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

In our latest buyer’s guide video we run through what you should be looking for when selecting new road bike tyres.

Many of us are tempted to shed out loads of money on new wheels or a wholesale overhaul of the bike’s groupset, but huge gains can be made for much less money when a decent set of road bike tyres is chosen.

A well chosen set of tyres can help you ride faster, corner better and, with the right balance of durability to performance, you should find yourself stopping to repair punctures much less often.

Types of bike tyre

There are three types of bike tyres on the market


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.


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.


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?

It can be a little confusing when it comes to deciding which road bike tyres are right for you. ‘Great rolling resistance, lightweight and fast’ sounds tempting, but if you’re using them day-to-day you may have some more considerations than simply going for the most racy option.

Commuting on less than perfect road surfaces – especially during the winter – will mean you have different needs to racing on a closed circuit, for example.

What we’d all love is a perfect compromise: as fast as possible, but not leaving us prone to punctures.

We’ve all been there, sitting at the roadside fiddling with tyre levers trying our best to change a punctured tube as quick as possible, usually whilst running late or just about fighting off hypothermia.

Sometimes these little mishaps happen and we can’t do anything about them, though if it’s happening to you on a regular basis, you may have the wrong type of rubber in contact with the road or the tyre might be worn out and in need of changing.

We've all been there, but preventing punctures can make rides a lot more enjoyable

We’ve all been there, but preventing punctures can make rides a lot more enjoyable

The basics

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.

>>> Are wider tyres really faster?

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.

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.

Puncture proofing, rolling ability and grip levels all need to be considered

Puncture proofing, rolling ability and grip levels all need to be considered

Read more about tyres

Racing road tyres

When racing, tyre choice can be an important factor: speed, grip and ability to cope with changing conditions all need…

Which one is right for you?

Time of year, type of terrain, weather and price can all be factors in which tyre is right for you.

Time of year

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.

>>> Winter road bike tyres

However, winter, which we all know brings with it bad weather, gritty harsh roads and more casual rides allowing us to pick the bigger, chunkier tyre to save us 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 tyres

Check mudguard clearance when choosing wider tyres


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.

Winter cycle commute

Hardwearing tyres will be needed for commuting


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 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.

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.