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Picking The Right Tire For Your Wheels

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published Jul 11, 2013
  • Updated Jul 16, 2013 at 6:31 PM UTC
Photo: John David Becker

The same tire attributes that improve durability and puncture protection typically increase weight and worsen rolling resistance. Since every tire sacrifices one attribute in favor of another, finding the right one for each specific use and wheel is key.

Training Tires

Key features: Comfort, durability and puncture protection
Sacrifice:
Rolling resistance, aerodynamics

Fat tires aren’t just for mountain bikes. 23c tires—ones that are 23mm across—used to be the standard size for road bikes, but broader ones are simply better for training. 25c tires such as the Kenda Kriterium Endurance 25 absorb more road shock, corner more smoothly, flat less frequently and even roll a little faster than narrower versions. The Specialized Roubaix Pro 25-28c is even wider and has become this tester’s favorite training tire because of its incredible grip and ultra- smooth ride feel.

Racing Tires

Key features: Aerodynamics, rolling resistance, puncture protection
Sacrifice: Durability

The difference in rolling resistance between tires—the energy required to spin a tire down the road—can be huge. Tom Anhalt, a mechanical engineer by trade and a cycling fanatic, has measured the relative rolling resistance of a wide range of tires and found some valuable trends. The Vittoria EVO Open Corsa Triathlon 22c tested fastest and, according to his measurements and estimation, these tires can save 4–5 watts over many other top-level race tires. (His full test results are at
Bikeblather.blogspot.com.)

Tires also influence aerodynamic resistance. Measure the width of your front wheel’s brake track. If it’s 20mm across or narrower, a thin tire like the Maxxis Xenith Equipe Legere 20c or Michelin Pro4 Service Course 20c can be substantially more aerodynamic than 23c or 25c options. But if you’re racing a new-era race wheel that has a broader rim, wider tires are often equally aero and better in all other ways. A tire that creates minimal rolling and aero resistance while offering enough puncture protection to keep your mind at ease is the best combination for a race tire.

RELATED – Tri’d And Tested: Stan’s Tubeless System

Aero Advantage

Many of the engineers who designed these wheels have tested a wide range of tires on their own creations, and some have found a clear aero winner. These tires are recommended for some leading clincher aero wheels.

Wheel Tire
Enve SES Continental GP4000S
Zipp Firecrest Continental GP4000S
Mavic CXR80 Mavic
Yksion CXR
Bontrager Aeolus D3 Bontrager R4 Aero
HED Jet Continental
Attack-Force combination
FLO 60 Continental GP4000S

What about tubular?

Tubular tires have the tube sewn into the casing. This entire structure is glued to the rim. While they used to be the common choice for race wheels, the aerodynamic and rolling performance of clincher tires and wheels has caught up to tubulars. For their simplicity and lower cost of upkeep, clinchers have become the tire style of choice for both racing and training.

RELATED: Should You Go Tubeless?

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FILED UNDER: Bike / Gear & Tech TAGS:

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh is the Senior Tech Editor of Triathlete magazine. To submit a question, write Aaron at Ahersh@competitorgroup.com.

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