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The same tire attributes that improve durability and puncture protection typically increase weight and worsen rolling resistance. Since every tire sacrifices one attribute in favor of another, finding the right one for each specific use and wheel is key.
Key features: Comfort, durability and puncture protection
Sacrifice: Rolling resistance, aerodynamics
Fat tires aren’t just for mountain bikes. 23c tires—ones that are 23mm across—used to be the standard size for road bikes, but broader ones are simply better for training. 25c tires such as the Kenda Kriterium Endurance 25 absorb more road shock, corner more smoothly, flat less frequently and even roll a little faster than narrower versions. The Specialized Roubaix Pro 25-28c is even wider and has become this tester’s favorite training tire because of its incredible grip and ultra- smooth ride feel.
Key features: Aerodynamics, rolling resistance, puncture protection
The difference in rolling resistance between tires—the energy required to spin a tire down the road—can be huge. Tom Anhalt, a mechanical engineer by trade and a cycling fanatic, has measured the relative rolling resistance of a wide range of tires and found some valuable trends. The Vittoria EVO Open Corsa Triathlon 22c tested fastest and, according to his measurements and estimation, these tires can save 4–5 watts over many other top-level race tires. (His full test results are at
Tires also influence aerodynamic resistance. Measure the width of your front wheel’s brake track. If it’s 20mm across or narrower, a thin tire like the Maxxis Xenith Equipe Legere 20c or Michelin Pro4 Service Course 20c can be substantially more aerodynamic than 23c or 25c options. But if you’re racing a new-era race wheel that has a broader rim, wider tires are often equally aero and better in all other ways. A tire that creates minimal rolling and aero resistance while offering enough puncture protection to keep your mind at ease is the best combination for a race tire.
Many of the engineers who designed these wheels have tested a wide range of tires on their own creations, and some have found a clear aero winner. These tires are recommended for some leading clincher aero wheels.
|Enve SES||Continental GP4000S|
|Zipp Firecrest||Continental GP4000S|
|Bontrager Aeolus D3||Bontrager R4 Aero|
|FLO 60||Continental GP4000S|
What about tubular?
Tubular tires have the tube sewn into the casing. This entire structure is glued to the rim. While they used to be the common choice for race wheels, the aerodynamic and rolling performance of clincher tires and wheels has caught up to tubulars. For their simplicity and lower cost of upkeep, clinchers have become the tire style of choice for both racing and training.
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