Here we show you what to look for when buying a new set of road bike tyres; something that could give you huge performance gains

An upgrade to your road bike tyres can make a huge difference to your riding experience. Good quality rubber can lower your rolling resistance, provide better grip and reduce the number of punctures you pick up as you ride.

Picking the best road bike tyres for you is all about determining which elements you consider most important. There’s a myriad of choices out there on the market – with key selling points ranging from low weight to improved grip, low rolling resistance and puncture protection.

Though there are some exceptions, in the majority of cases prioritising one of those factors means sacrificing another. Most notably, tyres with a low rolling resistance and low weight are more often than not less resilient to attacks from flints and glass, whilst those with extra barriers against the blighters are usually heavier and more solid to ride.

Wider tyres often offer better grip in the corners and a lower overall rolling resistance but can feel a little bit spongey and slower to accelerate.

Whatever it is you consider the most important to your cycling enjoyment and performance, we’ve rounded up some of the best tyres on offer this year…

Continental GP4000 S II road bike tyres

Continental GP4000 S II road bike tyres

Continental-GP4000 S road bike tyres

A hugely popular road race tyre, the GP4000S II is a tyre that provides excellent rolling resistance as well as being puncture resistant enough to survive the perils of UK roads.

Our testing also shows that it performs well in terms of aerodynamics when fitted to a wider rim.

Read the full review of the Continental GP4000 S II

Buy now at Wiggle for £29.99

Panaracer Race A Evo 3 road bike tyres

Panaracer Race A Evo 3 road bike tyres

Panaracer Race A Evo 3 road bike tyres

A good value option that we found provided a fast ride thanks to low rolling resistance whilst still offering an adequate barrier against sharp objects.

Read the full review of the Panaracer Race A Evo 3 tyres here 

Buy now at Cyclestore for £39.99

Hutchinson Fusion 3 Kevlar ProTech road bike tyres

Hutchinson Fusion 3 Kevlar ProTech road bike tyres

Hutchinson Fusion 3 Kevlar ProTech road bike tyres

A light and puncture resistant tyre, that impressed us with its expert level of grip. A good quality and high performance tyre, though the price tag is a little dearer than we’d like to see.

Read the full review of the Hutchinson Fusion 3 Kevlar ProTech tyre here

Buy now from Evans Cycles for £38.69

Michelin Pro4 ENDURANCE V2 road bike tyres

Michelin Pro4 ENDURANCE road bike tyres

Michelin Pro4 ENDURANCE road bike tyres

Looking for a comfortable tyre that will suit long days in the saddle over questionable surfaces? These tyres from Michelin could be the answer. We loved the cushioning of the 28mm version (23mm and 25mm also available), but also felt that there wasn’t too greater speed penalty.

Puncture resistance and grip were good, too.

Read our full review of  the Michelin Pro4 ENDURANCE Road Bike Tyre here

Buy the newer V2 from Chain Reaction Cycles from £29.99

Bontrager R4 320 road bike tyres

bontrager r4 320 tyres on rim road bike tyres

Bontrager R4 320 road bike tyres

A notably fast tyre, this option from Bontrager proved to be one of the quickest rubber slicks we’ve ever tried. They roll well, and corner well. Just don’t expect them to be long lasting, despite the price tag…

Read our full review of the Bontrager R4320 tyres here 

Buy now at Evans Cycles for £54.99

Vredestein Fortezza Senso All Weather Clincherroad bike tyres

Vredestein Fortezza road bike tyre

Vredestein Fortezza road bike tyre

A tyre that performs well in gritty, wet weather conditions, offering plenty of puncture protection whilst still ticking the boxes when it comes to speed, ride quality and grip.

Read the full Vredestein Fortezza Senso All Weather Clincher Road Tyre review

Buy now at Evans Cycles from £21.98

Challenge Elite Open road bike tyres

Challenge Elite Open road bike tyres

Challenge Elite Open road bike tyres

Very delicate tyres, that might not provide the greatest level of protection against punctures, but will roll quickly. Fits tightly on the rim, so if you do flat, allow plenty of time  for repair…

Read the full review of the Challenge Elite Open Road

Buy now at Evans Cycles for £19.00

Michelin Power Competition road bike tyres

Michelin Power Competition road bike tyres

Michelin Power Competition road bike tyres

A replacement for the Michelin Pro4 Service Course, these are quick tyres that saved us from punctures.

We didn’t feel they rode as well in the wet as others, so perhaps not the best choice if you’re expecting summer showers.

Read the full review of the Michelin Power Competition tyres

Buy now at Chain Reaction Cycles for £35.49

Vittoria Open Corsa G+ road bike tyres

Vittoria Open Corsa G+ road bike tyres

Vittoria Open Corsa G+ road bike tyres

Without shadow of a doubt, a tyre for racing. The G+ stands for Graphene, which Vittoria have incorporated into the tread of this tyre.

We did find that the width of this tyre was greater than listed, and we did find that it seemed to be a bit of a magnet for road debris. However, it’s super fast and provided plenty of resistance to punctures.

Read the full review of the Vittoria Open Corsa G+

Buy now at Wiggle for £34.98


Types of road bike tyre

There are three types of bike tyres on the market – clinchers, tubulars and tubeless – they each have their pros and cons:

Clincher

First up is the clincher, the choice of the majority of road riders. This features a bead around the outside of the tyre which hooks under a lip on the rim, with a separate inner tube running inside. The main advantage of this system is convenience, with the inner tube being easy to change in the event of a puncture.

Tubular

Next is the tubular tyre. With this design the inner tube is sewn into the tyre, with the whole thing then attached to the wheel using glue or rim tape. This is the choice of a lot of racers due to the generally lower rolling resistance and weight, but can be impractical when you puncture.

Tubeless

Finally you’ve got tubeless tyres. These are similar to clinchers, but with the tyre sitting firmly enough against the rim to hold the tyre’s pressure, eliminating the need for an inner tube all together. The tyre is then filled with sealant, which plugs cuts or gashes in the rubber.

This system greatly reduces the chance of punctures, although the snug fit that is required between the tyre and the rim can make tubeless tyres fiddly to fit.

The puncture protection offered by tubeless tyres is very impressive. To see how impressive watch the video below where we hammer nails into a tyre!


Video can a tubeless tyre survive a nail?


Rolling resistance vs puncture protection in road bike tyres

The three main categories to look out for are: puncture proofing, the tyres’ rolling ability and grip levels. Whilst in an ideal world we’d have all three, in reality we have to limit one to increase another.

In order to boost puncture protection, manufacturers will usually add an extra layer – a Kevlar or Vectran breaker in most cases – to catch foreign objects before they reach the tube.  The tougher these layers are, the heavier and more sturdy they’ll make the overall rubber – hence the trade off.

Ultimately, you need to decide what’s more important to you. Riders commuting on less than perfect road surfaces – especially during the winter – will mean you favour puncture protection, whilst a rider racing on a closed circuit may be more concerned with rolling resistance and grip.

Tougher road bike tyres will mean less time mending punctures but they're not as fast to ride

Tougher road bike tyres will mean less time mending punctures but they’re not as fast to ride

Road bike tyre width

We have a couple of things to consider before we go in-depth. A standard road wheel size is 700c with the more common options of 23, 25 or 28mm widths.

Traditionally, 23mm widths are put on race bikes, 25mm for training and 28mm widths for a mixture of hard and rough roads.

Indeed with modern technology allowing for better tyre construction, we’ve seen a definite shift in how different width tyres are used. For example most road riders now like to use 25mm tyres as they handle better in the corners and can lower rolling resistance by dampening out uneven surfaces.

Generally speaking, the narrower the tyres the less comfort is on offer, with decreased rolling resistance providing a faster experience for dry, summer cycling.

Wider tyres can deliver better comfort; puncture protection and grip, mainly at the cost of weight, and are better for the wintry roads.

Whilst 23c road bike tyres have long been the traditional favourite, 25c tyres are now popular

Whilst 23c road bike tyres have long been the traditional favourite, 25c tyres are now popular

Adjusting road bike tyres for summer

Summer brings good weather, clean roads and nicer bikes so it seems ludicrous that we would stick a slow rolling and heavy-duty tyre on our bikes.

If a fast racing tyre is your thing you’ll be expected to have lowered protection from punctures with a thinner puncture protection belt to help reduce weight and rolling resistance, which will help that fast feeling we all desire.

However, come the colder months many riders will opt for winter road bike tyres to counter the associated bad weather and gritty harsh roads, to save them from being victims of the dreaded flint or glass puncture.

Larger tyres allow for lower pressures that help absorb the bumps, increasing grip and comfort too. Watch out for mudguard clearance though as larger tyres could be limited if you have minimal clearance.

Check mudguard clearance when choosing wider road bike tyres

Check mudguard clearance when choosing wider road bike tyres

Choosing road bike tyres for your terrain

If you commute in town – you’re likely to need a more heavy duty option. Broken glass and general debris mean you’re way more likely to slit your tyres.

Zip isn’t everything here so you’ll want to look out for a hardwearing tyre too that will give you some longevity for the money you outlay.

You'll need hardwearing road bike tyres for your commute

You’ll need hardwearing road bike tyres for your commute

Road bike tyres and price

What are we really paying for? In basic terms we pay for technology in the rubber, quality of the construction and weight.

Cheaper options tend to lack in grip, puncture protection and are usually supplied with a heavier, steal bead. Rigid steal beaded tyres, other than being harder to transfer around off the bike, are heavier than folding alternatives.

Though cheaper, they can also be a pain to put on and pull off the wheel, mostly at the expense of your thumbs!

Although you may feel that a cheaper option is ok for you, some tyre manufacturers ensure their compounds work well in a good range of temperatures, meaning either grip, protection or longevity works better all year round.

It may be a big outlay but might pay to save money in the long run.

Tyre wear and tear

Keeping an eye on your tread is important too. Not only for the life of the tyre, but watching out for stuck glass or flints that haven’t penetrated just yet.

Ideally, cleaning your bike regularly and giving your tyres a quick once over before each outing could save you a puncture during your ride, unless you pick something up en route of course.

>>> Seven essentials you need to take on every ride

Some tyres come with wear markers. These can be small dotted grooves in the middle of the tyre itself that will slowly disappear overtime. If you have no wear markers, you may need to think about replacing the tyres.

Wider tyres are great for winter riding, but keep an eye on wear and tear

Wider tyres are great for winter riding, but keep an eye on wear and tear

Testing the rolling resistance of tyres

In addition to field testing out on the road, engineer and elite rider, Dan Bigham has helped Cycling Weekly calculate the rolling resistance of the different sets of road bike tyres. The lower the rolling resistance, the faster the tyre and the difference can be huge.

To do this, each set of tyres were ridden on rollers, allowing us to record the speed achieved for a given power output. For consistency, the tyres were all inflated to 100psi using a digital gauge and ridden on flat rollers.

For the test we exclusively used new tyres and a PowerTap hub was calibrated and used for power measurement.

Each tyre was ridden at 280W for 5 minutes to allow it it warm up, whereupon they were ridden at a constant power of 300W for 5 minutes.

To ensure even weight distribution, the rider maintained a constant position on the hoods and the weight of the bike and rider was recorded before each test.

Any slight differences in weight or power output were factored into the final calculations. The Fit. Files were put into Matlab and the inertia was corrected for each tyre.

The results of different tyres are tabulated below.

Tyre Max PSI Weight (g) Width (mm) (measured) TPI Watts at 40kph* Rolling ranking
Bontrager R4 180 232 24 320 34.1 1
Michelin Power Race 116 217 26 180 35.2 3
Vittoria Corsa G+ 145 239 27 320 35.1 2
Schwalbe One Tubeless 130 231 26 127 35.6 4
Conti GP4000 120 234 26 3×110 37.6 6
Hutchinson Fusion** 125 213 25 3 37.5(23mm) 5
Maxxis Columbiere 130 210 26 120 37.7 7
Challenge Criterium 145 241 26 230 38.7 8
Mitas Syrinx Racing Pro 120 245 25 127 43.6 9
Vredestein Fortezza Senso 130 237 25.5 120 45.1 10

*Travelling at 40kph with system weight of 85kg

** For the rolling resistance test all tyres were 25mm apart from Hutchinson which were 23mm

Emergency items

Puncture repair essentials

Puncture repair essentials

As you’ll know, it doesn’t matter how well you prepare, you’ll inevitably get a puncture… there, we’ve said the P word!

In your pocket or seatpack you should carry at least a set of tyre levers, puncture repair kit, two tubes, a mini-pump and a business card just incase you have a complete blow out, it does happen.

  • Bea

    Could someone help me? I want to buy a ladies bike for driving around town..I have a back situation and need a big soft seat and no low handlebars.. what type of tyres are good? slim or fat?

  • Berth Ljunggren

    Hmm winter here tend to be 0 to -20 centigrade, and what if you are like me weighing 128 kilograms?

  • Roland Lawrence

    Always wondered what those dots were. & yes my tyres totally need changing then as it appears they are “bald”. Oh my all these years I had no idea…

  • Cristian Mihai

    Tufo tubulars and tubular clincher are at the moment my tyre of choice.

  • Rob King

    Forget about tyres…. how about an article about how to use the quick release on road brakes? (See the top photo)

  • Michael E. Miller

    A very nice tyre, but you get a very low mileage for the price. There are many other tyres on the market that are cheaper and better. I know because I have been keeping a check on my tyre use for over the past seven years.
    As Graeme wrote, you can get Car tyres much cheaper, okay the amount of rubber involved it not the issue.
    Most Road Bike tyres are Made in Thailand anyway, okay Conti are supposed to be Hand Made in Germany, not of much help if it only increases the price and not the quality!

  • Graeme

    £40+ for a BIKE tyre!!!…I can get a tyre for my car cheaper than that,and there`s a bit more rubber on a car tyre! 🙂
    I wouldn`t dream of paying that kind of brass,I`ve bought good secondhand vintage bikes cheaper. Some of you lads must have money to burn,£15 max for a bike tyre…

  • Ken Evans

    Veloflex make some “open tubulars”, from 145 grams to 205 grams, Vittoria also sell some tyres of less than 200 grams. And of course Conti do their Supersonic, at 145 grams.