With the growing number of options available on the market, buying the right tire for your bike can be tough. Much like car tires, tires for a road bike have become increasingly more technical, which makes it difficult to sift through all of the complicated terminology to find the best option.
Before you decide to shell out your hard-earned cash, use this guide to learn the pros and cons for each tire type.
The 3 Tire Options
On a basic level, there are three types of tires you can choose from to put on your road bike, though some of this decision depends on the type of wheel you own or plan to buy. They are:
Clincher: This is the most popular type of tire. It consists of a U-shaped cross section where a separate inner tube fits. The edge of the tire hooks onto the rim to hold everything in place.
Clincher tires have become more popular over the years because they're easy to fix on the road when a flat occurs. Unlike other tires, clincher tires use beads to hold the tire onto the rim. Beads are most often made of a strong steel cable or Kevlar belt that runs along the edge of the tire. Because of this, clincher tires and rims are usually heavier in weight than other tire options, though with the invention of Kevlar this disadvantage has decreased significantly.
Other setbacks of using a clincher wheel and tire are the increased likelihood of pinch flats and less overall comfort of the ride.
Tubular: Tubular tires are used most often by cyclists interested in racing. They're lightweight, puncture less often and are widely considered to be the most comfortable tire.
Since a tubular tire contains no inner tube and is glued onto the rim, it can only be used with a tubular wheel set. The downside is that tubular tires take time and patience to mount. It's often recommended to apply two or three layers of glue, which can take a few days of drying and reapplication to do it right.
If you have a flat with a puncture larger than a few millimeters, a spare tire is needed. Vittoria Pit Stop and Hutchinson Tires make flat repair canisters for quick fixes (simultaneously inflating and fixing a puncture), and though they do work in some scenarios, they won't repair large cuts.
Tubular tires are much more expensive than clincher tires. They also lack beads, which reduces weight but makes the tire not as perfectly round as the best clincher tire options.