Author Topic: Tire Width?  (Read 282 times)

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Offline tonyandrews

Tire Width?
« on: April 10, 2019, 11:04:27 pm »
Hi, all.

Newbie here. I'm gearing up for a summer tour. I have an XL Specialized AWOL touring bike, which I'll be taking from Iowa City to Seattle on some combination of the TransAmerica Trail, The Lewis and Clark Trail, and the Northern Tier.

What make and width of tire would you recommend for such a trek? My local bike shop recommended 45mm Specialized Armadillo tires, but my reading of "The Essential Touring Cyclist" recommended tires no wider than 32mm. What gives?

Best,
Tony

Offline BikePacker

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2019, 09:03:05 am »
on some combination of the TransAmerica Trail, The Lewis and Clark Trail, and the Northern Tier.

What make and width of tire would you recommend for such a trek? My local bike shop recommended 45mm Specialized Armadillo tires, but my reading of "The Essential Touring Cyclist" recommended tires no wider than 32mm. What gives?
Full disclosure, Tony .... I have a personal preference for wider tires because I like the greater range of surface conditions* travel options such offer over which I can ride heavily loaded ... (+) my style is with an emphasis on heavily.
As you observed and reported, The Essential Touring Cyclist speaks positively about the 32mm (i.e., page 20: "On pavement, 700x32 is fine, ...."). 
Also, the author speaks of the advantages of the wider dimensions if one is traveling not on pavement.
When I rode the Lewis and Clark I was happy to be using your above referenced 45mm Specialized Armadillos.
Btw, regarding *range of surface conditions, for me, is to be able to quickly safely/uneventfully get off the road on to a shoulder of any condition any time I want to avoid traffic .... the skinnier the tire the less likely I am inclined to get off the pavement and onto whatever the shoulder conditions are (if any shoulder at all !!! :- )
- Wishing you great ride adventures.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2019, 09:20:23 am »
If you are 95+% on pavement, then 32mm is fine.  If you are doing up to 90% on-pavement, then maybe bump to 35-37mm.  Basically, the more off-pavement, the wider the tire.  However, the vast majority of sizes of 30mm+ will work.  You just may have better control and/or less flat.

Scientifically, supposedly, there is no difference in rolling resistance with a wider tire but I personally feel there is a noticeable difference.

Also, the model of tire is, to me, much more important to width for tire "slowness" (feels like you have to use more energy).  For instance, the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme is a much more lively tire than the Schwalbe Marathon Plus but the Plus is much more flat resistant than the Supreme.  That said, it is best to try to match the tire with the use. For instance, knobby tires tend to be much slower than smooth tires on pavement but smooth tires have very little grip on dirt and/or gravel compared to knobby.

Regardless, whatever tire you choose, be sure you know how to change the flats.

Tailwinds, John



Offline dkoloko

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2019, 09:32:55 am »
The book you referenced is old, published in 1994. Trend is to wider tires. I would say 32mm width is standard for touring (was standard on my 2017 Trek 520), and is at the low end for width now recommended for touring. I've gone from 32mm to 35mm for mostly payment touring. The tires you say were recommended are wider than most touring tires currently in use, and have a reputation for being durable, but very slow. I would go for a more modern touring tire (tire you mentioned is a very old model), whatever width you choose.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2019, 10:06:19 am »
Another thing I forgot to mention is that the more gear you carry, the wider the tire you need.  Assuming you are on pavement the vast majority of the time, if you and the total weight of your gear is below 180 pounds, then 32mm is fine.  Roughly add 1mm per extra 10 pounds of weight.  So if you weight 200# and you are carrying 50# of gear, then you would need about 39mm, give or take a mm.  NOTE:  This is my own personal observation after 40 years of touring carrying all kinds of weight depending on the type of tour.  For off-road touring (30+% off pavement), I would go a minimum 50mm and more if carrying a lot of weight.

The wider tire supports more weight and thus helps to prevent pinch flats.

Hope this helps, John

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2019, 01:09:18 pm »
One more set of observations.  I've ridden with touring loads (about 300-320# on the bike) with 32s and 35s, and with commute/apple/light touring/no load (220-270#) with 28-37 tires.  With the heaviest loads, the 32s were OK, 35s were fine.  I went up to 37 on the back a few years later, and other than trouble getting the fully inflated tire on one bike, didn't see much change in how it rode.  I've settled on 32s as my default on two bikes, and 28s on the bike that doesn't handle larger tires well.  The 28s transmit road shock more than 32s, but with somewhat lighter loads I can't feel much difference in handling or ride between 32 and 35.

There is a difference with lighter loads depending on the tire model you put on.  Continental Contact in a 32 was a lot harsher ride than Panaracer Pasela, with Gatorskin in the middle.  Generally, as you go to a wider tire, the tire will get thicker and stiffer, meaning you'll want to reduce the pressure to compensate for the ride.  Too low, though, and I can feel the tire squirm through curves -- not pleasant.

Road surface does make a huge difference, as well.  I don't think anything less than a sporty car tire with plush suspension would make the expansion joints of eastern Colorado tolerable.  More than a dozen miles on dirt/gravel/muddy roads and you'll want 2.25" tires, at least until you get back on the pavement and don't care for the buzzy ride of the knobby tires.

Undecided?  If you're starting the TransAm on roads, try 32 or 35s.  Take a wider tire and tube to match to put on the back half way across the country, or when you're going to hit a long stretch of off-road trail   (Or western Kansas/eastern Colorado expansion joints!  :)

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2019, 07:45:10 am »
I roll 37c with inverted tread because I don't go UL and like to incorporate unpaved surfaces into my routes. Also keep in mind that road construction may force you to ride on unpaved surfaces. I hit stretches out west where the asphalt had been completely removed for road resurfacing.

Offline BikePacker

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2019, 10:27:51 am »
Also keep in mind that road construction may force you to ride on unpaved surfaces. I hit stretches out west where the asphalt had been completely removed for road resurfacing.
Wow.  Excellent point.  Somehow had forgotten 'bout that ... must have repressed it :- ) as, yes, miles and miles of re-construction of roadways.

Offline tonyandrews

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2019, 12:38:04 am »
Thanks so much for the detailed replies, everyone! Turns out the tires I've been using are 45mm. I've gotten used to them while training and they seem to ride well. So I just went ahead and took the 45mm Armadillos my local shop had ordered for me. They feel good! Here's to hoping they don't slow me down too much on the road this summer.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2019, 03:29:49 pm »
I ride 35 mm suppple sidewall tires on my daily road bike. They are fast and soft. Read more here about why by Adventure Cyclist contributor Jan Heine https://janheine.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/choosing-your-tires/ and here https://janheine.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/12-myths-in-cycling-1-wider-tires-are-slower/.
The key here is supple sidewalls. On my touring bike I run belted tires for flat protection and find the ride incredibly harsh. Maybe if I move up to 38 or 45 mm belted tires (from 32 mm) the ride will be softer due the larger air volume.

Offline brianmcgloin

Re: Tire Width?
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2019, 12:18:05 am »
Generally, stuff the biggest tires you can in the frame. I'm a giant fan of Schwalbe Marathon Mondial or Surly ExtraTerrestrial. Both are great, both roll over everything and are super durable. The Surly can go tubeless.


Hi, all.

Newbie here. I'm gearing up for a summer tour. I have an XL Specialized AWOL touring bike, which I'll be taking from Iowa City to Seattle on some combination of the TransAmerica Trail, The Lewis and Clark Trail, and the Northern Tier.

What make and width of tire would you recommend for such a trek? My local bike shop recommended 45mm Specialized Armadillo tires, but my reading of "The Essential Touring Cyclist" recommended tires no wider than 32mm. What gives?

Best,
Tony
Semper victor!

Jía yóu!