Marginal Gains: Tyre Choice

tyre choice

With limited tyre choice and availability now a thing of the past, the amateur rider has never been in a better position to avail of recent tyre advancement. Choice has moved away from being merely about cost or durability and is now more focused in the search for performance. With a mixture of race success, solid reputations, entwined with recommendations and online performance data, have all replaced the bygone era of blind purchasing.  The hunt for marginal gains through advanced technology and research is now accessible to both the professional and amateur alike.  Armed with enhanced awareness of performance attributes and greater online access to obliging suppliers, amateurs can now replicate the preferential equipment of the Pro Tour cyclist at a reasonable and acceptable cost.

Tyre choice is now recognised as one of the most inexpensive yet effective means of increasing overall efficiency. Through extreme testing by a number of independent parties, it is now assessed that whilst aerodynamic wheels may give as little as an overall 2% efficiency gain, tyres can provide up to 20% increased efficiency at a fraction of the cost. Tyre concepts fall into one of three main categories, tubular, clincher and more recently tubeless. In the simplest terms, the tubular is a completely enclosed tyre that is glued to the rim, whilst clincher and tubeless tyres are held to the rim by a ‘bead’ snuggling into a recess of the rim during inflation. The main difference between a standard clincher and tubeless tyre is that a tubeless tyre does not require an inner tube.

As an amateur club, it is fair to say that all but a few within VC Iveagh use clincher tyres for the bulk of their needs, due to both a more user friendly maintenance and its almost equal performance to the tubular, in fact in recent tests it appears a wider tubeless tyre may have an advantage over a fully fledged tubular. The tubular tyre tends to see use in only the 10 mile Individual Time Trial or in the odd vehicle supported Road Races. There is little difference in overall performance and are often subordinate in consideration. However, unlike the fully supported professional, the amateur must make additional deliberations for his or her lack of logistical support, budget and the diversity of the tyres intended use.

Complex choices now range from dry and wet slick or grooved treads, soft or hard compounds for grip and or durability to folding or rigid wired. New to the conundrum comes the width equation, 23mm v 25mm. No doubt like many other clubs, debates have taken place over coffee or in group rides that conclude 25mm is the way to go. Using resistance as a means of testing, studies have now proved that the 25mm tyre is faster than the 23mm tyre. Interestingly, tyre inflation does not appear to effect testing and thus inflating the tyre below or beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation is strongly discouraged.

So with the myriad of review articles, research and often contradictory findings, personal choice will no doubt vary from rider to rider. Is durability your primary concern or is gaining 30 seconds over a 10mile Time Trial your motivation. It should also be borne in mind when selecting tyre sizes that fitting a 25mm tyre to a 19mm or even 23mm rim will cause air flow issues that could affect your desired aim.

As a whole it seems reasonable to assume, from the many club conversations, VC Iveagh are very much in favour of the Pro Peleton endorsed wider tyre.  That said it’s fully recognised that gains are marginal and can never replace the benefits of hard training.


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