If you’re a road cyclist, you might have heard the conventional wisdom that narrower tyres are better for speed and performance. Recent research has shown that putting wider tires on a road bike can offer significant advantages, including improved comfort, handling, and speed on surfaces like tarmac. In this article, our guest expert from Vittoria will explore the benefits of wider road bike tyres in more detail. We’ll also discuss the advantages of tubeless systems and if they are the best option for your road bike.
Whether you’re a serious racer or a casual commuter, understanding the benefits of wider tyres can help you get the most out of your road cycling experience.
About our expert
Jake Law is an experienced brand promoter and tyre expert at Vittoria S.p.A tyre company.
What are the advantages of tubeless tyres on road bikes?
What we are seeing on the roadside of things is we’re starting to see more and more tubeless technology coming into the roadside. This has been commonplace on the mountain bike and gravel side now for more than a decade.
With the tubeless technology, of course, you get things like the sealant that will obviously seal up any cuts and you might get. That’s definitely beneficial for people too, so you don’t have to constantly stop to replace innertube.
Like I said, it’s really the type of technology that mountain bikers and gravel riders have been enjoying for the last decade and is now making its way into the road scene.
Even on the performance side of things, a lot of teams, including the ones that we sponsor, are going to tubeless tyres because the tests are proving that a tubeless tyre is actually faster than a clincher (which is a tyre with an inner tube), and even a tubular tyre, (the one that is glued to the rim).
What are the benefits of putting wider tires on a road bike?
With a tubeless system comes wider rims, wider tyres, and also much lower tyre pressures.
So what road cyclists are understanding now is that if you are going for a wider tyre to lower tyre pressure, not only are you getting more comfort but you are actually getting more braking performance and the tyre is actually faster.
You could probably argue, for the last hundred years we were telling people to run really high tyre pressures and really narrow rims and believing that was faster.
The reality is, unless you are on an indoor track, in real world situations it is not a faster tyre because you’re being deflected by every single little obstacle on the road, every little pebble, every little pothole.
If you can allow that tyre to conform to the terrain you’re going in a straight line and you are more comfortable doing so.
So for all the benefits of tubeless competitive cyclists use 28 mm, even in some cases 30 mm tyres.
Will a regular cyclist notice the difference?
On the consumer side of things, we’re seeing more and more road bikes verging into the gravel side of things where you’re getting disc brakes, through axles, wider rims, and wider tyres.
Once you’ve ridden a bike with a wider tyre and a lower tyre pressure, it’s very difficult to go back to a higher pressure and a skinnier tyre because it’s night and day. It takes one ride to convert somebody to lower tyre pressure. It really is that simple. So, putting wider tires on a road bike makes a lot of sense.
Are there any benefits of putting wider tires on a road bike and running them with innertubes?
As a company, for us as Vittoria, we are offering lots of tubeless road tyres but we do understand, there are a lot of people that are using innertubes and you can still use them with obviously wider tyres and wider rims.
But really, hand in hand with wider tyres and wider rims comes tubular technology.
So you really are starting to see more bikes that are geared up towards that and even in some cases, straight out the box comes with tubeless tyres, tubeless rim tape, tubeless-ready wheels, and even the sealant that you need to put inside the tyre.
So the assumption is that if you’re buying a modern road bike, that’s really the setting you’ll be using it in. That’s the same assumption on gravel bikes and mountain bikes now as well.
Will I get these same benefits of using wider road tyrs if I use narrow tubeless tyres?
If I’m being honest, I think you only really started getting the benefits of the tubeless above 28 millimetres. Even if you were running a tubeless 25 millimetre tyre you won’t be able to run the pressures as low as you could do on a 28 or 30 mm.
So you could argue then, is it really worth the extra hassle of you, for instance, going out and buying yourself tubeless wheels, tubeless tyres you know, reminding yourself to top up the sealant occasionally, so there’s still something in there when you’re still having to run maybe 90 to 100 PSI you know.
So, I’ll give an example that might shock you. Our new CORSA N.EXT tyre that we released last year, which in this particular case is a 28 mm width, tubeless compatible, actually has two pressure ratings on it. One is for a normal tubeless wheel and the other is for the new hookless rims that we’re starting to see on the marketplace.
The maximum allowed pressure for a normal tubeless wheel on this particular tyre is 95 psi and, wait for it, on a hookless rim the maximum pressure is 72 psi. This is extremely low for road tyres.
Can you tell me a bit more about hookless rims?
A hookless bicycle rim is a type of rim that does not have the traditional hooked shape on the inner edge of the rim bed that is commonly found on many bicycle rims.
In a hookless rim, the rim bed has a straight or slightly curved shape, without the distinct hook shape that is designed to hold the tyre bead in place. Instead, the tyre bead is held in place by the tension created between the rim and the tyre.
Hookless rims are often used in tubeless tyre setups, as the lack of a hook shape makes it easier to install and remove tubeless tyres. They are also generally lighter than hooked rims and can provide a smoother ride due to the increased compliance of the rim. However, if you wanted to be running high pressure on your tyres, like the current standard of 100 to 120psi, this is not the tyre and this is not the technology for you.
Are hookless rims the future?
The hookless thing is something that’s not going away. It’s definitely becoming more commonplace, people need to be aware of it.
However, not all the tyres are compatible with hookless rims so it’s not as simple as buying a hookless wheelset and buying a tubeless road tyre to go with that. You need to make sure that the tubeless tyre you are fitting is hookless rim compatible. If you fit the tyre that’s not designed for hookless rims you do open yourself up to injury. If you do run at high pressures it will just blow off the rim. That’s why they are recommending lower tyre pressures.
Do you think the new materials used in tyres make a difference?
It really does in terms of air retention, speed, and longevity, absolutely. And for us, at Vittoria, the reason why we use graphene and also now silica on some of the models is that graphene on a molecular level actually covers the gaps that you get between rubber molecules.
Because rubber is a very irregular surface under a microscope, if you put graphene in that rubber mix you get a more even surface. Therefore the tyre rolls quicker and it lasts longer as well because you don’t have all these little bits of rubber constantly flaking off.
So we, we’ve been using graphene for quite a while and we are still the biggest consumer of it in the cycle industry and especially in tyre industry.
Using graphene and silica is an absolute game-changer for us. If we make the same tyre with the same tread compound, the same casing, and without graphene, the differences are night and day.
It’s that noticeable, and in the real world, it gives you better grip and durability, which is beneficial to everyday cyclists.
The number pro side of things it gives them a faster rolling tyre, which is exactly what they want.
Putting wider tires on a road bike – Conclusion
In conclusion, tubeless technology is gaining popularity in the road cycling scene, with teams and consumers alike benefiting from its advantages. Wider tyres, lower tyre pressures, and sealant that seals cuts make for a more comfortable and faster ride.
While tubeless technology is becoming more common in modern road bikes, there are still options available for those using inner tubes, with wider tyres and rims also providing benefits.
However, the benefits of tubeless are most noticeable above 28mm, and hookless rims, while beneficial for tubeless setups, may not be suitable for those wanting to run high tyre pressures.
Ultimately, experiencing the benefits of tubeless technology only takes one ride, and once tried, it can be difficult to go back to narrower tyres and higher pressures.
Watch the full interview with Jake Law from Vittoria tyre manufacturer:
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