Cycling - Knowledge

Road Bike Tires - Know All about Them

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Do you do cycling often and in a fix each time while you are replacing the tires? Whether the tires on your road bike are worn out, are deflated, or you simply want to try out that new variant, you should know about the road bike tires, which is the best tire and what fits best.

Well, before you make your choice, you must know a few things about the road bike tires like it’s longevity, the width of the tires, speed compromise, puncture resistance, etc. For instance, the tires between the width of 25 mm and 28mm are light and fast and can bring a great boost to your bike ride. The standard tires, on the other hand, are one of the most common variants with separate inner tubes. But, tubeless tires make for a popular choice. One-piece tubular tires are known to be used in racing. While you would dream to have the best road bike tire for cycling purpose that is lightweight, offers longevity, and nil rolling resistance making your bike ride feel feathery light, in reality, that’s not the case. However, the cycles made in this century do have some of the best features to talk about. But, the fact that there are so many types of tires and options available in the market, makes it difficult to make the right choice. 

So are you ready to become an expert on road bike tires?


Then, without further ado let’s get into the topic.

Anatomy of a Tire

Come, let’s decode the anatomy of the tire!

A bike tire is made up of not just one component like the rubber but is rather made up of three main components and the rubber comes after that. 

Types of tires
Tire Anatomy (source)

1. Bead

It is the edge of the tire that works as the support system for clincher tires or the tubeless variants, helping in holding the tire on to the rim of the wheel. After the beads are placed on the wheel, air pressure inside the tire puts pressure on the beads (that’s usually made up of Kevlar or steel wire) that in turn pushes the bead hook on to the rim.  

2. Casing

The casing is a cover made of cloth material that’s sewn around the beads that help create the main body of the tire. 

Most of the tire manufacturers use nylon material, while the expensive ones may be made of cotton and silk threads. The casing lays a direct impact on the ride quality because it’s based on the TPI (threads per inch). 

The tires that are made of thicker threads will have reduced TPI and increased rolling resistance, however, will be less susceptible to punctures. The ones with a higher TPI on the other hand, use finer and fragile threads that are lightweight and offer reduced rolling resistance, but more vulnerable to punctures. 

3. Sidewall

The side of the casing is made of rubber that is, between the tread and the bead that together creates the sidewall. The different rubber compounds and varying thickness levels are based on the riding purpose. Some of the expensive tire varieties make use of natural brown colored rubber in order to lower the rolling resistance. 

4. Sub-Tread

Want to know what protects the tire from punctures? 

It’s the sub tread! A sub tread is a fabric or material under the tread that prevents any puncture. If you invest in high-end tires, then you would get high-quality material strips that will keep your tire sturdy!

5. Tread

The tread does the coolest job, it provides impeccable mechanical grip to the ground. They are much needed when you ride on slippery roads, mountains, rough roads. However, these days many bikes enthusiastic prefer treadless tires. 

Livingit Tip
If you are planning for a mountain bike ride, then you should opt for a combination tire that has both tread pattern and smooth pattern. 

Features to Look for in Road Bike Tires

Nope, the bike tires would be nowhere close to your imagination. They would be far from solid, feathery light and blazing fast as you dreamt. Coming back to reality, the features that you can look for are:

  • Tires that deviates on the end where the puncture protection is, and not the ones that take speed outright or the ones that weigh less. These types of tires are perfect for bumpy roads or back roads full of gravel. 
  • Tires that are lightweight and can speed up right away are best for smooth roads. 
  • Tires that are available online can also be a great choice as they are classified based on their weight, rolling resistance, and puncture protection. This makes it easier for you to make a purchase online, especially because are unable to see it physically. 

Types of Road Bike Tires

Bike tires are available in three different variants that are, the clincher, tubular, and tubeless.

1. Clincher Tires

These are the common variants that we all know and is being used almost regularly. It features a U-shaped inner tube separately that fits into the outer casting. The corner of the tire holds everything in place by hooking onto the rim. 

Want to know why every rider prefers clincher tires?

One of the biggest benefits of using this tire is that you can easily fix it along the roadside when it goes flat. A lever can be used in this case to dismantle the tire, replace the punctured tube, install the tire again, and then pump up the tire with a pump or an air cartridge. Learn more on Mini Bike Pumps and become an expert.

Clincher tires are available in two variants – folding and non-folding tires. Beads, made of strong steel cable or Kevlar belt that runs along the borders of the tire, are used to keep the folding tires intact on to the rim. Kevlar is made of a firm and long-lasting fabric that does not stretch but can be folded. This makes the rims and the clincher tires heavier than the other tire types. However, the Kevlar belt reduces this downside to a larger extent. 

Non-folding tires, on the other hand, do not bend or fold as they are made of steel wire beads. Of both, folding tires are lighter, faster and offers better grip, but more costly at the same time. 

road bicycle tires review
Clincher VS Tubular Tires (source)

2. Tubular Tires

If you are looking for high-performance tires, tubular tires are the best as these are used by pro riders. 

The tubes are stitched directly with the outer casing and then pasted onto a tubular wheel. The rims of the tubular tires do not feature a hooked rim where the tire can attach to. It rather has a smooth and curved bed. 

The advantages of tubular tires lie in their feel and the resistance to pinch flats – where the tube ruptures when the rim meets a pointed obstruction. The tire still remains glued to the rim even when it's punctured that allows the bike racers to continue riding even during the worst conditions. Learn more on Bike Maintenance Basics and become a pro!

However, it also has its downsides because it’s difficult to get roadside repairs as the rim is attached to the tire. In this case, you can either use an inflator cartridge containing sealant or completely remove the ruptured tire and replace it with a new one. In these circumstances, you must ride on a spare tire that can stretch on to the rim, but that would need you to attach this first to take a further ride. 

road bicycle tires review
Tubular Tires

It’s important to remember that attaching the tubular is not an easy task. When installed incorrectly the tire can slip off from the rim and lead it to crash. Therefore, it takes a lot of time and patience to mount the tubular tires. However, applying a few layers of glue makes sure that the tires stick to the wheel perfectly. The multiple layers of glue would take a few days to dry though. 

While tubular tires are more expensive than the clincher tires, they also do not feature beads making them lighter, but not as entirely round as the clincher tires. 

Did you know?
In early times, people used natural rubber as tires and tubes! But now manufacturers have switched to butyl rubber which is a better option in comparison to latex rubber. 

3. Tubeless Tires

If you’ve been mountain biking, you would know how useful the tubeless tires can be. But, these tires are now used for road cycling as well which makes it versatile these days. 

The tubeless tire as the name suggests does not feature an inner tube or rather doesn’t require it. The tire and the rim instead fit together creating a seal in the place where they are joined with the help of a special valve system and a gelatinous liquid adhesive within the tire. Given that these do not have an internal support most of the wheels need special strips for an airtight seal between the wheel that makes only certain wheels suited for the tire. 

Coming to the best part about tubeless tires is that you have fewer chances of getting flat tires with these. 

You also get lower resistance with these tires as there’s no inner tube that can cause the friction.  The fact that there’s no tube, you can run your bike at a reduced tire pressure without worrying on a pinch flat. Moreover, the liquid adhesive that’s inside the tire also helps repair the puncture that helps the tires to still hold the air inside. However, you can also fit these tires with an inner tube when stranded on the road. This can make you prep up for all the racing and training. 

The best road bike tires
Clincher VS Tubular VS Tubeless Tires

On the flip-side, tubeless tires are generally thicker and weight a lot more in comparison to the clincher tires. These tires are difficult to fit and may even need the use of an air-compressor at times or an exclusive flash pump to make the tire bead sit properly. You may need a tube to fix larger tears that can turn real chaotic while you are on the road with all that adhesive within the tire.  

When to Replace the Tires

Well, that totally depends on the wear and tear of the tire, and so, there is no set time or rule that you should replace the tires accordingly. 

Some tires do have an indicator signifying the fact that your tire needs a change. It’s usually a small dot or a cleft at the center of the tread that takes deteriorates over the period with the life of the tire. 

road bicycle tires review
When to Replace the Tires

However, most tires don’t have these indicators, hence you need to keep a track of any cuts and incisions in the sidewalls of the tire and along the tread.  Also, if you notice any lumps, bulges, squared off tread or a flat area, that’s when you know that these are the signs of the tire wearing off. 

Moreover, if you can see the fabric beneath the outer casing when the cuts and dents are deeper, or find a hike in the number of flat tires, that’ when you need to replace the tires. Learn the basics on Bike Maintainance and oiling

How Does the Tire Sustain the Load

How do tires support its load?

If you are thinking its air pressure, then my friend, you are wrong. No, it’s not the air pressure inside the tire that supports the rim, as the air pressure that presses the rim is equal on both the top and bottom of the rim. 

The air pressure in the tire rather supports the fabric beneath the tension, except at one place, that is the patch that comes in contact with the road surface. The air pressure has no role in adding tension to the contact patch or the contact area because that area is flattened against the road.  

Air pressure is only capable to push in the outward direction directly, and so, in this case, it pushes in the downward direction directly. This downward air pressure should be now equal to load. This is then calculated based on the area of the contact patch that is approximately equivalent to the weight of the load divided by the air pressure. 

What Should be the Right Tire Size

There are two main requirements for a bike tire – the wheel and the outer casing. 

Hence, when you are looking for the size of the tire or rather the right size, two of these aspects are taken into consideration. 

You must have heard the regular bike riders talking about numbers like a 700c x 23mm tire or a model with 700c x 25mm measurements? Well, are you wondering what do the numbers mean? Well, these are nothing but the wheel size in diameter (700c) and the width of the outer casing in millimeters (23mm/20mm). 

Tire size: what do the numbers mean
Right Tire Size

If you are looking for the ideal width of your bike tires, it will depend on the fact that you are training, commuting, or racing.

The thinner the tire, the faster it would be. 

In the case of the 700c x 21mm tires, there is less contact between the road and the tire and reduced frontal resistance to the wind. The deal here is that the thinner tires do not have a longer life and are more prone to damage of the sidewall. These kinds of tires also require increased air pressure that leads to a not so comfortable ride.

So, if you are looking for bike mainly for commuting or for leisure purpose, then wider tires would be the best option for you. 

Why do we suggest wider tires for commuting?

Wider tires offer perfect balance and make cornering much easier. While they also offer added contact with the road, these wider tires are not prone to get punctured on bumpy roads and therefore, are durable. 

But wait! We have to break the negative news about wider tires!

They are heavy, not very smooth and can get difficult to fit into the bike frames!

So, you cannot get the best of all worlds in one bike! Based on your requirement, you should hunt for the perfect road bike tire and get going! Check out complete details on how to buy the best road bike.

Cycling is a passion that should be nurtured with a well-planned approach. Whether for training, racing or simply for riding, the best road bike tires can help you get that grip while you can ride fast even on those bumpy road surfaces. So, find the best tires with this quick guide and enjoy your ride!

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