Road racing is a complex sport in which the road bike tires determine the performance. Certainly, the performance is driven by multiple factors, but the tire’s road grip, width, and structure can improve it.
If you’re a beginner wondering how to choose the right road bike tires, read on. Or, if you’re in a hurry, click on the links in the table below to check some of the best entry-level road bike tires on the market.
Most road bike owners have little interest in choosing the right tires and rims for their bikes. As long as you’re using the bike only to move from one place to another or for recreational purposes, any tire can do. But if you’re aiming to performance, the rolling resistance, aerodynamics, pattern, and type of the tire matters.
Road bike tires come in several types and styles. They have different patterns that ultimately determine their rolling resistance. The width determines both the comfort and the aerodynamics. Then, there are tubular and tubeless tires.
In such a maze of products, how to choose the best one? This guide aims to help you determine which type of tires you need based on your cycling goals. We’ve also selected some of the best entry-level road bike tires for road racing. Check them out below.
Road Bike Tires - Main Types
Hook Bead Clinchers
These tires are the most common and most affordable for road biking. Standard hook bead clinchers come in different sizes and are manufactured for different types of bikes, including road, mountain, commuter’s, and touring bikes.
Most of the times, they are lightweight and can be used on most types of rims. However, they have a higher rolling resistance and are prone to getting punctured easily.
Tubeless Hook Bead Clinchers
In terms of looks, these tires are pretty much like the hook bead clinchers above. The main difference is the resistance of the bead; on this type of tires, the beads are stronger and heavier. They are created to provide an airtight seal when used on specific tubeless rims.
Their main advantage is the greater quality of the ride and improved efficiency. They have a lower rolling resistance, helping riders improve their performance.
These tires also have a higher resistance to punctures but they are hard to install and more difficult to repair. In fact, it’s very unlikely to fix them with a puncture repair kit and more often than not, you’ll have to completely change them.
Tubular Road Bike Tires
Among the most performing tires for a road bike, there is the tubular. These tires are primarily used for road racing and the main characteristic is the tube that’s integrated into the tire and stitched to the casing.
Very hard to install, these tires are glued to specific tubular rims. This installation method increases the tire’s resistance to punctures, lowers the rolling resistance and boosts performance. If you’re aiming to become a road racing pro, tubular tires are your best bet.
Road Bike Tires Anatomy
Road bike tires consist of a casing and a thread; hook-bead clinches tires also contain beads. The casing, or the inner part of the tire, is made of a tough, resistant, yet flexible material and has the purpose to restrain stretching and maintain the shape of the tire while riding.
Modern casings are made of several layers of different materials that include Kevlar, cotton, nylon, and polyamide. Not all tires have all these layers but as a general rule, the more layers a tire has the tougher and puncture resistant it will be.
The thickness of the tires is expressed in TPI; the lower the number the thicker the casing. Most road bike tires have a TPI of over 100, which means they contain very fine threads that ensure the suppleness and low rolling resistance of the tire.
The thread is the outer part of the tire and its main goal is to maximize aerodynamics. The thread is characterized by patterns, which vary from smooth to slick; most road bike tires have smooth threads which are made of a compound containing rubber or butyl and additives such as Kevlar, silicone, or carbon black.
Present on the clinches tires, the beads are two steel or Kevlar cables folded inside the edges of the casing. Their purpose is to minimize the elasticity of the tire, keeping it in place on the rim. The beads can be made of flexible and foldable materials that ensure an easy storage and transport.
How To Choose Road Bike Tires
The first thing to decide when choosing road bike tires is which model is the best for you. The three main types are described above but don’t just assume a tubular tire is your best bet. Depending on your level of performance, riding style and purpose, tubular may or may not be the best.
For an entry-level athlete, tubeless tires could be the most appropriate. These tires are resistant to punctures but affordable, easier to replace, and easier to repair.
Tubular tires are also less comfortable. Their purpose is that of reducing rolling resistance and this often means less tire width and less grip. If you’re mainly riding for leisure or commuting, you’re not going to enjoy comfortable rides with tubular tires.
If your budget is low, traditional clinchers could be the best choice for you.
Another thing to consider is the size of the tires that must fit on the size of the rims. Most road bikes need 700mm tires, but some smaller size bikes or women’s road bikes have smaller wheels. Check the specs of your vehicle and make sure the tires fit perfectly on the rims.
Road bike tires have variable widths, usually between 23 and 32mm. The wider the tire the more comfortable the ride, but wide tires increase rolling resistance. In other words, try to invest in narrower tires if you want to improve your riding performance.
The two choices are Schrader and Presta. Schrader valves are similar to the car tire valves and are usually present on the entry-level tires. Presta valves boast an increased performance and are usually used on the high-end bikes.
The size of the hole on the rim will indicate which type of valve you need. As a general rule, don’t use a Presta valve on a rim designed for Schrader because you may damage both the valve and the rim. Shrader valves don’t fit in Presta holes at all, as they are larger.
Choose a tire pattern that fits your riding style. For road racing purposes, choose a smooth tire with minimal patterns which improve rolling resistance. A patterned tire has a better grip on the road and they are ideal for those commuting by bike.
Tires with heavy patterns are usually recommended to those who love cycling off-road every now and then, as they improve balance and stability on slippery terrains.
Best Entry-Level Road Bike Tires For Road Racing
1. Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Tire 2-Pack
Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin tires deliver convenient durability in a versatile 2-pack. The tires are not manufactured specifically for road bikes, but the road bike tires range includes all popular sizes from 700/23mm to 700/32mm.
Ideal for commuting, sports rides or winter training, these tires are durable and puncture resistant. The flexible wire bead allows folding the tires for easy storage and transport, and they are an excellent option should you want to include a pair of new tires in your bike repair kit.
The DuraSkin layer is made of polyamide fabric that ensures excellent sidewall protection without compromising the quality and safety of the ride. Built for performance, the tires also boast a smooth pattern in the center and a rougher pattern in the sides.
This increases grip on slippery or wet roads and allows a better management of the corners. Suitable for multiple riding styles, these tires withstand high mileage; MTB and 650c road bike versions are also available from the same manufacturer.
2. Continental Grand Prix 4000s II Cycling Tire
Grand Prix 4000s II by Continental is a set of two highly performing road bike tires ideal for beginner and intermediate riders. Coming in an all-black finish and characterized by a strong 3-ply casing, these tires are designed to withstand heavy use for a long time.
The product is made from a Black Chili tread compound that incorporates carbon nano-particles. This technology lowers rolling resistance with up to 26% compared to traditional road bike tires, improves grip with up to 30% and resists to a longer mileage.
A Vectran Breaker belt five times stronger than steel resists not only punctures but also water and cuts. 330 TPI provide additional reinforcement while maintaining the profile slim.
Another great feature is the tread wear indicator that allows you to eliminate premature replacement and prevent overuse. The tires come in 700/23c, 700/25c, and 700/28c sizes.
3. Continental Ride Tour
Designed for touring, Continental Ride Tour tires feature a tread compatible with all road surfaces. They are not specific for road riding but represent an ideal and budget-friendly solution for entry-level road cyclists.
The tires boast a continuous center tread that provides an excellent rolling resistance and ample traction on slippery terrains or when cornering. An extra puncture belt offers an reliable puncture protection on all surfaces and high mileage protection.
Environmentally friendly, these tires are compatible with a wide range of bikes, including electric bikes. As for the sizes, the tires come in sizes suitable for mountain or road bikes, although the widths are on the thicker side.
Another thing we like is the durable casing that, together with the long-lasting tread, impresses all riders. Several layers increase resistance and durability, providing peace of mind in the long run.
4. Continental Ultra Sport II Fold Bike Tire
Continental Ultra Sport II is an excellent entry-level race tire to consider if you have a tight budget. Coming in all popular road bike sizes, Ultra Sport II is a foldable tire that is easy to transport and store. Available in a wide range of colors, these tires are ideal for all riders.
Making a stunning visual impact, the tires are made from a resistant silica-based tread compound that provides an excellent grip on all types of terrains. The casing is also robust, offering an excellent handling over various surfaces.
The outer casing is also made of a 3-ply material which is supple and responsive. This improves handling on most surfaces while the deep tread design ensures a longer lifespan.
Resistance is also guaranteed by the solid steel bead which is flexible enough to fold compactly. Mounting the tires on the rim is quite simple and straightforward.
5. Vittoria Rubino Pro G+ Road Tire
Vittoria Rubino Pro G+ is the last entry-level road bike tire we tried. These tires are made from a G+ compound that incorporated graphene, a material that increases the resistance of the rubber and improves the resistance to punctures.
With a superior rolling resistance and cornering grip, these tires are lightweight and durable. The IsoTech concept ensures a bring exceptional handling and comfort. Coming in sizes that suit either men’s or women’s road bikes, these tires are ideal to use for multiple applications.
In fact, these tires are ideal for commuters, entry-level road riders and even for the pros for training purposes.
Another thing we like is the excellent value for money. The tires are affordable and easy to fit on the rim.
Conclusion & Final Pick
Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin are our favorite entry-level road bike tires. Ideal for beginners and intermediate riders, these tires deliver convenient durability. They come in a pack of two and are available in all popular sizes that go from 700/23 to 700/32.
This product is ideal for multiple purposes, including commuting, winter training, or sports rides. They are durable and puncture resistant, have a low rolling resistance and an impressive grip.
The DuraSkin layer made of polyamide fabric ensures a superior sidewall protection. At the same time, the quality and safety of the ride are not compromised. With a smooth pattern in the center of the tire, this product is also built for performance.
Compatible with MTB, road, and commuter’s bikes, these tires may not be specifically built for road racing but represent an ideal alternative to all other entry-level road bike tires available on the market.