Are wider tyres on performance road bikes really necessary for added comfort?

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.

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by Nickldn

There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about wider tyres on road bikes improving comfort. For many types of cycling wider is better and makes a contribution to comfort.

But are wider tyres really necessary (and beneficial) for pure performance road bikes, such as the new Trek Emoda and Specialized SL7 for example? Some bicycle reviewers seem to be marking some of these bikes down if they come equipped with 25mm tyres and claim they lack comfort and would benefit from 28mm (or wider) rubber.

But is this opinion shared on WW? Some posters clearly live for wide tyres and low psi, others are on the fence, or think their 23mm/25mm rubber is good enough to get the most out of their bikes.

What's your opinion, do you ride wider tyres and would never go back to 25mm, or have you been lured by wider rubber only to regret it? Remember this is about pure performance road bikes, like the SL7, Emoda, Propel, TCR, Venge, Airoad, SytemSix, etc.
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by bch

I run 23 mm Conti 5000 tires on my ‘15 Emonda. They inflate to 26 mm on my 21 mm internal diameter rim. I don’t want for more comfort. Aero suffers when your tires are wider than your rim.

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by Ypuh

I've tried and tested nearly every tyre width and rim combo in increments of 1mm between 15mm-21mm rims and 23 and 32 mm tyres.

The short answer is no, it's not the holy grail many say it is and wider isn't always better. It's very circumstancial though, depending on where you live, what your goal is, riding style, ground surface etc.

As someone who owns a steel 'comfort' bike and all out aeroracer, I'd say comfort is overrated if the roads around you are generally good. If I get the choice, I always ride the Cervelo which is limited to 25mm tyres on 17mm rims (it doesn't fit any bigger, otherwise I might go slightly wider). On my comfort bike I went down to 19c rims and 26mm tyres, as I found 21c wheels with 28mm tyres (which is more like 31-32mm in reality) too wide.

When I go to Belgium (what Dutchies would call a 3rd world country) or UK, I sometime stick some wider tyres because of the shitty roads and usually I combine this with very long (200km+) rides.

Overall I like the feel of the smaller tyres more. It gives more a sense of speed and engagement and the drop in comfort is minor.
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by Matt28NJ

I've been running 25s since before they were popular although it wasn't due to me being especially smart or ahead of the curve; my training buddy for years was a Masters CX elite rider who placed top-10 in the Worlds in his age group and he ran 25s for everything and convinced me to. He spent a ton of time learning and experimenting with CX and road tires. He was also an early proponent of disc brakes, in his mind for repeatability of stopping and being able run bigger tires.

I borrowed his bike and after 100 miles or so I could see the benefits from them, especially at 85psi or lower. I was a believer. I couldn't switch over right away as my race bike at the time was a Storck Absolutist and couldn't fit anything larger than a 23c on it.

However, I'd suggest that every rider who has questions about which size they should run should buy sets of both size and run 'em to the cords and make your own personal decision.

You may have to experiment to see what sizes will fit on your bike; I can't get a GP4k 28 on my Venge, as an example. So no matter what it's 25 or bust. You'll have to spend a few bucks and see what works.

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by gurk700

Air pressure has way more to do with comfort than tire width itself.
However because you can run less air pressure in wider tires, it can indirectly be said that wider tires are more comfortable.
If you're looking for comfort, I'd say don't ride race bikes.

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by baldy

I always feel like I have a puncture with lower pressures and wider tyres, but then I did start off when the pinical was CX18's with 18 mms tyres. I always put comfort down to good shorts and a saddle that suits you. I have ridden all sorts of steel, aluminium, carbon and titanium bikes over the years. Currently use 25mm Corsa's which I think are the best versions of the Corsa. I follow Veloflexes tyre pressure guide. Works for me, but then I am old. Currently on a Reilly T640 for my good bike for reference with rim brakes, which I must say is fantastic, with WTO 45's.

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by wheelsONfire

I think it depends on what tires you use and how the roads are. I ride 25mm tires on my road bike. I have been on 20, 22, 23, 24 and 25.
I've seen some ride 30mm, but that's not going to be very aero. I think it might even offset deep aero wheels effect.
If you ride in the cold/ slippery, maybe a wider tire and low pressure are good (28mm)!
On my gravel i prefer 650B.

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by Karvalo

Nickldn wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 6:56 pm
But are wider tyres really necessary (and beneficial) for pure performance road bikes, such as the new Trek Emoda and Specialized SL7 for example?
Nothing is necessary, that's really the wrong question. The word you're looking for is desirable, and that's always a personal thing. If you've tried it and it doesn't make any difference to you then it's not desirable. If you've tried it and think it's better, then it is desirable.

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by grnrcr

I went up to 30mm @ 50 PSI on a SW SL6. The added cush felt great initially but then I decided if “roll over anything” is what I’m after, I should get a different bike, which I did. Keeping the SL6 and back on 25mm for those spirited days.

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by petromyzon

My answer is no.

We are spoilt these days as rubber compounding has come on so fast you can have the same rolling resistance as 10 years ago with way more grip, a smoother ride and more consistent ground contact over imperfections. It's also become recognised that lots of high frequency feedback through the bars may not necessarily mean you are faster.

I prefer a tyre that calipers out to 28mm for fast riding in good weather. If I was buying a fancy aero carbon wheelset now I'd take that in to account. There is not a lot that that size can't do although I always seem to get caught out on holiday riding unfamiliar gravel roads; if the surface is loose sometimes even 40mm is not enough to feel confident.

My most expensive wheels work best with a true to size 25mm tub. It's perfectly possible to inflate these to get similar grip and feel as my wider clinchers; I don't do it because they are very light and one unexpected pothole would be the end.

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by Miller

A disappointing amount of sensible, reasoned answers so far :-)

Wider tyres give more comfort and that can't be in dispute. Questions remain about the trade-off in speed. That pro racing teams stick to 25mm or occasionally 28mm, and speed is their day job, strongly suggests that that's where absolute speed lives. On tarmac.

Much of my enjoyment in recent years has come from venturing off tarmac and now I want bikes where I can transition between road and off-road surfaces without worry. I've just bought a pair of Bontrager R3 tubeless in 32mm width for my disc road bike, they're a tight fit but they do fit, and so far I'm really liking them. They're grippy, comfortable and roll pretty well. For dry summer days I still have my now-legacy rim brake road bike that takes 25mm max.

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by Hexsense

For comfort, no.

For grip. yes.
Many racers near me switch to 28c to push harder for cornering hard in crits. They are racing at Cat 1-3 with some of them wind-tunnel tested their TT position so they are pretty serious about cycling and this is not a rookie baseless decision too. When top (non pro) crit racers prefer 28c tire, I don't feel so hesitate to use 28c tire for peace of mind for general riding also. I am currently still using 25c front and 28c rear. But the idea of only using 28c tire for both grip and comfort is not bad (except for TT).

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by FlatlandClimber

As mentioned in the emonda thread (where this thread was sparked), I have experimented with all tire sized of 23 to 32 for road and 37 to 60 for gravel.
For me the reasons to choose a wider tire are:
- the course is really bumpy, so you can add traction by going lower pressure
- the course is really tight cornered, and wider tires can add "confidence" in corners
- the course is very wet, slippery, or dirty, and wider tires again have added traction...

However, the comfort and puncture protection of narrow road tires (23c on aero bike and TT bike/ 25c on other road bikes) is more than enough for me (over 8'000 annual miles, rider of up to 5 hours).
I don't like how bike reviews tend to review bikes as if every customer was mediocre (usually referred to as "the dentist") and only wanted long range comfort from their bike. I just read far to frequently how they would swap the tires to 30c on a race bike if it was theirs. I mean, all the power to you, but for me it is just not what every bike should be made for.
I personally get a lot more enjoyment from a bike, that is stiff, nimble and holds power well, than a bike that feels like riding an MTB.
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by GS100

I tend to run 23 front 25 rear on my tcr which works pretty well. My winter bike (now sold) had 28mm on slightly wider alu clinchers, also good for poorer conditions.

Having run 22-28mm over the years I wouldn't put anything wider than 25mm on a fast bike. Defeats the object and feels rather sluggish out of the saddle on sharp inclines.

The comment about 28mm for cornering on flat crits I sort of get, though it would depend more on the tyre profile and compound, it would be a heavier set up and less aero.

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by Mr.Gib

One more for "it depends". Hell yeah big and soft is more comfortable but if you only go out for fast group rides lasting less then 3-4 hours, then what's the point? Spend all day on your bike and big soft tires can turn clenched teeth into a smile.

And then there are the road conditions. Imagine 15km of super-technical descent on bad surface. The advantage of 30mm over 23-25mm cannot be overstated. Add some rain and you're proper f***ked with relatively smaller harder tires.
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