QUESTION: What are good tires for road bikes? Is there a brand that’s better than the rest or something I should avoid? My back tire has a slash in it, so I definitely need to replace it. – Emmet H
ANSWER: If you’re looking to start a long argument at any group ride, asking which brand of road bike tires is best might be a good way to do it! There’s no definitive answer here, and all the major brands make good, high quality tires. Some of the more popular brands include Continental, Schwalbe, Specialized, Vittoria, Bontrager, Michelin, Panaracer and Rene Herse. Car tire brands Goodyear and Pirelli have even started making high end bike tires.
What’s a good road bike tire for you specifically is not so much about brand, but about the type of tire and the width.
Even within the category of road bike tire, there are multiple options for types of tires. Some riders care most about having a highly durable tire that almost never has a puncture. Some look for lightest tire they can find. Some look at the rolling resistance ratings so they can buy the fastest rolling tire. And some care about how well the tires grip during turns. Or maybe they are balancing out several of those characteristics.
There’s no single tire that can do all things, so you start with the characteristics of a road bike tire that are most important to you and then start looking at the options in that category.
Next, you’ll want to make sure that the width of the tire is right for you and your bike. Over the past decade or so, cyclists have moved to riding wider tires than in the past as new research has shown that somewhat wider tires are just as fast and also provide better comfort from the increased air volume, and better traction from the increased contact patch.
But older road bike frames don’t always have room for wider tires, especially in the back. Many racing bikes from not too many years ago max out at a super skinny 23mm tire, or a slightly bigger 25mm. But plenty of road riders are riding 28mm tires now, having discovered they are often just as fast as the narrower models and much more comfortable to ride. If you try to fit 28mm tires on an old carbon race bike from several years ago, there’s a chance they’ll rub against the frame.
Readers, which type and size of road tire do you like best? And why?