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Agonizing over tire size: is 32mm hilariously thin in 2021?

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Agonizing over tire size: is 32mm hilariously thin in 2021?

Old 03-16-21, 03:24 PM
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adam.schwartz4
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Agonizing over tire size: is 32mm hilariously thin in 2021?

Informal poll here. in 2012 I bought a Bianchi Volpe and at the time it was the most expensive thing I'd ever purchased. Used my FSA which was due to expire and incredibly wrote off the Italian steed as an expense....hope the wrong people don't see this.

Anyway, back then 32mm was a solid sized tire, and my chainstay spacing is proof of that lol. But my things have certainly changed. I've been loyal to Schwalbe Marathons for over a decade, but 5K miles later through all sorts of NYC streets and upstate gravel, it's finally time for a change. I really want to go up in size, but I am SUPER reluctant to remove my fenders just for a test (they get in the way when I try to see the fit with my commuter wheel with Pasela 38s). Adjusting fenders is my nightmare wrench activity...

Either way I highly doubt I can jam anything bigger than 38 in there!

So here's my question: am I really missing out by riding 32s? Is it worth even the nominal gain in tire size to go 35?

I feel like even 38 is considered thin these days and I wanna know if I'm missing out! I do lots of touring over summer, mostly road with some light gravel. I'm deeply inspired by the Jan Heine Bicycle Quarterly way of thinking and if anything want to get some supple shoes with solid flat protection on my Volpe. Thinking the Soma Shikoros....or just saying screw it and buying another pair of Marathons. Discuss!
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Old 03-16-21, 04:13 PM
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I think 32mm would be fine, especially if it fits your fenders. I'll throw out my own tire thread I have going about this in the long distance sub ...

https://www.bikeforums.net/long-dist...00k-400ks.html

I'm thinking of maybe going to the sweet spot of 35mm for some long day rides or short overnight excursions. Currently I'm running 40mm tires at 50/65psi and I think they'd be great for touring, but my bike was initially setup to handle the large width.

If you haven't thought "gosh I want a tire with more volume" then I don't see a reason to change.
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Old 03-16-21, 04:43 PM
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Internal measurement of fenders?

Could you remove the wheel and use some metric calipers or ruler and determine if 35ís could fit in there? This way youíll have a better idea if purchasing the fatter tires is the right way to proceed or if sticking to the 32ís makes more sense.
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Old 03-16-21, 05:31 PM
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B.C., I'd say head down to your LBS and ask for a test ride of a gravel bike. I did about 13 months ago. I came away relieved, but ambivalent. The bike didn't really fit me, so I didn't bring it home. OTOH, while it was fun riding around in the parking lot under construction, the one I rode felt like it'd be slow on pavement.

But now there's a dearth of bikes in bike shops. Sigh...
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Old 03-16-21, 05:47 PM
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It would be worth it to remove the fenders and try out wider tires. I ride 32's as my thinnest tire, and if I were touring on roads I'd stay with them though it would be worth it to try a larger size.

I just ordered a WABI Thunder and am getting 38's on it. My wifes bike wears 40 or 38 Marathon Supremes which are sweet.
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Old 03-16-21, 07:39 PM
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GrainBrain this is quite the thread! Appreciate it. Gonna have a good look through this, but it sounds like weíre on a similar quest for speed and stability on that small section of gravel.

masi61 you're right. I finally went and did the damn thing and bought digital calipers. Good push thank you!
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Old 03-16-21, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by adam.schwartz4 View Post
Informal poll here. ....am I really missing out?
i'm really confused.

what do YOU want?
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Old 03-16-21, 11:56 PM
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I toured on 32s and did not see the disadvantage. I suppose on gravel, it could cause some problems, but not make it impossible. The biggest advantage of larger tires is the higher weight capacity.
People talk about comfort, but at 85 psi (42s) vs 95, I doubt there is that much of a difference.
If you want to try bigger, the caliper idea should work
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Old 03-17-21, 04:44 AM
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32's are fat tires for some of us old guys who still remember touring on the narrow stuff. I have 32's on my Bilenky and it seems to be a decent compromise between weight, speed, handling, and comfort. If you want true comfort and stability go for a bike with 650B.
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Old 03-17-21, 05:56 AM
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I thought 32mm was pretty much a standard road touring size. I tour on much narrower, but tour ultralight. When I packed heavier 32mm was what I used.

FWIW, I'd suggest that you allow plenty of clearance to allow for a little wobble in case at some point you have spoke/rim problems. It can make the difference between being able to continue and not, so I wouldn't max out on size that fit the frame.
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Old 03-17-21, 06:12 AM
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This is my experience going from 28-32-38 tires. 28's roll great and work well for lighter loads around 20lbs on the rear rack. Commuted for 10 years a 30 mile round trip in all weather including snow. Gravel roads as long as not slick with heavy mud were no problem.
32mm will carry a standard 35-40 pound load without trouble and roll well. Long tours on them were just fine, and they can probably handle even more weight, but never needed to try as I travel light. Commuted a 5 years on them before going to 28mm tires.
38mm tires handle a heavier load, and I have had up to 50 pounds on the rear rack without any issues. This is what I currently have on my touring bike. Without a load they roll OK, not super fast, but they are OK for commuting and touring. The extra weight of the 38 over the 28 is immediately noticeable when accelerating, including climbing. Between 32 and 38 it is less noticeable when climbing, but does show up when accelerating.
When the current pair of 38's wear out I will replace them with a set of 32's as it is my preference to push as little weight as possible.
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Old 03-17-21, 06:55 AM
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32mm certainly isnt wide. If a wider tire can fit, then buying one that is high quality and low rolling resistance means there is no downside as itll roll fast and you can drop the psi a bit for comfort.
Since you use fenders, put the widest fenders that fit on your bike and then base your tire size off of proper fender clearance.
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Old 03-17-21, 07:04 AM
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I ride a Volpe too. Iíve toured on both 28ís and 32ís, nowadays on 32ís to cope with canal towpaths and lighter gravel roads. 35ís have always felt slower to me, but I run high pressure to feel every bump and jolt... Gator Hardshells are my go to.

If I was going to be mainly off-road Iíd want straight handlebars and knobbier wider tires which I have on a 80ís MTB (Miyata On Off Road Runner).

As to fenders, I only mount them when expecting a lot of rain, so in summer I donít bother.

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Old 03-17-21, 07:08 AM
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It really depends on the roads you ride on. I'm fine with 32mm on my bikes for the roads I normally ride on. But, I did a 3 day tour from Venice FL to Jacksonville and on the advice of locals I put on my 35mm Schwalbe Marathons. There were several stretches of long highway "shoulder" that were basically like driving through a automobile junkyard. I don't know if the 32mms would have flatted but the 35s got a bit gouged (which I rarely have happen up here) and picked up radial shards without flatting.

But outside of that ride, I'm staying with 32mm.
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Old 03-17-21, 07:11 AM
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I had a 2006 Volpe and ran Voyager Hypers on it in 35mm(no fenders). Nice, fast, (road) tire with a plush ride..I wish they still made them. The Hypers in 35mm ran 37mm wide on the bike..per my calipers. They just nicely had enough room..an honest 38mm should fit. If I had the bike today, with no fenders, I'd be running Gravelkings in 38mm. With fenders..35mm if they'd fit. The Volpe is a nice ride..great all-rounder bike. I used it for day rides(50ish miles) and for a bit of touring.
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Old 03-17-21, 07:59 AM
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I rode 32's on my LHT until last year when I put 35's on it. For road riding, I don't notice much difference. I believe the switch would be worth it if you want to carry a heavy load, or go offroad and therefore want to run lower tire pressure.
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Old 03-17-21, 08:27 AM
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Every time I've gone to wider tires its been a huge upgrade, as a matter of fact the best upgrade I could have made to my bike. On my last bike I could only fit 38mm with fenders, which made getting rid of that bike and looking for something that would accommodate wider tires a pretty easy decision.
Wider tires have come to my rescue on more than a few occasions; being redirected onto a muddy soft road in the pouring rain due to road construction, being forced onto a soft shoulder while going downhill on a narrow road by aggressive drives, and my favourite, riding through a puddle that turned out to hiding the mother of all pot holes. In all of those situations a narrow tire would have been a disaster.
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Old 03-17-21, 09:24 AM
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TiHabanero THIS is very helpful. The fact that I'm upgrading from the heaviest tires known to the touring world (Marathon Plus) means I should be able to strike a unique balance between supple/faster and an increase in width for greater load capacity and stability. I am guilty of overloading for tours, so I can probably do better in the weight department.

What tires are your preference?

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Old 03-17-21, 09:29 AM
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Count me among those who has been gradually moving wider. But tire pressure and flexibility have a lot to do with the quality of the ride, too, if you feel restricted by your bike's tire clearance. I just had my new bike checked by the shop after its initial break-in. When it came back, the ride was terrible, the tires pumped to the max spec of 90 pounds. Pssssssssss, back down to 55/50, and all is much happier. This bike will take 38mm tires, and that's what my next set will be.
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Old 03-17-21, 10:00 AM
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I have a number of touring bikes and 700 x 32 is my go-to size for road and gravel. I would not consider any wider. I feel sorry for tourists who torture themselves with wider/heavier tires. Don't forget a pound saved in your tires is like five pounds on your frame/ gear. (or something like that).
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Old 03-17-21, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by adam.schwartz4 View Post
THIS is very helpful. The fact that I'm upgrading from the heaviest tires known to the touring world (Marathon Plus) means I should be able to strike a unique balance between supple/faster and an increase in width for greater load capacity and stability. I am guilty of overloading for tours, so I can probably do better in the weight department.

What tires are your preference?
My road bike has 28mm tires, my rando bike has 32mm, my light touring bike is 37mm, medium duty touring bike 40mm (pavement) or 50mm (gravel), and my heavy touring bike has 57mm tires. Those are my preferences.

I have never used Marathon Plus tires.

Some of the tires I tour on are no longer in production. I have toured on Marathons (with Greenguard), Marathon Duremes (folding bead), Marathon Extremes (folding bead), Hutchinson Globetrotters, and have one Marathon XR that is not yet worn out. I think these provide a good balance of flat protection and rolling efficiency. The ones I listed as folding bead came in both types, the folding bead versions roll better.

Non-touring, I have used lots of other tires.

Touring, if I carry a spare it is not a replacement, it is a light weight folding tire that should be good enough to get me to a bike shop.
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Old 03-17-21, 11:26 AM
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32m is fine on almost all hard surfaces. If on loose or very rough surfaces you will probably want something larger - you could probably do it with 32s but you might have to slow down or risk flats or rim damage. But anything that is called a 'road' or 'bike path' is generally doable on 32s.
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Old 03-17-21, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by fishboat View Post

I had a 2006 Volpe and ran Voyager Hypers on it in 35mm(no fenders). Nice, fast, (road) tire with a plush ride..I wish they still made them. The Hypers in 35mm ran 37mm wide on the bike..per my calipers.
I used to run them on my Gunnar Sport, best tire I ever owned. They were crazy to stop making them.
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Old 03-17-21, 11:53 AM
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If 32 mm tires were good in 2012 what made them undesirable in 2021?

I did a lot of touring on my Volpe with 28 mm tires, including a ride across the U. S. The 28 mm tires handled everything we encountered without any problems, including a lot of construction gravel.

My wife also ran 28 mm and it handled this type of road well. We had been using 25 mm tires, and decided to go larger for the cross country trip.


We went to 32 mm tires when we did a 3-month Europe tour. During that trip we rode over 500 miles of dirt and gravel roads and trails. We also had 35 days of rain during that trip; so we did get our share of wet dirt roads. On the same trip we also road over 400 miles on sett, cobble and paver stone roads and trails. Since then we switched to 32 mm tires for all our touring bikes. They seem to be a good compromise between weight, durability, and comfort.


Riding through deep puddles is hard on the bike, especially when you don't know how deep they are.


32 mm tires handled wet cobbles well, and were comfortable on a fully loaded bike.

Last edited by Doug64; 03-18-21 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 03-17-21, 12:05 PM
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I have been running 700-32C Panaracer Pasela PT on my Salsa Vaya for the last 3 or 4 years. I went down from 42mm Maxxxis Overdrives and the bike felt lighter and faster. I also have a couple of vintage touring bikes with 27x1 1/4 (32mm) Panaracer Pasela PT (wire bead)and they both also get the job done and feel? faster. I'm convinced the wide tire fashion was created by "Hot Wheels" when we were kids.

2014 Vaya with 38mm Paselas
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