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How to choose the best width road tyres for your riding

You've never had a bigger choice of high-performance road bike tyres, but how do you decide how wide to go? Here are some simple tips.

How wide are your tyres? It’s likely you’re riding whatever width tyres your bike was sold with, and the type of bike you’re riding largely defines tyre width. Bicycle tyres come in a huge array of widths, from skinny 19mm tyres designed for the velodrome to four-inch mountain bike tyres for battling through deep snow.

There’s a trend in the road bike market at the moment for wider tyres. Even racing bikes are shifting away from the previous standard 23mm width to fatter rubber, typically 25mm or 26mm wide. Non-racing cyclists are increasingly adopting even wider tyres in the pursuit of comfort on lousy road surfaces and the versatility to easily handle dirt roads and tracks. If you’re wondering what the benefits of wider tyres are, have a read of this feature to discover the pros and cons of wider tyres.

The width of the tyres on your bike depends on a large number of factors, like the riding you do and whether you have mudguards, but the biggest is simply what you can physically fit in the frame and fork. This usually reflects the purpose of the bicycle, with racing bikes generally designed around narrower tyres, and touring and gravel bikes designed to accept wider tyres. However, with wider tyres getting increasingly popular, even race bikes are compatible with much fatter tyres than 10 years ago.

>>Read more: Your guide to road cycling tyres + 14 of the best option

Let's take a look at the tyre widths that work well for different bike types and uses.

Race bikes: 23-25mm, increasingly up to 28mm

Cannondale 2016 41

Race bikes have the narrowest tyres. They are narrow to reduce weight and improve aerodynamics. The common standard for many years was 23mm (it used to be even narrower) but that has changed as the pro peloton adopted wider tyres, with 25mm slowly becoming the default choice. Some of the latest race bikes have been designed to accommodate even wider tyres, up to 28mm in some cases.

Endurance bikes: 25-32mm

Sportive and endurance bikes, built for comfort but loosely based on race bikes, typically accept wider tyres, with 28mm a common standard. Outright speed and low weight are less of a priority on an endurance bike, and a considerable improvement in comfort can be achieved with even only marginally bigger tyres. Not all bikes are built the same, though, and some accept wider tyres and some manage to accommodate wide tyres with full-length mudguards fitted. As endurance bikes mature so the market is pushing for even wider tyre compatibility.

Gravel/adventure bikes: 30-50mm

Their ability to take very fat tyres is partly why these bikes have gotten popular. Some accommodate up to 45 or 50mm tyres, though there is nothing to stop you fitting narrower tyres if it's mainly for road use. These bikes are designed for tackling a wide range of road surfaces and off-road tracks and a bigger tyre helps deal with bumpy terrain, provides grip and keeps punctures at bay. As it's a relatively new category and there are no standards when it comes to the perfect tyre width, no two gravel/adventure bikes are the same. Tyre width and choice comes down to the intended use and the ratio of rough to smooth stuff.

Parlee Chebacco - rim and tyre.jpg

Some gravel/adventure bikes are based on cyclocross bikes, which are designed around 33mm tyres, the maximum allowed for racing by cycling's governing body the UCI. Other manufacturers have taken more inspiration from mountain bikes, with bikes that can accommodate 2.1in tyres intended for 29er mountain bikes. Almost all gravel/adventure bikes are designed with disc brakes; the removal of the caliper rim brake really increases the width of the tyre that can be fitted.

Touring bikes: 25-50mm

While road racing cyclists have only just cottoned onto the benefits of wider tyres, touring cyclists have been advocates of wider tyres for years, where comfort trumps outright speed and acceleration.

Touring bikes come in many shapes and sizes depending on the intended usage, from light and fast tourers based loosely on regular road bikes to round-the-world heavy-duty models. Tyre size typically varies from 25mm to 42mm, and some heavier duty touring bikes use 26-inch mountain bike wheels with even bigger volume tyres. Many touring bikes are very traditional in design and use rim brakes, which limits the maximum tyre width, though some touring bikes use mountain bike style V-brakes to provide more tyre clearance. Disc brakes are becoming common on touring bikes, like this Ridgeback Panorama below.

Ridgeback Panorama 2017.jpg

With touring bikes, the tyre you choose depends on the sort of riding you want to do. Add in lots of off-road and gravel and you probably want a tyre with some tread to provide grip on the loose surface and comfort over the rough terrain. If it’s for blasting around the lanes on a Sunday morning or with a light luggage, a narrower and lighter tyre will be a better fit.

Commuting bikes: 25-44mm

Commuting, city and hybrid bikes have tyre size influenced by the type of bike they’re loosely modelled on. Road bike-style commuting bikes might accept a tyre of around 28mm width, often with space for mudguards, but some commuting bikes, and those based on mountain bikes, will take up to a 44mm tyre.

If the tyre fits

To help you choose the right tyre for your bike, tyres are made to a common standard, so you can easily find a tyre to fit your wheels. ISO 5775 is an international standard for labelling the size of bicycle tyres and rims, originally developed by the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO).

Related: Tyre reviews

Vision Team 35 Wheelset - rim bed.jpg

The ETRTO tyre label comprises two numbers separated by a dash. This number is usually on the sidewall of the tyre, something like 28-622. The first number is the inflated width of the tyre, the second figure is the diameter of the bead seat of the matching rim, in millimetres.

If your tyre and rim have the same bead seat diameter, they'll fit together. If not, they won't. People who deal with older and more obscure bike types have to worry about this stuff, as there are some combinations that look like they will fit, but don't. However there are only a handful of tyre sizes in common use for adult bikes in the UK.

Canyon Aeroad eTap - tyre.jpg

Far and away the most common size for road bike wheels is usually referred to as 700C and has a bead seat diameter of 622mm. The '700C' bit comes from a traditional French wheel standard based on the outer diameter of the inflated tyre, 700mm. Originally, 700C tyres were quite fat, to get the tyre to 700mm across, so ETRTO 622 and 700C describe the same wheel size but 622mm is the actual measurement of the rim while 700C describes the outer diameter of the tyre. There's a big range of tyre widths now available for 622mm rims: a 33mm cyclocross tyre will have a bigger diameter than a skinny 19mm time trial tyre, for example.

Tyre widths available for the 700C/622mm size standard vary from 18 to 47mm, with popular widths such as 23, 25 and 28mm in the mix. The big-wheeled mountain bikes known as 29ers also use this size, so there are off-road tyres up to a whopping 75mm wide.

As mentioned above, expedition touring bikes also occasionally use the 26-inch tyre size popularized by mountain bikes in the 1980s, which has a bead seat diameter of 559mm. Some bikes intended for junior and smaller riders use a different 26-inch size, 650C, with a 571mm bead seat diameter, and you very occasionally encounter yet another alleged 26-inch size, 650A with a 590mm bead seat diameter. Another 26-inch variant, 650B, is popular for mountain bikes and has a bead seat diameter of 584mm; Cannondale uses this size for its Slate gravel bike and British framebuilder and road.cc blogger Richard Hallett is a fan too.

Wider rims for wider tyres

While you could fit any width tyre to any width rim, it’s best to find a suitable width rim to match the tyre width. The CTC recommends the ideal relationship between a rim and tyre as being about 1.8 times. Rims measuring 15 to 17mm across are the most common used for road bikes and accommodate tyres ranging in width from 23 to 50mm.

  Tyre Section width
Rim width
(mm)
18 20 23 25 28 32 35 37 40 44 47 50 54 57 60 62
13 x x x x                        
15     x x x x                    
17       x x x x x x x x x        
19         x x x x x x x x x x x x
21             x x x x x x x x x x
23                 x x x x x x x x
25                   x x x x x x x
27                     x x x x x x
29                         x x x x

Schwalbe has produced this handy table which lists recommended tyre and rim width combinations. You can see that you can comfortably fit a 28mm tyre to a 15mm wide rim, but it’s not recommended to fit the same tyre to a 13mm width rim. You can find out the rim width if it’s not printed on the rim, but using a tape measure to measure the distance between the inner rim walls.

Canyon Endurace CF 8.0 - tyre

While you might be able to fit wider tyres to your rims, you might not necessarily have clearance in the frame and fork to accommodate the wider tyres. A bike manufacturer usually specifies a maximum width tyre for each model in its range, with a safe range of clearance between the tyre and frame, and you can normally find this information on its website.

The width of the rim can impact the width of the tyre. A 25mm tyre fitted to a wide rim can actually measure 27mm across, and it's a trick that some manufacturer have recently employed with their latest endurance bikes.

What width tyres should I choose?

That depends on the width of your current tyres and if your frame and rim will accept wider tyres. Fitting wider tyres is a common upgrade and even going from 23mm to 25mm, or 28mm to 32mm, can provide a noticeable change in the ride quality of the bike. Now hopefully you'll have the information to choose the right width tyres for your wheels and bike.

David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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35 comments

Avatar
S.E. | 1 week ago
0 likes

I'm riding with 26 mm in front, 28 mm rear...they are really 28 mm and 30 mm when mounted on 22c and 19c internal width rims. Only minor issue is that the 26 mm is also smaller, ie the total diameter of the wheel and tyre is smaller.

80% roads 20% trails, I have a 2nd front wheel with a 33 mm CX tyre for muddy trails, used with the same 28 mm rear tyre.

Of course I'm not into competition...it works well, grip in front is more important on sleepy terrain, it's also cheaper and easier to switch only the front wheel!

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ChasP | 2 years ago
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Very old article, the tyre/rim chart is out of date and misleading.

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slappop | 4 years ago
2 likes

...from skinny 19mm tyres designed for the velodrome to four-inch mountain bike tyres for battling through deep snow.

What if I need to battle through deep snow in the velodrome?

Someone left the window open again...

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Mike_M | 4 years ago
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I currently use:

- Cross bike with 17.5 internal rim width and 32 mm WTB exposures. Runs fine.

- Another wheelset for the Cross bike , 27'5" wheels with 19 mm internal width, 42 mm tires. Runs fine, feels a little sketchy if I corner hard and the tires are at 2 bar or so.

- Road bike with 18'5 internal width rims, 25 mm conti GP 5000s: perfect, feels like rolling on a cloud. From time to time I stop and pinch them to make sure they haven't gone soft, they are so comfortable it makes me think they are softer than the 8 bar I pump them to.

I don't feel 25 mm tires have any issues in any conditions. I am fine with the 32 mm, I am a bit more wary of the 42 mm.

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CXR94Di2 | 5 years ago
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My two favourite tyres are the 38mm G Ones and 25/28 Pro Ones. I have 28mm on standard rim width and 25mm on wider rim which makes them also 28mm

But if I had to choose the G Ones are best all around

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dooderooni | 5 years ago
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I'm currently running Hutchinson Fusion 5's in 25mm width on 17mm ID rims and they measure a smidge over 26mm. There's not a great deal of clearance at the front end and despite much research that says my new carbon aero hoops (19mm ID) with 25mm Vittoria Corsas shouldn't be much different, I am still wary about clearance issues when they arrive next week simply because of the discrepancies in data surrounding rim/tyre combos.

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BehindTheBikesheds | 5 years ago
1 like

So even kess reason to go tubeless if the tyre sizes that can be used on certain rims is vastly narrower than standard clinchers! Mavic already have an issue with their Open Pro tubeless, still has cracking at the spoke holes, can only run 70psi max and of course the other big issue is that the actual amount of metal at the braking surface is 1.0mm, significantly less than their previous Open Pro and other road rims!

What a load of pony

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fukawitribe replied to BehindTheBikesheds | 5 years ago
1 like

BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

So even kess reason to go tubeless if the tyre sizes that can be used on certain rims is vastly narrower than standard clinchers! Mavic already have an issue with their Open Pro tubeless, still has cracking at the spoke holes, can only run 70psi max and of course the other big issue is that the actual amount of metal at the braking surface is 1.0mm, significantly less than their previous Open Pro and other road rims!

What a load of pony

What are you drivelling on about ?

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Flintshire Boy replied to fukawitribe | 2 years ago
0 likes

Thanks for your contribution. Good insights. Ta.

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Hirsute replied to Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago
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What was the point of responding to an interaction between posters of 2 years ago ?

Can you outline the history of those 2 posters or how they had interacted that month?

Are either of them still posting or reading the site ?

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wycombewheeler replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
0 likes

hirsute wrote:

What was the point of responding to an interaction between posters of 2 years ago ?

Can you outline the history of those 2 posters or how they had interacted that month?

Are either of them still posting or reading the site ?

Probably didn't realise, i don't always check the dates of comments. why would I expect to see two year old comments on an item dated 25th October.

I notice the tyre/rim chart still doesn't match the current etro standard, despite someone pointing out it was obsolete a year ago. so much for "updated 25th october"

Hint to roadcc

https://www.vittoria.com/ww/en/stories/tech/etrto-bike-tires

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Hirsute replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
0 likes

"why would I expect to see two year old comments on an item dated 25th October."

 

Err...because that's how it works ! But you know that as a long time contributor !

Stuff not being updated is a regular thing that people have complained about for ages.

They did start doing a new version where for an updated article, selected comments were moved into the body of the article, but that was very short lived.

 

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Simon E | 5 years ago
1 like

Jarno Bierman recently tested the new Continental GP 5000 in widths from 23 to 32mm with some fascinating results.

https://www.bicyclerollingresistance.com/specials/grand-prix-5000-compar...

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dickie | 5 years ago
0 likes

I'm building a new summer bike based around a Trek Domane SLR Disc frameset. Planning on fitting Hope RD40 wheels (27mm OD, 19mm ID).

Trying to decide between Schwalbe Pro One 30mm or Hutchinson Sectors 32mm, both tubeless.

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martybsays replied to dickie | 5 years ago
1 like

dickie wrote:

I'm building a new summer bike based around a Trek Domane SLR Disc frameset. Planning on fitting Hope RD40 wheels (27mm OD, 19mm ID).

Trying to decide between Schwalbe Pro One 30mm or Hutchinson Sectors 32mm, both tubeless.

 

Try Schwalbe G-One Speed 30mm. They're brilliant. I have them on my Cannondale cross bike for mixed use, also on a new Canyon Endurace CF SL which never leaves the road. Both on 28OD and 21 ID rims.

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waldner71 | 5 years ago
0 likes

It’s useful & re-assuring to see that the table/s quoted earlier and that come up online when doing a search on tyre-rim width compatibility are out of date.

Even Sheldon Brown website table indicates 19mm internal rim width should be used with 28mm+ tyres. 

Seems like a lot of outdated websites out there..

interesting thread on all this below including more outdated info but the comments are interesting 

http://bikerumor.com/2016/08/12/tech-story-match-bicycle-tire-width-rim-width-best-results/

One poster wrote, May 2018:

“Last year I emailed Mavic as to why their 2017 Ksyrium Elite UST Disc rims (19mm ID) shipped with 25mm tires which is outside the recommended (28-62mm) tire in their chart above and their reply was that “The table … does not take into consideration Road Tubeless configurations. With Road Tubeless wheels (as the new Ksyrium Elite UST Disc), the conditions are changing. Indeed, the rim profile has the ability to lock the tyre bead more firmly than a conventional tube-type rim design.” So basically, the chart is not for tubeless”

Bikes are being sold by retailers with 19mm internal rim widths fitted with 25mm road tyres. Eg:

http://www.evanscycles.com/pinnacle-arkose-r2-2019-road-bike-EV339951

Stan’s Grail S1 internal rim width 20.3mm  suitable for 25-40mm tyres:

http://www.notubes.com/technology/wide-right

Ryde Pulse 18mm internal rim width

“Size: 622 x 18 mm
- For Tyres: 23-28 mm”

http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/rims-tape/24-ryde-pulse-comp-symetric-700c-622-rim-black/

I hope the industry/websites start updating with current, not past/out of date info.

 

 

 

 

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STATO | 6 years ago
1 like

I have 32mm contis on my Genesis Datum and when they wear out ill be gettin 28's.  One of the things never discussed is the effect of low pressures when standing out the saddle, especially when you are 6ft4 and 220lb.  If i run the optimal low pressures for the 32mm i find the tyre squirming about under me when standing climbing, im sure this isnt slowing me down but it feels aweful so i run higher pressure which leaves the bike skittish. There is a fine line in the middle which works but its not ideal so i will be moving back down to 28 next time, i find the slightly higher pressure is better for bike feel and still gives the same ride comfort over rough road texture, but not potholes obviously.

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leqin | 6 years ago
0 likes

I don't see a table for it and nothing in the article touches on the subject, but I maybe ought to ask even if I get slagged off for broaching the subject - if tyre width is so important and if skinny tyres are theoretically better/faster than wider tyres - how come I find myself going past road bikes with skinny tyres when out riding my 29er with 2.1inch Continental Speed Kings? - if someone can explain the science behind this I would be very grateful.

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fukawitribe replied to leqin | 6 years ago
2 likes

leqin wrote:

I don't see a table for it and nothing in the article touches on the subject, but I maybe ought to ask even if I get slagged off for broaching the subject - if tyre width is so important and if skinny tyres are theoretically better/faster than wider tyres - how come I find myself going past road bikes with skinny tyres when out riding my 29er with 2.1inch Continental Speed Kings? - if someone can explain the science behind this I would be very grateful.

Skinny tyres aren't theoretically better/faster than wider tyres - it's Just Not That Simple. As for you and the road bikes, in the name of science swap the riders and bikes and re-run the experiment, then review your conclusions.

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hawkinspeter replied to leqin | 6 years ago
6 likes

leqin wrote:

I don't see a table for it and nothing in the article touches on the subject, but I maybe ought to ask even if I get slagged off for broaching the subject - if tyre width is so important and if skinny tyres are theoretically better/faster than wider tyres - how come I find myself going past road bikes with skinny tyres when out riding my 29er with 2.1inch Continental Speed Kings? - if someone can explain the science behind this I would be very grateful.

Just a wild guess, but you're probably pedalling harder.

Avatar
BBB replied to leqin | 5 years ago
1 like

Aerodynamics aside, top end MTB XC tyres run tubeless will actually have the same or lower rolling resistance than most of road tyre configurations, especially on bad roads. You have come to the same conclusions as many other riders, including myself.

I still remember doing the Isle of Wight Randonee on an MTB with half worn 2.4" Racing Ralphs... and three years of commuting with 2.1" Thunder Burts on a drop bar franken road bike... Very amusing indeed.

Unlike the previous posters who replied to your post, the laws of physics don't care about the label on a tyre, only but about thickness and flexibility of the casing,  compound, volume and pressure in relation to the rider's weigth and type of surface.

As for narrow tyres... they feel fast and pros use them. That's enough of a reason for most of road riders to bounce all over the place on 25mm at around 100PSI on some bad roads just like they used to on 23mm at 120PSI for over two decades for the same reasons.

It's obvious that the optimal tyre width for a typical non competing rider will be wider than that of a much faster and usually lighter pro typically riding on better quality roads and being able to just swap a wheel or a bike if they hit a pothole. While 2.00" is an overkill for road use, tyres as narrow as a thumb don't make much sense either.

leqin wrote:

I don't see a table for it and nothing in the article touches on the subject, but I maybe ought to ask even if I get slagged off for broaching the subject - if tyre width is so important and if skinny tyres are theoretically better/faster than wider tyres - how come I find myself going past road bikes with skinny tyres when out riding my 29er with 2.1inch Continental Speed Kings? - if someone can explain the science behind this I would be very grateful.

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hawkinspeter | 6 years ago
0 likes

I'm currently enjoying my tubeless 28mm IRCs. I'm running them at 80psi and they feel very dependable.

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Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
0 likes

About to try a set of 25s on my r500s. Hopefully the commute will feel little less bumpy.

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Jetmans Dad replied to Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
0 likes

Yorkshire wallet wrote:

About to try a set of 25s on my r500s. Hopefully the commute will feel little less bumpy.

I run 25 Gatorskins on my R500s ... , much more comfortable than the 23 Equinox that came with the bike. 

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Yorkshire wallet replied to Jetmans Dad | 6 years ago
0 likes

Jetmans Dad wrote:

Yorkshire wallet wrote:

About to try a set of 25s on my r500s. Hopefully the commute will feel little less bumpy.

I run 25 Gatorskins on my R500s ... , much more comfortable than the 23 Equinox that came with the bike. 

Stuck some Hutchinson Nitro 2 25mm tyres on as they were only £8 inc. tubes from Planet X. Initial impressions are good and they don't seem to roll any slower than the Rubino Pro 2s they replace.

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simonmb | 6 years ago
0 likes

I've ridden as narrow as 20mm (Continental Supersonic) on the road. I convinced myself they were faster than anything I'd ever ridden at the time - although this went unmeasured and unproven. They were definately uncomfortable - even on super-smooth roads - with their pressure at around 160psi.

Today, older and wiser, I'm committed to 25s on tubs and clinchers (although not so committed that I'm not toying with the idea of 28s next time around). I tend to ride at the same pace as my cycling buddies, tempo for sure, but I'm keen to do it as comfortably as possible.

 

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fukawitribe | 6 years ago
1 like

Have most of the writers  gone on holiday then ?

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Biggus-Dickkus | 6 years ago
0 likes

If you want people to read these pages then you need to get rid of these annoying music adverts that you can't remove or silence... Grrrrrr

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part_robot | 6 years ago
1 like

Just make sure your rims are wide enough. To have good performance with 25mms even 17mm rims feel too narrow.

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BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
0 likes

Race bike I,  27/25 r/f veloflex valaandaren/conti competition tubs

Race bike II,  22/22 Conti 4000IIS tubs or 28/26mm clinchers

Winter racer/Audax/tourer 28/28 Vitt Corsa G+/Giant P-SL2 folder or Spesh Pro 32mm folder/Giant 28mm

Vintage racer, vredstein Ricorso (old style) 32mm

Commute/utility, currently 28 conti contact/Giant 28mm non folder, but mostly 32mm rear.

Even loaded I don't feel the need to go wider than a 32mm (circa 140kg all up incl bike) though i have some 42mm Spesh tyres that roll beautifully

BITD i would commute/tour on 23mm tyres and with a load, tbh I really don't think it was all that uncomfortable. Even up to about 2005 I was on vitt Rubino pro 23mm for the daily.

 

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