Ted King – Gentleman Gravel Racer

2019 will be remembered as the year when gravel racing started to be on equal terms with the great races of Europe. When Pro Tour riders appear at the Belgian Waffle Ride, you know that it’s not just a local event any longer. And yet, the fun part of the sport – above the leaders at Landrun 100 – and the ability for all riders to enter, remain undiminished.

Gravel racing forms a great counterpart to the increasingly sterile, big-money world of professional road racing. Where else can you line up alongside the big names, and even have them cheer you on at the finish?

Few riders embrace this ethos better than Ted King. Even though he’s a retired pro racer himself, he now stands out in the field, in his unbranded jersey, as the quintessential gentleman racer. It’s all the more exciting when he takes podium finishes in almost every event he enters. Recently, he was interviewed on Gravel Cyclist about how he discovered gravel racing, what he is looking for in a gravel bike and tire, and where the sport is heading.

In addition, Ted’s own series, ‘G-Road to Kanza,’ has a new video report from the Belgian Waffle Ride. See Ted duke it out with riders who came straight off the Spring Classics. Click on the images above to enjoy the podcast and video!

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New Tires: Hurricane Ridge and Endurance Casings

Working with Ted King, winner of last year’s Dirty Kanza gravel race, has added a new perspective to our R&D. We’ve got a lot of experience riding gravel, even racing it, but today’s mass-start races aren’t the same as exploring the Cascade Mountains on forest roads, or even racing the 363-mile cross-state Oregon Outback during the early days of gravel racing.

Like all racers, Ted wants the fastest bike he can get, and supple tires make a greater difference than almost any other component choice. Depending on the surface, Ted has been racing our 42 mm Snoqualmie Pass (Landrun 100, 2nd place), 35 mm Bon Jon Pass (Belgian Waffle Ride, 3rd place) and 38 mm Steilacoom knobbies (Epic 150, 1st place).

For Dirty Kanza and similar big events, Ted asked for a tougher tire. When you race in a peloton, you don’t see where you are going. It’s inevitable that you’ll hit some rocks and holes that you’d go around if you were riding by yourself or in a small group. And unlike the smooth gravel often found in New England (above), some of the rocks in Kansas are awfully rough and sharp.

How do you make a sturdier tire without giving up the speed and wonderful ride of our Rene Herse tires? For our new Endurance tires, we started with our Extralight casing, but pushed the threads closer together to make a denser weave for improved cut resistance. Then we added a thin protection layer all around the tire that further enhances cut-resistance and puncture protection. The darker tan color distinguishes this casing from our other offerings.

By using the same ultra-fine threads as our Extralight casing, the new Endurance tires give up only a little speed. In return, you get significantly improved resistance to rock cuts and flats. And since we start with the Extralight casing, the Endurance tires don’t weigh a ton either – no more than our already very light Standard casings. As part of our testing, Ted King has been riding prototypes with the new Endurance casing. In fact, he used them to win the Epic 150 gravel race a few weeks ago.

The Endurance casing is also a great choice for adventures where you don’t know what to expect. It’s a perfect complement to our dual-purpose knobbies that offer great performance on pavement, gravel, mud and even snow. Combine the two, and there is little your bike won’t be able to handle.

For the punishing conditions of the world’s toughest gravel races, we’ve developed the Endurance Plus casing. This uses much stronger, thicker threads, plus the same protection layer as the Endurance casing. This is a tire you might choose when the race will be a game of attrition… (Did I hear someone say Dirty Kanza?)

Gravel racers also tell us that they need wider tires, but most modern cyclocross and many gravel bikes only fit 44 mm tires (if they are smooth) or 42 mm knobbies. We already have our 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass, and now they are joined by the 700C x 42 mm Hurricane Ridge dual-purpose knobbies.

Hurricane Ridge is a great climb in the Olympic Mountains of Washington that offers two options: paved or muddy gravel. With the new dual-purpose knobbies, you’ll feel equally at home on both routes.

All this adds up to a lot of new tire models in the Rene Herse Cycles program:

  • 700C x 38 mm Steilacoom Endurance
  • 700C x 42 mm Hurricane Ridge Standard
  • 700C x 42 mm Hurricane Ridge Extralight
  • 700C x 42 mm Hurricane Ridge Endurance
  • 700C x 42 mm Hurricane Ridge Endurance Plus
  • 650B x 48 mm Juniper Ridge Endurance

With Dirty Kanza approaching, we’ve airshipped the first of the new tires from Japan to give riders and racers additional options as they prepare for this epic (and other) events. Quantities are very limited for now. If you need your tires for Dirty Kanza, select an expedited shipping method and add “Tires for Kanza” in the note field, and we’ll send out your order as quickly as possible – usually the same day. (In fact, most orders are shipped the same day.)

All our other models are in stock, too. Together with the new tires, they provide a full quiver to suit most riders and most events. Click here for more information or to order.

Photo credits: Ansel Dickey (Photos 1, 3, 10), Landrun 100 (Photo 2), Dustin Michelson (Photo 5), Ted King (Photo 8).

Posted in Tires | 45 Comments

What makes a tire corner well?

Like many cyclists, we love climbs, but we live for twisty downhills. The feeling of the bike leaning deep into a turn is something that is hard to explain, yet easy to enjoy.

This video clip was taken on a short descent toward Lake Washington. We know this road well, and even though we aren’t taking any risks, it’s always fun.

Obviously, one key component in making descents fun and safe are good tires. What makes a tire corner well? Here are some factors that determine cornering grip on pavement.

Most important is a round profile. That way, the tire’s behavior is always the same, no matter how far you lean the bike.

Some older tires were taller in the center – I believe the idea was that you’d roll on a narrower portion of the tire, which was thought to be faster. This caused strange transitions as the effective radius of the tire changed as you leaned the bike. Some tires have a squared-off profile. That is even worse, as amount of rubber on the road decreases dramatically as you lean the bike into the corner. Fortunately, most ‘road’ tires today are round.

Next in the order of importance is the rubber compound. A grippy rubber compound will make the tire stick better to the road surface.

In the past, we had to choose between grippy rubber that wore out quickly, or durable tires that provided heart-stopping moments when they suddenly lost traction and skipped sideways.

Today, the best rubber compounds combine excellent grip with long life, giving us the best of both worlds.

The width of the tire is also very important. More rubber on the road provides more grip – that is why racing motorbikes use wide tires.

On bicycles, there are two reasons why wider tires grip better. They run at lower pressures. This allows them to stay in contact with the road surface better. When a narrow tire skips over a bump, it loses traction. The suppleness of the casing plays a role, too: A tire that absorbs bumps better also has more traction.

Reason 2 why wide tires have more grip: The tread rubber interlocks with the irregularities of the road surface. A wider tires can interlock with more surface irregularities, so it has more grip. (No. 2 appears to be the main reason why racing motorbikes have wide tires.)

Tread patterns also contribute to the grip of a tire, or reduce it. Micro-knobs that squirm under cornering loads should be avoided. The most grippy treads are designed to provide as many interlocking edges as possible. This is especially important on wet roads, where the pure friction between rubber and asphalt is much reduced. But you’ll notice the effect even in dry corners.

Why do racing motorbikes use slick tires? Motorbikes are too heavy and too powerful to use fine ribs – they’d wear off immediately. Instead, they use very soft rubber compounds. The heavy weight and high speed of the motorbike pushes the tire into the road, thus creating the interlock with the road surface. The downside is that racing motorbike tires wear out very quickly.

Tire pressure is important, too. It’s a compromise: Pump up your tires too hard, and they’ll skip over bumps and lose traction. Run the pressure too low, and the tire can collapse during hard cornering. If your pressure is just a bit too low, you’ll just notice that the bike is running wide. If it’s much too low, the sidewall can suddenly collapse, which isn’t a good feeling at all. Fortunately, there is a wide range of ‘OK’ pressures between these extremes.

Temperature is important, too. Rubber becomes more sticky when it’s warm. On a cold day, the grip from your tires will be much reduced – even if you don’t run into ice.

Racing motorbikes warm up their tires for optimum grip, but cyclists are too light to generate significant heat when cornering.

At least as important as the outright grip of your tires is the feedback they provide as you corner. Narrow tires provide very little, but wide tires with good tread patterns give you feedback of how much grip you have in reserve. It’s subtle, but once you know what it feels like, you can sense whether you have a lot of grip in reserve, or whether you are approaching the limit. The best way to learn what this feels like is to ride on slippery surfaces – mud or snow – where you can slide at low speeds and (usually) recover from the slide. But that is a topic for another post…

In summary, to corner with confidence, you want a tire that is round, wide, supple, with a tread pattern that interlocks with the road surface, a rubber compound that grips well – and ideally, you’ll ride on a warm or hot day.

At Rene Herse Cycles, we love descending, so we’ve optimized our tires for all these factors – except the weather. You’ll have to provide that yourself.

Click here for more information about Rene Herse tires.

 

Posted in Tires | 14 Comments

Supporting the Classics: Rene Herse Brakes and Chainrings

At Rene Herse Cycles, we support the classics, in addition to pushing the envelope as we develop our modern parts. René Herse’s bikes were prized for their beauty and performance, and today, they continue to be treasured like few other classics.

I’ve enjoyed many great rides on classic Rene Herse bikes and tandems – above in the 2003 Paris-Brest-Paris – but I also know about the challenges of keeping bikes rolling decades after they’ve been made. That is why we support the restoration and use of these wonderful machines with spare parts.

Rene Herse cantilever brakes were revolutionary when they first appeared: incredibly light and powerful. Even today, they are still the lightest brakes you can buy. Over the years, many Herse bikes were equipped with newer brakes when parts became hard to find.

We now offer the original brakes for restorations. They differ from the modern version: They are designed for Rene Herse’s proprietary posts, whereas our modern brakes fit on standard posts. Also, the straddle cable and the springs are different.

The springs and straddle cables are available separately as spare parts, too. For the straddle cable, the ends are silver-brazed onto the wire, so the length of the cable can be adjusted as needed.

We also offer the classic Rene Herse brake pivots to help restorers who want to return classics to the condition in which they left the workshop of ‘the Magician of Levallois.’ (René Herse’s nickname alluded to the part of Paris where his workshop was located.) The L-shaped braze-ons were guards to prevent the brake from rotating into the spokes in the (unlikely) case the brake cable failed.

To go with the brakes, we offer the superlight Rene Herse cable hanger, which is a great choice not just for classic restorations, but also for modern bikes like my Mule.

Many Herse bikes have been ridden huge miles, and their chainrings tend to be worn, especially since the classic rings were made from relatively soft 6000-series aluminum. (Our modern rings use harder 7000-series that resists wear.) The first Herse crankarms used smaller chainring bolts and a different interface between spider and ring. We now offer our chainrings as blanks without holes, so they can be adapted to fit all Herse cranks made since 1938. Unlike the brakes, these are not exact replicas of the originals – they use our modern tooth profile and are made from 7000-series aluminum. They are a great choice to keep a cherished bike on the road. Right now, we’re offering the small rings, which are more likely to be worn. In the future, we plan to add other sizes as well.

In our program, you’ll also find many of the custom bolts that Herse used on his bikes, plus overhaul kits for Mafac brakes and other parts.

We plan to expand these offerings in the future. It’s all part of our commitment to the 80-year history of Rene Herse Cycles.

Click here for the full range of restoration parts in the Rene Herse Cycles program.

Photo credits: Maindru (Photo 2), Nicolas Joly (Photo 8).

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The long road to dual-purpose knobbies

When Ted King recently won the Epic 150 gravel race in Missouri on our Rene Herse Steilacoom tires, many were surprised that he ran knobbies on a fast course. But there were a few muddy corners where the knobs would provide valuable grip, and Ted knew that on the smooth portions of the course, he wouldn’t give up performance, thanks to our innovative tread pattern.

When we developed our ‘dual-purpose’ knobbies, I wanted tires that roll and corner as well on pavement as they grip in mud. I can see you shaking your head: “Impossible!” For grip in mud, you need knobs. On pavement, knobs flex as the tire rolls, consuming energy and slowing the bike. And when leaning the bike into a paved turn, knobs squirm, which reduces grip and makes cornering unpredictable.

That is why for most of the history of cycling, there were knobby tires for cyclocross, and smooth tires for the road. Nobody thought of riding knobbies on the road…

When mountain bikes became popular in the 1980s, knobby tires were part of their rugged appeal, but most entry-level mtbs were ridden around town. Tire makers started to think about making knobbies that perform better on pavement. The solution was obvious: Make them less ‘knobby’ by spacing the knobs more closely. In the center of the tire, the knobs often were linked to form a continuous ‘center ridge.’ This distributed the rider’s weight over more knobs and reduced the squirm. On pavement, this worked to a degree – these tires squirmed less, but they were still no high-performance tires.

There was a drawback: When you really need knobs to dig into soft soil, mud or snow, the closely spaced knobs clog up. You spin as you would on a slick tire. These days, you don’t find many tires with center ridges and densely spaced knobs any longer, because they are worse than road tires on pavement, and just as bad in mud.

The next idea was to remove the knobs in the center of the tread. That way, you roll mostly on smooth rubber when going straight, which reduces the tire’s resistance. As long as you go straight, this works OK. When you corner on pavement, the tire grips fine at first. Then you climb onto the knobs and suddenly lose traction. It’s not exactly what you want from a high-performance tire…

If these tires had excellent performance in mud, it might be worth the trade-off. But when grip is reduced,  you can’t lean the bike far enough to use the corner knobs. Even if the tire sinks deep into the mud, there are too few knobs to really make a difference – you don’t get much extra traction. Once more, you end up with a tire that corners like a knobby on pavement, but slides like a slick tire in mud.

How can you get around this problem? On the face of it, the answer is simple: Make the knobs large enough that they don’t squirm, yet space them far enough that the mud clears from in between. The knob shape itself doesn’t make much of a difference – the engineers of several tire makers have acknowledged privately that the different knob shapes are “mostly for style.”

Coming up with the idea was easy, but the devil is always in the details. Can a knob be large enough not to squirm, yet small enough to dig into the mud? Our testing indicated that this was possible. How much open space do you need to clear mud? Fortunately, decades of racing cyclocross on various tires had given us a good idea of where to start with our testing.

How to make a knobby tire that corners predictably? You arrange the knobs so that there always is the same amount of rubber on the road, no matter how hard you lean the bike. That way, the traction is always the same, rather than suddenly breaking away as you lean and get on the edge of a line of knobs. It’s logical, and yet I haven’t seen any other knobby tire that follows that principle.

The hardest part was combining all these parameters into a single tread pattern. It took a lot of experimentation, but the result has surprised everybody. On a fast paved group ride, these tires perform as well as many racing tires. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but riders who’ve tried these tires agree. Gravel racer Ted King wrote to us: “On pavement, they’re incredibly smooth. The tread pattern is awesome  it’s really cool how deceptively simple the Steilacoom tread is, yet how well the tires work.” On independent reviewer even set Strava KOMs on his Steilacooms.

The cornering is easier to show. I can’t think of any other knobby tire that I’d dare to lean over that far on pavement. And I wasn’t even pushing the limits…

How about the performance in mud? After three seasons of cyclocross on Steilacooms, everybody agrees: They grip as well as the best cyclocross tires developed specifically for muddy courses.

Surely, there must be some drawbacks – otherwise, we should all be riding these knobbies all the time!

On the straights, the knobs have less ‘pneumatic trail,’ because there isn’t a continuous surface of rubber on the road. That means they don’t have quite the same straight-line stability as smooth-treaded tires in the same width. You may not even notice this, because the effect is small.

The knobs add a little weight, too, but once again, the effect is really small, because the tread between the knobs is thinner – that part of the tire doesn’t wear, so we don’t need extra rubber there. Our knobbies weigh between 45 and 60 g more than their smooth-treaded cousins in the Rene Herse tire program. Thanks to our lightweight casings, they’re still lighter than almost any other tire with the same width.

As to the rolling resistance, the difference is so small that you won’t notice on the road even on a spirited ride with a group of well-matched friends. That said, like Ted King at the Epic 150, you’ll have people wonder why you ride “so much tire” on rides that include significant pavement…

I’m excited about the Rene Herse dual-purpose knobbies, because they make rides possible that were difficult to imagine before: rides that combine paved roads with muddy trails and even snow. We no longer have to choose between on-road performance and off-pavement grip. Once again, we’re pushing the limits of what our all-road bikes can do.

Our dual-purpose knobbies are available in three models:

  • 700C x 38 mm Steilacoom
  • 650B x 42 mm Pumpkin Ridge
  • 650B x 48 mm Juniper Ridge

Click here for more information about Rene Herse tires.

Photo credit: Dustin Michelson (Photo 1).

Posted in Tires | 46 Comments

BQ 4-Packs

Each edition of Bicycle Quarterly is more than just a magazine: It’s a small book with more than 100 pages of timeless contents. The most common complaint we get is: “It doesn’t come out often enough!”

We can’t produce more than four editions a year, but we do offer past editions in convenient four-packs. Choose among classics like Peter Weigle’s adventures in the Japanese mountains (above) or the incredible Copper Canyon traverse in Mexico. Marvel at Lyli Herse’s eight championships or the exploits of the passhunters. Read up on technical research about wide tires, geometry, frame stiffness that has changed the cycling world.

Each four-pack will bring many hours of reading enjoyment. Click here to see the BQ four-packs on a variety of exciting topics.

Posted in Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues

Myth 17: Bigger Wheels Roll Faster (Amended)

Note: The previous version of this post referred only to our study about road and all-road bikes. We erroneously extrapolated our study to mountain bikes. We should have known better – we usually don’t publish data that we haven’t validated in the real world. A reader pointed to a real-world study similar to ours, but for mountain bikes. To avoid confusion in future web searches, the old post has been taken down and been replaced with the following, which includes the data on mountain bikes.

As part of our series on myths in cycling, let’s look at wheel size and how it affects speed. Even though all-road tires have grown wider in recent years, many bike makers have stuck with 700C wheels. It’s a size that is familiar to road cyclists, and there is also a fear that smaller wheels won’t roll as fast.

When we developed our Rene Herse / Compass tires, we tested all aspects of how tires perform – especially on rough roads. As part of that testing, we examined the performance of the common wheel sizes – 26″, 650B and 700C – on smooth and rough surfaces. We found that all wheel sizes roll at the same speed on road surfaces. This contrasts with mountain bikes, where a similar study has found small, but significant, speed benefits for larger wheels.

It makes sense that a larger wheel might roll better over obstacles and road irregularities: With a larger wheel, the bump becomes comparatively smaller, effectively smoothing out the road. And we all know that a wheel rolls faster on a smoother road…

However, the difference between common wheel sizes is relatively small: Only about 10% between a 700C and a 26″ wheel (above). The approach angle – the angle at which the wheel is hitting an obstacle – is almost the same for both wheel sizes. Even when hitting a rock that is 4″ (100 mm) tall at its corners, the difference in approach angle is less than 2°. For smaller obstacles, the difference is even smaller.

We tested three common wheel sizes in our famous ‘rumble strip’ testing. On a bike, rumble strips feel like the roughest cobblestones in Europe, or like very rough gravel. The goal of our study was to simulate the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix or the roughest parts of a gravel event like Dirty Kanza at race speeds.

We chose the rumble strips of a brand-new highway as our test course, because they provide a uniform ‘rough surface,’ allowing us to test different setups in a carefully controlled setting. The smooth asphalt next to the rumble strip provides a comparison to judge how much energy is lost due to the vibrations of bike and rider.

We tested on a day with no wind and with constant temperatures. (Warmer temperatures make tires softer, which reduces their rolling resistance.) We did three test runs with each setup. The wheel sizes were tested in random order.

We tested otherwise identical 38 mm-wide tires (Schwalbe Marathon HS) in three wheel sizes: 700C, 650B and 26″. We measured the power required to pedal the bike at 32.2 km/h (20 mph) using an SRM crank.

The columns above show the averages for the three runs with each tire size. Every scientific study must perform a statistical analysis to ensure that the conclusions are based on real differences, and not just ‘noise’ in the data. (All measurements have some variability from one measurement to the next.) The dark part of each column is the ‘confidence interval.’ If differences between wheels fall within the dark parts, they are not statistically significant.

Looking at the first three columns, there are very small differences between wheel sizes. They fall within the dark bars – they are not statistically significant. This means they are too small to tell whether they were real performance differences or caused by ‘noise’ – variability between test runs. (And in real life, they are also too small to matter.)

The fourth column shows what happens when you reduce the air pressure slightly. We did that to check whether small variations in tire pressure might affect the results – it’s impossible to inflate tires repeatedly to exactly the same pressure. The differences were small – not enough to affect our results. (This is one reason why we tested with stiff tires. With supple tires,  lower pressures roll significantly faster on rough terrain.)

We also tested each setup on the smooth pavement next to the rumble strips. This allowed us to confirm that our tires were identical in their construction, and only differed in their wheel size. We wanted to make sure that the tires in the three wheel sizes were not slightly different in some way that made them roll slower or faster. There was a little variability – the inevitable ‘noise’ – but the differences were not statistically significant. On the smooth pavement, the three wheel sizes required the same power, too.

The conclusion: On ‘road’ surfaces ranging from very smooth to very rough, the three common wheel sizes (700C, 650B, 26″) offer the same performance. For road or gravel riding, a 10% difference in wheel size is too small to affect the bike’s speed in meaningful ways.

What about mountain bikes? Many riders report that 29ers with large 622 mm wheels roll much faster over really rough courses than traditional 26″ mountain bikes with 559 mm wheels. Even Nino Schurter (above), long a protagonist of the ‘in-between’ 650B wheels, now races on 29ers – and continues to dominate the sport.

In 2015, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Sport performed an experiment similar to ours, using mountain bikes and a real off-road course. They wanted to find out whether the Swiss national team should ride 29ers or 26″ mountain bikes at the 2016 Olympic Games. The study’s use of real-world conditions is a plus, but it also introduces much more noise. The study used ten riders from the Swiss national team, each doing three test runs over the same course on their 29er and their 26″ mountain bike. Using many riders helps reduce the noise, which averages out the more data you collect.

The Swiss researchers measured heart rate, power output, and speed. Standard scientific procedures were followed: They made sure temperature was constant, they calibrated their PowerTap hubs (there are significant variations from one hub to the next), etc.

All ten athletes were faster on the 29ers, on average by 2.4%. The statistical analysis showed that there was more noise in the data than in our rumble strip experiment, but the results were statistically significant.

What the test couldn’t show is why the 29ers were faster, since it did not isolate any of the factors. The bikes were top-of-the-line mountain bikes from the riders’ sponsors, and the 29ers may have differed from the 26″ bikes in other ways, not just in the wheel size. Back in 2015, 29ers were brand-new on the market, whereas the 26″ bikes may have been older models.

The purpose of the Swiss study was to determine which bikes the riders should use for the Olympic Games, and the result was clear: Among 2015 mountain bikes, the 29ers were faster – for all riders, no matter their height and weight.

If the study had included 650B bikes as well, the results would have been more informative. If performance had improved across three wheel sizes, then the conclusion that larger wheels roll faster would be easier to make. Including more wheel sizes might also address whether mountain bike speed goes up linearly with wheel size. If that is the case, then even larger wheels might further improve the performance of mountain bikes.

Summarizing the two studies, the rumble strip tests showed that on smooth and rough roads, larger wheels don’t roll significantly faster. The Swiss study suggests that, for mountain bikes, larger wheels may be what makes 29ers faster than smaller-wheeled mountain bikes. It’s one more example where mountain and (all-)road bikes really are different.

Back to road bikes: If larger wheels do not offer better performance – whether on road, gravel or cobbles – then we should select the wheels size of our bikes based on other considerations. Leaving aside issues of fit – smaller wheels make wide tires easier to fit on a bike, especially on smaller frames – it comes down to the handling we want from our bikes.

The best road bikes offer nimble handling that makes them easy to place on the road. With wider tires, the bike becomes more stable – too stable for many riders’ tastes.

To keep the nimble handling of a racing bike, you need to keep the rotational inertia of the wheels the same – by reducing the rim diameter to make up for the taller (and heavier) tire. That is why 650B wheels are popular for all-road bikes. With ultra-wide tires, 26″ wheels make sense, too.

Rotational inertia affects not only the handling, but also how the bike feels when you rise out of the saddle and rock the bike from side to side: If your wheels have too much inertia, the bike becomes harder to rock – and that may actually slow you down.

Conversely, racing bikes have stuck with large 700C wheels even though smaller wheels would be lighter and – in theory – ‘spin up’ faster. I suspect that you need some inertia to push against when you rise out of the saddle. As with the bike’s handling, you probably want just the right amount of rotational inertia from your wheels for sprinting.

What does this mean in the real world of high-performance all-road bikes? We’ve already shown in the first part of this series that wider tires roll just as fast as narrow ones. So there is no need to get a second, ‘go-fast’ wheelset with narrow tires for your all-road bike.

However, you do want to go to smaller wheels if you want to keep the nimble handling that makes a road bike so enjoyable. And avoid heavy tires: Wide tires have more rubber, and the effects of a lightweight tire are much more pronounced than they are on a narrow tires for racing bikes.

In practical terms, here are the wheel sizes that I like best:

  • 700C x 28 mm
  • 650B x 42 mm (with aluminum rims)
  • 650B x 48 mm (with carbon rims)
  • 26″ x 52 mm (with aluminum rims)

When you calculate the rotational inertia for all these wheels, you’ll find that they come out the same. That is why bikes with these wheels feel very similar.

How you want your bike to handle also depends on personal preference and on your terrain. If a road bike doesn’t feel stable enough for you, you choose a larger wheel to gain stability. If you want even more nimble handling, you can go down a wheel size (or use narrower tires). Our Rene Herse tires are available in many sizes to give you plenty of options.

More information:

Posted in Myths in Cycling, Testing and Tech, Tires | 18 Comments