Why Wide Tyres are Considered Better
One of the biggest myths in cycling is that wider tyres are slow. Narrow tyre types have previously been accepted as the quickest and 25mm tyres on a road bike were considered exotically wide and slow! However, recent research has shown the opposite.
Bicycles started off with incredibly wide tyres that suited the often unsurfaced roads that were common in the very early days of road cycling. As the roads developed bikes did too and everything got narrower.
Over the last few decades, 19-23mm tyres have been seen as the favoured choice for regular cyclists. This is due to the fact that these were liked by professional racing cyclists. And as regular cyclists like to emulate the pros, narrow tyres have prevailed ever since. But very recently there has been a noticeable shift towards wider tyres.
Rene Herse carried out some testing on different tyre widths and found that the 20 mm were slowest, and the 25 mm fastest, with the 23 mm in the middle. They carried out their tests again using different methodology and found the same results.
Rene Herse showed our results to the tech people of a few pro teams. They did their own testing which confirmed their results, and soon pro racers moved from 23 to 25 mm tyres.
Many riders are of the idea that wider tyres are slower because of the greater wind resistance. However, the difference between 25mm and 32mm is too small to measure reliably. So there is essentially no effect from the wind.
It’s accepted knowledge that, for the majority of cyclists, wider tyres offer a more pleasant ride. For many people, they find that the additional comfort of wider tyres reduces their fatigue; allowing them to put out more power and potentially go faster.
Thinner wheels being more uncomfortable could add to why so many people have the perception that they are going faster. The vibrations caused by riding at fast speeds is something that’s almost impossible to avoid. Riders quickly associate these sensations with going FAST. Thinner wheels make the feeling of vibrations more frequent, which explains why you might feel as though you are travelling at record speeds when you are in fact travelling slower.
Despite all of this, what it comes down to is preference. You might find that even though wider tyres are proven to be quicker, you might miss the feel of thin tyres below you, which is more than understandable. It can take some time to figure out what tyre width is optimal for you so be sure to test as many as you can before you make a final decision.
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