LAST UPDATED: December 21, 2020

The Best Road Bike Tires (Review & Buying Guides) in 2021

Best Choice Continental Gatorskin Bike Tire Continental Gatorskin Bike Tire
Best Value PanaracerTour Tire With Wire Bead PanaracerTour Tire With Wire Bead
Premium Pick Continental Grand Prix 5000 Performance Road Bike Tires Continental Grand Prix 5000 Performance Road Bike Tires

Eco-friendly and efficient, biking around town is a popular way to get around. It saves money (no gas bill), and can often save time (goodbye gridlock). Many opt to commute to work on their road bike, saving their car for weekend trips. If you want the best road biking experience, you need a quality set of tires. Road bike tires are designed specifically for traveling on paved surfaces. In ideal circumstances, your road bike tires should last well over 2,000 miles. 

Of course, not all tires are made the same. From the rubber density to the tread designs, every tire is different. You want something durable, so you don’t have to worry about flats. It should match your bike in size, and have grooves suitable for the weather you frequently encounter. With so many choices, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the right tires. So, to make your shopping process easier, we’ve curated a list of the best road bike tires available.

The Best Road Bike Tires

If you’re searching for a well-balanced tire that will help you train for future road races, then this is one of the best tires you can find. It has a heavy-duty construction featuring overlapping polyester fibers with minimal distance between the threads, which is intended to increase the tire’s resistance to punctures. This makes it a bit thicker than most summer tires, but the thick construction doesn’t increase its rolling resistance — you are still sure to maintain top speed. Adding to the durability is a wear-optimized tread that’s designed to reduce where from road friction.

A Duraskin layer on the sidewall that’s made of polyamide fabric provides sidewall stability,  and protection from cuts, scuffs, and other damages resulting from intense riding conditions. Also, a smooth center and grippy shoulders help to improve ride quality by providing optimal cornering traction no matter the riding condition.

Key Features
  • Thick polyester construction 
  • Duraskin sidewall
  • Teardrop tread pattern 
  • 85 to 120 PSI pressure range
Specification
  • Brand Continental
  • Model C1010429-P
  • Weight 1 pound
PROS

Available in a range of sizes

Offers a comfortable ride 

Durable, puncture-resistant construction

Superior traction on dry roads 

Low rolling resistance

CONS

Not suitable for wintry conditions

Thicker than standard summer tires

Heavier than standard all-season tires

If you want something for year-round travel, check out Panaracer Tour Tires. These wire bead tires provide excellent traction on pavement. While some road bike tires feature little tread to decrease road friction, these take a different approach. Shallow grooves line the entire tire. The treads themselves aren’t so deep that they risk puncture or pick up debris. Instead, they offer traction over slippery surfaces. This means that, if you need to bike in slushy spring weather or icy winter conditions, the tires still work great. Sold individually, the tire itself packs some weight but has a slim profile that makes it great for urban settings. Made of dense rubber, this option is built to last despite facing challenging road conditions. If you plan to ride in diverse weather conditions, these tires are a suitable choice.

Key Features
  • All-season capabilities 
  • Bead-to-bead puncture protection 
  • Durable 0.2-inch rubber casing 
  • 85 PSI maximum pressure
Specification
  • Brand Panaracer
  • Model ZH265-TR-B-RE
  • Weight 1.4 pounds
PROS

Affordable price tag

Great wet weather traction 

Puncture-resistant construction

Great on dry and wet surfaces

CONS

Packs some weight 

Can be somewhat difficult to install or remove 

Not the best for racing

With minimal treads, Continental Grand Prix 5000 Performance Road Bike Tires are a premium selection. You can get them in multiple sizes, based on what fits your bike. While these tires are designed for high-speed racing, they also work well for daily use. The clincher style is a thin tire, made of high-grade rubber material. Unlike the wire bead counterparts, these tires fold down for compact storage and easy shipping. The tires feature virtually invisible grooves. This is ideal for urban settings since you don’t need to grip onto tricky terrain. It enables you to drive smoothly over debris without taking on pebbles or dirt. Sold individually, each tire is made of multiple layers. The tiered material adds reinforcement and helps to avoid punctures. Since this option is a high-quality selection, it’s a bit expensive, but it lasts for thousands of miles.

Key Features
  • Active comfort technology
  • Laser grip shoulders 
  • Black chili compound tread construction
Specification
  • Brand Continental
  • Model 25-622
  • Weight 1 pound
PROS

Provides a comfortable riding experience

Absorbs shock and road vibrations

Resistant to damage

CONS

Expensive 

Fitting issues on some rims 

Not the fastest tires 

If you’re looking for ideal tires for pavement, Schwalbe Marathon Plus Road Bike Tires are a solid choice. Sold individually, these tires come in a variety of sizes. Classed as wire bead tires, the rigid form is well-suited to the pavement. Highly durable and with minimal grooves, these tires perform well on smooth surfaces. It doesn’t handle well on mud or wet surfaces, but there is sufficient traction to handle hills without the cumbersome issues of deep treads. The tires come coated with a protective layer. This helps prevent issues common to urban settings. Even when traveling at slow speeds, the tires won’t take on damage from glass or other debris. The tires roll smoothly, reducing resistance when you pedal so you can travel at high speeds. An effective choice for city biking, these are quality tires overall.

Key Features
  • Wire beaded construction 
  • SmartGuard layer 
  • Reflective sidewalls
Specification
  • Brand Schwalbe
  • Model 11115348
  • Weight 1.3 pounds
PROS

Comfortable riding

Low rolling resistance

Supreme puncture protection

Great dry road handling

CONS

Poor off-road handling 

Poor wet traction 

Leans on the expensive side

This is another innovative tire with a design that’s focused on improving the overall strength and durability of the tire. With a lightweight and foldable design, this tire is easy to install and remove. For improved all-around performance, the tire is designed with a Graphene 2.0 compound and a cotton casing. This premium construction ensures that the tire can hold up to high-mileage riding. The tread compound features Four Compounds (4C) layering technology in both the center and the sides. This helps to improve its cornering, braking, climbing, and rolling capabilities. Also included is a puncture-resistant belt at the center of the tread for increased strength. One of its unique features is the aggressive tread pattern, and though this may slightly increase the rolling resistance, it helps to improve its off-road capabilities.

Key Features
  • 4C layering technology 
  • Graphene 2.0 compound and cotton casing 
  • High-mileage training tire
Specification
  • Brand Vittoria
  • Model 11A00160
  • Weight 11.99 ounces
PROS

Lightweight and durable 

Optimal cornering and braking stability

Anti-puncture construction 

Suitable for all riders 

CONS

Slightly high rolling resistance than most road tires 

May wear out unevenly

Might ship in poor packaging

Chances are if you’re riding in the city, people are going to see you in passing. So, if you want to stand out with snazzy accessories, Michelin Lithion Road Tires are a good choice. The tires come lined with a boldly colored stripe. You can get this feature in multiple color options, depending on the color of your bike itself. In terms of performance, the foldable tire is very effective in ideal conditions. Since it does not incorporate treads, the tire is best suited to dry pavements (it can get slippery on wet pavements). The tires are thin enough to suit urban biking needs. Given the lack of tread, you won’t take on debris as you ride. With thick rubber material, the tires are very durable. Especially considering that there are no grooves to wear down, you can get a lot of miles out of these tires.

Key Features
  • Anti-puncture reinforcement 
  • High Protect Rim System
  • High-density, overlapping casing
  • Lightweight construction
Specification
  • Brand Michelin
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 7.76 ounces
PROS

Minimal rolling resistance 

Offers a smooth ride

Protected from punctures 

Handles well on dry terrain

CONS

Poor wet traction 

Not ideal for snow-covered roads 

Lack of treads reduces braking traction

Are you looking for tires to reliably get you to and from work? Kenda K-193 Kwest Commuter Tires are a solid option. You get the smooth-rolling benefits of the limited tread. This offers dual benefits. The first is durability. Since tread wears down with use, tires with less tread tend to last longer. The other value is road performance. Instead of gripping to off-road terrain, a lack of tread lets you ride smoothly in an urban setting. The tires come in a range of sizes, so you can easily find the right match for your bike. The trade-off is that the tires pack some weight, but you won’t have a hard time installing them. The groove design is meant to work well in precipitation. Sold individually, the wire bead tires work on both the back and front of your bike. Long-lasting and effective, these are quality commuter tires.

Key Features
  • 100 PSI maximum pressure 
  • Wire bead construction 
  • Symmetrical tread pattern
Specification
  • Brand Kenda
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 2.64 pounds
PROS

Sufficient wet traction 

Low rolling resistance 

Durable construction 

Decent off-road traction

CONS

A bit on the heavy side 

Not the best sidewall construction 

Stiff construction

Pirelli’s road bike tire may be an overachiever in several ways, thanks to its well-engineered construction that provides riding comfort and years of reliability. The tire utilizes Pirelli’s patented SmartNet Silica compound, with molecules that are arranged in a symmetrical pattern to create a high-strength tire that resists punctures no matter how long it’s used. The compound is also elastic for improved directional performance and reduced heat generation. This also helps to reduce the tire’s rolling resistance. The treads feature a Functional Groove Design (FGD) with treads shaped like lightning bolts, which are not only aesthetically appealing but also improves the tire’s water drainage capabilities for easy maneuvering on wet surfaces. However, it’s best to stick to dry roads; they can still get slippery on extremely wet or icy roads. Lastly, located underneath the tread is a flexible aramid fiber belt that’s resistant to cuts and abrasion.

Key Features
  • SmartNet Silica tire compound 
  • Aramid fiber belt
  • Functional Groove Design  
Specification
  • Brand Pirelli
  • Model 2908800
  • Weight 12 ounces
PROS

Puncture-resistant construction

Low rolling resistance

Unique, water-draining tread pattern

High-speed stability

CONS

Thinner than most road tires 

May get slippery during rainy or wintry conditions

Poor off-road performance

Best Road Bike Tires Buying Guide & FAQ

Whenever you’re not happy with your bike’s performance or when the tires are worn out, you may want to consider replacing the tires. While mountain biking tires last longer, road bike tires have a shorter tread life and will last for about 1,000 to 3,000 miles, depending on the quality. So, you need to keep abreast with the best road bike tires currently on the market if you want to improve your riding experience with time.  

We understand that the tricky part may not be finding a high-quality tire, but finding the right tire for your bicycle. This is why we have come up with a buying guide to help you find a tire that’s tailored for your needs and will help you avoid road accidents caused by using worn-out tires. 

Do You Need Road Bike Tires?

The first obvious reason why you need a road bike tire is for safety. If your tires are worn out, they won’t maintain sufficient traction with the ground, meaning that they can get slippery on wet surfaces, or can increase your stopping distance when you brake. Reduce the chances of getting into road accidents by replacing your tires. 

You can replace your mountain bike tires with road tires whenever you want to switch to less intensive daily commutes or if you don’t have the budget for a different commuter bike. Road bike tires have a smoother profile in comparison, which is tailored to improve traction and handling on roads, and other forms of even terrain. They’re also lighter so you can climb hills easier and move faster on the road.

Cycling on a road bike
A bicycle featuring road bike rires

If you are an experienced rider and like to perform professional biking stunts, your tires are likely to experience more damage and wear out faster than a bike that’s used for daily commutes. Most road tires are designed to be puncture- and abrasion-resistant, which makes them suitable for such kind of aggressive riding on roads. 

  • Replace worn out or damaged tires before it becomes a bigger safety issue. 
  • New tires help you enjoy a more comfortable biking experience on roads. 
  • If you frequently get flat tires, then it’s an indication that you need to get stronger road tires. 
  • Get new tires that are more suitable for your biking route. 

Types of Road Bike Tires

There are three main types of road bike tires: clincher, tubular, and tubeless. Your choice here depends on what you find easier to install, what’s suitable for your bike’s rim, and the benefits offered by each type. Here’s an in-depth look into the types. 

Clincher

Clincher tires have an open casing and rely on an inflatable inner tube that’s positioned between the wheel rim and tire to maintain their shape and functionality. In case of a puncture, you only need to remove the inner tube, patch it up, and return it to the wheel rim. It can also be easily replaced if the damage is extensive. 

The tire either features a wire (rigid) or kevlar fiber bead (folding) construction and typically comes with hooks that hold the tire in place on the wheel rim. Most new bicycles on the market come with this type of tire. 

Tubular 

Just like clincher tires, tubular tires have an inner inflatable tube, and the main difference is that the tube is sewn into the tire. The tire needs to be glued into the wheel with a special type of glue. The benefit of gluing the tire is, it remains firm on the wheel, and you can remain in control of your bike even if it goes flat. 

Tubular tires are the most expensive option since they provide performance benefits, and are best used by professionals. They are also lighter than the other alternatives since they don’t have hooks that attach to the wheel. However, changing a flat tire can be both time-consuming and expensive since you have to detach the glued tire and replace it with a new tubed tire. 

Tubeless 

Tubeless tires, as the name suggests, have no inflatable tube. Instead, they hook onto the rim the same way as clincher tires do with the main difference being that they form an airtight seal, which keeps the tire in a rigid shape even without an internal tube. You then need to use a sealant to cover up the small holes or splits to reduce the chances of the tire going flat when you sit on the bike.

The benefit of this type of tire is, it provides optimal control even at low pressure, has a low rolling resistance, and provides a cushioning effect for riding comfort. They can only be installed on wheels that are compatible with tubeless tires. 

What to Look for When Buying Road Bike Tires

If you’re thinking of replacing your bike tires, we recommend that you upgrade to a better set so you can experience the full benefits of your bicycle before you also have to replace it. We have come up with a list of the must-have features in a high-quality tire set that will help transform your riding experience. 

Build

When it comes to the tire construction,  take note of the threads per inch (TPI) rating — this indicates the number of individual threads that have been woven into the cross-section of the tire casing. A high TPI tire utilizes thinner threads to help improve the ride comfort and lower the rolling resistance. In contrast, a low TPI tire is designed with fewer, thicker threads so it’s less prone to punctures.

Besides the tire casing, also take note of extra additives that improve the performance and reliability of the tire. The extra features vary from tire to tire depending on what the manufacturer deems important for its functionality. This may include steel wires to improve the strength of the sidewalls for cornering stability and resistance to damage. Overlaying synthetic layers at the center of the tire provides additional puncture protection. 

Tread Pattern 

Road bike tires are designed to maintain optimal contact with the ground so they can move easily on smooth surfaces. This is why most have a minimal tread pattern so most of the tire’s surface is in contact with the ground. The trade-off is, they don’t provide as much traction as mountain bike tires, which typically have large knobby treads. This limits the performance of road bike tires only to smooth and even surfaces.

Despite the minimal design, prioritize a tread pattern that allows water to seep through the treads so you can have an easier time maneuvering through a wet road on a rainy day. 

Tire Pressure

Tire manufacturers often indicate the maximum tire pressure that the tire can handle. It’s indicated in pounds per square inch (PSI). Take note of the PSI rating of the tire so you can avoid over or under inflating the tire beyond the point. Under-inflated tires can get more damages towards the edges, and over-inflated tires will wear out more towards the center. 

Maintaining the tire pressure at the highest recommended PSI level will help improve rolling resistance. However, moving to the lower end of the recommended PSI level means that you will get more grip and comfort from your tires.

Cyclist ride a bike with road tires
Biking with road bike tires down a worn down road

Care and Maintenance for Road Bike Tires

To preserve the quality of your tires, avoid riding on rough roads or surfaces that are full of potholes, glass, gravel, and other sharp objects. Seek an alternative route that’s smoother even if it’s longer. 

Inspect your tires regularly for any signs of wear or damage, especially after they’ve experienced trauma such as hitting a pothole or a large stone. Also, check if the damages extended to the rim. You can get the tires checked at your local dealer for a more thorough inspection.  

Keep your tires clean by cleaning out dirt or debris that has logged on the treads. Dirt can corrode the rubber, and foreign objects can puncture the tire. Also, consider using a tire shiner to restore its appeal. 

  • If possible, change your tires after every 2,000 miles.
  • Prioritize tires with tread wear indicators since it will be easier to tell when it’s time for a replacement. 
  • If it doesn’t affect your handling, you can swap the front and rear tire to promote even wear. 

Best Road Bike Tires FAQ:

From our review, we have seen that it’s important to upgrade to a set of road tires if you intend to change your biking habits by strictly sticking to the road. If you’re looking for more information on road bike tires, you can read through the answers to some of the frequently asked questions by other bikers. 

Q: Do road bike tires go flat easily?

You shouldn’t expect your tires to go flat easily, especially if you have a high-quality set, and avoid putting your tires through harsh riding conditions. Stick to smooth surfaces, and avoid hitting the potholes too hard.

Q: Can you put road tires on a mountain bike?

Yes, you can replace the mountain bike tires with smoother road bike tires so long as you get a tire that fits your mountain bike’s wheel. Most road bike tires on the market come in a range of sizes so it shouldn’t be hard to find a wide and large tire that can fit on your mountain bike’s rim. 

Q: Can you put different tires on a road bike?

Since the rear tires wear out faster than the front tires, it’s okay to install a different set of rear tires from the front tires so long as it doesn’t affect your balance or handling. 

Our Top Pick

The Continental Gatorskin Bike Tire scoops our top spot due to its quality construction that provides a safe and comfortable riding experience. You can use it on smooth, rough, or uneven grounds, and expect it to provide maximum control. It can also maintain top speeds, and help you improve your riding mileage. 

Final Thoughts 

While the Continental Gatorskin Bike Tire may be a solid pick, we also recommend the PanaracerTour Tire With Wire Bead for riders on a budget. It’s reliable all year round since it’s designed to maintain a grip on dry, wet, or slightly icy roads. It is also longer lasting than most budget tires.

Sources:

  1. Bicycle Tire – Wikipedia