Q+A: Should I change my bike tyres to race?



bike racing tyres

Q. Should I change my bike tyres before a race? And how do I strike a balance between durability and ride quality?

 A. I advise never changing anything before a race. Anything new presents an opportunity for something unexpected to go wrong. The best solution is to have separate training and racing bikes, but not everyone can afford this luxury. Another option is to have a set of wheels you only use for racing.

If you do a lot of indoor training, the heat build-up from turbos will quickly wear out your tyres, so it pays to have a spare set. If you still want to use one set of wheels, but want to change to a racing setup, fit and ride your new tyres a few times before your event to let the new parts settle in.

When choosing tyres, there are two things to think about. The first is reducing the rotating mass of your wheels to maximise your speed. This means reducing as much weight as you can nearest the wheel rim. The best way to do that is to use lighter tyres and inner tubes (such as those made from latex). These are faster because they are more supple and provide less rolling resistance, but they aren't as resistant to punctures as butyl tubes.

The second thing is durability. Larger riders need to be a little more conservative in their choices because the wheels will be subjected to larger loads and impacts. Think about the roads you train and race on - thinner racing tyres may not be a good choice if you're going to be racing on minor roads or lanes strewn with loose chips.

Go for a heavier tyre and tube if you use the same set of wheels for racing and training. If you own more than one set, go for the lightest setup you can afford, but be prepared to go for a more conservative choice if you're a heavier rider. Any slight savings in performance from one tyre to another will vanish the second you get a puncture.

Bryce Dyer


Bryce Dyer is Senior Lecturer in Product Design at Bournemouth University's School of Design, Engineering and Computing, and he is a member of the Design Management Institute. He is conducting research into sports technology used by elite athletes. He is a passionate cyclist and triathlete and has competed internationally in his age group in events ranging from a 1K track pursuit to an Ironman.


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