Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WHAT TIRES FOR MY ROAD BIKE? The 700x23c vs. 700x25c Hi/Lo Pressure Debate

Well, I've blown out the last of my spare tires and have been considering what size and brand to replace them with.  

For racing I have thoroughly enjoyed the Michelin Pro2 Race tires. They are by far the grippiest I've used, but they are not an ideal training tire because they are minimalist and wear out quickly. For training I have traditionally used Continental 4 Season 700x23's and they seem to really take a beating from my 185lb butt and the tread lasts forever.

I have been riding my fixed gear Peugeot (pic below and specs and more HERE) alot over the past year and it's a fantastic commuter/workout ride (from my house to downtown LA 16.5mi takes me 40-55min depending on lights).  It's a freaking blast in triathlons too.  Its a steel frame and I run Cheap-O 700x28 Vittoria Zaffiro's or 700x25 Cheng Shen's at 100psi.  They are great and they never flat.

I used to be on the hi-press 23's bandwagon, but realistically I spend 99.5% of my time "training" and between being broke and delving more into obscurity in competition (i.e. racing fixie) I just want a comfortable ride on a tire that will last me a decent amount of time...  I'm not so worried about flats and I'm not a crazy speed racer so I don't have lot of incentive to pummel my taint on weekend rides for no reason.

So all that got me thinking that maybe:

(1) I should switch my Road Bike (Trek 5200 carbon w/Dura Ace) from 700x23's to 700x25's and

(2) I should drop my tire pressures from 115-120ish down to 100psi.

Realistically, I spend WAY more time "training" and doing group rides than racing and most of it is in the Canyons of Agoura Hills, Malibu, Ventura County.

For those reasons, I've started thinking it might make more sense to put 25's on my road bike.  I did Ironman France on 23's at 120psi (Pro2 Race's) but the 25's and 28's I've been riding fixie with seem to be much more comfortable and grippy-er on fast turning descents. And lets face it - for the few occasions I do race, I'll be fastest by being in better shape than by having skinnier tires... 

Maybe its because I've spent alot of time on motorcycles and racetracks (it takes a fair bit of effort to stuff the front end of a properly suspended race bike), but I feel like I've always had to be almost overly careful about shoving the front tires of bicycles on tight descents, as my weight can quickly overcome the tiny contact patch of a 23 up front if I don't watch it.  That limit seems to move out a bit further with a 25 or 28.  Especially at 100-105psi vs. 110-120psi.  

Last Saturday I had a 23 on the front and a 28 on the back (just barely fit) b/c that's all I had and it was actually kinda nice!  I of course still had the front end concern, but I really enjoyed the 28 smooth-ride-y-ness especially on a couple miles of absolutely awful grated pavement.  I don't think I was any slower (well, any less slow anyway) and it was alot more comfortable.  That said, I'm probably going to go with 25's on my road bike this next go-round.

I took to the electro-mails in search of advice from my fellow seasoned riders and here's what THEY had to say on the subject:

Says M.K.:
I have been using 25s on my road bike and 28s on fixies for a couple of years and recommend them too.  Definitely better handling, performance and comfort, especially running tire pressure at reasonable levels (for me 95-100 psi on 25s and 85-90 psi on 28s).  Contrary to popular opinion (urban cycling legend?), there is LESS rolling resistance from the wider tires because of the way the contact patch forms.

FWIW, I have no more flats running 95-100 psi than I had when I was running Old School high tire pressures.

Right now I'm running inexpensive Michelin 25s (don't recall the model but they were about $20 per tire on sale at I have used Hutchinson Carbon Comps in the past with good experience, and Verdesteins TriComps ($35 on sale).

Says H.N.:
I agree with M.K.  The high end Michelin's don't last.  At 185lbs you'll be lucky to get 300 miles out of them.  I'm old school.  I stick with 700x23 tires and pump them up to the highest recommended pressure to avoid flats.  Screw comfort.  If I can avoid a flat but be slightly less comfortable then so be it.

For training I use the Conti Ultra-Gatorskin or Specialized Armadillo.  Back in the racing days I would use Michelin Pro Race 2 and again pump it up to the max rating for road races and crits in dry weather.  For time trials I used Vitorria Corsa CX tubulars which can be pumped up to 210 PSI and I pumped them up to 180-200.  I don't suggest taking high speed turns on these.

Says R.A.:
I don't know if they make it in a 25 but my favorite all around tire is Michelin Krylion.  Grippy and super puncture resistant.

I used to use only the Michelin Pro Race tires, but like H.N. and M.K. said, they don't last for s*#t.  The Krylions last forever and I think are just as grippy as the pro-races and have great puncture resistance.  They're just a little heavier than the pro-races.  My experience with Vredestein and Vittoria has been numerous flats.

It looks like I have a winner - has 700x25c Michelin Krylion's for $35.00!  I will continue to run 100psi pressure.  These will be my new training/everyday tires.  I'll stick to the Michelin Pro2 (or maybe Pro3) Race's for racing.  Done and DONE.


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