A reader and good friend suggested that I talk about tires on the BUTTCRACK Blog. He had just done extensive research in purchasing his latest set. I am always open to suggestions for future blog posts. I may not be an expert, but I will do some research and augment it with my personal experience.
So my friend, lets call him Chopper B. rides a Soma touring bike with disc brakes. This set up allows him to ride 35×700 tires with a plush comfy ride. He rides Panaracer Paselas a tire that he says the touring geeks love. I hear that Panaracer makes some great tires, but I have no experience with them. Chopper was puzzled by my choice of tire. I have been riding 23×700 tires for the past several years. Clearly we ride two different styles of bikes and engage in two different styles of riding.
Both Chopper and I have heard that wider tires offer lower rolling resistance. There have been many articles and blog posts on the subject in the last year or so. I could try to explain it myself, but others have done some great research. Slowtwitch.com has a good article titled ‘Choosing Tire Size.’ Here it is:
I would love to have the luxury of having a commuter and a road bike. If I did, I would outfit the commuter bike with nice set of plush, but heavy 35×700 tires like Chopper. They would do nicely to take the bite out of the miserably rough Seattle roads. I could still roll quickly on the flats. The extra resistance from the heavier tires would help me prepare for weekend rides. My weekend bike would be set up with lighter rims and tires to help me try to keep up. On the weekends, I ride with some riders who like to beat me like a rented mule. I struggle to keep up with their 25mph + pacelines on the flats. They love to drop me on the climbs and I try desperately to catch up on the descents. Here are the tires I roll on my road bike hoping be able to keep up.
I am a big fan of the Continental 4000S. They have fantastic grip which feels stable on descents and cornering. These are the best handling tires I have had the privilege to ride and yet have very low rolling resistance. You would expect a ‘grippy’ tire like the 4000S to have a short lifespan, but they hold up remarkably well. My front tire has between 6,000 and 8,000 miles on it! The only drawback to the Continental 4000S is lack of puncture resistance. Seattle’s roads like most cities is cursed with plenty of glass, staples and nails waiting to destroy your tires. For this reason I like roll on a Continental Gatorskin rear tire. I have yet to have a flat on a Gatorskin (I have gone through 3 of them). They are the best puncture resistant tire I have ridden. They roll much easier than the Bontrager Hardcase Lite’s I used previously. The Gatorskins handle very nicely, but I prefer the better grip of the 4000S up front. The Gatorskins put up with my heavy Clydesdale BUTT for about 1,500 miles. Not too bad for a rear tire.
Due to rough nature of Seattle’s roads and appeal of lower rolling resistance on the flat, I would like to try a wider tire. However, I am limited. My Mavic Open Pro rims are limited to tires no smaller than 18×700 and no larger than 28×700. I feel that anything over 25×700 starts to get too tall which reduces cornering ability. I also have to worry about brake and frame clearances. These factors are critical when choosing a different tire size. If you are unsure, check with your local bike shop mechanic. So I just purchased a new set of 25×700 tires. The front is the updated folding Continental 4000S II and the rear is a folding Continental Gatorskin. I prefer folding tires for ease is installation and low weight. Plus it is easier if you need to carry a spare with you! According to the Slowtwitch.com article, I can drop 10 psi on my commutes for a little extra comfort. I can go back to my normal 120 psi for my weekend rides.