How To: Choose road cycling tires

New tires can lower weight, improve grip and last longer

How To Tech Tires
Different tires are better or worse for certain applications depending on the specific qualities of the tire and the concerns of the rider. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Different tires are better for certain applications depending on the specific qualities of the tire and the concerns of the rider (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Editors Note: This article was written by Art’s Cyclery web content editor Jerald Westendorf. The original post can be found here.

No one piece of equipment on your bike is more important and no one piece receives more abuse than your tires. So don’t just slap the deal of the week on there and call it good. Put in a little research time and you can improve ride quality, reduce weight, and increase durability.

Different tires are better or worse for certain applications depending on their specific qualities and the concerns of the rider. Read on to find out what you should be looking for when you shop, and click over to page 2 for a breakdown of some of the most popular road tires and their best qualities.

Durability
Tires
 
Tires are your connection to the road, they are on the front lines working to improve your ride (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery
  • Look for extra protection under the tread beyond just the standard casing. Words in the description like “breaker,” “puncture protector” and “puncture belt” are great indicators.
  • Sidewall protection is also a signal that the manufacturer has gone through extra effort to protect against flats.
  • Look at the tread compound of the tire for a mention of longevity (the amount of time it takes for your tire to wear out).
  • Durability is very important for training tires that take on the bulk of your mileage.
Weight
  • Look for TPI (or threads per inch) over 100. A higher tpi means that the actual threads used to make up the tire can be smaller and therefore lighter. This is not true in all cases but is a good place to start.
  • The term “racing” is usually a give away or “pro” or “pro level.”
  • Look for an “actual weight” measurement, if available. Under 210g is a good weight per tire.
  • Weight is an important factor to consider if you’re looking for a set of race tires.
Grip
  • Look closely at the rubber compounds used to make the tire.
  • Words like “dual compound,” “double compound” or “triple compound” usually indicate that the manufacturer has used grippier rubber on the shoulders of the tire while using a low rolling resistance rubber in the center.
  • Look at the tread patterns:
    • If you are riding purely on the road, smooth tread patterns offer the best grip.
    • If you ride on uneven surfaces and bike paths or do a bit of off-pavment riding every once in awhile, raised and hatched tread patterns are best.
Ride Quality
  • Look for a high TPI count. This will determine how supple the tire will feel.
  • When a tire has more threads per inch, such as a tire with a cotton casing, the casing is more flexible.
  • Flexibility allows the tire to better absorb road debris and unevenness instead of transferring that shock to the rider.

Tubeless tires are also growing in popularity for road cycling. Making the switch can offer you flat protection, increased traction and the ability to run lower pressures. If you do any sort of gravel or adventure riding, tubeless is worth a look. Check out a pros and cons of tubeless breakdown, and head over to Art’s Cyclery to see a selection of Tubeless Road Tires.

Continue to page 2 for a look at some popular tires and how these qualities come into play »
About the author: Arts Cyclery

This article was originally published on the Art's Cyclery Blog. Art's Cyclery is dedicated to offering free expert advice, how-to videos, and in-depth product reviews on ArtsCyclery.com to help riders make an educated decision when selecting cycling gear.


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  • kvn says:

    Been running nothing but Kenda Kaliente tires for the last 6 years. Bullet proof including sidewall and weigh only 190g. Get about 4,000 miles per tire!!! Costs about $35 each online.

    Cons: Not a responsive tire. Does flat spot easily.

  • Midwest Rider says:

    Second Marc’s comments on the Rubino Pro’s- except that I prefer the slick ’cause it seems to roll a bit faster/smoother and has been just as durable as the std version. Been my fav all-around clincher for 5+ years. At 170# & riding typically bad chip-n-seal Midwest roads I get at least 3-4,000mi of treadwear. Interestingly- it was sidewall issues with my Conti’s that spurred me to try the RP’s in the first place. FWIW- RP also comes in a Tech version that has even tougher sidewalls and (supposedly) better wet grip.

    IMHO deciding between tires based on 10-20g of manufacturer-reported ave tire weight is silly. Actual vs advertised weights vary, and that little weight difference is mainly placebo effect anyway. OTOH- Flatting just before a long climb, big breakaway, or bunch sprint is a real killer. And flatting your last tube on a solo training ride 35 miles from home can be a royal PITA :(

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