Understanding bike tire sizes can be quite complicated, especially if you’re a beginner. But Don’t worry you came to the right place, our job is to make it as easy as possible for you.
A question that we get asked a lot on the topic of bike tire sizes is: what does 700x23C mean?
The first number-700- is the tire’s nominal diameter in millimeter. It’s nominal because the tire’s deflated diameter is 668 millimeters. The second number-23- is the tire’s width in millimeters. The letter “c” is the tire’s width category.
The bicycle tire dimension 700x23c is a size category under the French system. You’ll find your bike’s tire size at the tire’s sidewall. Check the strip of rubber above the wheel rim surface where the brake pads contact.
Under the French tire sizing system, letters are used to designate widths of bike tires- the letter ”a” is assigned to the narrowest and the letter “d”, to the widest. Hence, the tire size marked “c” is wider than the size marked ”b” but narrower than the size marked “d”.
Before the globalization era, every country uses its own sizing systems. The International Standardization Organization (ISO), sizing system has prevailed as the common standard reference these days. All bike producers today mark tires with ISO dimension standards, sometimes adding old nomination.
SIGNIFICANCE OF TIRE DIAMETER AND WIDTH
The tire’s diameter is the length of the straight line passing from side to side through its center. That means if the straight line measures 1 meter, the diameter of the tire is 1 meter. Therefore, to manually measure the distance your bike travels, add the number of times your tire roll from side to side; if you counted 5 complete rolls, your bike had traveled 5 meters.
The distance you cover is affected by speed and power. But at the same speed, duration, pace, and gear size, a bike using tires with longer diameter travels faster than a bike with shorter diameter. That happens because the larger tires cover more ground in one complete revolution than the smaller tires. However, the driver of the bike with a bigger wheel exerts more effort because the bike is heavier; more force is required to push a heavier load.
Many bikers believe that smaller tires let you put more force to the road, and theoretically, accelerate faster. This happens if your tires are wide enough to maintain steady contact with the ground. However, if your tires are thin and lack consistent traction, you’ll be spinning the tires and sliding around. If you want a superior cornering grip and the ability to go fast along rough, choose wider tires.
Smaller wheels with broader width make you more stable and comfortable when driving over potholes and rougher road surfaces; you’ll appreciate this more if you’re a heavy rider, carrying children or heavy baggage on the bike.
Narrower tires are good for fast road riding on pavement. Tire width influences the feel of the bike. If you like to feel the buzzy, connected-to-the-road biking style choose narrower tires. But for touring performance purposes, one source recommends that tire width is a negligible issue. The source found in a wind tunnel experiment that the aerodynamic difference between a 25 mm and a 32 mm tires were small enough to be measured reliably in a real-world scenario.
That means riders can choose tire width freely, without having to worry much about performance. But this doesn’t mean that a wide touring’ tire performs equally as a narrow racing’ tire. Install a supple high- performance casing as this determines 95% of a road bike tire’s speed.
As a general rule, a bigger wheel requires bigger tires. A Bigger tire meets a higher rolling resistance. More energy is needed to move higher resistance. Therefore, using larger tires depletes your energy faster than a smaller tire under similar conditions.
TUBULAR OR TUBELESS TIRE?
The common type of bicycle tire today is a tubular tire; this is a tire with an inner tube. But the tubeless type is gaining traction among riders. Here are the advantages of the tubeless tire:
PROS AND CONS:
Tubeless tires are becoming increasingly popular in mountain bikes and touring bikes. Tubeless tires are the current standard in mountain biking. Tubeless tires do not use an inner tube to hold the air inside the tire. The tires, rim, and valve are all airtight-sealed.
The tubeless rim and tire beads are constructed differently from tubular tires and rims. The tubeless rim bed is airtight-sealed with a special tape that forms around the spoke and valve holes. There are tubeless rims with solid rim beds that don’t require taping.
A special liquid sealant is applied to the tire during installation. This sealant coats the inside of the tires and the rim to seal any air outlets. This sealant fills punctures caused by nails, thorns, and other debris that you may encounter on the road.
These days, tubeless-ready’ or tubeless-compatible’ biking gears abound in the market. Tubeless conversion kits are now sold to enable you to convert your existing tubular set.
Tubeless Bike Tire Pros
- You’ll get fewer flat tire episodes with tubeless tires. This is because punctured tires repair themselves. The liquid sealant inside the tire fills the puncture hole before the air escapes. You don’t need to stop to patch or replace the punctured tires. You’ll see a bit of white fluid on your tire as evidence that the tubeless system has saved you from a flat tire.
- When you hit a pothole, rock, or another hard object, a tubular tire can compress enough that it hits the rim. This tears the inner tube causing a pinch flat’ or snakebite’. This doesn’t happen to a tubeless tire.
- Tubeless tires have better ground traction, Because you don’t have to worry about pinch flats, you can run tubeless tires at 10 psi lower air pressure than tubular tires. Reduced pressure allows the tire’s surface tread to have greater ground contact. You can execute a harder corner maneuver without washing out your tires. You can climb a steep hill without your tires spinning out. Good traction gives invaluable support in riding on loose or slippery surfaces like gravel, sand, or ice.
- The ride quality better wi at lower PSI level is softer, smoother, and more comfortable. This is because the tires absorb most of the shocks and vibrations from the trail instead of bouncing around. When you hit a rock or a pothole, the tire absorbs the impact and forms to the shape of the obstacle rather than bouncing off. You won’t feel the impact of the bump much
- The tubeless system is lighter because removing the tube cuts about 200 grams from each tire. Tubeless tires and rims are lighter than those for tubular tires. Lighter wheels spin up faster and use lesser energy. With tubeless tires, you can ride longer and further than with tubular tires within the same time frame.
- Tubeless tires maintain momentum better than tubular tires. When the tire absorbs shock, bouncing is reduced. This minimizes the wheel’s forward momentum from slowing down.
- If you get a large puncture or tear in your tire and it goes flat, you can repair it without having to remove the tire. If a rock makes a large gash in your tire’s sidewall, you can sew the tear with a large needle and dental floss, and put super glue to seal the hole.
- With a DIY tubeless kit, you can go tubeless using your existing wheels and tires. There is no need to buy any new parts.
- When you start from a full stop, you can use more torque to accelerate faster without your rear wheel coming loose. This allows a racer to maintain its faster average speed.
- You may switch back to the tubes anytime. Wash the sealant out of the tires and put the tubes back. You can do this if you run out of sealant or can’t immediately repair a torn sidewall while in a remote area.
Tubeless Bike Tire Cons
- Tubeless tires and wheels are more expensive than those for tubular tires.
- If you prefer not to convert your existing gear to tubeless, you’ll have to buy new parts. There are a number of incidental costs when switching to tubeless. For example, you have to buy sealant, rim tape, and a tubeless valve. You’ll need a tubeless patch kit to fix large holes or tears that are too large for the sealant to fill.
- Mounting and setting up tubeless tires takes longer and tedious. There is much to learn in setting up tubeless road bike tires.
- Tubeless tires require you to do more maintenance work. Make sure that sealant is enough for the tire to seal itself if it gets punctured. If you ride in a hot climate, you would have to add sealant every few months.
- Tubeless gear isn’t available everywhere. If you’re touring in remote regions, you’ll have to bring along your own tool kit. You can always switch to tubes if you can’t find repair kits.
- You have to carry more gear to repair punctures and tears. If you’re touring or riding somewhere remote, you may need to carry extra sealant, tubeless plugs, a sewing kit, super glue, and a high volume pump to repair a large puncture or sidewall tear. You’ll also need a spare tube or two in case you can’t make the repair. All these gears add weight. Hence, riding tubeless while touring is heavier than riding with tubular tires.
- If you get a large puncture and your tire goes flat, the puncture is too big for the sealant to cover. In this case, you’ll need to bring a tube as a backup so you can surely get back home.
- Tubeless sealant is always messy because it’s a type of glue. The sealant may spill and spread all over your gear, clothes, and hands.
Tubular Bike Tire Pros
- Using a tubular tire is cheaper than using tubeless tires. Tubes are compatible with all rims and tires. You don’t need to buy new tires when replacing tubes. Spare tubes and patches are cheap and available everywhere.
- When touring in remote regions of the world, you can find a market and buy a replacement tube. It may not be the best quality or the right size but it will get you back on the road.
- Tubular tires are faster and easier to set up than tubeless tires. With little practice, you can install a new tube and tire in a few minutes. There is no worry about getting a perfect seal. It takes a pinch of grease to place a tire on a rim. It’s simpler to install a tube.
- A repair kit for the tubular tire is small and light. You don’t need a bunch of bulky tire repair gear to repair a punctured tire. All you need to repair a flat tire is a spare tube, tire levers, and a patch kit. You don’t have to carry plugs, a sewing kit, super glue, or sealant.
- Even tires designed to be tubeless-compatible, are designed to use tubes. You don’t have to do remedial work to make this work.
- Tubes are deemed better for road cycling. Because of high-pressure tires, pinch flats are unlikely to happen when using tubular tires. Moreover, punctures are less common on the road because road bikes don’t encounter many sharp objects in developed roads.
Tube Bike Tire Cons
- The biggest problem with tubes is the frequency of getting a lot of flat tires. A tiny staple wire or piece of glass can puncture your tube. If you ride in places where thorns are common, getting a puncture flat can be a daily annoyance.
- You can reduce the frequency of punctures by using a tire with puncture protection like Schwalbe Marathon Plus Road Bike tires. But this makes the tires heavier and harder to install on the rim. Another solution is to put sealant, in your tubes. This may work similarly to the tubeless sealant. It seals the puncture without you having to stop and patch the tube. But tubeless sealant entails cost.
- You can’t run your tires at low air pressure. This slows you down and requires you to exert more pedaling effort. You run the risk of getting a pinch flat if you run on a low PSI. You need to run your tires about 10 psi higher when you use tubes to avoid a pinch flat tire.
- Tubular tires are heavier than tubeless tires. A tube adds around 200 grams to each wheel. Lighter wheels spin up faster and require less energy to accelerate.
- Because you can’t run tubes at low PSI pressure, traction isn’t as good as when you ride with a tubeless tire. Hence, taking fast turns would be risky. You run the risk of your tire washing out. You can’t climb in low traction because your rear wheel can spin out.
- Acceleration is slower because you can’t pedal as hard without your rear tire possibly spinning out.
The tire industry is pushing the tubeless tire technology these days. But it may take time before the demand for tubular tires disappear.
Based on the above data, the following facts are established:
- When replacing your bike’s tires, you must pick a tire with a diameter that matches the one that’s indicated on your existing tire sidewall. For example, the diameter is “700 millimeters with a width of ”23 millimeters”.
- You do have choices to make in terms of using Tubular tires or Tubeless tires.
- Thinner tires support road biking, cycling trips for pleasure, adventure, or autonomy rather than sport, commuting, or exercise. Larger tires with broader width support mountain biking and exercise.
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