Question: I’ve heard that when riding in wet conditions, treadless tires are best. This is completely opposite of car tires. Why? — Ed J.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: The theory is that car tires need grooves because they’re wide, causing them to hydroplane on thin sheets of water and lose traction. The grooves channel the water to reduce the risk.
Bike tires, on the other hand, are so narrow that they won’t readily hydroplane. Therefore, they don’t need grooves. At least that’s the theory.
In practice, I find that whether tires areslick or patterned makes little difference in their wet-weather cornering. More important is lowering tire pressure about 10 psi to increase the size of the contact patch.
Also, tread material is important. Generally, gummier rubber sticks well in the wet while harder tread that wears better in normal conditions may slip sooner on wet pavement.
The key is riding your tires in wet conditions to learn how they grip. Of course, good wet-road cornering technique is vital too. Don’t make any abrupt motions, heel the bike over gently and take the widest, roundest line you can.