When you’re a road racer one of the most important weapons in your arsenal will be the tires you have on your bike. There are several things you’ll want to consider when you go to buy the tires.
A good size for bike tires for road racing are 700, sometimes referred to as 700C. An exception to this rule is tire size 650s which is typically for small cyclists to decrease their stand over clearance. The rim of your wheels should have the size printed on it but if it does not you need to take the bike to a bike shop for correct sizing. Bike shops have special tools that can find the circumference (size) of the wheel much more accurately.
The width of bike tires for road racing usually vary from 18 to 25 mm. However, these are the narrowest options available and some cyclists like tires ranging from 25 to 28 mm. Typically the thicker tire gives more stability and comfort and has most recently been linked to fastest times due to smoother rolling and increased shock absorption.
You need to be very specific about the tread on road racing tires. Tires with a slick style tread will work the best. Slick tires will appear smooth with a minimal tread pattern. This kind of tire tread was designed specifically for riding on the road and works wonders during a race. On dry roads, slick tires provide the most traction because they have the greater percentage of contact with the ground. Be careful if you are riding in wet conditions though, as slicks will be particularly slippery.
Furthermore, the reduced tread on slick bike tires keeps the tire from deforming under load. This means that the tire can be made of lighter materials without running the risk of damaging the tire during a race. All of this means that slick tires are the most lightweight option that provides the greatest traction on dry roads.
Because the tread is terrible for any road condition other than dry you have to make up for traction and grip somewhere else. That somewhere else is the soft rubber of the tire. Soft rubber is sticky and grips the road much better than hard rubber does. However, these tires wear out easily and have to be replaced more often. So if you’re mostly training as opposed to racing then a hard rubber tire will be the more economical choice.
Another economical choice is the dual-compound bike tire that uses soft rubber where the wheel meets the ground and hard rubber everywhere else. These last a little longer and are a common choice for high-performance cyclists who can’t afford to go through tires unnecessarily.
Thread Count Casing (TPI)
The TPI is important for road racing tires because the road is where the tire experiences the highest pressure. A good TPI to aim for is anywhere from 60 TPI to 320 TPI. A higher thread count tire is by far the best performance tire. A high thread count will make the tire more supple which in turn makes the tire more resistant to punctures. A higher TPI can also make the tire more lightweight.
Tubular Tires vs. Clinchers
Tubular tires used to be more prevalent, but it seems as if convenience has won and most riders now use clinchers. Tubular tires are more lightweight but a huge pain in the ass to change in the unfortunate event of a flat tire. Unless you have a follow car close behind we recommend that you purchase clinchers. Clinchers are commonplace and nearly as lightweight as tubular these days. If you are a true weight weenie then go for the tubulars… just don’t expect for someone to wait for you on a group ride.
It is awesome to have a really lightweight tire for accelerations and climbs; however, replacing the tires every few weeks can make the piggy bank squeal.
These are likely the most pressing concerns about your racing tires. When you go to the bike shop make sure to take your bike with you so that the shop’s tire expert will be able to help you find the right bike tires for road racing.
What are some of your favourite bike tires for road racing?