on the myth of 28 millimetres (and a scathing review of vittoria rubino pro tech tyres)

As the four readers of this esteemed blog will know, i’m always one to follow a trend. Of late, the trend has been for faster fatter tyres. In days of yore, there were two certainties to cycling and the ageing process: gear sizes would shrink, whilst tyre width would expand. Maybe there’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.

Some years ago i took the plunge and opted for a 25mm tyre  in winter. It felt like a bold step, sacrificing speed for comfort, pace for grip. In practice, I didn’t seem to make much difference; 2mm is not that noticeable. This winter I went big, busting out some 28mm rubber on both winter bikes. (n+1 applies to winter bikes as a genre). As a result, i’ve enjoyed an armchair ride, with low tyre pressures and a spongy experience. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed it. After years of feeling every undulation in the road surface, the sense of float takes some getting used to.

Allegedly, 25mm+ is the current choice of the peloton, for all sorts of pseudo-scientific, lab-tested reasons. The arguments are unproven and the lab rarely translates into real-world performance. It seems as though there is no real change in what was previously suspected; if you want comfort, go big, if you want a bit of zing, go narrow. What I do know is that the vittoria rubino pro tech 28s i’ve been using are flabby and particularly big, making it difficult to get them under the mudguard. They limit gear changes on a fixed wheel because you have no tolerance for moving the wheel in, and with tight mudguard clearances comes a host of irritating problems: wheel rub, noises, filth and clag, the lot. More that that, this particular set of tyres have cut up extremely quickly; from having no punctures at all for years and years, i’ve had three in short succession on about 700 miles of use, one of which needed a boot to cope with the slashed sidewall. the rubino pro techs are now in the bin.

In short, it’s back to the 25mm maximum for me and a nagging sense that the trend for bigger tyres and wider profile rims is entirely down to the bike industry’s constant need to sell us new things. Watch out for the next big thing: narrow tyres.

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21 thoughts on “on the myth of 28 millimetres (and a scathing review of vittoria rubino pro tech tyres)

  1. edwardtrotman March 16, 2015 / 9:22 pm

    I’m loving the 23mm rims on my new bicycle. Gatorskins for no punctures!

  2. iainjh March 16, 2015 / 10:10 pm

    25mm Conti 4 season on my winter hack have lasted ages with zero punctures. Any bigger sounds a bit too MTB for my liking…

  3. John mills March 16, 2015 / 10:12 pm

    yep, 25 max (and 90 psi … Or less !). tried 28’s for about 10 miles, never again 🙂
    although i do have some 25’s on 23mm rims ready for nicer days

  4. Russell Peace March 17, 2015 / 5:18 am

    Well that’s your four readers replied then Paul… 😉 25 four seasons for me too… although despite the ‘slander’ i may give them a go on my commuting road bike one day :)… the disk brakes allow for extra clearance so i wouldn’t suffer in the same way.

  5. devonbikester March 17, 2015 / 8:35 am

    At the risk of being permanently ejected from the comments section I am going to admit that I really like wide tyres. And by wide I mean 4″ wide fat bike tyres. See, I said it! In the spirit of N+1 I have been enjoying the delights of off road riding. And being in Devon this means nasty poached-up muddy bridleways and rock strewn tracks. Hammering along a track with the surface like a dried-up river bed containing fist-sized rocks is faster and much less scary on fat tyres (compared to skinny 2″ MTB tyres).

    This is a world where 1psi makes a noticeable difference, front at 5psi and rear at 8psi is my current favourite combination. Yeah, okay, on tarmac you feel like you are dragging a piano with you, but as soon as you get onto crappy surfaces it rolls really well. And anyway, it’s a training bike, so extra resistance is a good thing, right?

    So why am I telling you this? Well, I guess I’m saving have an open mind about experimenting with tyres and pressures, you might find a combination that is better than what you are riding now.

      • devonbikester March 18, 2015 / 8:48 am

        Or about 450 strokes of a mini pump when you flat in the middle of nowhere. I have run both at about 3psi, works a treat on a shingle beach. Now that is resistance training!

  6. BigMel March 17, 2015 / 9:59 am

    So it’s not just me on 25mm and 90spi (Durano’s in my case)! Comfort & speed all year round.
    Recently tried 28mm’s but the tyres are so heavy (man) and I’m now thinking pressure may just be the biggest influence on comfort.

  7. ian manners March 17, 2015 / 2:23 pm

    I’m a total sucker for all the industry marketing blah. Which is why I’ve found myself riding a so called ‘gravel / adventure / all road bike’ this winter. The only fun thing has been discarding the dreadful 30mm rubber and swapping in some 700×41 knobblies and venturing onto the rough stuff. I must admit I’ve enjoyed the feeling of working that little bit harder to keep the mph up during the commute – but that’s the sort of novelty you seek when faced with a dull daily ride in. Novelty has worn off now and it’ll be back to the 23s and very soon.

    • traumfahrrad March 17, 2015 / 7:57 pm

      i think i may have hastened the demise of the 28s by tearing it up through Belmont Woods on the fixed wheel.

  8. Steve Loraine March 17, 2015 / 7:15 pm

    Yep, Conti GP 4 Season 25s have carried me sweetly through the winter base building, at 90psi rear and a little softer on the front. With not a single puncture either. That’s also my set-up for the Paris-Roubaix Sportive in 2 weeks – fingers crossed for a puncture-free outing there too.

    • traumfahrrad March 17, 2015 / 7:57 pm

      I hear the pros roll with 28s at P-R…

    • traumfahrrad March 24, 2015 / 7:29 am

      good luck on the pave. i rode there once on 23mm tyres at 120psi. it was an error.

  9. devonbikester March 18, 2015 / 8:50 am

    Is anyone running tubeless? I have run my comedy drop-bar mountain/gravel/touring/training bike tubless for a year now and I’m really impressed, but then it has 50mm tyres. I have heard that narrower tubless isn’t so good.

  10. Ian Manners March 19, 2015 / 8:41 pm

    15 replies! Is that a record?! Shame no one has got really angry like that mudguards review of yore.

    • traumfahrrad March 21, 2015 / 7:41 am

      I think it must be. Lots of calm discussion, very uninternet. Let’s have some public shaming.

  11. vfreak99 July 25, 2017 / 11:37 am

    Whilst I’m still logged in . . . 25mm Durano’s at 85-90 psi. I’ve ignored trends for years and gone with practical experience of what works on day long rides. Idiot me.

    I once bought a TT bike with a 22mm front and 20mm rear – what’s that about ? You couldn’t lean the bike over as the rear would give way !

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