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Tire Width on Road Bikes

If you haven’t noticed, road tires are getting wider! You may have some riding buddies that swapped out their tires, or you may have made the swap yourself. Long gone are the days where 23, 21 or 19mm tires ruled the road. Most bikes are coming stock with 25mm, if not wider.


If you’re not familiar with the benefits of a wider tire, hold onto your saddle and read on.


First off, some people are making the swap to wider tires for the first time, simply because it’s the first time they’ve been able to. Some traditional road frames and road brakes only have clearance for 23mm tires. Most manufacturers have caught on to the wide-tire trend and have made some fundamental changes to the bike.


Frame and fork clearance: You’d be hard-pressed to find a road frame that can’t accommodate 25mm now-a-days. Most road bikes have a least enough space for 28mm now.


Disc Brakes: The benefits of disc brakes is a whole conversation on its own but when you move from a rim brake to a disc brake, the caliper clearance is no longer a factor.


Now that frame CAN fit wider tires, it’s up to you to decide is you WANT wider tires. It’s a conversation that can take over your next group ride, but here are some of the bullet points that you should be aware of.


Comfortable: A wider tire is more comfortable. It doesn’t take too much to explain this point but a wider tire can make the road feel more stuble and smooth. It irons out the bump a bit and it dulls the “bite” that comes along with every pothole and junction you hit.


More Aero: As the old saying goes “narrow is aero”. A narrow tire will have less frontal surface but what you really have to consider is size of the tire when it’s installed on the rim. If there’s a big difference between the rim width and the tire width, you might a shape that looks like mushroom cap, or an icecream cone – where the tire bulges over the rim. A lot of wheels now have a wider profile, to fit wider tires. With these new shapes and sizes, pairing a wide tire with a wider rim would be a aero advantage.


Faster: This point is a little harder to explain and a little harder to believe – but it’s true. At the same pressure, a wider tire will roll faster. It’s faster because there’s less rolling resistance. When you’re riding along, the “contact area” is the surface area that is touching the ground at any given point. When you compare two different tires, at the same pressure, the overall contact area is the exact same. However, the shape is different. On a narrow tire, the contact area is slim but long. With a wider tire, that same contact area is spread wider but shorter. THe longer contact patch that comes with a narrower tires gives a little more drag and makes the overall shape of the tire less round when riding.


More stability: This is another simple point, that piggyback on the point above, a wider contact area is more stable than a narrow contact patch.


Lower pressure: One of my favorite reasons to run a wider tire is for the wider range of pressure that you can run those tires at. Being able to choose a lower pressure can amplify some of the benefits above, allowing you to pick and choose what you want for each ride.


If you have any other points about tire width, feel free to reach out! If you have any questions or anecdotes about this new trend, feel free to contact us anytime.