Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art’s Cyclery. The original post can be found here.
You may think that when it comes to road bikes, tires are tires. But truth is there are a lot of options and factors to consider when picking the right road tires for you and your needs.
First and foremost, you’ll want to decide on how many TPI you want in your tire. “TPI” refers to threads-per-inch and as a rule of thumb, the lower the TPI, the more durable and long-lasting the tire will be. However, with that durability, you get less traction and a rougher ride. Most racers run tires that are anywhere between 160 and 320 TPI because it provides a more supple feel and better traction. Alternatively, touring cyclists, serious commuters, and indoor trainers should probably opt for tires in the 27-120 TPI range.
You’ll also want to decide on compound. Some tires utilize a single compound, while other are made from dual compound. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Dual compound tires place a softer compound rubber on the outside of the tread for better traction in the corners and a harder rubber in the center for less rolling resistance and better durability. In a sense, this gives riders the best of both worlds: cornering traction and long-term durability. Dual compound tires do, however, tend to cost more money, so if you’re trying to save a few bucks, then a single compound tire will be the way to go.
Picking tire bead is usually quite simple because it’s mostly just a matter of cost. Wire bead tires tend to weigh a lot more than folding tires, but are typically a whole lot cheaper. Folding bead tires are lightweight and also more expensive, so pick whatever bead best suits your wallet and your application.
Finally, you can ride tubeless, clincher, or tubular tires. Tubeless tires allow you to run your tires at lower pressures for better traction and help to prevent pinch flats while riding, and they tend to weigh about the same as an average trainer tire, but considering you don’t have to run tubes, you’ll save about 80 of rotational weight per tire.
If tubeless isn’t for you, then you can look into a clincher tire. Clinchers are the workhorse of tires and the go-to for most applications. The advantage of a clincher is that, should you get a flat, you’ll be able to remove the tire and change out the flat tube. Clincher tires also tend to be the cheapest of all tire options.
You also need to decide on width, which for road tires typically ranges from 23mm to 28mm. For traditional racing applications, such as criteriums, narrower tires are likely the best bet due to their lower weight and aerodynamic efficiency. But if comfort is key, wider tires are the pick, especially if you’re planning to ride on any dirt roads. Just make sure that if you chose wider tires, that your bike’s frame and brake calipers avail adequate clearance.
Lastly, there are tubular tires, which require being glued to the rim. The advantage of tubular tires is their incredible road feel and their ability to run much higher tire pressures for less rolling resistance. Considering that tubular tires require extra time, money, and leave you without the option to change a flat, tubular tires are typically reserved only for racing applications.