Your bike has a few consumables, by consumables, we mean parts that eventually wear out, and you have to replace them. Some of your consumables, chain, cassette, chainrings, jockey wheels are much of a muchness, upgrading them can provide marginal weight and performance gains, as well as increased durability. Arguably the most significant upgrade of a consumable that can be made is changing your tyres.
First of all, you’ve got to choose what ‘type’ of tyre you want to go for, a good question to ask yourself is, what sort of riding do you normally do? Whatever the predominant style of riding you do is, then you should find a tyre that best suits that. So if you’re riding on the road all the time, you want a slick narrow road tyre. If you’re on the paths and gravel, you might want to think wider and start beginning to think about tread. If you’re game is riding on muddy hillsides, you’ll want wider, and more tread again.
So, let’s talk through some of the points just mentioned, and how they can benefit you on two wheels:
When it comes to width of tyre, it’s generally regarded that a wider tyre can provide more comfort in all types of cycling. However a wider tyre will have a wider contact area, therefore there can be a compromise in the case of speed.
For road cycling for example, for years the norm was skinnier tyres, with widths rarely breaching the 23cm mark, however recently there has been a movement toward slightly wider tyres, with many people opting for 25, 28 or even 32cm wide tyres. A wider tyre can be run at a lower pressure to allow better comfort on the road, and for off road tyres, better grip due to a wider contact area.
Tread is a hotly debated subject across all the disciplines. There are definite advantages to particular tread patterns when discussing off road tyres, certain tread patterns do different things, and it’s worth considering your likely stomping ground before choosing a tyre pattern.
If you look at the up and coming discipline of cyclocross as an example of how to approach tread patterns, you can get an idea of what you should be looking for. Cyclocross riders are notoriously pernickety about tyre choice and rightly so when you consider the wide range of conditions that can occur during cyclocross. For example, on a dry, dusty course, a rider might choose a tyre that has a very low tread pattern over the top, with minimal side knobs, just to make sure they can keep themselves up on the tightest corners. However, on a course that is plagued by deep mud and wet conditions, the dry, dusty tyre is as useful as a chocolate teapot. That’s when the cyclocross rider calls upon a tyre that has high tread in the middle so that the tyre squirts out mud more effectively and aggressive side knobs so that they can dig in properly in slidy corners.
So you’ve decided on your new tyres, you get them mounted with inner tubes properly installed (unless they’re tubeless, or tubular, but that’s another articles worth of discussion, and clinchers, the tyre and tube combo, are the most common besides) you want to think about tyre pressure.
Tyres will generally have a recommended minimum and maximum pressure range printed round the outside of their casing. It’s a good place to start, but 20 or 30psi (that’s pounds per square inch of pressure) makes ALL the difference in comfort or grip, or even puncture protection. As a general rule, lower pressure means more comfort and grip, but makes you more susceptible to pinch punctures (also known as pressure punctures, this is where you hit the tyre hard and a hole is created under that pressure) and higher pressures make you faster.
Yes, its a difficult subject, but never fear, your friendly neighbourhood bike shop is on hand to help. Here at Camglen Bike Town we have a great selection of new and part worn tyres, and expert staff to talk you through what certain tyres are good at, and not so good at, come down and say hello!