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Road Bikes: Why I won’t be Jumping on the 28mm Tire Bandwagon any Time Soon…

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We were just out for a short, friendly Saturday ride, a bunch of friends, my wife and I. You may or may not be aware that my friends and I enjoy a sprint for City Limits signs. We sprint for almost every sign on a ride…

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We started out at an easy but spritely pace into the wind. Quick enough, but nothing crazy – our first outdoor ride in a month and a half. I was humming along up front, talking to my buddy Phill because we hadn’t spoken in so long and here comes my wife and buddy, Mike blasting by us, just a mile into our first outdoor ride of 2018… I think my Mike took the sign. Phill and I didn’t bother going, we just kept talking… Later, and this is where this little post gets important for me, we were cruising along (still into the wind) and I decided to start my sprint for the next sign early. I took that sign by a huge margin… but I noticed that I was bouncing quite a bit when I started my sprint – the 28mm tires, pumped to 70 psi, were flexing a lot under the effort.

Several miles later my wife caught me napping at two more signs (a County and City Limits).  I had to try to make up a huge gap just to have a shot at the second. Again with the bouncing… It happened again at the next and the last signs of the day, which I took.

I’m limited for tire width because my road bikes are a little older (1999 for the Trek and 2013 for the Venge), to a max tire width of 26mm for the Venge and 24mm for the Trek. Now, I’ve actually got 26’s on the Venge and I while I do notice a positive difference in ride quality, I haven’t noticed the bounce under power that I do with the 28’s and I’m a lot harder on the Venge than I was on my gravel bike the other day.

If I had experienced that bouncing sensation on the 26’s, I’d be riding 24’s.

So here’s what I noticed is happening when I put the hammer down: when I get out of the saddle to sprint, on the first through the fourth pedal strokes, I can feel the tires “squish” and I don’t like it. It’s not quite like putting the brakes on but the ride quality isn’t that much better under normal power that I’d live with 28’s in a sprint.

There’s been a lot made of wider tires lately, the suggestion being they’re as fast or even faster than the narrower 23-26mm options. That relies on using wider tires at lower air pressure to absorb some of the chatter in the road… It appears I may have found a hole in that hypothesis.

On the other hand, I have to admit, I really love the 26’s at 90 psi against the old 23’s at 110 and 115 psi. There’s definitely something to be said for riding wider tires… but if you’re going to be doing any sprinting, the tire width will have to be within reason.

That’s my two cents on the subject.


15 Comments

  1. jbspillman says:

    My 28’s don’t squish much at all but they ride at 115psi. Silky smooth – https://www.continental-tires.com/bicycle/tyres/race-tyres/grand-prix-4000-s2

    • bgddyjim says:

      Right, but that defeats the purpose of riding fatter tires. Heck, I run 23’s at 110. The “better ride on fatter tires” crowd suggest between 60 and 80 psi to get the benefit of a smoother ride on rough roads. I’ll dig into that a little more… It’s been a while.

  2. theandyclark says:

    So if I understand this correctly, when the rubber hits the road you really aren’t a fan of fat bottoms?

  3. ericritter65 says:

    I can’t remember the last time I only pumped my tires to 70-psi, probably way back in the 70’s with that Huffy 10-speed!

  4. Brent says:

    I guess my sprint technique needs work. Peter Sagan probably isn’t losing sleep over me stealing victory at the end of a race. I run 37 mm tires at 60 PSI on my road bike (a cyclocross frame, which is why it takes tires that big) and I don’t feel any smooshing when I accelerate.

    Oh, and the fact that my wheels stay true all season and the lack of flats makes the extra rubber worth it.

    If you want bouncing when you sprint, then you should try diving for the city limit sign on a fat bike. 120 mm tires at 8 psi and you’ll be bouncing like a kangaroo when you pour on the gas. Pretty crazy on the road but lots of fun in their natural environment. We’re still going to sign you up for one. It WILL happen.

    • bgddyjim says:

      LOL! Hell, my buddy Todd isn’t worried about me either, but squishy is squishy, and that’s not good for sprinting. Does it matter? Probably not, but I noticed a hitch in the meme so I added my two cents.

  5. I like my rides skinny, hard and fast!

  6. wanderwolf says:

    Oh! I didn’t know the wheel size affects the bouncing like that.

  7. wanderwolf says:

    Ha ha. You’re up early. 🙂

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