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.