February 13, 2014

Narrow VS. Wide Tires.

For ages, cyclists assumed that narrower tires were better. Time trial bikes were fitted with 19mm tires, as we thought that they would slice through the air better than a 23mm. The rider cautiously rode to the start line, avoiding any bumps or road grit, for the fear that the tires might be punctured. We’d pump them rock hard, as we thought that harder tires created less rolling resistance. We also thought that narrower and harder tires were more aerodynamic, rolled faster, and were more responsive. Well, they aren’t.

In the last five years, all of our old theories have been proven wrong. Wider tires and tubulars are now the norm on almost all professional team bikes, including time trial bikes. Not only do wider tires roll faster, but they’re also more resilient, comfortable, and aerodynamic when paired with the right rim.

At the start of each new year, professional teams provide their riders with a supply of clincher tires and tubes to get them through a season of training. During my 14-year professional racing career we went from riding on 21- or 23-millimeter tires to 25s. The wider tires allowed us to venture off of the smooth tarmac and onto bumpier gravel roads. I rode up into the mountains, discovering new areas and climbs. I would arrive home without neck and back pain…. (Continue reading)