Clincher, tubeless, or tubular tires?
Generally, you pick different tires based on where and how you’ll be riding.
- Clinchers. These are the most common types you’ll see. They have a U-shaped body that clinches to the rim with the help of an inner tube inside to keep air in. If you get a flat, they’re easy to fix because you just replace or patch the tube. They’re great for everyday riding, training, and racing. If you’re just starting out, clinchers are a solid choice.
- Tubeless. These are like clinchers but without the tube. They seal tight against the rim and need a liquid sealant inside to help close up punctures when they happen. They can be ridden at lower pressure, which means more grip and comfort. They’re great for rough roads and even some light gravel riding. If you hate flats and don’t mind some setup work, tubeless could be for you.
- Tubulars are a bit different. They’re round, like doughnuts, and they glue onto special rims. These are often lighter and can give you a smoother ride. Racers love them. But if you get a flat, they’re tougher to fix, and gluing on a new one takes time and practice. So, these are best if you’re into serious road racing or have backup wheels.
So, if you’re a new cyclist, go for clinchers if you want easy maintenance and all-around use. Choose tubular for fast, serious riding. And try tubeless if you’re looking to ride on different surfaces and want fewer flat tires to ruin your day.
What is the ideal tire width for road cycling?
The common widths for road bike tires are 23mm, 25mm, and 28mm.
- Rim brake bikes. You’ll often stick with 23mm or 25mm tires because there’s limited space between the brake pads, wheels, and frame clearance. These narrower tires are traditional and are thought to be faster because they are lightweight and have less contact with the road, which can reduce friction.
- Disc brake bikes. You have more room to play with because the brakes don’t sit close to the tire. You can comfortably fit 28mm or 30mm tires, or even wider. Trek Domane can fit a 38mm tire. Wider tires can be a bit slower to get moving, but once you’re rolling, they offer a comfy ride because they absorb the bumps and cracks on the road better. This means less shaking and rattling, making your ride more comfortable, especially if you’re going for a long distance.
Newer road bikes often move to wider widths, like 28mm, because they’ve found a sweet spot between speed and comfort. Tire technology has also improved, so wider tires aren’t as slow as they used to be. They give you an excellent grip on the road, making you feel more secure, especially on twisty turns or wet surfaces.
So, if you’re all about speed and have a bike with rim brakes, the 23mm or 25mm widths are ideal. But if you’re riding with disc brakes and want more comfort without sacrificing too much zip, 25mm or 28mm tires can be your best option.
The price of road bike tires can be a bit deceiving. More expensive doesn’t always mean better, but it can mean you get some extra tasty bits that make your ride smoother or your tires last longer.
Expensive tires use high-end materials that can grip the road better with lower rolling resistance, making your bike handle like it’s on rails. And they can be lighter, too, making riding up hills easier.
But, just because a tire is expensive doesn’t mean it’ll last longer. They are fast and sleek, but might not have good durability. Depending on the riding surface and rider weight, they generally wear out after 1,000 to 1,500 miles.
On the flip side, less expensive tires might not have the top-notch rubber or the lightweight feel, but they can often stand up to more abuse on the road, lasting longer before you need to consider getting new ones.
So, if you’re new to cycling and not racing, you might not need the most expensive tires. Look for durable ones with good reviews for longevity and comfort. But if you’re looking to up your cycling game and speed is what you need, then shelling out a few extra bucks for those high-performance tires might just be worth it.
What should I look for in a good pair of tires?
It depends on your main riding conditions and style.
- Are you often on wet or dry roads?
- Do you deal with sharp debris or mostly smooth tarmac?
- Are you looking for speed for racing, comfort for long rides, or a bit of both?
Your answers will guide you to a tire that offers the best combination of these three aspects.
- Durability. Tires with high durability are built to last. They’re made with tougher rubber compounds and may have reinforced sidewalls and additional layers, like Kevlar, to protect against cuts and punctures. They can better withstand the elements and the wear from the road. If you often ride on rough surfaces or debris-strewn paths, you’ll want tires that prioritize durability.
- Rolling resistance is the energy lost when the tire deforms and then returns to shape as it rolls. Low rolling resistance means less energy is lost, so the tire rolls more efficiently, and you can maintain speed with less effort. This is especially noticeable on smooth, paved surfaces. Tires with a supple casing, a flexible tread, and a well-designed profile can reduce rolling resistance.
- Cost can vary widely. More expensive tires often use advanced materials and designs to reduce weight, improve grip, or reduce rolling resistance. However, a higher price doesn’t always guarantee a better tire. It’s important to consider how a tire’s features match your typical riding conditions and usage. Sometimes, mid-range priced tires offer the best combination of durability, performance, and cost.
How much does a set of good bike tires cost?
Bike tires can be broadly categorized into three price ranges.
- Budget range (clinchers only). In this range, you’re looking at clincher tires that can run you anywhere from $20 to $40 each. These tires are solid choices for everyday riding. They get the job done without emptying your wallet.
- Mid-range (clinchers and tubeless). Clincher tires can cost between $40 to $80 each. For tubeless, you’ll be looking at $60 to $100 each. These tires often offer better grip, and durability, and are lighter, which means a nicer ride.
- Premium range (clinchers, tubeless, and tubular). Clinchers and tubeless tires can cost anywhere from $80 to $100 per tire. Tubular tires, typically used by professionals or serious racers, cost between $80 to $150 each, but they can climb much higher in price, sometimes over $200+. Due to their superior materials, these tires are top-of-the-line with the best performance, the lightest weight, and the lowest rolling resistance.
What are the popular road bike tires available?
Here are some of the current favorites among MAMILs.
- Schwalbe Durano. Known as the mile eater, this tire is designed for durability and puncture protection and is aimed at cyclists with high mileage.
- Vittoria Rubino G2. A great all-rounder, it’s recommended for everyday riding and training, providing good performance at a value price.
- Michelin Pro4 Endurance. Excellent puncture resistance and durability, appealing for its longevity.
- Continental GP5000 S TR. Excellent balance between low rolling resistance, weight, puncture protection, and grip, making it a top choice despite its higher price.
- Vittoria Corsa Pro TLR. Known as the fastest in the category, it’s a go-to for those looking to shave off seconds and prioritize speed.