Tyres, tyres and more tyres: What to consider when buying your next set of tyres
Posted on May 31 2017
With so many tyres choices available it is hard to know where to start. This guide gives you some factors to consider when buying a new set for your ride.
Road tyres usually come in three widths 23c, 25c, and 28c, with the number referring to the width of the tyre in mm. Not too long ago racing tyres were even thinner, down to 18c. However, the current thinking is that thinner tyres can deform more which in turn creates greater rolling resistance. 25c are now the standard fitted to road bicycles, as they can be run at lower pressure, providing some cushioning and a smoother ride. 23c are slightly lighter and more aerodynamic which may be preferred for time trials. 28c are heavier, but more conformable and grip better which may be wanted for rough roads or commuting on. Just be sure to check what width tyres your bicycle can take, as frames have limitations to how wide a tyre they can accommodate.
The casting is the main structure of the tyre, made from woven fabric around the tyre bead. Cheaper tyres use nylon fabric, while more expensive tyres may use cotton and silk threads. It is worth knowing the threads per inch (TPI) of the casing. Typically tyres with a low TPI value will be made with thicker threads and will be more puncture resistant but have a higher rolling resistance; better for training and winter. Conversely, a high TPI value demonstrates finer threads used, less puncture proof but faster rolling; better for race days and summer.
Around the casing is the rubber compound. As this is what connects with the road, it has a big effect on the ride. The rubber compounds used for different tyres are a closely guarded secret by manufacturers. That said, softer compound will have more grip and be faster, to the detriment of wearing faster and less puncture proof; summer and race days. Harder compound tyre will have the advantage of lasting longer and being more puncture proof, but sacrificing grip and speed; winter and training.
The tread pattern of the compound is a debated topic; some say that road tyres are so thin a tread does nothing other that provide a nice pattern and marketing opportunities for manufacturers. Others say it provides mechanical adhesion from creating more contact on the contours of the road surface. In general, for dry road cycling, having a slick or a thin tread tyre won’t make too much difference in performance or ride. Where you should consider a tread is for wet winter cycling and on rough roads. Look for a deep tread pattern that displaces water for winter rides and semi slick tread tyres for rough training or commuting for added grip on uneven surfaces.
Almost all tyres will have the pressure range marked on the sidewall. It should have it written in pounds per square inch (PSI). Minimum pressure is the level needed to safely operate the tyre at, while the maximum pressure is the most the tyre bead can take. You must have tyres pumped to within this range. The exact perfect pressure will depend on the riders weight and riding conditions. Lighter riders require less pressure than heavier riders. It is also wise to reduce the tyre pressure a fraction for wet weather to provide additional grip. It is recommended that you buy a pump which has a pressure gauge on it so you can be sure you have tyres to the correct pressure.
If you are looking to save some money on your ride, tyres are not the place to be tight. As these are the only parts that touch the road, getting a good quality tyre is the number one upgrade for your ride.
Whether you want a super-fast racing tyre or puncture proof winter tyre, get a recognised tyre from a reputable manufacturer with the right credentials for your needs.
See you out on the road.