by leaning. Not steering.
You weight is still on the rear tire.
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Old 10-14-08, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels
Bicycles and motorcycles corner by leaning. Not steering.
You weight is still on the rear tire.
True, but I think the point of having more grip in the front is to keep the front planted better. Sliding the rear isn't nearly as disastrous as sliding the front.

The cross-pollinating from BMX/motocross doesn't seem like a valid one for pavement riding, though. You want to turn quickly, which is helped a lot by having some oversteer -- but that usually isn't the fastest or safest way to turn on pavement.
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Old 10-14-08, 10:37 AM
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When did you ever see a motorcycle with a narrow rear, with a wider front tire?
I don't believe I have.
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Old 10-14-08, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels
Try it and give a report later.
I have it the other way.
700 x 23 front.
700 x 28 rear.
But ,we don't have Winter here.
I ride with a group of retired bikers. Most have 30 years experience.
PSI seems to be more of any other factor when it comes to tires.
I'll give it a try and report back. I'll use an extra-exaggerated difference to test it out.

Originally Posted by 10 Wheels
When did you ever see a motorcycle with a narrow rear, with a wider front tire?
I don't believe I have.
Understood, and I appreciate the analogy. As Barracks also wrote, it probably isn't that important for high-speed pavement riding.

However, the whole reason I'm thinking of tweaking the bike is because I'm worried about riding through all the junk on the side of the street, and it seems like there will be more during the winter. In that sense I feel like it would fall somewhere between on-road and off-road riding, and in my mind I want stability to trump speed. That's where the big tire in front idea comes from.

Almost all of my rationale is coming form this interesting blurb: https://sheldonbrown.com/tires.html#mixing. It states "A wider tire will generally provide better cornering traction than a narrower one, assuming appropriate inflation pressure."
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Old 10-14-08, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi
True, but I think the point of having more grip in the front is to keep the front planted better. Sliding the rear isn't nearly as disastrous as sliding the front.
Correct, and I believe that is the ONLY reason.

Originally Posted by 10 Wheels
When did you ever see a motorcycle with a narrow rear, with a wider front tire?
I don't believe I have.
Motorcycles get through tight corners with power, which goes through the rear wheel while unoading the front. Bicycles on the edge of traction are rarely pedaling, so the weight is more evenly distributed. However, there is no need for more traction on the front than the rear, except that it promises that if one tire washes out first, it will be the rear, which is safer.
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Old 10-14-08, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by bryroth
However, the whole reason I'm thinking of tweaking the bike is because I'm worried about riding through all the junk on the side of the street, and it seems like there will be more during the winter. In that sense I feel like it would fall somewhere between on-road and off-road riding, and in my mind I want stability to trump speed. That's where the big tire in front idea comes from.
If you're worried about the junk in the street, I recommend getting two larger tires.
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Old 10-14-08, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight
Correct, and I believe that is the ONLY reason.


Motorcycles get through tight corners with power, which goes through the rear wheel while unoading the front. Bicycles on the edge of traction are rarely pedaling, so the weight is more evenly distributed. However, there is no need for more traction on the front than the rear, except that it promises that if one tire washes out first, it will be the rear, which is safer.
I pedal on corners and curves.
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Old 10-14-08, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight
If you're worried about the junk in the street, I recommend getting two larger tires.
Agreed. But, (and this is bound to piss everybody off) I don't want to have to switch out the tire I use on my trainer each time I go outside. I can't use a large, non-smooth tire on the trainer without it sounding like I'm skinning a cat, and I shouldn't spend any money on a new rear tire to switch out just now, and I don't want the hassle of changing both my tube and my tire every other day.

So that was where this question came from.

So basically, to be more accurate, the question should be: Given a 23mm rear tire, which is better for winter riding: an additional 23mm front tire, or a much larger front tire?
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Old 10-14-08, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels
I pedal on corners and curves.
Please note I said "on the edge of traction". If you're pedaling through a corner, you're not on the edge of traction, which is the only time tire size would matter. Please read the entire post instead of taking small parts out of context.

Furthermore, I doubt a bicycle can lay down enough power to unload the front like a motorcycle does.
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Old 10-14-08, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by bryroth
Agreed. But, (and this is bound to piss everybody off) I don't want to have to switch out the tire I use on my trainer each time I go outside. I can't use a large, non-smooth tire on the trainer without it sounding like I'm skinning a cat, and I shouldn't spend any money on a new rear tire to switch out just now, and I don't want the hassle of changing both my tube and my tire every other day.

So that was where this question came from.

So basically, to be more accurate, the question should be: Given a 23mm rear tire, which is better for winter riding: an additional 23mm front tire, or a much larger front tire?
If it's not worth the bother to change the rear, don't bother changing the front either. Having one does you little good since you're only as strong as your weakest tire. Besides, the rear tire is more prone to the junk in the road than the front (the weight makes things punch through the tire more easily).
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Old 10-14-08, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight
If it's not worth the bother to change the rear, don't bother changing the front either. Having one does you little good since you're only as strong as your weakest tire. Besides, the rear tire is more prone to the junk in the road than the front (the weight makes things punch through the tire more easily).
Good point. You know what I'm going to invent? A big latex sleeve to wrap around the rear tire to smooth it out and protect it from the trainer. I'll have to think about that one.
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Old 10-14-08, 11:39 AM
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Great idea. Protection is important.
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Old 10-14-08, 11:40 AM
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Stop that.
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Old 10-14-08, 11:44 AM
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Sorry, I couldn't help it. Seriously, you might be onto something there, because I am way too lazy to swap tires to a trainer tire every time, but an ellastic sleeve would be worthwhile.
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Old 10-14-08, 11:52 AM
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Well you'd have to take the tire off anyway it were one piece, so the problem would be how to attach the two ends of the sleeve together. It will make me millions. Or it would have if I hadn't posted it on the internet.

Oh well, it sounds like an unnecessary piece of equipment. And if BF has taught me one thing, it's that roadies don't like to spend money on unnecessary pieces of equipment.
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Old 10-14-08, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight
If you're worried about the junk in the street, I recommend getting two larger tires.
Or fenders.

I just bought raceblades for my bike to ride my race bike in the winter or after it rains. Less gunk will get kicked into my drivetrain or onto the bike. Hopefully anyway.
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