23c vs 25c vs 28c – tyre width in road bike

Road bikes are governed by their laws. These laws are not fixed, but change over time. One such issue is the use of this type of bicycle is tire equipment. We used to run the race to use the thinnest tires and thus the fastest tires. Now this type of election is no longer obvious. I had the opportunity to ride on different widths and can share you my experiences. Each must draw conclusions after testing, but this post may be helpful when you will select new tires for your bike.

Let’s start with the fact that, as a standard in road bikes (and similar bikes) was 700x23c tires, that is about 23 mm wide. Real width is very individual, depending on the manufacturer and the specific type of tire – some manufacturers stick to it, others like Continental are often slightly wider tires (already inflated). I started with that tyres. Later, after read some advices and guides, I changed tyres to 700×25. I have used Continental Grand Prix S4000 II in size 700x28c for some time. Wide tire? Yes, that’s true, but it turned out to be a much better choice than a narrower version.

The narrower tyre provides theoretically several major advantages: one effect of smaller amount of material is smaller weight, and this is a rotating mass, very important for speed. Secondly, it is supposed to provide lower rolling resistance because of the narrower it touches the asphalt in smaller surface. Finally, it allows us to use even higher pressures (up to 10 bar), which in turn increases the effect and makes the contact even smaller. All this is true, as far as we talk about test and laboratory conditions. Reality, however, is different. The road is not always of good quality, we encounter numerous holes, irregularities, railroads or sections without asphalt. Each of these places means we have to slow down. How much, it depends on the tire we used – more in the narrower case, because we will feel more strongly these elements. Here we see the advantage of wider tire: we can afford more, we go through a slightly worse quality in more comfortable conditions and faster.

Even professionals racers and their teams chose now more comfortable than theoretical considerations: because while driving comfortably, we stand for more. According to last science tests, the wider tire means less rolling resistance (!), and even lower pressure (eg 8 bar) offers a much higher driving comfort. I can confirm this. I do not have to worry about having a very high pressure hand pump when I ride – even on the lower tire will still work well enough that I will go home in the event of problems. Of course, there are also some issues: wider tires require more space, and we will not always found that place in road bikes. Manufacturers have started to use the 700x25c stock tyres in new bikes. It is possible that our new bike will allow wider tires to be used, and in the future we will find them in the factory (28c). I personally do not intend to return to a narrower size. For my amateur use, it makes no sense.