Tire Size Reëxamined, Again

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Instead of, you know, actually racing this weekend, a friend and I went to VT and rode kind of just for the sake of riding.* To have the kind of weekend we always wished we could have when doing Green Mountain Stage Race, except without all the "I can't have a second beer/ice cream/a 4th pulled pork sandwich because I'm going to get dropped tomorrow if I do" type of tom foolery. It was fun. On Saturday, we did this really fun ride (and I don't mind telling you, I had absolute miracle legs that day), and when I got home and loaded it up, I realized we'd ridden the exact shape of Block Island. So that.

Anyhow, there's always a purpose to the madness, and this weekend's purpose was to test out a new kind of rim tape. In doing so, I had a rear wheel that was set up tubeless, and a front tire that was normal tube/tire. Front rim was a Kinlin XC279 (which if you aren't into tubeless may be your ideal rim, and we've still got a couple of them at a great deal wink wink hint hint), with a 23mm Michelin Pro4 Service Course. This measured just under 24mm wide. The rear rim was a Pacenti SL23, original recipe, with a Maxxis Padrone 25 set up tubeless. Front psi was in the mid to high 70s, rear psi was in the low 80s. Given the size differential between the tires, I thought that this was fairly well normalized (which is to say that had I had a larger front tire, I'd have bumped the pressure down a bit).

There are two questions we get far and away more frequently than any other: the first is how many spokes should a set of wheels have, the second is what size tires should I run. The answer to the first is involved and complex. The second is superficially incredibly simple: whatever you prefer. 

Well, my new answer to this question is that I find that I very much like tires that measure 25mm wide. Whatever they may happen to say on the side, I like them when they measure 25mm or a shade bigger. Let's look at the parameters...

The narrowest internal width rims I am ever on these days are 17mm, and the widest in my regular arsenal are 20. I have no idea what I like on a road bike with a 23mm internal rim, because I don't think I'll ever use on, and I know that the days when I rode 14mm internal rims are in the dark and murky past. In the range of rims I use, I prefer tires that measure 25mm. So... why?

1. They look right to me when I am riding. Don't discount this. It's an established fact that pro golfers prefer putters that make the noise they prefer, over all other characteristics. A 25mm tire looks wide enough that I'm confident in riding it on crappy roads, and it doesn't look too balloon-like. The front tire I used this weekend looked a little narrow, and I've ridden larger tires that looked like beach cruiser tires.

2. For me, they are the most comfortable. A lot of people have a preferred psi, and that's absolutely valid. I find that 25s allow me to use the range of psi on which I feel most comfortable. They feel right at that psi, which for the sake of quantifying it is 76 front and 84 rear. Those numbers are as good as any. I weigh 160. 

3. I generally find that I am exceedingly confident when cornering on said tires. 90% of the reason I even ride bikes is to go through the corners. The pedaling I can take of leave, but the corners are where it's at. 

It's taken me a couple of years of paying super close attention to this to even arrive at this conclusion, so your personal revelation may come more or less quickly than mine.

Last, yesterday I wrote the sentence "Maxxis Padrone tubeless has become my favorite road tire; tubed, tubeless, or tubular." I meant it. Your mileage may vary. 


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  • Dan on

    Seems like you're on a good heading. But, 295g /tire (plus the tubeless goop)?That's a great 'momentum preserver' but a definite snap killer.I just built a pair of 20-24, radial-triplet on Halo's and HED Belgium C2s with 25mm Pro4 race SC.Talk about cornering.I've always liked 28s and 25s. Raced on 28s(Conti's) in Cat3 for ~ 25 yrs. No, disadvantageon Illinois potholed or gravel strewn roads.Since the rims spread the tire profile, I'm now considering 23s. I think they'd be stretched to25s and have 20g less throw.

  • Jack Mentink on

    I guess I have never tried the Padrone, But I have become to really Enjoy My Schwalbe One 25 wide tubeless on my 25 wide (external) carbon clincher X 40 deep rims. Sorry, they are avenger brand as I just couldn't swing the 1550 a pair for the rails.The Schwalbes are very smooth and grip the road quite well as I run them at 90 rear and 85 front as I'm currently running 193 lbs (but dropping). You will not be disappointed in them. The unfortunate thing about them is the 25's are hard to find as it seems Schwalbe has trouble keeping up with the demand.

  • ike on

    I guess I should give the 25s a try. I've been running the Padrone 23 tubeless on Rail 52s as my 'race' wheels so far this year, and have been very happy….granted, all of my racing these days is done on a perfectly smooth motorsports track. The 25s sound like they would be great everyday drivers.

  • Triston on

    For what it's worth, I just received my Rail 52s and opted for S-Works 24s. Ride beautifully. Just need to dial in tire pressures.

  • BT on

    On my original pre-order Rail 52s, which are now nearly 2 years old, have umpteen thousands of miles of use and still true as they day they arrived, I'm running S-Works 26mm tires, they're comfortable and confidence-inspiring.



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