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Lately, I’ve been reading quite a lot about the rolling resistance of wider tires. Many experts in this field are concluding that, contrary to our intuitive bias, wider tires are as fast or faster than skinny tires! Yes, the right 30mm tire could actually be faster than a 21mm tire! How can this be? Bicycle Quarterly Magazine has done extensive testing and concluded riders are actually better off with wider tires for several reasons. A major one is comfort, of course. Wider tires are generally more conforming – more easily able to handle road roughness and potholes – and that means greater comfort on long rides.

Secondly, in tests conducted on approximately two dozen different tires, Bicycle Quarterly found wider tires were faster! I won’t go into all the mechanics, but the relationship between rolling resistance, speed and tire width has more to do with the composition of the tire than the width. Yes, they’re a little bit heavier, but the benefit outweighs the <100 gram weight difference.

Another startling finding is that tires can roll faster with less air pressure! I know, I know, you don’t believe this, so I suggest reading up on the current findings. As an example of a trend, in the Paris-Roubaix Classic, the riders were riding on 28mm & 30mm tires, inflating their tires to as little as 65psi and still biking at 40+ kilometers per hour on the rough cobbles. More tire manufacturers are offering wider tire widths in their most popular tires. Continental Gatorskins are now offered in widths to 32mm for 700cc size wheels. Tread pattern is another factor that heavily influences rolling resistance.

Check out these sites for more information. You’re going to have a major change in your bias toward skinny tires with higher pressure = faster speeds.

Check out: www.schwalbetires.com/tech_info/rolling_resistance and several articles in recent Bicycle Quarterly Magazine.

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