Triathlon bike tires have been a significant point of interest for athletes experimenting with ways to get a competitive edge. Tire size, rim compatibility, tire pressure, and design all factor into the optimal time trial tire.
The key points to understand when selecting the right tires include aerodynamics, rolling resistance, and tire width. The latter of these three elements (width) has been an area where conventional thinking has changed significantly in recent years.
Additionally, the debate between Clincher vs Tubular vs Tubeless and puncture resistance tires have become popular in the triathlon community. But first, what triathlon bike tires do the pros use?
What Size Tires Do Pro Triathletes Use?
Although some pro triathletes may run a different sized tire depending on the race and conditions, in most cases, professional triathletes and time trialists will run between 21 and 23mm tires. In most cases, triathletes will use 23mm tires with a high PSI.
For pro and elite-level triathletes who have developed experience and confidence on their bikes, running a 23mm (typically inflating to 25mm+) is often the fastest option.
Beginner athletes and mid-packers can still be competitive with a tire labeled 25mm (inflating to 28mm+). Although aerodynamics are marginally compromised, bike handling confidence and safety are improved.
What Is the Fastest Road/Tri Bike Tire?
When it comes to the fastest triathlon bike tires, today’s competitors are constantly seeking the latest and greatest in tire technology. As a consistent frontrunner, the Vittoria Corsa Speed TLR G+ 2.0 has consistently ranked as the world’s fastest bike tire for paved road cycling.
Designed for time trialing, its low rolling resistance holds up at lower air pressures. Competitive and professional triathletes have consistently chosen the Vittoria Corsa Speed as their go-to road bike tire to help them gain valuable time and efficiency on the bike.
Clincher vs Tubular vs Tubeless: Which Setup Is Best?
Clinchers (with a tube), tubeless tires, or glued-on tubulars all have their place in cycling. But which option is the best tire setup for a triathlon?
Of the three setup options, a tubeless tire is widely known as the best. Not only do tubeless tires offer the lowest weight and rolling resistance, but they also provide added comfort and grip. Tubeless also enables faster speeds at a lower tire pressure, checking all the boxes for training and racing.
Tubeless sealant’s ability to fill small punctures is also an added benefit for triathletes and competitive cyclists, preventing the need to replace a tube in the instance of a minor puncture.
What Is the Most Puncture Resistant Bike Tire?
In triathlon, a puncture can steal several minutes and ruin an athlete’s race. Investing in bike tires that offer superior puncture resistance can make a big difference, especially if you are riding on rough road conditions from time to time.
A tire’s material is the most significant factor that helps out with puncture resistance. Kevlar is one of the most popular materials used by bike tire manufacturers to reinforce their products and aid in puncture resistance. Kevlar is the same material utilized in bulletproof vests, and it can provide a significant amount of puncture protection for triathlon bike tires. Two types of Kevlar are used in today’s bike tires to make them puncture resistant.
- Kevlar Belted Tires – Using Kevlar material underneath a tire’s tread surface can help to reduce the impact that objects such as nails, glass shards, and thorns can have. This option tends to have a higher rolling resistance and cost more.
- Kevlar Beads – Kevlar beads are among the most popular options for adding puncture resistance to high-performance bike tires. Using this material allows a tire to remain lightweight while adding to its durability.
These are some of the key points of importance related to the topic of puncture-resistant tires. Perhaps the most critical question is what are the most puncture-resistant bike tires on today’s market.
4 Durable Bike Tire Options Worth a Look
- Maxxis Re-Fuse Tire – A top option for today’s cyclists that need a durable, high-quality tire that comes at an affordable price point.
- Vittoria Zaffiro Pro III 23 Road Tire – This is another top option for riders that are looking for a puncture-resistant tire that is affordable. It is an option that is one of the most popular training tires on the market.
- Continental Gator Hard-Shell Urban – This bike tire is the go-to choice for many of today’s cyclists who are looking for a reliable, puncture-resistant tire that can stand up against harsh road conditions.
- Hutchinson Intensive 2 Road Bike Tire – This highly durable tire is one of the leading options for riders looking for a quality puncture-resistant tire. Its bead-to-bead casing offers puncture protection that is reliable on a year-round basis.
Are 28mm Tires Faster Than 25mm?
Tire width has become one of the hottest topics in the cycling world in the last couple of years. It was only a short time ago that 23mm tires were considered the standard, but that has changed in recent years. Though it might seem counterintuitive, there is mounting evidence that wider tires that are run at a lower pressure will help a cyclist go faster. There has been a big move in the competitive cycling world toward wider tires.
This move toward wider tires has not only turned the 23mm variety into an option that is virtually a thing of the past, but it is also quickly blowing past the 25mm option as well. 28mm tires are quickly becoming the go-to for many cyclists who are looking for increased speed. With this said, it is essential to note that it takes more than a tire itself. When wider tires are used as a part of an overall wheel system, the results can be pretty noticeable. This system includes fitting a wider tire on a wider rim to maximize the potential increase in air volume.
Tests that have been conducted on this topic of tire width have shown that the combination of a narrower tire and higher air pressure does not result in lower rolling resistance. Tests have shown that 28mm tubeless tires are the fastest option in terms of rolling resistance. According to Wheel Energy, an independent test lab in Finland,
“28mm tubeless tire is the fastest setup. At 40kmh, a high-quality clincher tire with a latex inner tube is about 2 watts slower. And a 32mm tire is only about 2 watts slower than an equivalent 28mm tire. Comparing rolling resistance, a 25mm tubeless tire at 95-100psi is the same as a 30mm tubeless tire at 72-80psi.”
These tests have been resounding to demonstrate that a 28mm bike tire just as fast as a 25mm. This fact has led many cyclists to leap past the 25mm options and straight to a 28mm tubeless tire setup, particularly for rugged terrain.
What Tires Do Pro Tour Cyclists Use?
For competitive cyclists, it can be advantageous to look at the tires that today’s pro cyclists use. The Tour de France is the perfect place to look for some insights into this.
Top performers in the legendary road race have been seen using tires that include:
- Continental Competition Pro Limited
- Specialized S-Works Turbo Allroad
- Vittoria Corsa (Road)
- Challenge Strada
Final Thoughts on Triathlon Bike Tires
Today’s triathletes are constantly looking for ways to gain a competitive edge. The bike leg of a triathlon is the vast majority of the distance and time invested in a race. Using the right equipment – such as bike frame, wheelset, bicycle seat, and tires – play a pivotal role in long-distance endurance events like triathlon.
Triathletes looking to get every competitive edge from their bike technology should consider a high-quality, puncture-resistant 23-25mm tire. This size range has been proven effective in helping athletes maximize aero, speed, and efficiency, making a significant difference in an Ironman or 70.3 events.