The best tyres for racing, training and more…
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As the only contact point between you and the road, your tyres are one of the most important components on your bicycle. However, because road bike tyres generally all look so similar, it’s not always easy to spot the difference between a good tyre and a bad tyre.
Upgrading your bike’s stock tyres to something better, whether that be in terms of greater volume, decreased rolling resistance, improved cornering grip or simply increased puncture protection, can transform your riding experience.
The good news is this – compared to other bike parts, getting the best road bike tyres needn’t cost the earth. Every tyre on this list has an RRP of £70 or less per tyre, and can most often be found at a discount. That’s not a trivial amount of money but, as a component that has a significant impact on how your bike rides, it’s a relatively cheap upgrade for your road bike.
However, the choice of road bike tyres available on the market can be a little overwhelming. The devil really is in the detail, so we’ve put our team of expert testers to the task, logging thousands of kilometres to find the best road bike tyres available.
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Read on for our pick of the best road bike tyres, as tested by BikeRadar.
The Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR arrived as the replacement for the German brand’s previous road tubeless tyre, the GP5000 TL.
In short, it’s a fast, grippy and lightweight tubeless tyre. It’s also compatible with hookless rims – a first for Conti’s road tubeless tyres – and robust enough for Paris-Roubaix, with the tyre launched on the back of Sonny Colbrelli’s win at the 2021 edition of Paris-Roubaix.
It’s available in a range of sizes, too, with 25mm, 28mm, 30mm and 32mm options.
We love the Goodyear Eagle F1’s grip and speed, in both the wet and dry. There’s also a Goodyear-specific protection belt and a 120 TPI casing.
Straight-line speed is retained through corners, thanks to the tyre’s excellent grip. It’s great over rough road surfaces too thanks to its suppleness, and not just the high air volume of the 28mm carcass on the tyre tested.
The tyre is available in conventional clincher and tubeless formats, and both perform really well on the road. Tubeless setup is easy too, without the need of a tubeless inflator.
Schwalbe was one of the first tyre companies to embrace road tubeless, and that shows here through simple installation and compatibility with the latest hookless wheel rims.
The Pro One is supple and grippy in the wet or dry through corners, but still feels fast thanks to its low rolling resistance. Schwalbe advises not inflating above 80psi, but the tyres are stable at much lower pressures – we tested down to 55psi without problems.
There’s a 14mm puncture protection belt, although this didn’t save us from a hole when riding dirty roads. We tested the TLE tubeless tyre but Schwalbe also offers the Pro One Tube Type, for use with inner tubes.
The WTB Exposure might not be the absolute fastest road tyre out there, but it excels in allowing you to take on all types of roads, light gravel and everything in between.
In fact, WTB describes this as an “adventure road” tyre – and that’s very apt.
They have a much better ride quality than their 60 TPI casings would suggest, and with many modern road race bikes (such as the Specialized Tarmac SL 7 and Giant TCR) now having clearances to squeeze them in, it has become one of our favourite plump road tyres for endurance road riding.
After much experimentation with widths, tread patterns, rubber compounds and puncture protection strips, Bontrager has really hit the mark with these tyres.
Our 32mm test samples came in well below their claimed 340g weight, at just 310g (lighter than some 28mm tyres). They’re also claimed to have 7 per cent less rolling resistance than the previous version, and we’ve no trouble believing that because their on-road performance is great.
Tubeless setup presented no problems either. While Bontrager only offered these in a 32mm tubeless size at the time of testing, there are now also 25mm and 28mm options, so everyone’s covered.
The Grand Prix (GP) 5000 arrived as the replacement to Continental’s popular GP 4000 clincher.
While the Grand Prix 5000 S TR is now the flagship, tubeless-ready tyre in the range, the GP 5000 Clincher remains one of the best all-round road bike tyres for use with inner tubes.
It offers a claimed 12 per cent reduction in rolling resistance over the previous-generation tyre, without sacrificing the GP 4000’s low wear rate.
There’s a new pattern on the sides of the tread, making for fast, confident cornering. It’s another tyre that handles rougher roads well, with a supple feel, thanks to a thinner casing, and there’s a Vectran puncture protection belt, too.
The Pirelli P Zero Race TLR has a 120 TPI casing, aimed at adding extra puncture protection and durability, and a rubber compound called SmartEvo that Pirelli says ups traction and reduces rolling resistance relative to its previous-generation tyres.
We found good air retention that was up there with tubed tyres and our riding impressions confirmed that the rolling resistance was on a par with the best out there.
Cornering was grippy and puncture protection good too, making these an excellent tubeless option.
The 28mm and 30mm sizes are approved for use with hookless rims, where they’re rated for inflation up to 73psi, but the 24mm and 26mm options aren’t approved for hookless.
Pirelli also offers a clincher version, the P Zero Race, for use with inner tubes and with 26mm, 28mm and 30mm sizes.
Coming from Giant’s performance component brand, Cadex, the Race tyre is tubeless only.
There’s a single-layer 170 TPI casing to up rolling speed and suppleness, and proprietary puncture protection and rubber compound. They’re slightly heavier than other options though.
Tubeless setup was easy, needing just a floor pump and a single tyre lever to ease the bead over the rim. The tight seal led to minimal air loss over a week.
The Cadex Race copes well with rougher road surfaces and there’s a feeling of easy speed. There’s good support at lower pressures and predictable handling.
Hutchinson was one of the pioneers of road tubeless and that shows in the easy installation here. We got our set seated without tyre levers and using a track pump, but air retention was still good.
The Fusion 5 Performance uses the brand’s 11Storm silica-rich rubber compound, which Hutchinson says independent tests have shown is softer and grippier than its predecessor. There’s a 127 TPI casing for a high-quality ride over bumpy roads.
You need to keep the tyre pressure up with the Fusion 5 Performance tyres though, because they don’t like pressures below Hutchinson’s 74psi recommended minimum.
That’s higher than we ran some of the other tyres tested. There was still plenty of comfort on offer, although they don’t feel as fast-rolling as some.
The N.EXT TLR is the first tyre with a nylon, not cotton, casing in Vittoria’s Corsa range and warrants its prestigious label.
The second-tier Corsa is all you want from a road tyre, providing grip, wear-resistance and decent speed. It’s also easy to set up tubeless.
Ride quality is high, yet the N.EXT TLR isn’t the swiftest tyre in its class.
Tan-wall fans will have to look elsewhere. The N.EXT TLR is available in six widths, but black’s the only colour choice.
With a compound containing graphene and tubeless-ready construction, the Corsa tyres feel as fast as they come. You can feel the low rolling resistance however bad the surface, and there’s great grip in the dry.
Tubeless setup is particularly easy and the tyres cope with a wide range of pressures, with 60psi being a sweet spot.
We found wear rates to be high though, with easy cutting of the tread pattern, so they’re best as an option for fast summer rides on good roads. They’re pricey, too.
Before we start, here’s a quick primer on some of the technical jargon.
There are three main types of road bike tyre on the market today: clincher, tubeless and tubular.
Clincher tyres, which have an open casing that requires the use of an inner tube, are the most common type on the market. These mount on to standard hooked wheel rims.
Tubeless tyres use a similar open casing construction as clincher tyres but, as the name implies, can be used without inner tubes on specially designed, tubeless-compatible rims.
This buyer’s guide contains our favourite tyres, regardless of type, but head this way if you want a separate list of the best tubeless tyres.
Tubular tyres use a tubular casing that is sewn shut around an inner tube. The tyre is then glued on to a tubular-specific rim, which doesn’t have sidewalls or bead hooks. Tubular tyres are historically popular with professional cyclists, but are rarely used by amateurs.
You’ll see numbers such as 700 x 25mm quoted many times below. This refers to the size of the tyre.
700c tyres mount on to 700c wheels, which is the most common size for road bikes (we’ve got a buyer’s guide on the best road bike wheels).
If you have a very small road bike or a gravel bike, you may have 650b wheels, with a smaller diameter, in which case you’ll need a 650b tyre. Our round-up of the best gravel bike tyres covers both 700c and 650b options for multi-terrain riding.
For mountain bikes, it’s a bit more complicated because there are a number of different wheel sizes, though these days most MTBs use either 27.5in (i.e. 650b) or 29in wheels. Head to our guide to the best mountain bike tyres for more.
The second number refers to the width of the tyre in millimetres once it’s inflated (though the width of the rim a tyre is mounted on also affects the inflated size, so this is more of a guide).
If you’re looking at buying road bike tyres larger than 25mm, you’ll need to check that your frame and fork both have adequate clearance.
Until recently, most road bikes only had clearance for 25mm tyres, so unless you’ve got a relatively new bike, it’s sadly not a given you’ll be able to upgrade to a 28mm tyre or larger.
If your road bike is relatively new – and especially if it has road disc brakes – then you’ll likely be able to fit a 28mm tyre or larger.
TPI refers to ‘threads per inch’ and indicates how many individual threads of woven nylon or cotton cross through one square inch of a single ply of the tyre’s casing.
Lower TPI casings use fewer, thicker threads, whereas higher TPI casings use a greater number of thinner threads.
Generally, higher TPI tyre casings offer a more supple, comfortable ride feel and deliver lower rolling resistance.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch though, because these tyres are usually more delicate and prone to punctures than tyres with lower TPI casings.
Casing construction is also only one part of the equation in determining the overall rolling resistance of a tyre.
Rolling resistance, sometimes referred to as ‘Crr’ (coefficient of rolling resistance), is the energy lost as a tyre rolls across a surface.
On hard surfaces, such as roads, losses can mainly be attributed to deformation of the tyre (hysteresis) and friction between the road surface and the tyre tread.
There are a number of factors that determine a tyre’s rolling resistance, including construction, the rubber compound used for the tread, inflation pressure, the width of the tyre and the tread.
We’ll take a deeper dive into this subject in the buyer’s guide at the end of the article because it’s quite a complicated subject.
Generally though, for road use, you want a slick tyre (or a tyre with minimal tread) with a flexible casing, inflated to a high (but not too high) pressure.
The ultimate bike tyre would be super-light, totally resistant to punctures and fast. Unfortunately, that tyre doesn’t exist and so you generally have to make do with two of these three attributes.
Your predominant type of riding should ultimately dictate your tyre choice. For example, if most of your time is spent heading out on gravel backroads or commuting on rough inner-city roads, you’ll be better off with a tyre that’s geared towards puncture protection over speed and weight.
On the other hand, if you often ride on good roads that are smooth, debris-free and dry, then some lightweight, racy tyres can be a great choice.
You can find out where most tyres sit in the weight / puncture protection / rolling resistance triangle by checking their packaging or the manufacturer’s website. And, of course, our reviews will let you know how those claims stack up in the real world.
Tyres for road bikes come in three styles: clincher, tubeless and tubular.
Clinchers are the most common type of tyres found on road bikes. They have an open casing that houses a separate inner tube and is held on the wheel by the rim bead hooks.
The main advantage of clinchers is that they make fixing a flat easy because all you have to do to get at the punctured tube is prise off one side of the tyre. This usually requires a tyre lever or two, but with some tyres you can do it with just your thumbs.
There are two types of clinchers: folding and non-folding. The difference is in the material used to make the bead (the part that hooks onto the rim).
Folding clinchers generally use Kevlar, a durable material that – as the name suggests – allows the tyres to be folded. Non-folding clinchers use a bead made from steel wire and can’t be folded.
Folding clinchers are more expensive, but they’re also lighter and are easier to get on and off a rim. The fact that they fold isn’t really important as far as riding is concerned, but it does usually mean such tyres have slightly lower levels of rolling resistance.
Tubeless tyres have been a mainstay in the mountain biking world for some time and they’ve now come to road cycling.
As the name suggests, tubeless tyres don’t use an inner tube. They’re very similar to standard clinchers except that the tyre and rim seal together to become airtight and remain inflated, just like the tyres on most modern cars.
Such an airtight seal can’t be achieved with any old rim and tyre though. A tubeless setup not only requires tubeless-specific tyres (which have a special stretch-resistant tyre bead) and rims but also a special valve, viscous liquid sealant and special rim tape.
The idea is that removing the inner tube from the equation reduces weight and rolling resistance, and, without said inner tube, you can also run lower tyre pressures without the fear of a pinch flat, meaning a more comfortable ride and more grip.
The addition of the tubeless sealant can help eliminate punctures from small, sharp objects.
This is particularly welcome on tyres designed for going off-road and delicate racing tyres such as the Schwalbe Pro One TT and Vittoria Corsa Speed, which use thin casings and eschew puncture protection strips in order to reduce rolling resistance to the absolute minimum.
If the puncture hole can’t be sealed by sealant alone (because it’s too large, for example), you still have the option of fitting an inner tube, or there are ‘tyre worm’ tubeless repair kits such as Stan’s NoTubes DART.
Tubeless tyres aren’t a panacea, however. In order to aid air retention, manufacturers sometimes have to make the tyre casing thicker and heavier than on a standard clincher tyre, which can dull ride feel and increase rolling resistance.
They can also be far more difficult to install if you get a rim and tyre combination that doesn’t play nice, and you may also need an air compressor or special ‘flash’ pump to properly seat the tyre bead.
Much of the bike industry, and particularly wheel and tyre manufacturers, are convinced tubeless is the future for road cycling, though. In fact, it’s quite unusual to see a new tyre or wheelset without tubeless compatibility these days.
Some brands are even beginning to release hookless rims for road use, on which the bead hooks have been eliminated. This means compatibility is limited to tubeless tyres only because standard clincher tyres (which have much stretchier tyre beads) require the bead hooks to prevent them from blowing off the rim when inflated.
Historically, pro riders have used tubular tyres for racing, though that is beginning to change with the growing popularity of tubeless.
With tubeless technology now beginning to gain prominence in both the pro peloton and with everyday riders, expect tubulars to become even more marginalised.
However, it’s still worth us recapping on the potential advantages and disadvantages of tubulars.
Tubulars still rely on an inner tube but, instead of the casing being open, like on a clincher, it’s sewn shut around the inner tube, so that the pairing takes on a tubular form – hence the name.
The tyre then has to be glued (or taped using special double-sided tape) onto a rim specifically made for tubular tyres.
Unlike rims designed for clinchers, tubular rims don’t have bead hooks inside the sidewalls for a tyre to clinch onto. Tubulars rely on tyre pressure and glue to hold them on the rim.
Some riders still swear by tubular tyres, claiming they offer a superior ‘feel’. This can largely be attributed to the fact that until recent years, many tyre manufacturers only released their fastest tyres in tubular form.
Tubular tyres also tend to have slightly higher rolling resistance than an equivalent clincher because of frictional losses in the glue.
But the big, tangible advantage to tubular systems for road use is that the equivalent tubular rims can be made much lighter than a clincher or tubeless-ready rim. This makes them extremely popular with weight weenies and hill climb obsessives.
A second, more esoteric advantage is that tubular tyres can still be ridden when punctured. This is because they won’t separate from the rim, unlike clinchers, meaning a rider may be able to continue riding until the punctured wheel can be changed.
Tubulars are also said to be more resistant to ‘pinch flats’, where the inner tube is pinched between the rim and tyre, usually caused by hitting a sharp-edged obstacle such as a pothole. This is probably more a function of the tendency to run tubulars at higher pressures than their construction, though.
The disadvantages of tubulars – which tend to be felt much more keenly by regular cyclists than the pros with team mechanics – are that having to glue tyres to the rim makes the initial installation laborious (although tubular tape arguably eases this issue) and sorting a puncture during a ride can be very difficult.
Your two options are using a CO2 inflator cartridge containing sealant and hoping it can seal the hole, or tearing off the punctured tubular and replacing it with another, which obviously means riding with a spare (actually repairing a punctured tubular, rather than simply replacing it, means breaking out the sewing kit).
You can – very carefully – ride home on a spare tubular stretched over a rim, but you must glue this new tubular in place before your next ride.
Gluing a tubular is no piece of cake either. It requires attention to detail and plenty of patience because a bad job can result in the tyre rolling off the rim, likely causing a dangerous crash.
How To Use A Racing Wheelchair As already noted at the beginning of this article, there are a lot of factors that determine the rolling resistance of a tyre. Let’s explore those in more detail.