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.