For a couple of years now, all the cool cats have been riding on 25mm tyres. I just made the switch, and here’s some reflections on riding on 25 mm tyres instead of 23’s.
Back in 2011 when I got my first road bike, everyone used 23 mm tyres. It was the norm, and nobody questioned it. Why would you?
But over the past couple of years, there’s been a clear trend towards 25mm tyres for road cycling, with all sorts of evidence to back up the reasons why 25mm are better than 23mm. (For the record, we are talking about road bike tyres, so the numbers on the box will say 700c, or 700×23 or 700×25 tyres).
But wait a minute. Who said 25mm was actually better than 23mm tyres?
I’m about to.
So if you’re wondering “should I buy 23 or 25 tyres?“, this may help you decide!
Why 25mm tyres are better than 23mm tyres on your road bike.
With the extra tyre width, you’ll have a larger contact patch with the ground. This means you’ll be less likely to slide on corners. This is particularly relevant in wet weather so if you’re considering 23 or 25 tyres for winter, this will be a factor. (Read my review of what I consider to be the ultimate winter road bike tyre.)
With a wider tyre, you can run them at lower pressures. E.g.90 instead of 100 psi.
This makes a noticeable difference and the extra sponginess is just enough to absorb all of those little imperfections in the road surface, giving you a smoother ride. Again, it also helps improve grip so for cold, wet winter riding, you’re better off with a wider tyre. Many folks choose to go up to 28mm for winter, for even more comfort and safety.
Linked to the point above, they reckon that a slightly wider tyre at a lower pressure is better at deforming over irregular surfaces, whereas a harder thinner tyre will be more affected by the bumps so more of the energy is lost by making the bike go up and down. The bigger tyre deforms more, so forward momentum is maintained. So, the current thinking is that for bike racing, 25mm tyres will be faster. One has to weight up the slight mass increase, and the effect this will inevitably have on long climbs.
There’s more tyre, with a greater contact patch, so they should last longer. This also depends a great deal on the brand of tyre, of course. I tend to favour Continental tyres, having tried most of the major brands.
This ability to deform around uneven surfaces has an added benefit. You will be less likely to suffer pinch flats, or “snakebite” punctures. So next time you hit that unexpected pothole, you could be spared the inconvenience of having to stop to fit a spare tube. Anyone who’s struggled to replace a tube with cold, numb hands at the side of the road in Winter, will say from bitter experience that given a choice, they’d rather not have to endure such misery again.
With extra stickiness comes a gradual decline in the amount of caution you might feel is necessary when leaning into a corner. But apply sparingly! You aren’t suddenly going to become invincible, but you’ll feel a bit more secure and safe on wider tyres, particularly on fast descents.
The bottom line is that if you’re more comfortable on your bike, with fewer concerns about safety or reliability, your mind is more free to be in the moment, and this level of “mindful” riding will be more enjoyable and beneficial to you.
My tyre of choice is the Continental Grand Prix 4 seasons. I think they’re just as fast as the GP 4000, and they last longer (and therefore resist punctures for longer), regardless of whether you choose 23 or 25 tyres.
Prices go up and down all the time, but this handy price comparison table saves you visiting loads of sites by pulling in data from all the best online bike stores.
Did you make the switch from 23’s to 25’s (or larger?)
I asked Twitter what changes people noticed when they switched to 25mm tyres from 23’s.
23 or 25 tyres? – here’s what Twitter said.
The first response was from Ben over at the mighty VeloViewer.
@ScarletFireBike yep. mainly for more secure feel on descents + comfort/lower pressures. 28mm on winter bike. GP4000S measure up bigger too.
— Ben Lowe (@Ben_Lowe) February 13, 2017
Ben also warns of the inconsistencies between manufacturers about the stated widths.
@ScarletFireBike my 25mm GP4000S measure up at 28mm. Specialized Roubaix 25mm measure up at 23mm. Given up trusting the number on the side!
— Ben Lowe (@Ben_Lowe) February 13, 2017
@ScarletFireBike feel the bumps much less on 25s without any discernable difference in speed or aero
— Baden Campbell (@BadenC) February 13, 2017
@ScarletFireBike Yes. I think 25s are more smooth and at my capabilities the advantages of the 23s are negligible.
— frankgiraffe (@frankgiraffe) February 13, 2017
@ScarletFireBike 25’s give me a more comfortable ride and better handling with no noticeable impact on speed during hard efforts.
— Sean Bolden (@seanbolden) February 13, 2017
The last reply I received seems to slightly contradict the majority view, or perhaps @rowec1 was just teasing.
@ScarletFireBike 23. I want to look like a pro.
— Chris Rowe (@rowec1) February 13, 2017
Do YOU prefer 23 or 25 tyres?
Leave a comment below to tell everybody what differences you noticed, when you switched to 25’s from 23mm tyres.