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?
Bill Brannon says
I’m a big fan of Continental 4 Season tires. Not the fastest tire but roll very well and seem to be extremely durable and wear resistant. I run 25s on my Look road bike and 28s on the winter beater Surly Cross Check and on the road wheels of the gravel bike. 85 lbs in the 25s and 70 lbs in the 28s make for a comfy ride for me at 150 lbs.
Russ Marx says
Conti GP4000 II work well on the rough roads in NE Ohio. Fast & tough enough If you can lift the front wheel a little on the pot holes.
My riding is mostly long-distance touring, so my primary objective is durability/flat resistance. I use Performance Forte kevlar-belted tires to achieve those objectives. Much cheaper than Continental Gatorskins or other brand-name belted tires, and they hold up just as well.
Dan Indermuehle says
I used to ride Performance Forte Kevlar tires… fast, durable, light. Where can you get these tires now that Performance Bike Shop is out of business?
Jim Remillard says
I run various Continental Tires on all of my bikes 4000’s on 2 and 5000’s on Trek Domane Plus.
Jim Langley says
One more thing: if you plan to fix your own flat tires (replacing punctured tubes) be sure to get tires that you can remove and install.
Many tires today are poorly designed and too difficult to put on and take off. Read the reviews and ask about this to be sure your new tires aren’t undersized. If they are, return them for tires that go on/off normally.
Fred R says
More than likely it’s not the tire that is poorly designed that makes it difficult to put on, what probably happened is you accidentally bought tubeless tires for a tube set up. I bought tubeless tires for my touring bike that uses tubes, quite a pain to put on, but I got them on.
Back to tire brands. The only tires I will buy are Schwalbe Marathon Amotion (I would also consider Supremes as well) for my touring bike; outside of that anything goes that I can get for at least 30% off on an end of the year closeout sale. Most mid to high-level road tires made today from almost any manufacture are going to be good tires. Currently I’m using Specialized Roubaix Pro tires on all my road bikes because I got them for $60 a pair.
On my touring bike I use a 700×38; on my road bikes I do something weird, I use 700×28’s on the rear and 25’s on the front, I do that because I get a tad more comfort on my butt, but since in an emergency stop or handling situation the rear always traction the quickest, with a wider tire on the back it has a bit more traction on the rear, the other thing is that both tires will wear out about the same time!
Entirely on road I was getting 3-4 flats her 10,000km. Since switching to schwalbe marathon plus (700×32) I have had one flat in 50,000km. Recently at 25,000km I replaced a rear tire for lack of tread.
Dave H says
I ridw road, fast group rides and gravel. Have been using Vittoria tires exclusively for several years on both road and gravel. Great tires, good rolling and handling.
Richard Peterson says
I have ridden Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires on my touring bike for years and never had a flat — one of my major concerns. I switched to Schwalbe Duranos on my other road bikes when I lived in Iowa and liked them a lot, but the roads are clean and in fairly good repair. I moved to Colorado a few years ago and was plagued with goat head thorns and broken bottles so switched to Maxxis Re-Fuse and rode flat-free. I now live in Northern California and have fitted Maxxis Re-Fuse 28s on all of my road bikes. Lots of junk on the fairly crappy roads, lots of pot-holes in the almond orchard roads.
I’m 76 years old and not too concerned with speed; durability and flat-avoidance are most important to me. The Maxxis tires fit the bill perfectly for me. Probably not for the speed/performance minded rider.