Tire Size Reëxamined, Again

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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As far as the inner width on my avenger rims I believe they are 17-18 MM.

Jack Mentink

Ike – I like themJack – That's great, lots of people are big fans of Schwalbe Ones. I did when I tried them, but for me it's the Padrones. What is the inner width on your rims?Dan – Sounds like we are both happy campers. C2+ rims with Pro4 SC and the lightest tubes preserve nearly exactly the same momentum as my setup, but I've never been much of a gram counter – give or take a few grams on a wheel and I can't feel it. 200 I feel right away immediately, on the other hand,. Pro4 SC on your new rims will likely be just on the shy side of 25 – Michelins aren't quite as wide as, say, Challenge (I remember a "25" of theirs that was almost 29mm) and Continental (4k 23s are almost 25.5 on most 18mm internal rims) – but they're one of the tires I really like.

Dave K

The rim I used in this test was an original recipe SL23, so a slightly narrower bead seat (18.whatever) and it is right around 25.25 brand new. The 23mm Padrone I have on a Grail that I've used quite a bit (1500 miles +/-) started life just shy of 25 wide and is now right at 25. Which all makes sense given bsw differences. New SL23s have basically same bead seat width as Grails.


Dave, what did the 25c Padrones actually measure out to width wise on the Pacenti SL23s rims? I loved the original 23c Padrone version that's been out for many years, but moved on to other brands awhile back due to a then lack of a 25c option. Thanks.


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