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Are Wider Tires Safer?

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Are Wider Tires Safer?

Old 09-12-15, 03:31 PM
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mm718
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Are Wider Tires Safer?

Are you less likely to go down if you hit a gravel patch with wide tires? What if you hit a rock with a wide tire? Crossing train tracks or irregularities in pavement? I am curious about your thoughts on tire width and safety?
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Old 09-12-15, 03:34 PM
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What , wider than what ? 4" fat bikes vs 19mm road bikes?
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Old 09-12-15, 03:39 PM
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There is more contact with a wider tire.
But on a paved surface no I don't think a wider tire is safer, at least based on my limited view of my riding and that of friends and family.

On gravel? Sure a wider tire will be better. How much better depends on the difference between tire widths.
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Old 09-12-15, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
What , wider than what ? 4" fat bikes vs 19mm road bikes?
Let's say wider than 32mm...
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Old 09-12-15, 03:49 PM
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Pros:

Wider tires have a bigger contact patch, which means more grip.

Wider tires give the wheel a larger diameter, reducing the angle of approach, which lets you roll over larger obstacles.

Wider tires can be run at lower pressures, increasing grip and comfort on rough roads.


Cons:

Wider tires on a narrow rim can roll off easier under extreme stress, so pair wider tires with a wide rim, or high pressures on a narrow rim.

Wider tires are heavier and slower, which could be considered a safety feature, I guess.
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Old 09-12-15, 03:50 PM
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Like 37? Or 50 ?.. 2"

may be a lacking bike handling skills problem and you want a shopping solution?.



here we have a MUP in town .. 5x 4 by 12's were placed between the Tracks on over water trestle sections

over the past 8 years the shrinkage opened a gap .. On top of a plank its fine, but,

front wheel wants to follow the gap... if you dont pay attention .. between planks

solution 1 pay attention .. Solution 2 avoid that route.

Last edited by fietsbob; 09-12-15 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 09-12-15, 05:45 PM
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Yes they are safer.
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Old 09-12-15, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by mm718 View Post
Are you less likely to go down if you hit a gravel patch with wide tires? What if you hit a rock with a wide tire? Crossing train tracks or irregularities in pavement? I am curious about your thoughts on tire width and safety?
When the drought wrecked the shoulders of our rural roads the wider tires on my touring bike were a definite advantage. A patch of gravel or sand on pavement is going to be quite limited in traction, regardless of tire size.

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Old 09-12-15, 07:54 PM
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Yes, wider tires are safer, especially if wider than the gaps you may fall into, more rideable on less than hard surfaces, more grip, and keep better contact with the ground at speed.
And there is no reason wider tires should be slower at touring speeds. On the contrary. They should be tougher and more puncture resistant than an equivalent narrow tire, so you can use a lighter and faster casing.
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Old 09-12-15, 08:02 PM
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LeeG
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OH yes! 18% safer
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Old 09-12-15, 09:04 PM
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I don't have the science to back it up, but my 2 inch marathon mondials are very confidence inspiring on many different surfaces. Even on 28's I've experienced pinch flats with over100 psi due to unseen potholes and nearly ate **** at high speed. Fat tires just roll through it. 90 plus percent of all European bike tourists I've met all tour on fat tires. They are way more practical imo.
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Old 09-12-15, 10:58 PM
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Wider
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Old 09-12-15, 11:03 PM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post

Wider tires are heavier and slower, which could be considered a safety feature, I guess.
No, actually. All else equal (don't compare some rigid Schwalbe thing to a nice supple tire), a wider tire will have lower rolling resistance than the same tire in a narrower width. Of course this comes at the cost of a small amount of increased wind resistance, but since that doesn't really kick in until speeds exceed 20 mph and our touring loads will account for MUCH more wind resistance, there's really no cost at all.

On safety, the wider, lower pressure tires have a substantially larger contact patch. 200 pounds of rider/bike/gear on 100 psi narrow tires is rolling on 2 square inches. The same rider on 50 psi wide tires is rolling on 4 square inches. That's a lot more surface area to resist sliding on a small patch of gravel/oil/dust.

Then there's the added advantage of being much more stable for the occasional bail-out maneuver. Last year my tandem captain failed to control the lane on a narrow road as we approached a blind curve. When motorists came from both directions, she simply steered off onto the gravel shoulder until the trouble had passed and then rode right back onto the pavement. We were rolling 1.75" tires. I dare say she wouldn't have done this on 25 mm tires.
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Old 09-12-15, 11:58 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
No, actually. All else equal (don't compare some rigid Schwalbe thing to a nice supple tire), a wider tire will have lower rolling resistance than the same tire in a narrower width.
Yes, but all else isn't equal. Specifically, one cannot run a wide tyre at the same pressure. My touring bike tyres will in practice have much greater rolling resistance than the 23mms on my road bike that I run at 110 psi.
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Old 09-13-15, 04:25 AM
  #15  
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I like my 650b x 38 tires and they are more stable, especially on our crappy roads in NE. I understand there are still smooth roads in other parts of the country, but in MA such a thing is an abstract concept.

On the other hand, a bike with a lot of geometric trail as well as pneumatic trail might be too stable for some situations. That is the rider might not be able to manuver quickly enough to avoid a hazard in the road.
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Old 09-13-15, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
...Wider tires are heavier and slower, which could be considered a safety feature, I guess.
This was my first thought, though it's a tough one to sell. (I just noticed three different "ough" sounds in that sentence.) In the hiking world, there's a similar question about heavy boots vs running shoes. Some people get knee injuries from simply wearing heavy boots, so for them, the lighter shoes are safer in a way. No easy answer.
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Old 09-13-15, 05:39 AM
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There are a lot of variables. Common wisdom would say a wider tire would be slower and heavier but, having a larger footprint, be easier to manage and be safer. I found that the 50mm Schwalbe Big Ben tires I am now using are faster than the 42mm Marathon Dureme I used to use. They also make it much easier to ignore the surface. I'm a lot more likely to take a two track or gravel road than ever before. At this point I can't see a reason to use anything else.



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Old 09-13-15, 07:53 AM
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Wide tires can be just as fast if not faster than a narrower tire. I also find the lower pressures used results in less punctures despite running very supple rubber with no special anti-flat material in the tire itself. The lower pressures also lend themselves to setting up tires tubeless which reduces rolling resistance further and eliminates most of the annoying flats you get touring the side of a road.

Are they safer? I'd say so. I'd much rather be on a wider tire for gravel or unpredictable surfaces.

They are also more comfortable and just as fast. I wouldn't tour on a skinny tire and I wouldn't buy a touring bike that didn't have room for wider tires and fenders.

The biggest downside for running wider tires is that the options for wide supple tires is limited to mail order in most places.
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Old 09-13-15, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
No, actually. All else equal (don't compare some rigid Schwalbe thing to a nice supple tire), a wider tire will have lower rolling resistance than the same tire in a narrower width.
I know, I know, I read that article that everyone else did a few years ago, too. There's a reason even the pro peleton has 25c and 28c tires now. However, all things aren't always equal, and the wider tire chosen here is almost always a large schwalbe. The generalization I made works for 95% of the big, wide tires on the market. It doesn't work for a Compass Grand Bois, but I'm close enough.

Every one of my statements has an exception, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
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Old 09-13-15, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by mm718 View Post
Are you less likely to go down if you hit a gravel patch with wide tires? What if you hit a rock with a wide tire? Crossing train tracks or irregularities in pavement? I am curious about your thoughts on tire width and safety?
from the underlined comments, it implies that you are not comfortable going over stuff like this, which makes me lead off my opinion with the statement that every individuals bike handling skillset is different and what they are comfortable going over with a given tire.
I ride a 28mm slick bike unloaded and partially loaded a lot, and have toured a lot with 28 slicks on mostly paved roads, but unloaded and partially loaded on all kinds of surfaces. I commute on it on Montreal streets which are notorious for bad surfaces, potholes, wide cracks, etc etc and I go over train tracks all the time. For riding on this bike with 28s, for me its not an issue BUT and its a big but, you have to be on the ball all the time, for either avoiding stuff or how you go over/into stuff.

So while I make this statement about being comfortable riding 28s on gravel or whatever, I also regularly ride a bike with 38s, 1.5 inch tires on all kinds of surfaces and have ridden up to 2 in. tires on this bike as well. There is no doubt about it, wider tires mean you dont have to be so precise of what and how you go over or into stuff, and I still enjoy riding my old mtn bike commuter simply because you can just plough over stuff unruffled that would unsettle the other bike.

I do like the feeling of 28s, but I realize that unloaded when I sprint a lot and stuff commuting, the physically lighter 28s will always make a bike feel zippier than heavier tires, but I certainly do admit that for regular steady riding, the 38s dont feel that much slower when I do the same route on both bikes regularly (caveat-its hard for me to compare directly because my two bikes are diff layouts, drop bars vs mtn bike risers, 700 vs 26, diff gearing)

As someone who isnt particularly strong, always wanting to look for any efficiency advantage, I liked the 28s feel even when loaded. On good roads I still feel there is a slight advantage, but I am more and more inclined to go wider now because the reality is that often, road surfaces arent that great, and a smoother ride with 32s or 35s or whatnot, will be physically easier on you , which is less tiring over a days ride if the roads are so so.

as others have stated, talking blanket statements about tire "feeling" is always a bit difficult with the diff characteristics of tires , weight, suppleness etc.

I still feel a persons bike handling skills will always be important, but in loose surfaces on gravel, especially with a load, wider is always going to help with less digging in, and overall, gives you a bit more leeway for various surfaces from a safety point of view compared to narrower tires.
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Old 09-13-15, 09:19 AM
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I think the OP was about safety, not speed. Presumably speed is not a concern. However "safety" is going to vary with the rider and their objectives. Firstly, the tire width should be appropriate to the rim width. That's for sure a safety thing. See Sheldon Brown's sizing chart. Beyond that, if one is riding paved roads, a relatively narrow tire will be safer cornering, say no more than a 28 on a "normal" 13mm or 15mm internal measure 700c road rim. We've toured our 350 lb. all-up tandem on 28mm tires over cobbles and really horrible European gravel farm roads in complete safety.

However, if you're going to ride a lot of gravel, especially loose gravel, the wider the rim and tire, the better. I don't suppose there's really an upper limit there. However that sort of punishment will mean a heavier tire, too. Light wide road tires aren't going to be reliable. You'll get sidewall cuts.

IME there's no difference between narrower and wider tires w/r to pinch flats. That's simply a matter of knowing the correct tire pressure for your weight and maintaining that pressure.

As others have said, safety is much more a matter of bike handling than tire width.
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Old 09-13-15, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I think the OP was about safety, not speed. Presumably speed is not a concern. However "safety" is going to vary with the rider and their objectives. Firstly, the tire width should be appropriate to the rim width. That's for sure a safety thing. See Sheldon Brown's sizing chart. Beyond that, if one is riding paved roads, a relatively narrow tire will be safer cornering, say no more than a 28 on a "normal" 13mm or 15mm internal measure 700c road rim. We've toured our 350 lb. all-up tandem on 28mm tires over cobbles and really horrible European gravel farm roads in complete safety.

However, if you're going to ride a lot of gravel, especially loose gravel, the wider the rim and tire, the better. I don't suppose there's really an upper limit there. However that sort of punishment will mean a heavier tire, too. Light wide road tires aren't going to be reliable. You'll get sidewall cuts.

IME there's no difference between narrower and wider tires w/r to pinch flats. That's simply a matter of knowing the correct tire pressure for your weight and maintaining that pressure.

As others have said, safety is much more a matter of bike handling than tire width.
your comments are very vailid, and your last one I highlighted seems to me more the factor here in how the person asking this question worded their concerns--which seem to imply a certain amount of worrying about loose surfaces or obstacles like train tracks-which very much connects to your comment about bike handling skills.

Seems to me the concern and questioning about "safety" to the OP is falling down.

a rider I know who has decades of riding experience still has questionable handling skills, has to put a foot down off a pedal when doing slow u turns and doesnt have the instincts of body stance and unweighting etc when going over obstacles. Its common with beginning riders, but some people just don't have the instincts, reactions, eyesight or whatever to develop better bike handling.
In this vein, wider tires will be safer for them because a bike will be less unsettled by bumps and whatnot, and if a rider is unobservant in general, wider will be better for not seeing in advance and riding into cracks or whatever.
Thats my take on this topic.
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Old 09-13-15, 10:07 AM
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There's a mini-tour I do every year that includes a small section of pretty large stones. I did it the first year on 1.5" Specialized slicks and it was a horror. Did it the next year on 2.25 mountain bike tires and I didn't feel a thing -- except for the horrible "drag" on the rest of the route. Returned in 2015 with Schwalbe 2.35" Big Apples, which are wider than my mountain bike tires, but slick instead of knobby. The results were not as good as the MTB's, but still much better than with the narrow tires.

I think the tread-type is at least as important as the tire width, but yes, I think wider tires are safer.

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Old 09-13-15, 10:45 AM
  #24  
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Thanks to the many of you who left constructive responses. No, I don't think I have any bike handling deficiencies. I am fairly confident and have excellent balance but tend to be cautious. I was thinking more in terms of a long tour with hundreds of hours of riding when on a descent for intance one might not have time to react optimally to a hazard. I was also generally appealing to your collective wisdom to see if there were other safety advantages/disadvantages of wider tires, as I consider going up in tire width.
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Old 09-13-15, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by mm718 View Post
.... when on a descent for intance one might not have time to react optimally to a hazard. I was also generally appealing to your collective wisdom to see if there were other safety advantages/disadvantages of wider tires, as I consider going up in tire width.
its fair to say that with downhills, especially when loaded--just because of the "18 wheeler" effect of not being able to stop as quickly-- using judgement of speed that entirely depends on the road conditions, how far you can see ahead and not getting past a speed that wont allow you to slow down sufficiently for an obstacle or ride around it--these are the main issues that are always going to be there, no matter the tire width.

I still think that wider to an extent will be bit easier in dealing with cracks and such, and the lower pressures certainly will mean a bike gets less unsettled by roughness or whatever.

How wide is wide, thats where you personally have to try diff tires and decide from experience what feels best for you vs perceived rolling resistance vs the type of roads you are on more.
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