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26 inch tires in a metric world?

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26 inch tires in a metric world?

Old 06-08-13, 09:00 AM
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26 inch tires in a metric world?

I'm indulging one of my occasional bicycle daydreams, thinking about my next touring bike.

I've heard that 26 inch tires are available in more of the world than 700c tires -- and I just don't understand why. What would 26 inch tires be called outside of the US, where "inches" just aren't common measurements? Why would they be common? And if I did a long ride through Europe, would I be able to find 26ers?
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Old 06-08-13, 09:57 AM
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Where did you hear that 700c tires weren't commonly available?

They are available in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand ...

Now, if I'm not mistaken 700c tires are considered road tires and 26" tires are considered mtn bike tires .... perhaps that's why the 26" tires seem more common, because of the upsurge in popularity of mtn bikes???

I'm pretty sure you can buy 26" mtn bike tires here in very metric Australia, but I'm not positive because all but one of my bicycles run 700c tires, and I know you can get them in mostly metric Canada.
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Old 06-08-13, 10:03 AM
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If you're planning a trip through Europe, look up a sporting goods store called Decathlon, and another one called GoSport. There are GoSports scattered throughout France (and possibly elsewhere as well), and there are Decathlons in France especially, but also in the UK and other places.

Look what they've got for sale in the way of bicycle tires (and lots and lots of other stuff too). You'll get a good idea of what's actually available.

We love visiting Decathlon stores when we're in France.
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Old 06-08-13, 10:23 AM
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26" is often indicated as 559.

Since 26" is the standard for less than perfect roads, you'll probably find more 26" than 28" tires in areas with less than perfect roads. In Western Europe, I think you'll find both quite easily.
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Old 06-08-13, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by jeneralist View Post
I've heard that 26 inch tires are available in more of the world than 700c tires -- and I just don't understand why.
It depends where you are interested in touring. For RTW tours that will take through Latin America, Asia and Africa, 26" has been the standard size wheel in those regions for decades. Why? Affordable mountain bikes and hybrids are used as utilitarian bikes for work, recreation and overall transport on good roads, bad roads, off-road, etc. These bikes have been spec'd with 26" wheels since the 80s, so this size wheel is ubiquitous now. So, can you find 700c replacement parts? Yes, it will just take you a lot more work as they are only seen on high-end road bikes and 29er mountain bikes. So, wheel size ultimately can make the difference between riding to the next little town to find the parts you need to continue your tour OR having to hop on a bus to the next major city to find a boutique shop that carries 700c parts (e.g., rim, spoke, tire, tube.)

What would 26 inch tires be called outside of the US, where "inches" just aren't common measurements?
They are known as 26 inch tires. Here in Mexico (a metric country), for example, they call them llantas de veintiséis pulgadas. I understand there are certain parts of the world where "26 inch" refers to a different size tire. If in doubt, notice that tires and tubes always give you the metric size marked on the side. You'll be looking for 559mm.

And if I did a long ride through Europe, would I be able to find 26ers?
My understanding is that 26" tires have been popular there for decades. In fact, the U.S. bike manufacturers have pushed hard for 700c (29er) tires on mountain bikes, but the Europeans really never bought into the whole concept. Bike tire companies like Schwalbe, Continental, Michelin, Vittoria are all headquartered in Europe and produce the most popular 26" touring tires.

Think about which wheel size is best for you this way:

Touring in developed nations: 700c or 26"-- Your choice!

Touring in emerging economies: 26" is the most sensible tire size.

Last edited by Chris Pringle; 06-08-13 at 12:57 PM.
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Old 06-08-13, 11:53 AM
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Skinny 700c tires were in shops, that did not stock any 35 or wider ones..


700c is french for a 622 ..(ETRO)..smaller than 630/ 27", there is an A and B, too.
note, they are not compatible.


have a desire to ride different tires set up a supply chain, [ friends at Home ?]
to post them to you where and when you need them.

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Old 06-08-13, 05:12 PM
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Sit down. Take a deep breath. Bicycle chain is one-half inch pitch worldwide.

Once you've recovered, go look at some car tires. The size is indicated by three numbers: the first is width in milimeters, the second is aspect ratio (a percentage) and the third is the rim diameter in inches.
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Old 06-10-13, 04:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
It depends where you are interested in touring. For RTW tours that will take through Latin America, Asia and Africa, 26" has been the standard size wheel in those regions for decades. Why? Affordable mountain bikes and hybrids are used as utilitarian bikes for work, recreation and overall transport on good roads, bad roads, off-road, etc. These bikes have been spec'd with 26" wheels since the 80s, so this size wheel is ubiquitous now. So, can you find 700c replacement parts? Yes, it will just take you a lot more work as they are only seen on high-end road bikes and 29er mountain bikes. So, wheel size ultimately can make the difference between riding to the next little town to find the parts you need to continue your tour OR having to hop on a bus to the next major city to find a boutique shop that carries 700c parts (e.g., rim, spoke, tire, tube.)


They are known as 26 inch tires. Here in Mexico (a metric country), for example, they call them llantas de veintiséis pulgadas. I understand there are certain parts of the world where "26 inch" refers to a different size tire. If in doubt, notice that tires and tubes always give you the metric size marked on the side. You'll be looking for 559mm.


My understanding is that 26" tires have been popular there for decades. In fact, the U.S. bike manufacturers have pushed hard for 700c (29er) tires on mountain bikes, but the Europeans really never bought into the whole concept. Bike tire companies like Schwalbe, Continental, Michelin, Vittoria are all headquartered in Europe and produce the most popular 26" touring tires.

Think about which wheel size is best for you this way:

Touring in developed nations: 700c or 26"-- Your choice!

Touring in emerging economies: 26" is the most sensible tire size.
All excellent comments. The only thing I would add is that I found that in Europe, it's marginally easier to find smoother touring tires in 700c (eg Schwalbe Marathons). You can find 26", just most stock tends to by knobby MTB tires.

Your mileage may vary.
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Old 06-10-13, 04:14 AM
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Originally Posted by jeneralist View Post
I'm indulging one of my occasional bicycle daydreams, thinking about my next touring bike.

I've heard that 26 inch tires are available in more of the world than 700c tires -- and I just don't understand why. What would 26 inch tires be called outside of the US, where "inches" just aren't common measurements? Why would they be common? And if I did a long ride through Europe, would I be able to find 26ers?
Here in the UK you can get 26" MTB tyres 29" MTB tyres and 700c road tyres, as well as a few other less common sizes (smaller bikes, wheelchairs, recumbents etc use other sizes). Hard to imagine you couldn't get standard MTB tyres in Europe as well, it would mean companies were increasing their own costs by making wheels of different sizes for different markets.

Depending on just how long your tour was you may want to have a couple of spare tyres with you anyway, in case one wore out in a remote area when you couldn't get to a bike shop for a while.
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Old 06-10-13, 04:31 AM
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<shakes head in amazement at this thread>
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Old 06-10-13, 05:26 AM
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Here ... on the French Decathlon site:
http://www.decathlon.fr/C-474980-pneus

You can see for yourself what's available in France, and there are 260 Decathlons in France. But other shops will have the same sorts of things too.

If you're going elsewhere in Europe, look up the bicycle and sports shops in those countries. Google is a wonderful thing.
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Old 06-10-13, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
<shakes head in amazement at this thread>
:shakes head at dumb comment:

The OP is just asking a question.
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Old 06-10-13, 07:26 AM
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But it is 2013, right? And this is the type of question which can easily be answered by looking up any number of bicycle/sports shops around the world ... Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Ribble (all in the UK), Torpedo7 (New Zealand), Decathlon (various places in Europe), MEC (Canada), Anaconda (Australia) ... just to name a very few.

I'm curious where the OP got the idea that 700c tires might not be available.
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Old 06-10-13, 08:23 AM
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In areas supplied by the modern bike industry, both sizes are widely available. This includes North America, Europe, Aus/NZ, S Africa, most of S America and parts of asia.
In other parts of the world, most bikes use traditional wheel sizes such as the English 28". The flood of cheap Chines MTBs into Africa , Asia and S America ensures that if you need a 26" MTB tyres you should be able to get one in any country, but the same can't be said for 700c.
That is the main reason that intrepid expedition tourists use 26" MTB size.
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Old 06-10-13, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
But it is 2013, right? And this is the type of question which can easily be answered by looking up any number of bicycle/sports shops around the world ... Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Ribble (all in the UK), Torpedo7 (New Zealand), Decathlon (various places in Europe), MEC (Canada), Anaconda (Australia) ... just to name a very few.

I'm curious where the OP got the idea that 700c tires might not be available.
:sigh:

I have often heard repeated that 26" are better for touring because of availability, though as Chris points out above, this is really only pertinent to developing countries.

And while you can find just about anything on the interwebs these days, if you don't know which bicycle shops to look at in the first place, it's a heck of a lot easier to ask on a website dedicated to cycling questions than to spend a bunch of time digging around for shops with varying amounts of online inventory and possibly non-English websites.

Geez.
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Old 06-10-13, 10:15 AM
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A 26 x 1.75" will be better where the paved roads end at town edges..
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Old 06-10-13, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
A 26 x 1.75" will be better where the paved roads end at town edges..
Yes 26 x 1.75 is a good tire for riding on the edge, but if you go over the edge you will want a balloon tire.
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Old 06-10-13, 06:18 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
A 26 x 1.75" will be better where the paved roads end at town edges..


At least fietsbob gets it.
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Old 06-10-13, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
It depends where you are interested in touring. For RTW tours that will take through Latin America, Asia and Africa, 26" has been the standard size wheel in those regions for decades. Why? Affordable mountain bikes and hybrids are used as utilitarian bikes for work, recreation and overall transport on good roads, bad roads, off-road, etc. These bikes have been spec'd with 26" wheels since the 80s, so this size wheel is ubiquitous now. So, can you find 700c replacement parts? Yes, it will just take you a lot more work as they are only seen on high-end road bikes and 29er mountain bikes. So, wheel size ultimately can make the difference between riding to the next little town to find the parts you need to continue your tour OR having to hop on a bus to the next major city to find a boutique shop that carries 700c parts (e.g., rim, spoke, tire, tube.)
My experience is that while a 26" size might be possible in some small towns, the quality isn't necessarily there. Hence, I still find myself going to the larger city for a bike shop (at least my experience riding in Russia, India and riding through Africa). As an example, on recent TDA ride across Africa, we found quite a few thorns. Hence, low quality tires are likely to lead to many many more punctures [e.g. folks w/o puncture proof tires got up to 11 flats on some of our off-road days]

I've ridden with 26" and ridden with 700C. While the 26" might be marginally more available, my philosophy has instead been to (1) start with good wheels/hubs/tires (2) to carry sufficient spares in tires and tubes to get me by and (3) be in largest cities if need a replacement.

There is a good page at Sheldon Brown about tire sizing: http://sheldonbrown.com/tire-sizing.html My guess is the 26" largely predates the relatively modern mountain bike introduction and instead goes back to the British bicycle factories in decades preceding.
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Old 06-10-13, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
There is a good page at Sheldon Brown about tire sizing: http://sheldonbrown.com/tire-sizing.html My guess is the 26" largely predates the relatively modern mountain bike introduction and instead goes back to the British bicycle factories in decades preceding.
There are eight different, non-interchangeable 'twenty-six inch' tire sizes, which come to us from the cycling histories of the USA, Great Britain, France and Italy. The smallest 26" rim diameter, the ISO559mm, is the ubiquitous mountain bike size and came from the Schwinn balloon tire bikes of the 1930s. In the wheelchair world, it's often called 25 inch.

Last edited by tcs; 06-11-13 at 06:33 AM.
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Old 06-10-13, 09:30 PM
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This might be getting a bit more confusing for jeneralist than it need be. If jeneralist is touring Europe (as yet we don't know which parts) the likelihood is that 26" and/or 700C as well as BMX sizes can be found without much difficulty. It is, after all, a continent that headquarters two of the biggest bicycle tyre suppliers in the world.

As to the intent of her OP, maybe it is to draw attention to the fact that the US hasn't aligned itself to the metric system in general. But the rest of the world does have an idea of what 26" rims and tyres do mean, and there is a consistent international measurement that can be used to differentiate them whether the country is metrified or not.

And even if there is lingering doubt, a reputable European bike shop operator will probably take one look and know what size, anyway.
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Old 06-11-13, 04:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Where did you hear that 700c tires weren't commonly available?

They are available in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand ...

Now, if I'm not mistaken 700c tires are considered road tires and 26" tires are considered mtn bike tires .... perhaps that's why the 26" tires seem more common, because of the upsurge in popularity of mtn bikes???

I'm pretty sure you can buy 26" mtn bike tires here in very metric Australia, but I'm not positive because all but one of my bicycles run 700c tires, and I know you can get them in mostly metric Canada.
I've bought 26" slicks from Australia!

They were the only place left that had the T-Serv in red.
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Old 06-11-13, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
As to the intent of her OP, maybe it is to draw attention to the fact that the US hasn't aligned itself to the metric system in general. But the rest of the world does have an idea of what 26" rims and tyres do mean, and there is a consistent international measurement that can be used to differentiate them whether the country is metrified or not.
26" rims and tires narrows it down to ISO599mm, ISO 597mm, ISO590mm, ISO587mm, ISO584mm, ISO571mm or ISO559mm rim bead seat diameters, but you can't go wrong if you use the consistent international measurement (which is what the reputable bike shop operator will look for) for the tire you want.
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Old 06-12-13, 07:45 AM
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Threads like this make me miss Sheldon Brown! (Unfortunately, I moved to Massachusetts about a couple of years too late to meet him.) He lays it all out here: http://sheldonbrown.com/26.html
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Old 06-12-13, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
But it is 2013, right? And this is the type of question which can easily be answered by looking up any number of bicycle/sports shops around the world ... Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Ribble (all in the UK), Torpedo7 (New Zealand), Decathlon (various places in Europe), MEC (Canada), Anaconda (Australia) ... just to name a very few.

I'm curious where the OP got the idea that 700c tires might not be available.
Machaka, maybe articles like this?

http://bicycletouringpro.com/blog/70...which-is-best/

I've seen other articles along these lines. I've also followed blogs on CGOAB for cyclists touring South America that have stated in very remote areas that 26" are the only thing they can find. I've not toured myself, just a dream for now until I retire. When I get a touring bike it will likely have 700c tires, because I plan to do the USA "first".

I also became a warmshowers host late last year and all the cyclists that I have hosted were headed to either Central or South America via Mexico and all of them had 700c but one did had 26 inch. I live five miles from the USA/Mexico border.

This subject has been debated a bit in many forums.
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