Do you ever wonder if thinner bicycle tires provide a speed advantage?
This is likely because it seems like the bike would accelerate faster.
It turns out that this is not really true, but there are other reasons to consider why one might want to use thinner tires.
The average person will be able to pedal at the same rate with either tire thickness – both types of tires require spinning at roughly 60 rotations per minute (RPM).
Thinner tires do have some advantages though: they tend to last longer and weigh less than thicker ones.
If you’re looking for a performance boost, then thinner tires may not be the answer; however, it’s worth considering them for other reasons.
How does bike tire size affect speed?
The radius of the wheel is the main thing that determines how fast you can go.
An increase in radius means an increase in the circumference of the tire, meaning that it will take less time to cover a given distance.
This is why if you have a set of tires on your bike and want to ride faster – you need to switch them out for larger ones.
You can go the same speed on a larger wheeled bike, and you’ll be able to cover more ground in less time.
If you’re riding a bicycle where rotating the pedals around once per second is sufficient for maintaining your speed, then it doesn’t matter how thick or thin your tires are.
The circumference of both types of tire will be the same at any speed, and your speed will be dependent on how many times per second you can make your legs spin around.
However, if you’re riding a bike where spinning the pedals around once per second is like walking up a steep hill, then this changes things – due to the relationship between circumference and radius.
What are the benefits of using thinner tires on a bicycle?
1) Thinner tires last longer.
Since bike tires wear out over time, using a thinner tire will make them go the distance.
This is important for long-distance riders, who may need to replace their tires multiple times per year.
Since thinner tires cost less, they’re an easy way to save money if your bike needs new rubber on a regular basis.
2) Thinner tires are lighter.
Using a thinner tire means that you’re using less rubber to cover the same distance, which also means that you’ll be carrying around less weight overall.
This can be useful if your bike is on the heavy side already, or if you’re trying to ensure an easier time when riding uphill.
There are other factors to consider as well, such as whether or not a skinnier tire is going to fit your wheel correctly.
If you needed a different size rim to accommodate a smaller tire, then it doesn’t matter how much lighter or better-conditioned for the road they make your bike – it will be useless without the proper rims.
This means that you should always check to make sure that the tires and rims are compatible with one another before buying new bike tires online or in a store.
3) Thinner tires provide more grip.
The general rule of thumb is that skinnier tires will have better traction than thicker ones because there’s more rubber touching the ground.
As a rule of thumb, wider tires will have less traction than skinnier ones because there’s more area that can slip and slide on slick surfaces.
When you’re choosing which bicycle tires to get, it’s important to keep in mind what type of roads you’ll be cycling on most often.
Gripper tires are ideal for winter riding because they have more rubber in contact with the ground, making it easier to keep control on icy surfaces.
Thinner tires are better if you’re planning to ride on dry summer roads or speed across town, but they may not be suitable for wet road conditions.
4) Thinner bike tires are more aerodynamic.
This may be the most hotly contested claim of all because some research shows that skinnier tires are faster at high speeds while others show that they’re slower at high speeds.
It seems likely that both results are true, but only for certain types of bike riders and specific tire sizes.
According to a 2013 study on-road bike tire rolling resistance, skinnier tires aren’t always faster than thicker ones.
The study concluded that “for the same inflation pressure and rider weight, a 25 mm tire is always slower than a 23 mm tire.
For the same inflation pressure and rider weight, a 28 mm tire is always faster than both of them”.
Their findings were backed up by a 1998 study from the University of Michigan, which found that for most riders and on most types of roads, skinnier tires are less aerodynamic than thicker ones.
However, they also concluded that “for each rider position and inflation pressure combination there is a range of effective rim radii where the fatter tire has lower CdA”.
This means that skinnier tires are aerodynamic up to a certain point, but beyond that their shape actually becomes less streamlined and more drag-inducing.
5) Thinner bike tires are less likely to get flats.
Thin bicycle tires are particularly good for city riding because they’re less likely to get punctures than thicker ones.
This is due both to their shape and the lack of material inside them – if there’s no thick rubber sitting between you and the ground, then there’s less chance of getting a flat.
The downside of this is that thin tires aren’t as durable and may wear out more quickly than their thicker counterparts, but if you’re focusing on speed and ease of use then they can certainly do the job.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that if your bike has rim brakes, then thin tires can cause them to wear out more quickly.
Are there disadvantages to using thinner tires on a bicycle?
Of course, there are!
For one thing, thinner tires aren’t as durable. Even though they’re less likely to get flats than thicker ones, they also tend to wear out more quickly.
This means you’ll need to replace them sooner – which is an inconvenience, no matter which type of bicycle tire you use.
Another disadvantage is that thinner tires are generally more expensive than thicker ones – in some cases, much more so.
So what should I do?
Buying bicycle tires isn’t always about getting the fastest option. Sometimes it’s about finding the best compromise between speed and comfort for your riding style and conditions.
Thin tires can be an excellent choice if you’re planning to do a lot of city or road riding, but they aren’t for everyone.
If you’re planning on tackling the mountains in all weather conditions, then gripper tires are probably your best choice, even if it does mean accepting some speed loss in exchange.
How do you know if your bike has thin or thick tires?
Some models will tell you – if your bike was designed for serious riding, then it’s likely to come with the right type of tires for that.
If not, take a look at how thick they are – there should be some indication of their size on the side of each tire.
If you’re still not sure, check with your local bike shop – they’ll be able to tell you what type of tires each model requires.
Additionally, if you’re looking for tires to replace the ones already on your bike, then this should also be stated somewhere on their packaging.
If after all that research you find that your bike does indeed require thinner tires – don’t despair!
There are plenty of options available, and some brands even design their products specifically to be as aerodynamic as possible while still maintaining good traction.
What is the ideal tire width for an average rider’s needs?
To answer this question, it’s important to remember that what constitutes “average” is completely subjective.
If you’re planning on riding exclusively on roads, then a tire that’s between 23 and 28mm should do the trick.
If you’re going to be using your bike for off-road riding as well, then something between 28mm and 38mm will provide enough traction without slowing you down too much.
If you want to take things up a notch and have a bike set up for racing, then you’ll want something no thicker than 23mm.
My final thoughts?
It doesn’t matter if you want to go fast or take it slow, the right bicycle tire is out there for you.
What does matter is that you’re thinking about your riding style and what kind of conditions you’ll be tackling – that’s the only way to ensure that your tire purchase will keep you happy down the road!