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Tires for loaded touring: Narrow vs Wide

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Tires for loaded touring: Narrow vs Wide

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Old 02-09-09, 11:14 AM
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Tires for loaded touring: Narrow vs Wide

On my usual road bike, I race with 700x19 or 21 (at around 125 - 140 psi), and find the tires quite comfy (even after 180km). I've been through a few posts regarding wider tires are typically more comfy, but is this the only reason why most people prefer wider tires? I'll be touring on roads and my semi-tour-worthy bike came with 700x23 tires. Just wondering if there's any reason why I should get wider tires other than the comfort level.
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Old 02-09-09, 11:32 AM
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As you increase the load, the risk of pinch flats increases too. You may have to further increase the pressure to compensate. Wider tires can reduce the risk of pinch flats without increasing pressure so much.

It is probable that at some point on your tour, you may find it necessary to take roads that are not in as good shape as the ones you've been riding. At that point, the wider tires will improve handling.
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Old 02-09-09, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Chatbox View Post
On my usual road bike, I race with 700x19 or 21 (at around 125 - 140 psi), and find the tires quite comfy (even after 180km). I've been through a few posts regarding wider tires are typically more comfy, but is this the only reason why most people prefer wider tires? I'll be touring on roads and my semi-tour-worthy bike came with 700x23 tires. Just wondering if there's any reason why I should get wider tires other than the comfort level.
Depends... How much do you weigh? How much are you carrying? Unless the load is pretty light 700X19 or 21 or even 23s may not be the best choice. I am not a big tire booster, but neither extreme seems like a good idea to me.
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Old 02-09-09, 11:57 AM
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I rode coast to coast many years ago and I had a choice to either buy a touring bike or use my road bike and take the trip. Didn't have the money for both. So I rode my road bike with the widest tires I could fit which were 28s. They were adequate for the job and I got to take the trip, but I did pinch flat a few times when I'd hit a rock or a pothole.

If you ride a skinny tire while fully loaded. I recommend getting as tough a tire as you can, add a roll of Mr. Tuffy to each tire, ride with gloves so you can clean your tires clean after riding through thorns, glass or other debris, stay on top of the tire pressure and most of all, keep your eyes open. Nothing will prevent a flat more than keeping your wheels out of harms way.
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Old 02-09-09, 12:18 PM
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Wider tyres also help reduce the forces felt by the wheels. i.e. you are more likely to suffer spoke failure on narrow tyres.
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Old 02-09-09, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by TheBrick View Post
Wider tyres also help reduce the forces felt by the wheels. i.e. you are more likely to suffer spoke failure on narrow tyres.
the above might make some difference but a well built wheel will have a far bigger impact on if you break a spoke or not.
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Old 02-09-09, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by dondonaldo View Post
I rode coast to coast many years ago and I had a choice to either buy a touring bike or use my road bike and take the trip. Didn't have the money for both. So I rode my road bike with the widest tires I could fit which were 28s. They were adequate for the job and I got to take the trip, but I did pinch flat a few times when I'd hit a rock or a pothole.

If you ride a skinny tire while fully loaded. I recommend getting as tough a tire as you can,
add a roll of Mr. Tuffy
to each tire, ride with gloves so you can clean your tires clean after riding through thorns, glass or other debris, stay on top of the tire pressure and most of all, keep your eyes open. Nothing will prevent a flat more than keeping your wheels out of harms way.
I've had the above cause more problems than help. The last time I tried those darn things I could see where they had worn a hole in my tube... so much for preventing flats. You could see the shape of the end of the liner on the tube and also you could see where it sliced/wore the tube. Never again for me. I've heard of others having the same problem so it's not just me from what I've gathered.
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Old 02-09-09, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by kyakdiver View Post
the above might make some difference but a well built wheel will have a far bigger impact on if you break a spoke or not.

Of course but the question was what difference do wide tyres make. Hence given the same wheel a wider tyre will beable to be run at a lower pressure for a given weight resulting in more cushioning, resulting in more protection for the wheel.
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Old 02-09-09, 01:06 PM
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touche
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Old 02-09-09, 09:55 PM
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Thanks for the replies! Now I get it.
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Old 02-09-09, 10:25 PM
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All of the above for wider tyres, plus speed on surfaces like chipseal.
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Old 02-10-09, 01:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Chatbox View Post
I'll be touring on roads and my semi-tour-worthy bike came with 700x23 tires. Just wondering if there's any reason why I should get wider tires other than the comfort level.
durability

cargo weight wreaks havoc on tyres.
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Old 02-10-09, 09:37 AM
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I think wider tires provide comfort, lessen the chances of breaking spokes (of which I'm paranoid after bad experiences), and make it easier to ride on occasional dirt roads. They also add a bit of weight and a bit of rolling resistance, though I find that pretty negligible when I'm carrying a big load.

I used Armadillo 700X28s on several tours. They worked fine. I used Schwalbe 700X32s on my most recent tour. I liked them better. On my next tour I'm thinking about even wider tires, because there's a long section on dirt roads.
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Old 02-10-09, 09:50 AM
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Old 02-10-09, 09:50 AM
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If you ride on non-sealed roads, you may have to ride on occasional patches of loose sand or dirt as well. Very narrow tyres + heavy load + soft surface = fail.

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Old 02-10-09, 11:49 AM
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Read this brief article on wide vs. skinny tires.
http://www.rivbike.com/article/components/tires
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Old 02-10-09, 11:51 AM
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50mm big apples here. wont use anything else.
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Old 02-10-09, 06:35 PM
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No contest here. Use the widest tires that easily fit on your frame and wheels. The heavier the load, the more pressure you need in your tires or your rolling resistance will go up. With larger tires you can run a lower pressure AND get lower rolling resistance. For practical purposes, you do not want to exceed 90 psi because you don't get lower rolling reistance on asphalt with more pressure. When you add it all up, rolling resistance, pinch flats, improved spoke life, and comfort, the larger tire is the obvious winner. You can take it to another extreme and run 40 psi with the new 50mm tires and give up some speed, but they won't fit your frame anyway.

I am not sure why racers use 130 psi tires with a 20mm cross section other than the aero benefit. I know the high pressure works well on cement track surfaces but slows you down on asphalt. Maybe they can't tolerate the spring action of lower pressure tires because it absorbs power in the sprint.
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Old 02-10-09, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by crock View Post
I am not sure why racers use 130 psi tires with a 20mm cross section other than the aero benefit. I know the high pressure works well on cement track surfaces but slows you down on asphalt. Maybe they can't tolerate the spring action of lower pressure tires because it absorbs power in the sprint.
Tire weight. The lighter they are, they easier (more responsive) it is to spin up and accelerate.
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Old 02-10-09, 11:59 PM
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Originally Posted by crock View Post
I am not sure why racers use 130 psi tires with a 20mm cross section other than the aero benefit. I know the high pressure works well on cement track surfaces but slows you down on asphalt. Maybe they can't tolerate the spring action of lower pressure tires because it absorbs power in the sprint.
Better aerodynamics is the primary benefit. It actually makes a relatively large difference, especially when compared to the smaller effect of wheel weight/inertia.
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Old 02-11-09, 12:52 AM
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I find that I have to top off my 700 x 23 tires every day or two in order to avoid pinch flats (I run them at about 120 psi). Fatter tires will run at lower pressures without pinch flats, so I can pump them up to max pressure and ride for a week or more before I have to top off the pressure. Ever try to get a tire up to 125-140 psi with a frame pump?

And, like everybody said, spoke reliability, pinch flats, comfort and speed on rough roads, tread life, traction on dirt roads or in the rain, etc., etc. If you're a weight weenie there are kevlar beaded tires in wider widths if you look around, and Schwalbe makes extra light tubes for fat tires.

I run 700 x 23 on my road bike, 26 x 1.75 on my tourer when I'm carrying camping gear, and I'm going with 26 x 1.6 for an upcoming credit card tour.
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Old 02-11-09, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by crock View Post
No contest here. Use the widest tires that easily fit on your frame and wheels. The heavier the load, the more pressure you need in your tires or your rolling resistance will go up. With larger tires you can run a lower pressure AND get lower rolling resistance. For practical purposes, you do not want to exceed 90 psi because you don't get lower rolling reistance on asphalt with more pressure. When you add it all up, rolling resistance, pinch flats, improved spoke life, and comfort, the larger tire is the obvious winner. You can take it to another extreme and run 40 psi with the new 50mm tires and give up some speed, but they won't fit your frame anyway.

I am not sure why racers use 130 psi tires with a 20mm cross section other than the aero benefit. I know the high pressure works well on cement track surfaces but slows you down on asphalt. Maybe they can't tolerate the spring action of lower pressure tires because it absorbs power in the sprint.
Lower rolling resistance for wider lower pressure tires is not a given. In smooth surfaces the skinny tires have the edge. I bet this includes good asphalt road surfaces. Something like chip and seal is where wider lower pressure tires shine.

The weight is a big deal only when climbing or accelerating, but since many of us tour in places where there is a lot of climbing the benefit is not insignificant.

I have my doubts about there being enough aero benefit on a bike with panniers to make much difference.

I will say that I ride a significantly faster century on my road bike than on my touring bike. I think that the biggest difference is weight, then aerodynamics, with rolling resistance playing a lesser role. I can't prove that, but I think that the fact that I notice the difference most on accelerations out of corners and on climbs tends to bear that out.

Interestingly I also feel better during and after a century on my road bike as compared to one on my touring bike. This makes me a bit skeptical about the significance of the comfort benefits of wider tires, at least for me.

My take on tire choice for touring is that something 28-32 mm wide is the sweet spot for most touring conditions, but 25 mm is pretty serviceable. If I weighed 130 pounds and was carrying 20 pounds, I would probably consider 25 mm and thinner would probably work fine.
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Old 02-11-09, 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by markf View Post
Ever try to get a tire up to 125-140 psi with a frame pump?
No, but I have no trouble getting tires to 110 or 120 with my Topeak Mtn Morph. I didn't with the Zefal pump that I used to use either. I took care of three bikes on the Trans America and it worked fine for maintaining 95 or 100 psi. Pumping up the tires on three bikes every couple days was not a huge chore. Perference for wider tires and lower pressure is fine, but difficulty pumping up higher pressure tires isn't enough of a problem to make that a major factor in the choice, for me at least.
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Old 02-11-09, 07:48 AM
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I hate raving about a product, but I have Specialized Armadillo's (700x25) on my road bike. They're great. I don't miss using my cross tires (700x32) at all.

I use a trailer though, and not panniers.
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Old 02-11-09, 08:36 AM
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These discussions about the relative merits of different tire widths require a qualification: the width dimension is an approximation. The 25 mm tire from one manufacturer may be equivalent to the 28 mm tire from another, and vice versa. I found this out a few years ago when I needed to replace a 28 mm tire. The replacement would not fit; I needed to go down to the 25 mm from the same manufacturer.

In other words, there are no standards with regard to tire width. So don't sweat a difference of two or three millimeters.

That said, I have toured on 23 mm, 25 mm, 28 mm, and 32 mm wide tires. I feel more secure on the wider tires, but during the days I did not know better, I was perfectly content and comfortable on 23 mm slicks while carrying loads ranging from 18 to 30 pounds. I occasionally got a flat, but that still happens even though I ride wider tires.
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