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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After reading the posts on this forum, along with the links to various articles, it seems that somewhat wider (25 mm or greater) tires would be most appropriate for the majority of riders. There’s a bit of a weight penalty, but it seems like it should be more than offset by the fact that they have lower rolling resistance, along with a smoother ride, durability, etc. So why do most road bikes come equipped with 23s? I’ll guess that they sell more road bikes to recreational riders than racing types, so why not make the wider tires standard equipment?

Is this a marketing issue, or am I missing something else?
 

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What the what???
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JMHO, but I would guess marketing that reflects the top-down approach.

1.) Bike companies develop top-o-the-line bikes for professional riders.
2.) Riders race those bikes.
3.) Consumers watch those races and want/expect to be able to buy the same (or similar) bike.
4.) Bike companies mass produce versions of those bikes to meet that expectation.

The results are bikes that are generally far superior to the vast majority of people who ride them. Personally, I've got an "entry-level" bike that I hope someday to be able to ride to its full potential :). And I swapped out the 23s for a set of 25s...
 

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Still On Steel
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Good answer from Opus, I think. A probable fifth point for his list is that there now exists a chicken/egg situation in which 23s have become the defacto standard size, so the tire manufacturers produce them in huge quantities with a low unit cost, and the bike manufacturers in turn are able to buy 23s at the cheapest possible price if they put them on all their bikes.

I run 25s on my bikes, have done so for years, and agree that most riders would find this size optimal if they'd turn off their Walter Mitty mechanisms long enough to give 25s an objective audition.
 

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A wheelist
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It's monkey see, monkey do. As Opus says, people want what they see the pros riding even though most pros with their skinny tires and their 16 - 24 spoke wheels are the low end of the body fat scale - 2lbs per inch of height for the good climbers. That would make me 136lbs. BwaaaHaaaHaaaa. I'm 34lbs heavier than that. And that's the reason I don't ride silly wheels or tires - 24/28 spoke wheels are fine for me and 25mm tire are great. But you said "There’s a bit of a weight penalty" and that doesn't have to be - my Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX weigh 210 grams - less than many 23mm tires. I've got some 23mm Michelin Ironman at 226g. Sure the Vitts are a premium price but they let me have my cake and eat it too.

Plus - any slight weight penalty of any 25mm tires will be easily negated by increased ride comfort and pinch-flat protection.
 

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Do you really think the average Joe that accounts for the majority of bikes sold has any idea what size tires the pros ride or would notice the difference between 25's and 23's on the showroom floor. I certainly don't.

I don't have any answer myself though. Probably 'tradition' that was set at a time when the average weight of someone buying a racing bike was a lot lower than it is now.

I always thought it would be a good idea for a bike companies to invest a little more in the stock tires (regardless of size they generally suck) as a way for their bikes to do better on test rides. It's the most important thing for feel yet they invest the least there (often). Sounds kinda dumb to me.
 

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Hank Stamper said:
Do you really think the average Joe that accounts for the majority of bikes sold has any idea what size tires the pros ride or would notice the difference between 25's and 23's on the showroom floor. I certainly don't.
Maybe not, but I do think the average Joe falls into the "trap" of: thinner/lighter/newer/more expensive = faster = better. In some cases, there may be truth in that. Other considerations, like comfort, tend to be more of priority after the rider has spent some time in the saddle. Again, JMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the responses – interesting that 25’s seem to be the size of choice.

Back in the 80’s and early 90’s I used to do some credit card touring on a road bike with 1-1/4 (approx. 32 mm) tires. The bike originally came with 1-1/8 tires, but went with the wider tires for durability. They ran at fairly low pressure by today’s standards (75 - 80 psi, as I remember).

I started riding again after a 20 year hiatus, and had the LBS put 25’s on my new aluminum Synapse. I’m 165#, and wanted the durability and comfort of the wider, lower pressure tire. No silly tires for me, either!

Further to Hank’s comments, I wonder if they would sell fewer CF bikes if they demo’d aluminum bikes with wider tires.
 

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seacoaster said:
Thanks for the responses – interesting that 25’s seem to be the size of choice. ..
well, I'm 163-165 lbs and perfectly happy on 23mm tires.

Some, if not many, people overinflate their tires and then complain of "harshness". I inflate to 100 psi frt, 110 rear.

The tire's thread count (TPI) & construction also play a large role in ride quality. Low TPI (under 50) and/or puncture "resistant" tires tend to ride harsh.

Not necessarily the previous posters, but many on this forum who ride 25mm have indicated they're pretty heavy (190 lbs and up).
I suppose I 'd be on 25mm too, if I weighed 190+.
 

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It may also have to do with test rides, which tend to be short runs around the block. I think for initial reaction the smaller tires would have a touch more response, a touch more precise feeling. It takes longer rides to appreciate the larger tire.
 

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tom_h said:
well, I'm 163-165 lbs and perfectly happy on 23mm tires.

Some, if not many, people overinflate their tires and then complain of "harshness". I inflate to 100 psi frt, 110 rear.

The tire's thread count (TPI) & construction also play a large role in ride quality. Low TPI (under 50) and/or puncture "resistant" tires tend to ride harsh.

Not necessarily the previous posters, but many on this forum who ride 25mm have indicated they're pretty heavy (190 lbs and up).
I suppose I 'd be on 25mm too, if I weighed 190+.
I weigh twenty pounds more than you and run 95f/105r in 23's and 85f/95r on 25's. If you haven't tried 25's, you may not know what you're missing.
 

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Adventure Seeker
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Reasons mentioned above, and most people think that skinnier is all that's necessary for a faster ride. There was a time when the industry tried going 17~18's, but later reverted to wider because of too many flats and complaints.
With some pro teams running wider tires on many races, I wonder if we'll soon see more 25's available. I can only hope.
 

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bent steel said:
I weigh twenty pounds more than you and run 95f/105r in 23's and 85f/95r on 25's. If you haven't tried 25's, you may not know what you're missing.
I'd only ridden 25mm on a lower grade, lower TPI tire. Admittedly, I've not directly compared same good tire model in different sizes, eg a Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX clincher. The race tires ride pretty smooth even in 23mm, albeit at the cost of less ruggedness and durability.
 

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The real answer

seacoaster said:
After reading the posts on this forum, along with the links to various articles, it seems that somewhat wider (25 mm or greater) tires would be most appropriate for the majority of riders. There’s a bit of a weight penalty, but it seems like it should be more than offset by the fact that they have lower rolling resistance, along with a smoother ride, durability, etc. So why do most road bikes come equipped with 23s? I’ll guess that they sell more road bikes to recreational riders than racing types, so why not make the wider tires standard equipment?

Is this a marketing issue, or am I missing something else?
The real reason is that when modern 700c clinchers were first developed, they were mostly 19-20 mm. Everyone figured out that those were way too narrow. 23mm were OK for most people, and so things settled in there. Optimum? Probably not. OK? That's good enough.
 

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I think speed plays a pretty big roll in which tires are best. At about 12mph, give-or-take, air resistance begins to consume more power than rolling resistance. So if 23mm tires have marginally less air resistance and marginally more rolling resistance, but the change in air resistance is greater, it's a no-brainer for a racer. And my experience concerning comfort is that for me, at around 155 lbs lately, I can safely ride 23mm tires at a comfortable, good-handling pressure without worrying about pinch flats. (80 and 95.)

On my commuter, I frequently carry loads, and rarely get going very fast or for very long. So I use fatter tires. It still tends to be a bit harsh, but they're also cheaper tires - really, whatever I happen to have around, until I run out of those, and then I'll probably start buying 28mm or 1-1/8" tires for it. (front wheel's a 27")

I'm reminded right now of a Craig's List ad in which the writer, a bike shop clerk, comments that everyone who calls is "dabbling in racing" and "might do a few triathlons this year" and has a budget of $600. I think that that caller is more inclined to buy a bike that has a tight-clearance fork and skinny-ass tires, even if all he's going to do is ride it up and down a MUP, slowly, and stare at stacked joggers. I think that that caller is more of the bike market than we'd care to admit. Luckily, his interests and the interests of the few people who actually race align on some points, and so that's what's most common.

People who actually do long rides and Centuries? Not that many, they know what they want, and when it's a complete bike, which it often isn't, they may only buy one once every five or ten years. Talk about a crappy market. I'd rather sell to douches too. ;) I'd even spend a little extra on tires cured in that French dude's basement, that did Lance Armstrong's aged tubulars when he was winning things, if it would let me mark up the bike more than the extra cost.
 

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I weight 140lbs, and when I got bitten by the "ride fast / race" bug, I tried 20mm tires, since I thought, well, heck, if the 180-lb guys can use 23s...

Did not like the harsh ride, and too many flats.

I have commuted on everything from 23's to 35's, and while once up to speed I didn't really care, I feel like the 25's are kind of my sweet spot for nice weather, steel commuter with a bag.
 

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if 25s are so great, they're a really well-kept secret around here. I don't know a single person using them.

the 23s I use (Conti 4000S) are pretty affordable, look good, have decent durability/flat protection, and I have no objections to the ride quality...so there's not much incentive to switch to 25s.

maybe if someone gave me a set, I'd try em...
 

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Yo no fui.
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I just laughed out loud when AdrewSwitch said something about the difference in air resistence between 23 and 25 mm tires. Wow.

Anyway, I think it's mainly inertia at this point. People ride 23s, because that's what people ride. For whatever reason, it seems that a fair number of roadies are less willing than mountain bikers to experiment with tire width. There's also a widespread, and likely incorrect, assumption that wider tires are inherently slower.

We should also note that actual width of tires varies greatly from company to company. I ride tires claimed to be 28s, but when you bust out the calipers, even used ones come in around 25 or 26.
 

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I think alot of people, myself included ride 23's because when they go to change the tires they look at the size of the previous tires that say 700x23c and say that must be the tire size I need to get. I know that was how it was the first time I changed my tires. Now I roll on 25's and the difference is felt.
 

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No Crybabies
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m preferance

For me, 23's are about as narrow as I can go without getting pinch flats. I know a lot of people feel differently, but I like the feel of a high pressure narrow tire. I occasionally run fatter tires on commuter bikes in the winter, when I'm riding in the dark for 3 hours a day, but otherwise I like a narrow tire.
 

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seacoaster said:
...it seems like it should be more than offset by the fact that they [25mm tires] have lower rolling resistance...
That is only true in the world of marketing BS. The tire companies who make such claims say "at the same psi," the wider tires have lower rolling resistance. But the only way a wide and a narrow tire would be at the same psi is if one is either under-inflating the narrow tire or over-inflating the wide one because those two tires should not be used at the same psi. When both tires are properly inflated, the narrower tire will have lower rolling resistance in typical road biking conditions.
 
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