Over to you: What's the optimal road bike tire width?

Does wider rubber make everything better?

Road bikes are being ridden on more diverse terrain than ever before thanks to equipment that is becoming more and more versatile. Disc brakes, more generous gearing, and of course wider tires now allow roadies to not only take on the occasional gravel foray, but rather actively seek out new routes off the beaten tarmac path.

For years, the standard road bike tire size was 23mm. Thin, light and able to be pumped up to back-achingly high pressures, there was no need to experiment. Then science, endurance events, and gravel riding got in the mix.

Science has now proven that wider tires actually have less rolling resistance than skinnier tires. Wider road tires provide a more forgiving ride and improve handling through a, you guessed it, wider contact patch that makes endurance riding safer, easier, and more accessible. Finally, gravel riding popularity brought on wider tires and the associated equipment to mute the bumps, take on the rocks, and provide some traction in the loose, dirt road conditions. 

Now even Pro Tour teams are rolling on 25mm and even wider rubber depending on the race or stage. And rim manufacturers are adapting with wider rims and unique profiles that make bigger tires even more aerodynamic. Bike companies have taken note by allowing a bit more room between the stays to accommodate larger tire widths.

So over to you…

What size road bike tire do you think provides the optimum balance of speed, control and comfort? Are you a staunch believer in rock hard, skinny rubber or a questioning cyclist embracing wider tires? If you do ride wider road tires, have you found the law of diminishing returns when going too big? Thin, wide, or right in between, let us know in the comments below…

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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