Which bike tires do I need?
August 14, 2006 12:54 PM   Subscribe

My current Fuji road bike has 700x23 tires that have worn out. When replacing tires, do I need exactly the same size or could I go for a 700x25 or a 700x20? What might the difference be? Are there particular tire brands/models that are ideal for durability and general city biking?
posted by cubby to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i've been very happy with my specialized armadillos.
posted by lester at 1:08 PM on August 14, 2006

For riding in the city I would go up to at least the 700x25. Hopefully someone will step in who can give good advice regarding the width limitations based upon rim size. As far as I know all three widths you mention typically fit the same rims.

You definitely want a tire with kevlar belting and a tube that is pinch resistant. Wandering through these links will probably be helpful.
posted by Carbolic at 1:10 PM on August 14, 2006

You should be able to use any size tire you want in that range--they should all fit on your rim. With regards to city riding, bigger tires mean a more comfortable ride and greater ability to handle rocks, potholes, etc. 700x25 is pretty nice and is what is on my road bike currently. 700x28 can handle almost anything you can throw at it, including gravel roads, grass, mud, etc. If you go bigger than 700x25 make sure the tire will physically fit between your brake pads--my bike won't take anything bigger than a 700x25 as there just isn't room.

As far as tires go, Continental Gatorskins seem pretty popular with the crowd at the bikeforms.net, although I've never used them. They also seem kinda pricey, but might be worth it depending on where you are riding.
posted by jtfowl0 at 1:13 PM on August 14, 2006

Errrr....that message board is at bikeforums.net.
posted by jtfowl0 at 1:15 PM on August 14, 2006

One other issue is how heavy you are. If you're a big person, I strongly recommend the larger air capacity and pinch resistance of the 25mm tires; if you're lighter you can get the 22s or even 19mm tires and tubes, which will be lighter. On a bike reducing spinning weight is a good thing.
posted by mojohand at 1:22 PM on August 14, 2006

i've used both specialized armadillos and continental gatorskins. they are more or less interchangeable, and both excellent. Both basically give you high durability and high max PSI, which is what I look for in a tire like you are looking for...

I'd probably go to 700x25, but it's mostly a matter of personal preference. As previously stated, they should all fit your rim.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:23 PM on August 14, 2006

i experimented a lot with different kinds of tires on my hybrid 'city bike'. In my experience anything that fits on the rim is fine. I've tried everything from thin and slick 'road tires' to large-and-fat aggressive mountain bike tires. they all stayed on the rim just fine.
If you go to extremes tho just keep in mind the tires have to clear the frame (the fattest tires i tried rubbed against the frame just a bit).

slick tires are great for city biking; fast and smooth. in general tho i'd go with a light to moderate tread.
posted by jak68 at 1:23 PM on August 14, 2006

Treads provide no advantage on road-bike tires. The road surface has more "tread" to it anyhow.

There's no real problem with slightly mismatched tire sizes. I'd never go smaller than 23 mm. There are tradeoffs with tire width: narrower tires can in theory be made of slightly lighter (and therefore, more pliant) casings for a given pressure, and are slightly more aerodynamic, but (and this is the weird part) for a given casing thickness, the narrower tire actually has higher rolling resistance: more of the tire needs to deform by more to flatten out for the contact patch. And fatter tires weigh more. When you talk about 20 vs 23, this is really quibbling over small stuff though, and in street riding, you'd never notice it.

I believe the Specialized Armadillos actually have a flatproof guarantee, so save that receipt. And I'll just mention that while Conti makes some nice tires, holy crap, they're tight. I think their manufacturing tolerances must be biased towards the small side: I've had more trouble mounting Contis than any other tire. Woe betide you if you try to fix a flat Conti on a cold day.
posted by adamrice at 2:59 PM on August 14, 2006

Every time I have put tires thinner than 23mm on my bike two things have happened:

1) I look at it and think, goddamn my bike is gorgeous.
2) I take it for a ride and immediately pledge never buy anything but 23s again for riding in the city.

There's no reason to ride tires that thin in the city, except to look cool.

Continental Ultra 2000 are cheap and durable.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:30 PM on August 14, 2006

At the narrow end of the spectrum, 700x20 is fast and smooth, but rather impractical for city riding. They leave you more prone to flats and rim damage.

At the wide end, I think 700x28 and above work fine but look ugly on a road bike. And wider than 32, things start to feel rather sluggish.

So I find 700x23 or 25 is the sweet spot. And given that manufacturing tolerances aren't that tight, especially across makes / models of tires, 23 and 25 are more or less the same.

If you stick a tire liner in your rear wheel (not necessary for the front), you have flat resistance for pretty much any make / model of tire. I've been riding everyday for the last ten years and have averaged at most one flat per year.
posted by randomstriker at 10:57 PM on August 14, 2006

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