Posted in Cycle

Road bicycle tyres explained

Tyres are one of the most important components of your bike; they affect your comfort, performance and safety. A great road bike will only perform at its best if the wheels are fitted with some good pneumatics.

Road bike tyres are designed specifically for riding on the road; for the smooth asphalt, rather than the rutted trails that mountain bike tyres are optimised for.

Because road tyres don't need to deal with uneven and broken surfaces, they are optimised for lower rolling resistance and performance, with a narrow profile and smooth tread patterns.

Road tyres still vary within their category though. There's different widths, tread patterns, materials and designs. Getting the right road bicycle tyre for your type of riding, will help to make it more comfortable, safer and potentially faster!

Choosing your road tyre width

Road bicycle tyres generally come in three widths: 23c, 25c and 28c - this number refers to the width of the tyre at their widest point, in millimetres i.e. 23mm, 25mm and 28mm.

In the past, road bikes used tyres as narrow as 18c, but over time racers have realised that a larger volume/width tyre offers better comfort, grip and even a lower rolling resistance. Whilst just a few years ago most professional cyclists were using 23mm, 25mm tyres are now the standard.

Should you use 23mm or 25mm road bicycle tyres? Or even 28mm? - There are two factor to consider here: the first is what will fit on your bike and its wheels, the second is what is best for speed and comfort.

1. You need to consider your wheel rim width, and your frame size. To get the best feel and fit, the tyre must be wider than the width of the rim - measure your rim width and ensure you get a tyre size that is bigger.

You also need to consider what will fit in your frame, as some bicycle frames have more clearance for larger tyres than others - the best way to do this is by trying larger sizes and seeing if there is still sufficient room for the wheel to rotate freely.

2. What is better for comfort and performance? - If your frame will allow, we recommend 25mm tyres for most road bikes; these are widely recognised to be the best compromise between comfort, weight and performance. However, if you ride on particularly rough roads, or you are a heavier rider, then 28mm tyres could be a better choice.

A note on Tyre Diameters: Almost all road bicycles have wheels that are 622mm diameter - referred to as 700c tyres on the tyre wall. However, on some very small bicycles, or children's bicycles, you may find 650c tyres (571mm). Check your existing road bike tyres, before selecting your tyre size.

Types of road racing tyres

Road bicycle tyres can be categorised into two main types: clincher tyres and tubular tyres; this relates the way the tyres fit to the rims of the wheels. Within clincher tyres, you also have tubeless road bicycle tyres.

Clincher road bicycle tyres

Clincher tyres are found on the majority of road bikes. These tyres have a horse-shoe shaped profile, which "clinchers" to the rim when the tyre is inflated.

The bead of the tyre is held onto the hooked profile of the wheel rim, by the pressure of the air within the tyre. The tyre bead is either made of wire - rigid clincher tyres; or it can be made of Kevlar strands - folding clincher tyres. Folding tyres are lighter, easier to transport and better performing; but they cost more to produce, so they tend to be more expensive.

Our best selling road folding clincher tyre is the Continental Grand Prix 4000S II Folding Road Tyre

Our best selling road rigid clincher tyre is the Continental GatorSkin Road Wire Bead Tyre

Tubeless clincher road bicycle tyres

In recent years, we've seen the growth of tubeless clincher tyres. These are designed to fit to the rim very tightly and be completely air-tight; the tyre can then be inflated (with a tubeless valve and rim tape), without the need for an inner tube.

Tubeless tyres save weight, and can be run at a lower pressure - for increased grip, without a heightened risk of punctures.

To find out more about the benefits of tubeless tyres for road cycling, read our blog: "The benefits of tubeless road tyres"

Tubular road bicycle tyres

While the vast majority of cyclists use clincher type tyres for their bikes, a lot of the high-end performance racing end of the market prefer to use tubular tyres. These tyres are mounted on special tubular specific rims, and are glued/taped on to the rims. The inner tube is sewn within the casing of the tyre, to form a sealed unit.

We stock a wide range of Tubular Road Tyres at Wiggle

Road tyre tread profiles

How do you choose the right tread profile for your road cycling? The answer will vary significantly depending on the kind of roads that you are riding on, as well as the kind of conditions you ride in.

If you ride primarily on smooth asphalt roads, then opt for our range of Tarmac Road Race Tyres

If you like to ride on gravel roads, then opt for our range of Mixed Terrain Road Race Tyres or Hard-pack Road Race Tyres

How to choose the right tyre pressure for road tyres

Most road tyres are marked with a pressure range on the side of the tyre: the minimum tyre pressure will be that required to safely support a riders' weight; the maximum is the most that the tyre bead will hold - do not exceed the maximum.

Your tyre pressure choice will depend on your weight and riding conditions; lighter riders will require less tyre pressure, and in wet conditions it is recommended to reduce your pressure by 10 percent to provide added grip.

Check out our great range of floor pumps at Wiggle, which have accurate gauges to adjust your tyre pressure.