Tires, tubeless and tubular: tire sizes of bikes

Tires, tubeless and tubular: tire sizes of bikes

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Tires, tubeless and tubular: today we will clarify the tires, tires and tires to be mounted on your bicycle, in particular racing which is my main passion. If you are wondering when to change covers of your bike,what kind of sizes and the range of tires existing on the market then do not miss this mini guide of ideegreen in which we will deal with the following issues:

  • Tires (or clinchers), tubular and tubeless: differences between these types of tires
  • Know the measurements of the tires or the indication and reading of the values
  • How a modern bike tire is made: TPI and tire pressure
  • When to change the tires on your bike, i.e. check and wear the tread

Difference between clinchers, tubulars and tubeless

Bike tires or tires can be divided into three types based on how they are designed internally and how they are mounted on the rims: inner tube, tubular and tubeless tires. Let's see the pros and cons for each of these three families and above all for where the research is going in the immediate future.

Tires (with internal air chamber)

THE tires I'm tires inside which a butyl / latex air chamber is inserted; the clincher as such must be fitted to the rim both with the hands and with the help of special keys (I recommend a nice video tutorial at the bottom of the article).


  • The clinchers are easy to assemble
  • Consequently they are simple to replace on the roadside following a mechanical inconvenience
  • There is a wide range of choices and prices


  • The classic clincher has ease of drilling
  • Consequently deflates quickly and you cannot continue pedaling
  • The clincher with attached inner tube is naturally less smooth (disadvantage only for those looking for performance)

Having made this examination, we can say that the clincher, with the same quality of the carcass and tire tread, is cheaper and more practical, that's why is the preferred choice for cyclists inexperienced or by those, even experts, who doing many km must enjoy a practicality in the eventual replacement, therefore also an amateur or professional in training outside competitions.


THE tubular I'm tube-shaped tires; their peculiarity is that they are closed section covers, that is, they are glued to the circle using a special mastic glue; inside the tubular is sewn an air chamber


  • The tubular is very flexible with low rolling resistance, therefore very smooth
  • With the tubular the total weight tire and wheel turns out more light
  • It tends to gradually deflate if not torn so you can continue to pedal often for a few km. This is because it is possible to use the tubular even when it is partially deflated; being attacked there is no fear that it will detach from the rim causing accidents.


  • Economically i costs of the tubular are major compared to clincher
  • It takes some practicality to mount it and replace it
  • In case of puncture during the exit a spare wheel is required or someone who follows during the exits with a mechanical means (car or motorbike)

The lower weight made them one ideal choice for professionals especially in competition; they are often also reinforced on the tread to increase puncture protection. Performance is the most appreciated qualities, even at the expense of a certain practicality in case of inconvenience. An amateur but also an agonist in training should always remember this.


THE tubeless I'm tubeless tires and equipped with a special inflation valve. Tubeless rims are different from traditional ones because they must have a double groove, one to insert the spokes and the second to fit the tire.


  • Tubeless tires have good grip, low rolling resistance and comfort
  • They even have one good resistance to punctures
  • It can be mounted the inner chamber, if necessary


  • They are not the most appropriate choice for beginners
  • Roadside repair is easier than tubular (as you don't need someone with a spare tire) but they are however impractical compared to a tire with an inner tube
  • They must be assembled with accuracy; the double "groove" means that the tolerance of the rim is fundamental for safety

Due to its characteristics, tubeless has been experimented in the world of mountain bikes (like other things, see disc brake) but it is becoming quite popular even among those who practice racing bikes or road riders (the first road tubeless tests are in 2006 ) precisely because the absence of an air chamber greatly reduces friction.

Probably as many argue, they will be the covers of the future; when the safety issue has made further giant steps (ie when the danger of it coming out of the rim will be even lower and the ease of assembly and replacement will increase even more) it is argued that tubeless tires can become the market standard; even now tubeless riders can increase safety by tying with sealant.

Perhaps even before that among mid-to-high-end amateurs who among professionals on two wheels, tubeless has a fair appeal. Some time ago I read in a well-known specialized magazine about the data of the insiders that make us understand the great advantages of this solution: "Comparing a 25 mm clincher plus inner tube and a bonded 25 mm tubeless tire we can see a reduction in rolling resistance of 20% and a better grip of 13%". These tubeless benefits also reverberate on performance and driveability because they inflate at less pressure and deform both tires and rims less: "Which makes the steering more responsive and sensitive". The tubeless tire inflated to 6 atmospheres has less rolling resistance than the tire plus room inflated to 9 and is a matter of comfort and stiffness.

The tire with an inner tube it is still the best and preferred solution by Sunday amateur cyclists by far, but tubeless will be the solution of the near future because despite everything it is easy to fit almost like a clincher and offers the performance of a tubular if not better.

How to choose the tires: a question of "measures" and more

Choosing tires for road bikes is not always easy but let's dispel some myths of the recent past: first of all it must be said that there is no ideal solution for everything but the balance between season, roads with the characteristics of the various tires themselves must always be found. in terms of lightness, puncture resistance, design and structure of the tire.

Until recently it was claimed that tires as thin as possible and mounted at stellar pressures above 10 atmospheres made us buy time valuable as they are light and less resistant to rolling.

But technology is making great strides: recent research in recent years shows how wider tires mounted at lower pressures are faster and offer more grip and control. It took a long time to convince the cyclists but just look at F1 in recent years to understand how these improvements have been evident for some time; with wider tires the cars go faster and have more control.

Returning to bicycles 25mm tires are replacing 23mm ones as a market standard: the majority of amateur cyclists from the road continues to use a air chamber in inflated rubber placed inside of a coating said carcass in turn enclosed by other layers of vulcanized rubber; for this type of roofing, pressure is very important. Therefore, in addition to the quality of the tire itself, the quality of the inner tube must be checked when we mount and inflate it because it affects the punctures a lot.

Speaking of bike tire sizes

the size of a tire is generally indicated by two digits:

  • One indicates the size of the wheel circumference / diameter
  • The other digit indicates the coverage width

Depending on whether we use the measure in inches or millimeters the measurement can also be expressed in one or more ways on the same tire: ETRO, Inch size and French marking; here is the conversion table between the ETRTO standard and the main measures.

On each tire you should find the size expressed in at least 2 of the 3 types described above (see next image in the post)

E.T.R.T.O.InchesFrench marking
47-20312 1/2×1.75
62-20312 1/2×2 1/4320×57
37-54024×1 3/8600x35A
37-59026×1 3/8650x35A
40-58426×1 ½650x35B
32-63027×1 ¼
25-62228×1 5/8×1 1/16700x25C
28-62228×1 5/8×1 1/8700x28C
32-62228×1 5/8×1 ¼700x32C
37-62228×1 5/8×1 3/8700x35C
40-62228×1 5/8×1 ½700 × 38 / 40C
40-63528×1 ½700B standard
47-62228×1.75700 × 40 / 42C

If you already know what they are bicycle tires that you need and you know how to buy them correctly, the advice is to visit the dedicated Amazon pages relating to bicycle tires and inner tubes. Amazon shipments can take place within 24 hours and are often included in the price. And if you already have Amazon Prime you can take advantage of free and fast shipping for almost all items in the catalog: you will find not only clinchers, but also air chambers, tubular, pressure gauges, pumps and repair kits as well as the classics CO2 cansfor quick inflation.

A precaution to always remember for the inexperienced: you must choose a tire that can accommodate a rim, in jargon it is said to be compatible (for example a 28 rim cannot accommodate a 26 tire); we can also have the opposite problem: when we fit a 25mm tire in a 21mm rim, the result will be an actual tire of almost 28mm. So pay attention to compatibility; if you need to replace the cover of one of your bikes, simply read the measurements on the sides of the tires and then look in the stores for the equivalent of the same brand or of the other best-known brands present. Here is a series of proposals:

Road Bike Tires

Continental tires

Michelin tires

Hutchinson tires

Schwalbe tires

Vittoria tires

Maxxis tires

Pirelli tires

Air chamber

Continental inner tube

Hutchinson air chamber

Michelin tube

Maxxis air chamber

Schwalbe tube

Bike tubulars

CO2 bicycle pump

Wheel repair kit

Bicycle frame pump

Continuing instead with the reading of the mini guide, we will discuss how a tire is made, what are the recommended pressures and understand when is the right time to change the tires on your bicycle.

How a modern bike tire is made

Without getting too technical, let's understand how a tire is formed and the information we need to know; sectioning the rubber we have:

  • the tread: outer layer that protects the carcass. It is the part in contact with the road; it is made from several layers of mixed rubber and vulcanized with additives to provide grip but over time to resist abrasion. If the tread is worn you can see the carcass which is the backbone of the tire. Finally, the tread pattern and compound have an impact on the terrain and wet dry conditions for which they were designed. Between the tread and the carcass there are Kevlar protectors to reinforce the tire and protect it from sharp objects.
  • There carcass it is the innermost part and is composed of more or less thick intertwined filaments. It is measured in TPI i.e. number of filaments per inch.  NOTE: When you read the label the higher the TPI value, the better the quality of the rubberà because rubber is more flexible, smoother and lighter.
  • The heels which hold the tire pressed to the rim and are usually lightweight and flexible Kevlar.
  • Finally the air chambers I am in butyl / latex which are light, supple and soft.

On the tires on the market (in the example the image of a Vittoria brand cover), in addition to measures and from TPI value, is always indicated with two numbers la minimum and maximum pressure in Bar / Psi for the correct use of the pneumatic one; in turn, the pressure must be calibrated according to the weight of the cyclist and according to the viscosity of the terrain being faced. As an example, manufacturers tend to recommend inflating 25mm racing bike tires between 6 and 8 atmospheres, a little more for those who use 23mm tires.

How long do they last and when to change bike tires

Usually bike tires are changed before the end of their useful life: not only for a mere safety issue but also to avoid punctures and therefore damage to other components (see rims and spokes). In particular, it is recommended to change the covers

  • When the tread is worn to the point that you can see the anti-puncture protection which is the intermediate layer of another color present between the tread and the carcass
  • If they are present cuts and tears on the sides of the gum; these may be due to use often under the recommended pressure or from an old tire which, even if little used, has dried out producing that type of tears on the rubber
  • Possibly during a change of season, not so much and only for reasons of comfort but above all for an adequate choice of the tread in relation to atmospheric events

Mainly these are the reasons behind a change in coverage; However, it should be noted that the wear of the tires is affected by factors such as the inflation pressure, the weight of the person, the routes in terms of the type of asphalt more or less rough.

How many km can you travel with a tire? According to the indications present on the websites of the manufacturers (see Schwalbe) a standard racing bike tire can last from 2 to 5 thousand km (from competition the range goes from 3 to 7 thousand); therefore for cyclists like myself from 5/6 thousand km per year you could make one or two tire changes every year. MTB tires, on the other hand, have a longer duration precisely because the tread is less slick and therefore tends to wear out in a longer time. Manufacturers also recommend storing tires in cool, dry places and away from the sun; they must always be kept inflated or with the wheels hanging to avoid deformations on the hips.

Finally, I wish you good rides and as promised at the beginning of the post, I leave you with a nice video by Vincenzo Nibali went viral this summer; you see him like many of us struggling with the change of inner tube after a puncture in training: who better than him can do us a tutorial revealing some tricks.Vincenzo one of us!

Other related articles I wrote on IdeeGreen that might interest you are:

  • How to clean and lubricate the bike and chain
  • Tips for winter cycling clothing
  • Cycling shoes for racing or mtb bikes: how to choose them
  • Cycling clothing: the sizes for socks and socks change
  • Bicycle touring, equipment to bring on a bike trip
  • Bike and Cycling Sunglasses: guide and models
  • Bike and Cycling Helmet: guide and models

Curated by Tullio Grilli

Video: How to choose the correct tire size: 23,25 or 28mm? (June 2022).


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