How many cyclists does it take to change a tyre? Six – one to change the tyre and five to say how they would have used a different tyre. Here we demystify the basics, so you can focus on the fun stuff.
You use slick tyres on your MTB, right? Because, let’s face it, you’re riding your MTB on the tarmac. Joking aside, slick tyres are what you use on road bikes – by which I mean any bike you use on the road, regardless of geometry, handlebar shape, suspension type, or wheel size. Behold – Thickslicks on MTB wheels.
Slick tyres give you the most amount of grip on smooth surfaces – just look at aeroplanes and F1 cars that, unsurprisingly, deal with far greater performance requirements than any cyclist will. Slicks will get you most places more efficiently, faster, and safer.
Tyres with deep treads are essential for off-road control on uneven ground. On smooth tarmac, knobbly tyres give you less contact with the road, less grip and, therefore, slower acceleration and poorer braking performance. On loose or uneven ground, the opposite is true.
An uneven tyre surface is more likely to hit traction and at slower speeds, the additional weight of a knobbly tyre isn’t going to hinder performance. Mountain bikers probably have the most fun tyre shopping, as well as the most diverse collection of treads.
Are you racing professionally? Does a sponsor supply your tyres and a support team follows you with spare wheels? No? Then don’t use race tyres – they’re only designed to get you through a race stage, if that.
Those tempting Specialized Turbo Cottons are sexy and light – but they will puncture half way to work. Race kit is for race days only. That said, if you’ve got money to burn and you don’t mind roadside stops inflating tyres to pressure, race tyres will give you a buzz like no other.
Speaking of race tyres, the 2019 Tour de France will see Continental release their first ever range of bicycle tyres made entirely from sustainable dandelion rubber. However, this isn’t just a token nod to environmental awareness, these tyres are expected to perform exceptionally well. Flower power indeed.
Touring and commuting
These may be the least glamorous of the cycling pursuits but they can also be the most satisfying. Going long distances regularly on tarmac is about using slicks – but it’s also about durability. Sure, you can carry spare tyres and inner tubes, but really you want your tyres to last you 3000 miles, comfortably.
So, you should think about reinforced tyre walls. Road cyclists “debate” the merits of Schwalbe vs Continental ad nauseum. I side with Schwalbe Durano Plus for my commute and sneer at Gatorskins because they flatten out and square off over distance. Durano Marathons, however, are too heavy. Every manufacturer has their good tyres – and their bad. What are your favourites and why?