One important consideration when purchasing a new frame or complete bike is what sized tires I can run. Of course other decisions like whether or not carbon fiber or alloy would be better are important, but the tires we choose are not something to overlook. The truth is that not all road bike frames are the same, and the size of tires you can use is related to frame geometry as well as the brakes you use. In this article, the focus will be on road tires, but this can apply to mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and others.
Road wheelsets are designed to be fitted with road bike tires. The vast majority of road bike wheels are called 700c wheels. In the past, road bike tires and wheels were considerably narrower than they are now. Older frames could accommodate these narrower tires, but then there was a trend to make wider tires, and as a result road wheels that were wider. At present, the most common road tire sizes are 700c x 25mm and 700c x 28mm, though there are some riders that prefer widths of 30mm and even 32mm. These are more 50% wider than 700c tires in common use before.
Modern Rim Brake Frames
One of the reasons for the switch to wider and wider bike tires is that modern bicycles can now accommodate them. In the case of rim brake bikes, many rim brakes available today can now fit 25mm and in some cases 28mm tires depending on the model you have. As the trend has been towards wider tires, many modern road frames are also able to accommodate them, though it is still a good idea to contact the brand to make sure. Our Drive rim brake wheels have taken this into account. They feature 19.5mm internal rim widths and 28mm outer widths, which is optimal for for 25mm and 28mm tires in terms of stability, rolling resistance, and aerodynamics.
Modern Disc Brake Frames
Perhaps the largest driver towards the acceptance of wider bike tires is due to the fact that disc brakes have taken over in road cycling. The majority of bikes sold today feature disc brakes, and thus use disc brake wheels. This means that tires are not limited in width by rim brakes. They can be made much wider as long as the frame and fork are sufficiently wide. To know which tire size is compatible, it is best to contact the frame company. Our Drive disc brake wheels have taken this into account. They feature 21mm internal rim widths and 28mm outer widths, which is optimal for for 28-32mm tires, offering better stability, rolling resistance, and aerodynamics.
Not All Tires and Wheels are the Same
It is important to realize that tires and wheels made by different manufacturers are not the same, even if the advertised widths are the same, so it is good to assume some difference between them. Also, a pair of tires will measure wider on rims with wider internal rim widths. It is recommended that riders be a little conservative when choosing a wheel for their bike frame. It might not be the best idea to push the limits of what can be fit.
A Personal Preference
The choice of which size tire to use is about personal preference. Wider tires have lower rolling resistance at the same pressures, but they cannot be run at the same pressures. Wider tires are meant to be run at lower tire pressures. Wider tires are offer more comfort and grip all factors being equal. They rougher the surface, the better they do. Very smooth surfaces like velodromes are often better suited to narrower tires. Wider tires also have a weight penalty as they have more material.