Sturdy and fairly rugged for a road tire. Resists flats of all kinds, whether from punctures or sidewall splits. Handles fast corners with aplomb. Rolls smooth and isn’t too heavy. Reflective strip is functional and stylish.
Fits tightly to rims, making installation tough and requiring tire levers and elbow grease. May be vulnerable to snakebite (pinch) flats at lower psi.
Lasts over 500 miles in daily road use. Adapt well to most rims. Easy to pack away as a spare. Meaty construction. Good grip yet low rolling resistance. Kevlar adds to puncture resistance.
Folding bead construction can make them more difficult to mount. Worn tire can split along its seams.
Very puncture-resistant. Service life is well above the 500-600 miles of other road tires. Offers excellent cornering. Rolling resistance is minimal.
Tend to be heavier than other road tires. Installation can be a bit tricky, with a risk of a pinch flat. Tends to fail at the sidewalls rather than the treads.
Attractive styling gives tire a sleek look. Added graphene helps tire resist punctures. Stays grippy in the corners and light on the straightaways, making for easy acceleration. Excellent handling and durability.
Tires are slightly smaller than advertised measurements, and can therefore be difficult to mount correctly. A bit more rolling resistance than top of the line tires.
Fairly easy to mount, thanks to being true to advertised size. Provides a comfortable ride at a lower psi, and can be springy at higher psi (90-100+). Seals small punctures quickly, with hardly a blip in speed. Dependable on gravel and dirt.
A pretty heavy tire for its size. Mounting can be touchy, as with all tubeless tires. Riding at a lower psi may shorten tire’s lifespan.
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Plenty of casual bike riders give little thought to the tires that are carrying them around, at least not until one goes flat, splits, or shreds. Suddenly, it’s time to buy a new road bike tire and you’re faced with a dizzying selection.
Figuring out the right size and type can be confusing for many reasons: for instance, two measuring systems are used, metric and English. There are two types of air valves on the market. There are tires designed to be folded up and carried along on touring trips and tires that can’t be folded at all.
Don’t let all of the options daunt you. We at BestReviews are here to help you find the right size and type of road bike tire. Our shopping guide outlines all the information you need to know to get back up and riding in no time.
The type of tire on your bike depends on the kind of bicycle you have and its intended purpose. If you have an expensive composite racing bike, the tire is an integral part of the entire wheel system (and priced to match). An off-the-rack road bike from a local retail store isn’t quite so specialized.
There are three types of road bike tires on the market today: clincher, tubular, and tubeless.
This is the most popular type of tire and one that can be found on most retail bicycles. The inner tube fits inside the clincher tire, which then hooks onto the inside of the rim. When the tube is inflated, the clincher tire presses tightly against the rim, holding everything snugly together. While clincher tires have issues (see below), these tires are inexpensive compared to the other two types on the market, and they are easier to replace.
Clincher tires do succumb to problems like punctures, sidewall splits, and pinch flats.
Punctures: Road debris like nails and glass shards can puncture the tire and cause a leak. Small punctures can usually be repaired with a patch, but neither the inner tube nor the tire will stand up to multiple punctures.
Splits: An aging, weakened or damaged sidewall can split along the diameter of the tire. Tires with deteriorating sidewalls should be replaced as soon as possible.
Pinch flats: These occur when the inner tube gets caught between the tire and the wheel rim. As the inner tube is inflated, the clinch tire presses against the inside rim with increasing force, damaging the caught bit of inner tube and usually requiring that it be replaced.
Price: A single clincher tire ranges in price from $20 to $55.
Lightweight and less prone to punctures, tubular tires are often the tire of choice for road bike racers. This type of tire has no inner tube, hence much less bulkiness and weight. But there’s also no bead to lend it structure, so the tire is rarely perfectly round. And tubular tires are glued in place and so require specially made rims.
Price: Tubular tires range in price from $24 to $79.
A newer type of road bike tire, the tubeless tire, takes the best features of the tubular tire and shifts them to clincher-style wheels. Without an inner tube and outer tire, the tubeless tire is much lighter. Rather than being glued to the rim, the tubeless tire is set in place in a similar way to clincher tires (often with the use of a conversion kit). The advantage to this is that the tubeless tire can be changed quickly if you get a puncture.
Price: The price for a single tubeless tire ranges from $36 to $90.
Inverted-tread tires have better grip than slicks and offer improved traction on poorly maintained roads.
Once you decide on the the type of tire, the next decision is the type of tread you need. How and where you use the bike will determine the tread that works best for the road conditions you encounter most often.
Often called “slicks” by the bicycling community, treadless tires are smooth. An inexperienced rider might think that no tread equals no traction, but the opposite is true, thanks to the way the rider’s weight is distributed between the wheels. Treadless tires conform tightly to the road or track and are wicked accurate on curves.
Commuters and casual riders might prefer road bike tires with some tread. These are available in a number of patterns and thicknesses. The tread can be as simple as a slightly thicker outer tread with a wave or “V” pattern threading through it. It might have a “puncture-resistant” layer to ward off flats. Or it can be a slimmer version of a mountain bike’s knobby tires.
For riders who travel along roads of varying quality – from smooth suburban pavement to pothole-ridden side streets to gravelly back roads – tires that offer a blend of smooth and patterned tread can provide traction on varying surfaces. Hybrid tires also have longer tread life and get fewer punctures.
Road bike tires with high tire pressure are under plenty of stress. These tires are reinforced with an interior mesh, or casing, of fabric and composite materials. The higher the thread count (tpi) of this mesh, the more durable the tire. Typical thread counts run between 60 and 100 tpi.
If you’ve been shopping for tires already, you’ve seen a confusing difference in measurements. Some use “c,” some list sizes millimeters, and others show measurements in inches. For example, a common racing tire measurement is 700c x 25mm. But check out a hybrid-tread commuter tire, and the measurement may read “26 in x 2.5 in.” (The first number is the diameter of the tire, and the second number is the width.)
The reason for this disparity in measurements has its origins in the early days of cycling. Simply put, the popularity of racing and touring bicycles in Europe eventually led to almost all bicycles in these two classes sporting metric measurements. Mountain bikes, popularized in the U.S., are measured in inches.
How do you figure out which tire size is right for your bike? The easiest way is to check the existing tires. The measurement is typically molded into the sidewalls of clincher tires. On thinner racing tires, the sizing details might be printed on the sidewall or tube. Some specialized rims print tire size alongside the rim measurements on the outside of the rim.
The width of tires can vary from just a few millimeters to three inches or more.
Thin tires: The thinner the tire, the lighter and faster it tends to be, making it desirable for racers looking for an edge in speed. Thinner tires have less “rolling resistance” because they make less contact with the road and meet less air resistance. They also are less comfortable, have a much higher tire pressure (pounds per square inch, or psi) – 75 psi or more – and are more prone to punctures or failures at the sidewall.
Wide tires: Wider tires offer a more comfortable ride thanks to the wider tread and lower psi (35 to 70 psi). These tires offer more rolling resistance, which isn’t great for racing but is really appreciated when rolling over a gravel-strewn road or pushing through mud.
The outer diameter of the tire plays an important role in the speed at which the bike travels and how well it handles on the road or over obstacles. Hybrid and commuter bikes might use tires with diameters of 26, 27, or 29 inches, similar to mountain bike tires.
There are two types of valves on road bike tires: Schrader and Presta. When purchasing tires and inner tubes, be sure that the valves fit through the rim properly. Schrader valves, for example, are usually too wide to fit through a rim hole made for a Presta valve.
Foldable bike tires use Kevlar bead rather than a stiff wire bead to allow the tire to flex so it can be folded. These tires are somewhat lighter than tires with wire bead.
When replacing a clinch tire, it’s a good idea to replace the inner tube at the same time.
Can’t find the tire size on the sidewalls or the rims? Go to the bicycle manufacturer’s website and look up your bike model for its tire specs.
Most road bike tires should last at least 500 miles before needing to be replaced. Some hybrid tires last well over 1,000 miles, which is considered a very good lifespan.
Sometimes a clinch tire or inner tube doesn’t quite fit, even if the tire and tube are the right size. Try inflating the inner tube about halfway before pressing it into the tire. Mount them onto the rim together and then fully inflate the tube. This should help set the tire properly against the rim.
Q. Can I use a tubeless tire on my commuter bike? Is it worth the price?
A. Tubeless tires are more often used by road racers and triathletes, but they have attractive advantages for commuters. For one, they don’t succumb to pinch flats. Ride quality is improved, as is overall comfort, because tubeless tires can roll along at a lower tire pressure, reducing those spine-jarring jolts over bumpy surfaces. On the negative side, tubeless tires are much pricier than clinch tires, trickier to install (even with an adapter kit), and can be more difficult to patch or repair.
Q. My road bike has wide tires. Can I replace them with narrower tires?
A. In most cases, yes, but be aware that you might have to purchase new rims if you’re dropping to a significantly narrower width. It’s a good idea to purchase tires that have the same width as the ones you’re replacing, or as close to the same as possible. Once the new tires are mounted and trued, make sure your brakes are adjusted to contact the rims correctly.
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