Wide vs Narrow
The choice of which width of rim and tire to get is largely dependent on the kind of riding you do as well as personal preference. Wider tires tend to offer more comfort, especially on bumpy or even rocky terrain. They can also offer more grip. Skinnier tires are more suited for smoother surfaces.They also offer an aerodynamic benefit. It is important to note, however, that not all tires and rims are optimal or even compatible with one another.
Most wheels come with a recommended tire width range that should be abided by. This is primarily for the safety of the rider as well as the performance of the bicycle.
Wider wheels and tires have become more commonplace on road bikes due to the adoption of disc brakes. Disc brakes bikes differ from rim brake bikes in that disc brakes can accept much wider rims and tires, as the braking is not happening at the rim. They are run at lower pressures and therefore offer more comfort. Rolling resistance is similar to narrower tires at higher pressures. These wider tires are the go-to choice for those who like to ride long distance. They are also necessary for MTB and gravel riding due to more grip being needed on different surfaces. The wider tires also have a benefit of increasing rider confidence especially when descending.
While wider tires and rims have many strengths, they do have some drawbacks. Wider wheels and tires are less aerodynamic and weigh more. This affects riding at faster speeds, climbing, as well as descending. If you choose to opt for wider tires, check your frame manufacturer’s website, or consult your local mechanic or bikeshop for information on whether or not certain tires and rims would be compatible for each other or with your frame.
Narrower rims and tires can be run with both disc and rim brake setups. For rim brakes, the maximum tire and rim width can accept can be anywhere from 25-28mm. This is because the calipers themselves are limited in their own width.
Narrower tires have a few advantages, the first being that they are lighter in weight. The second benefit is that they are more aerodynamic. For road cycling where speeds tend to be higher, narrower tires make more sense. Also, as roads are smoother, there is less need for wide tires at low pressures.
When it comes to unstable non-road applications, a narrow tire is a poor choice, as it cannot achieve as much grip. This is especially true when riding off road. A narrower tire would have less contact with the surface, potentially making leading to poor handling. They can also be less comfortable, especially on less than smooth roads. Cyclists looking to ride long distances or on bumpy roads would do best with a wider rim and tire.