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How much of a difference does tire width make on road bike performance?

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How much of a difference does tire width make on road bike performance?

Old 10-01-19, 11:02 AM
  #76  
tomato coupe
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
I also heard most grand tour teams have gone to 25mm tires and some Specialized-sponsored teams with 26s, again, WAY too narrow for everyday riding but efficiency doesn't always win races. They're made for a sprint-finish not for pedaling efficiency or comfort.
The vast majority of world tour riders are domestiques, and they do not participate in the sprints. If super wide tires offered an advantage, they would be using them.
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Old 10-01-19, 11:10 AM
  #77  
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
I agree completely - I just think the "sweet spot" is at a MUCH wider width than conventionally thought. I think it's in the 2.5-3" range, the dropoff in "performance" in the plus platform isn't nearly as steep as you think.
Guys that actually ride fast would disagree. The standard tire width for Paris-Roubaix is 28mm. This year's winner of the brutal Dirty Kanza was on 42mm tires, and he's a pretty big guy (170 lbs). If wider tires were faster, they would use them.
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Old 10-01-19, 11:23 AM
  #78  
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
I see 28-32, maybe even 38 kicked around here as the consensus ideal width for road riding. This is absolutely not the case, you can go FAR wider and enjoy MUCH better efficiency at FAR LOWER psi. I would guess most of the commenters here have not ridden a bike with 29+ tires.

If you insist on getting another CAAD roadbike please know it's really a RACING bike engineered for a sprint finish, not actually made to be ridden in normal conditions. That said, if you're just in love with the aesthetics or whatever then I suggest getting 650b rims and running the highest tpi casings you can find in the maximum possible width at the lowest possible psi.

Unless you're training to compete in one of the Ground Tours, then you'll thank me later.

I started out commuting on a track bike with 28mm tires @ 50/60 PSI; I am now on a CX bike with 33mm tires @ 35-20 PSI (they're tubulars, very hi TPI count casing). The 29+ bike I just test rode absolutely SMOKES my CX bike even with it's hi-TPI/super supple sew up racing tires at very low pressure.

The only downside is you'll feel it in a sprint but if you're not trying to break away from a peloton regularly (you're not) then look at bikes built on the 27.5+ and 29+ platform. Don't ask me, ask science.
You dont mention an actual width that all paved road riders should use. All that typing, and you dont say. I cant imagine you are actually suggesting a 2.9" tire for road riding as that would eliminate the use of drop bar road bikes due to not being able to make everything fit. Rear triangles would need to change, cranksets would need to change, FDs would need to change, wheelsets would need to change, etc etc.
Your suggestion completely ignores the reality that many people ride road bikes to go as fast as they can. They may not be racing, but that doesnt mean they dont want a quick handling and fast bike.


Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
Benefits to very skinny tires:
- Lighter = they spin up quicker if you're in a sprint situation (less mass to get moving)
- Less rolling resistance on a drum testing unit or inside a velodrome (not real life riding situations)

If neither applies, then avoid.
There is a middle ground between very skinny tires and what you suggest. Its a vast middle ground, actually. A 28-32mm tire can be supple, fast, and comfortable for road riding. Low rolling resistance and spins quicker. Best of both worlds.
Heck, the 37mm Vittoria Hyper tires on my commute/touring bike are fast, light, and comfortable. A 3inch wide tire isnt needed to be comfortable.


Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
And you probably won't until you go north of 50. 32 is too narrow for most of us on here, although the spandex-clad, TDF wannabe crowd will argue that's too wide
There is no need to insult and dismiss cyclists for riding how they like. If some want to train like they will race- fine. If some want to ride only on the weekends and go all out when they do- fine. If some want to fatbike on pavement in the summer- fine.
Also, dont confuse disagreeing with some of what you claim as me being dismissive of how you ride. Those are separate.



My most used drop bar bikes are-
a road bike with tires that measure 27mm.
a road bike with tires that measure 31mm.
a touring bike with tires that measure 37mm.
a gravel bike with tires that measure 43mm.

I can ride all of them faster than my 2.35" mountain bike.
When on pavement, the 31mm tire road bike is what I am fastest on- due to a combination of geometry, weight, and tires. This thread is about performance, not comfort. Performance includes comfort, yes, but it isnt entirely comfort. You seem to advocate for comfort thru this thread, and then add general statements that your suggested comfort will also be fastest.

Last edited by mstateglfr; 10-01-19 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 10-01-19, 12:23 PM
  #79  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
...perhaps you mean 2+ inch tires when you claim that wide tires are for wide riders? Even then I wouldnt agree, but at least that would eliminate all the stated and examples of wide tires being used by fit cyclists.
That actually would make some sense. 2+ inch tires are commonly used on mountainbikes, which also commonly have 700-800mm wide handlebars - which is also the width of the rider if he is holding on to the bar with both hands.
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Old 10-01-19, 12:35 PM
  #80  
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I like 32 mm tires. Wide enough, easy to find, fit lots of bikes, comfortable.
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Old 10-01-19, 12:52 PM
  #81  
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
Guys that actually ride fast would disagree. The standard tire width for Paris-Roubaix is 28mm. This year's winner of the brutal Dirty Kanza was on 42mm tires, and he's a pretty big guy (170 lbs). If wider tires were faster, they would use them.
also, don't forget that's 28mm tubular, which is like 25mm clincher. 28mm clinchers once mounted on a wide rim will be wider than 28mm tubular.
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Old 10-01-19, 01:54 PM
  #82  
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
... But, lower pressures on the same sticky tire DO result in more grip because of the larger contact area. More rubber interfacing with the road means that there are more points of mechanical interface where the rubber is physically interlocking with the pavement surface and to make the tire slide, those pieces of rubber must be physically sheared off ....

Just so people don't think I'm agreeing, this is actually an incorrect description of friction. I don't intend to argue about it or explain though.


But it does bring up something interesting about the mechanism of friction: that it works on the molecular level. Interlocking shapes of the molecules themselves as they are pushed into each other, plus potentially the effects of electrical charges. Of course on the much larger scale there are also peaks and valleys in the material itself (and the surface) and that also is part of it, but the interesting thing is that you're actually getting molecular interactions. The harder you push them together, the closer those molecules are and that increases the friction! A larger area spreads that force out, resulting in less force on any part of it, and it sums up the same. Which is why friction is independent of the contact area. Yes, even if you reduced it to the size of a pencil eraser, with the same material and same weight you get the same friction. It will tend to bounce off the surface though (= no friction) and wear out rather quickly


While we're at it, these laws of friction are not really scientific laws. We don't *know* the full physical basis for them, because they are derived entirely by empirical observation. We do know that they work for most (but not all!) materials. So any time we hear someone making absolute statements, contrary to the empirical laws, and claiming some sort of scientific reasoning for it, I tend to take that also with a grain of salt.
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Old 10-01-19, 02:18 PM
  #83  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
You dont mention an actual width that all paved road riders should use. All that typing, and you dont say. I cant imagine you are actually suggesting a 2.9" tire for road riding as that would eliminate the use of drop bar road bikes due to not being able to make everything fit. Rear triangles would need to change, cranksets would need to change, FDs would need to change, wheelsets would need to change, etc etc.
Your suggestion completely ignores the reality that many people ride road bikes to go as fast as they can. They may not be racing, but that doesnt mean they dont want a quick handling and fast bike.




There is a middle ground between very skinny tires and what you suggest. Its a vast middle ground, actually. A 28-32mm tire can be supple, fast, and comfortable for road riding. Low rolling resistance and spins quicker. Best of both worlds.
Heck, the 37mm Vittoria Hyper tires on my commute/touring bike are fast, light, and comfortable. A 3inch wide tire isnt needed to be comfortable.



There is no need to insult and dismiss cyclists for riding how they like. If some want to train like they will race- fine. If some want to ride only on the weekends and go all out when they do- fine. If some want to fatbike on pavement in the summer- fine.
Also, dont confuse disagreeing with some of what you claim as me being dismissive of how you ride. Those are separate.



My most used drop bar bikes are-
a road bike with tires that measure 27mm.
a road bike with tires that measure 31mm.
a touring bike with tires that measure 37mm.
a gravel bike with tires that measure 43mm.

I can ride all of them faster than my 2.35" mountain bike.
When on pavement, the 31mm tire road bike is what I am fastest on- due to a combination of geometry, weight, and tires. This thread is about performance, not comfort. Performance includes comfort, yes, but it isnt entirely comfort. You seem to advocate for comfort thru this thread, and then add general statements that your suggested comfort will also be fastest.
Heaven forbid bikes evolve into something better than their current form! Gasp! It's true, the wider the tire and lower the pressure does equate to better handling and more efficiency, I am absolutely advocating for 2.9" wide tires on the asphalt, doesn't mean the bike will be slow and clunky. Also, full disclosure, I wear spandex every day. It's leggings weather here in the Inland NW!
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Old 10-01-19, 02:20 PM
  #84  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
But it does bring up something interesting about the mechanism of friction: that it works on the molecular level. Interlocking shapes of the molecules themselves as they are pushed into each other, plus potentially the effects of electrical charges. Of course on the much larger scale there are also peaks and valleys in the material itself (and the surface) and that also is part of it, but the interesting thing is that you're actually getting molecular interactions. The harder you push them together, the closer those molecules are and that increases the friction!
That's true for extremely clean and flat surfaces, but for tires on tarmac it's only the "peaks and valleys" that matter.
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Old 10-01-19, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
Guys that actually ride fast would disagree. The standard tire width for Paris-Roubaix is 28mm. This year's winner of the brutal Dirty Kanza was on 42mm tires, and he's a pretty big guy (170 lbs). If wider tires were faster, they would use them.
You would be surprised how hard it is for good ideas to permeate in to competition - the PR is one thing, but I would absolutely argue wider than 42 tires would benefit the DK competitors. That said, buying a bike or tires based on competitions which you have no intent of entering is nonsense.
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Old 10-01-19, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
The vast majority of world tour riders are domestiques, and they do not participate in the sprints. If super wide tires offered an advantage, they would be using them.
Not a bad thought here but you're neglecting the pressure for advertisers, sponsors, interchangeability..... all those things factor in to competitive racing. The whole idea that you would base your tire decision on what they're doing in the world tour is insane.
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Old 10-01-19, 02:45 PM
  #87  
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
Heaven forbid bikes evolve into something better than their current form! Gasp! It's true, the wider the tire and lower the pressure does equate to better handling and more efficiency, I am absolutely advocating for 2.9" wide tires on the asphalt, doesn't mean the bike will be slow and clunky. Also, full disclosure, I wear spandex every day. It's leggings weather here in the Inland NW!
Bikes have evolved and will continue to evolve.

Once again- this thread is about tire width as it pertains to speed- a 3" tire will require so many changes that what you end up with is no longer anything that looks or performs like a road bike. The longer chainstays, , changed frame geometry, heavy wheels, and undesirable drivetrain are just four of many design changes that would be required. And you would end up with a bike that

Why not just allow a spectrum of bicycles to exist- and let people choose how they want?
You are dominating a thread and arguing for something that doesnt exist. There isnt a 3" wide tire road bike around. Basically, you have the Salsa Fargo, Cinelli Hobootleg(some version), Wilier Jaroon(something), and probably something else from a small brand. 4 or 5 bikes maybe that fit your argument- and none of them are road bikes. They will have 73mm BBs, and/or 1x boost drivetrains, and/or long chainstays, and/or relaxed frame angles. Thats all well and good- and people like this sort of bike for specific applications, but not for going fast on pavement.

All this is sort of missing a key point- wider tires roll faster at the same pressure compared to thinner tires. But wider tires arent run at the same pressure. They are run at lower pressure and for good reason(s).


Note- I am not suggesting thinner tires are faster. I am saying 3" tires arent faster. Compass/RH tires with absurdly supple casings in 50mm can be just as fast as 25mm tires, but again- the issue is what road bikes can fit that. I am speaking from a realistic perspective instead of your hypothetical idealist perspective.

Last edited by mstateglfr; 10-01-19 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 10-01-19, 02:47 PM
  #88  
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
That's true for extremely clean and flat surfaces, but for tires on tarmac it's only the "peaks and valleys" that matter.
Even with interlocking surfaces, rough surfaces, it's still molecular interactions causing friction - that's what I found so interesting about it. That's not to deny the mechanical effects of surfaces locking together.
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Old 10-01-19, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
Not a bad thought here but you're neglecting the pressure for advertisers, sponsors, interchangeability..... all those things factor in to competitive racing. The whole idea that you would base your tire decision on what they're doing in the world tour is insane.

Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
You would be surprised how hard it is for good ideas to permeate in to competition - the PR is one thing, but I would absolutely argue wider than 42 tires would benefit the DK competitors. That said, buying a bike or tires based on competitions which you have no intent of entering is nonsense.
Your premise is that extremely wide tires are faster and more efficient. Cyclists who make their living going fast on a bicycle clearly disagree.


I run 25mm and 32mm tires interchangeably on my road bike and my gravel bike. The 32mm tires are more comfortable on rough pavement, but there is no question the 25mm tires are faster on all but the worst pavement.


And yes, my equipment buying decisions are influenced by the opinions of the fastest cyclists. Why? Because they know more than recreational cyclists about riding fast.
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Old 10-01-19, 03:03 PM
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I wouldn't base everything on race teams- they race in a world where spare bikes are immediately available in case of mechanical issues, and where mechanics are at the side of the road with spare tires at the end of every gravel section, and despite the UCI's attempts, it does stand to reason that racing bikes have evolved to be more specialized (no, not Specialized) than the road bike that would probably suit a general recreational rider.


that being said, they aren't failing to run fat bike tires at Paris-Roubaix because of "advertiser pressure". I love that this is like, the number one excuse for literally anything about pro tour teams, like them not running titanium bikes anymore, or whatever. Pro team sponsors love exposure. One of the best ways to get exposure is to win races.
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Old 10-01-19, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Bikes have evolved and will continue to evolve.

You are dominating a thread and arguing for something that doesnt exist. There isnt a 3" wide tire road bike around. Basically, you have the Salsa Fargo, Cinelli Hobootleg(some version), Wilier Jaroon(something), and probably something else from a small brand.
I am really sorry to the OP - I didn't realize I was 'dominating' the thread, that's absolutely not my intent. And you're absolutely correct about road bikes, my point was just that "road bikes" aren't really meant to be ridden on the road at all, they're really road RACING bikes that are built around the concept of not quick speed over distance but rather a sprint finish. I would absolutely welcome a shift toward longer chainstays, shorter stems and top tubes, wider tires, different bars, etc. Again, sorry for being over bearing, I didn't realize until you said something, I am just clearly very passionate about efficiency, safety, etc.
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Old 10-01-19, 03:12 PM
  #92  
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dude flat bar hybrids with tires wider than road bike tires are like the best selling type of bike.

at this point you're just arguing against specialization. it'd be like if I argued that touring bikes should be less good at carrying loads, or if mountain bikes should be less good on trails, or if beach cruisers should be less comfortable
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Old 10-01-19, 03:13 PM
  #93  
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I purchased a new bike this year. It came stock with very high-quality ('race' level) 38mm gravel/cross tires, which roll very well indeed on paved surfaces. Hated them; bike felt 'out of focus' for me and the riding I do.

Switched them out to my preferred 32mm, very high-quality road tires: bike instantly came into 'focus' -- for me.

As an old (68), arthritic, recreational cyclist, that is all that matters, to me. I would no sooner go back to 38s, or 42s, 2.3" or whatever tires on my bike or another bike than I would go to 23s or 25s: 32s are my sweet-spot. Anything wider makes the bike feel heavy, sluggish, and slow -- for no perceptible increase in comfort -- to me.

However, I would not dream of arguing from my experience/preferences that all cyclists, everywhere, riding on paved surfaces should be riding on 32s and only 32s, let alone that there is some sort of "scientific"* basis for such an idiotic assertion.

But hey ... this is teh Biek Forms, where personal preferences are asserted to be universally-applicable truths all the time.

Carry on.

*"Science", in some recent posts on this thread, appears to consist of some very loose paraphrases of some of Jan Heine's blog posts on tire width.
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Old 10-01-19, 03:43 PM
  #94  
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
... my point was just that "road bikes" aren't really meant to be ridden on the road at all, they're really road RACING bikes that are built around the concept of not quick speed over distance but rather a sprint finish.
What universe are you living in? Nearly every post you made in this thread was about how wide tires are faster. Not once did you mention anything about road bikes being unsuitable for the road. (Which, by the way, is another ludicrous statement.)
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Old 10-01-19, 05:18 PM
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Isn't it great that we have more choices than ever? The C&V guys can run their 23 mm high pressure tires on their steel framed bikes to their heart's content. I am very happy with the 28 mm tires that came stock with my Ruby. She can definitely handle 32s and I think up to 35 (disk brakes). If I were more into gravel riding, I would definitely think about 32s, but I prefer smooth pavement.

More people seem to be putting 32-35 mm tires on their road bikes and they are satisfied with the performance. Remember you can't get your best performance if you aren't comfortable on the bike. And speed is not always the #1 consideration. I'm working on doing longer rides even if I am slow. I did my first 50 mile ride this weekend and had no pain anywhere. I thank my new bike for that and I'm sure the 28 mm tires helped to smooth out any rough pavement (although the bike path is newly paved so quite nice!).

I see fat bikes out on the paved paths too. Those things are built like tanks! I was a little surprised when one passed me going up a hill until I realized he had an electric motor on it.

Most of us are not professionals. We just want to enjoy riding our bikes and hopefully improve our fitness while we are at it. Dialing in the exact ideal tire size and pressure is important if you need to get every last watt to help you win the race. If you are riding for fun and fitness, you don't need to be perfectly efficient. It's actually a better workout if you're not.
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Old 10-01-19, 06:04 PM
  #96  
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Originally Posted by NomarsGirl View Post
Isn't it great that we have more choices than ever? The C&V guys can run their 23 mm high pressure tires on their steel framed bikes to their heart's content. I am very happy with the 28 mm tires that came stock with my Ruby. She can definitely handle 32s and I think up to 35 (disk brakes). If I were more into gravel riding, I would definitely think about 32s, but I prefer smooth pavement.
A huge number of C&V road bikes can take 32 or 35mm tires. Tons of road bikes from the 60s, 70, and early 80s can handle 32mm tires. And even many of the late 80s models can handle 28mm tires. This is across quality from entry to mid to high level frames.
There are some higher level road frames in the late 80s thru 90s that are limited to 25s, for sure.

If riding gravel, I would definitely consider 40mm or more...but that stuff varies greatly depending on location.
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Old 10-01-19, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
A huge number of C&V road bikes can take 32 or 35mm tires. Tons of road bikes from the 60s, 70, and early 80s can handle 32mm tires. And even many of the late 80s models can handle 28mm tires. This is across quality from entry to mid to high level frames.
There are some higher level road frames in the late 80s thru 90s that are limited to 25s, for sure.
I guess my point is that it is nice that we have choices. Some will choose to put on the widest tires that the bike can handle. Some will stay with the skinny, high-pressure tires because they like them or want the bike to look as close to original as possible.

I understand the principles of physics. But the optimum tire size/pressure does assume a perfect road surface and a certain level of efficiency of the rider. The pros are much more efficient than us mere mortals. A rider who is feeling sore from every bump in the road isn't going to be as efficient as one who is more comfortable on the bike. But at the same time, really big tires are just going to feel heavy and sluggish and that will wear you down too. So while you can crunch equations all day, the truth is the best tire is the one that works best for the individual rider allowing him to have his best ride (which isn't necessarily the fastest ride).
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Old 10-01-19, 06:51 PM
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asgelle
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Originally Posted by NomarsGirl View Post
I understand the principles of physics. But the optimum tire size/pressure does assume a perfect road surface and a certain level of efficiency of the rider. The pros are much more efficient than us mere mortals. A rider who is feeling sore from every bump in the road isn't going to be as efficient as one who is more comfortable on the bike. But at the same time, really big tires are just going to feel heavy and sluggish and that will wear you down too. So while you can crunch equations all day, the truth is the best tire is the one that works best for the individual rider allowing him to have his best ride (which isn't necessarily the fastest ride).
You do not understand the principles of physics. Correct analyses do not assume a perfect surface. Rider efficiency is irrelevant. Pros as a group are no more efficient than other riders (unless you’re using some made up definition known only to you). Comfort has no effect on efficiency. Yes, optimum tire/pressure choice is a matter of personal preference. Fastest tire/pressure is not.
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Old 10-01-19, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by sheddle View Post
I'm now vaguely curious to see if they still make 700c21s, which were apparently popular back when people thought narrow tires were the way to go. Kinda want to try them for fun.


also F1 tire width is generally down to regulations, and not any sort of ideal-tire-width development
I have used and ridden 19s. So to me a 23 is rather plush. I prefer 23mm tires and since I am not a big guy, 5-10, 160 (maybe) I can drop a little pressure, about 100 psi and do fine. I do have one road bike with 25s fitted and my Cross Check currently wears 38s. So, I have choices depending on if I feel fast or feel like not fast.
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Old 10-01-19, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by NomarsGirl View Post
Isn't it great that we have more choices than ever? The C&V guys can run their 23 mm high pressure tires on their steel framed bikes to their heart's content.
I dunno, I'm running low-pressure 52s on one of my drop-bar vintage steel bikes. Works great.

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