Maximise grip, avoid punctures and improve handling with our pick of the best tyres for road bikes
The best road bike tyres have to be good at pretty much everything. They need to be light enough to maximise acceleration, robust enough to be long-lasting and puncture-resistant, and as they drastically affect the way the bike rides, they also need to provide a good combination of comfort and grip. That might sound like a tall order, but the best road bike tyres manage to do exactly that – and we’ve tried and tested countless tyres in the hunt for the perfect pair.
If your bike is feeling sluggish in the dry or skittish in the wet, aftermarket options can provide a significant upgrade over those fitted as stock to cheaper bikes. Choose wisely, and you’ll find yourself riding faster, more confidently and with far fewer visits from the puncture fairy. Read on, and we’ll recommend some of our favourite rubber for every type of rider and explain what you need to know before buying.
The best road bike tyres: At a glance
How to choose the best road bike tyres for your bike
What type of road tyre is best?
Tyres come in a baffling range of styles and sizes. Even concentrating solely on those designed for fast riding on paved surfaces, the choice can be confusing. Generally, some tyres will prioritise speed, grip and minimal weight. These tyres are designed for racing or more sporty riding. However, harder wearing tyres with improved puncture resistance and increased weight are a much better choice when training, commuting or riding through winter.
What size of road tyre should I buy?
Most road bike wheels are described as being 700c in diameter – although some bikes do use the smaller 650b standard – and common 700c road bike tyre widths include 23, 25, 28, 30 or 32mm. The first thing to do is check which size and width of tyre is already installed on your bike.
If you’re thinking about going up in size, it’s essential to check how much clearance there is between your existing tyres and your frame and fork. You’ll need to ensure that there’s at least a couple of millimetres of clearance on either side of the tyre to allow for flex in the wheel and to prevent mud and grit from gouging your bicycle frame. For example, if your bike already has 28mm tyres and they look like a tight squeeze, you may want to think twice before buying anything wider.
Many bicycle manufacturers will state a maximum tyre width for their bikes and framesets, but it’s best to think of this purely a guideline – some tyres will come up bigger than their stated size. Tyre manufacturers tend to measure tyre width with a specific rim size, so narrower or wider rims will affect the actual tyre width. When millimetres can make the difference between a perfect fit and frame-damaging tyre rub, it’s important to get it right.
Which features should I look out for?
- Puncture protection: Almost all tyres have some form of additional puncture protection beyond that provided by their exterior rubber and inner fabric carcass. This typically takes the form of a strip of robust material sandwiched between the two, such as Vectran or Kevlar. However, the more protection you add, the heavier and less elastic the tyre will be. This is less of an issue if your main priority is getting to work without incident, but a heavier, less supple tyre can be a drag if you’re racing or want your bike to feel as fast as possible.
- Tubeless compatibility: Some wheel and tyre systems can work without the need for a traditional inner tube, leaving them lighter and more resistant to punctures. However, your wheels and tyres need to be tubeless compatible in order to form an airtight seal. Some tubeless tyres can be used without liquid sealant, but we’d always advise riders to add sealant – this will magically seal smaller punctures, hopefully without the rider even noticing. If sealant fails to do the job, then you can just use an innertube to get yourself home.
- Rolling resistance: Rolling resistance is a critical factor for anyone interested in competition or just going fast. All tyres generate friction when rolling. This is caused by a combination of elements, including the amount and type of rubber used, the presence of a puncture protection strip, and the inherent flexibility of the tyre’s carcass. A tyre’s flexibility is often indicated by threads per inch or TPI – the higher the figure, the more flexible the tyre. Thinner tyres with more supple casings will generally produce less friction and be faster, and these tyres will also tend to be lightweight, which helps acceleration. They’ll also be more comfortable as their flexibility allows them to absorb vibration better. However, tyres with lower rolling resistance will often be more prone to punctures. Balancing these factors is a key trait of a good racing tyre.
- Grip: It’s scary to think how small the contact patch is on the average road bike tyre. About the size of a two-pence piece, this little bit of rubber is all that’s keeping you on course as you whizz around a wet corner at high speed. This makes grip a crucial consideration. The grip provided by road bike tyres doesn’t tend to come from a pronounced tread pattern but rather factors such as rubber compound and flexibility. Generally, grippier tyres tend to be more expensive. However, grippier tyres also wear faster. Regardless of which you choose, slightly lowering the pressure is always a great way to gain additional traction.
READ NEXT: The best cycling helmets to buy
The best road bike tyres in 2022
1. Goodyear Vector 4 Season: Tough, all-season tubeless rubber
This easy-to-set-up tubeless racing tyre offers a modern set of features, along with an almost perfect balance of performance and durability. Coming in a range of sizes that reaches up to a bulbous 32c, each benefits from a larger than average volume. This increase in the amount of air within the tyre provides both comfort and a profile that gives an increased contact patch with which to grip the road. Matched to a compound that’s fast and confidence-inspiring enough to race on yet robust enough for use on rough roads and through inclement conditions, this makes them a great option to fit and leave on all year.
If you opt to go without tubes, the tubeless version of the Vector employs what Goodyear calls a “dual angle bead”. This supposedly makes the tyre more secure and aids in their installation. We found them easy enough to set up using just a floor pump. And although we can’t promise everyone will have such an easy experience, it’s a good sign nonetheless.
Key features – Size range: 25-32c, Tubeless version: Yes; Weight: Medium; Puncture protection: R:Armor
2. Schwalbe Pro One Evo: A racing tyre that’s fast and practical
The Pro One sits towards the top of Schwalbe’s racing tyre hierarchy. But “one” isn’t just the number Schwalbe would like you to imagine yourself finishing when using its tyre; it’s also an indication that this could be the one and only tyre you need.
Marketing bumps aside, what this means is that the Pro One strives for balance. Stretching 14mm across its tread, the tyre’s V-guard puncture protection is tougher than that found on many racing tyres. At the same time, its carcass is still relatively flexible.
One upshot of this lightweight construction is that the tubeless version requires you to squirt at least 30ml of Schwalbe’s Doc Blue tyre sealant into the tyre before attempting to inflate it. Allowing the tyre to behave more like traditional clinchers than most heavyweight tubeless alternatives, the feel and low rolling resistance of a high-quality conventional clincher are also mostly preserved.
Whether you go tubed or tubeless, the Pro One is a viable option for racing. At the same time, this is a tyre that, with care, you could use year-round.
Key features – Size range: 23-30c; Tubeless version: Yes; Weight: Low; Puncture protection: V-guard
3. Continental Grand Prix 5000: Speedy and surprisingly durable
The flagship tyre from the famous German brand Continental, the Grand Prix 5000 has quickly become a popular choice with riders across the globe. As the company took a long time to release a tubeless range, it’s a tyre with a lot to live up to – but it lives up to the hype.
In both conventional and tubeless versions, the Grand Prix 5000 is among the very fastest models for rolling resistance. Using a highly flexible 320tpi casing alongside the brand’s well-known Black Chilli compound, it’s quick, grippy and lightweight.
The flip side to these qualities would usually be fragility when it comes to nicks and punctures. However, the Grand Prix 5000 is relatively robust. Most riders will still probably swap it over for something tougher for winter when the roads get filthy, although plenty also swear by them year-round.
Now available in sizes up to 32c, the volume is slightly less than the fattest modern designs, a fact worth considering when picking which width to opt for.
Key features – Size range: 23-32c, Tubeless version: Yes; Weight: Low, Puncture protection: Vectran
4. Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm: Tough, affordable all-seasons rubber
Price: from £36 | Buy now from Tredz
It’s generally small differences that set racing tyres apart from one another. Hutchinson has gone and created a big one: its tyres are a chunk cheaper than almost all its competitors, yet our experience suggests they remain right up there in terms of performance.
The Fusion line represents the firm’s quickest models. Of these, those with the “11Storm” suffix are specifically designed for use in poor conditions. As the name suggests, their compound is tailored to grip in the wet, while a Kevlar puncture strip stops debris washed into the road punching holes in them.
Made to outlast their rivals, Hutchinson mentions explicitly that they should be good for at least 4,000km of mixed condition riding. Suited to use any time the weather is less than reliable, or year-round if you’re happy to trade a little speed for increased peace of mind, they use a moderately flexible 127tpi casing.
Giving decent rolling resistance and a reasonable degree of comfort, they do come up a bit narrow, which means you might want to size up if your wheels have particularly broad rims.
Key features – Size range: 25-30c, Tubeless version: Yes, Weight: Medium, Puncture protection: Kevlar ProTech
5. Specialized Turbo Cotton: An old-school tubed speed demon
Price: £65 | Buy now from Tredz
Specialized is something of an outlier: it only offers its Turbo Cotton tyre in a conventional tubed version. However, given that the tyre itself has proved fast enough to help Julian Alaphilippe win the World Championship road race, it’s not to be underestimated.
A bit of a throwback, these are out-and-out racing tyres in the old-school mode. Weighing very little, they do without much in the way of puncture protection. Yet it’s this lack of additional layers that allows them both to shed weight and, thanks to a 320tpi casing, remain incredibly flexible. Letting them roll with a minimum of resistance while imparting ridiculous levels of grip and comfort, they’re best saved for racing or use on sunny days.
Unsurprisingly, they’re not a cheap option. However, their tan sidewalls will make any bike look a million dollars, while an oversized volume and uncommon 24 or 26c width is similarly pro-inspired. Equally unusual is their Gripton rubber compound, which is left unvulcanised. Leaving it softer and more efficient, don’t expect them to last if you use them every day. These are very much tyres designed for bagging yourself a good time, not riding for a long time.
Key features – Size range: 24 or 26c, Tubeless version: No, Weight: Very low, Puncture protection: Minimal
6. Vittoria Corsa G2.0: A classy everyday racing tyre
Vittoria’s longstanding Corsa tyre gets updated with graphene. Whether it’s the addition of this much talked about material or something else, this tyre has consistently scored impressively low rolling resistance numbers in independent lab tests. It’s also stacked up some significant wins, including overall victories at the Tour de France 2021 and Vuelta a España in 2021.
Helped on its way by a very supple cotton casing, this tyre is all about reducing the factors that might slow you down. This even extends to its easy-to-set-up tubeless version, which will generally pop into place using just a track pump. A race-focused tyre in its standard format, the even racier Corsa Speed takes things a step further with less puncture protection and even lower weight and rolling resistance.
Still, we think the standard Corsa will suit most riders who’ll benefit from a little less fragility. With the choice of versions with grey or cotton-coloured sidewalls, these will also look great on almost any bike.
Key features – Size range: 23-30c, Tubeless version: Yes, Weight: Low, Puncture protection: Kevlar ProTech