When you’re riding, your tires are your main point of contact with the road (and really, until you put the kickstand down, you hope they’re your only point of contact with the road). The kind of tires you decide to use will really impact your ride, so it’s important to have something on there that you like.
When it comes to tires, there are three dimensions to be concerned about – circumference, width, and thickness. Circumference will be dictated by your wheel size; if you have a 26” wheel, you need a 26” tire. Any bigger or smaller and it won’t fit. Montague mountain bikes have 26” tires, and pavement bikes have 700c. Both are standard sizes that can be found at any bike shop.
Width is also, to an extent, dictated by your wheels, although there is a little variation. If you’ve got mountain bike wheels (which is to say – you’re probably riding a mountain bike) you can probably go a little fatter or thinner than what comes on your bike. If you’re riding on 32mm rims though, you can’t go any skinnier than that – you definitely want your tires to be as wide or wider than your rim. If you feel like your fat knobby tires are slowing you up though, skinnier might not be the way to go (especially if you’re limited by the width of your rims) – consider getting semi-slick (less knobby) tires, which come in all sorts of widths. It’s an easy way to speed up your ride.
If you’re on a road bike with standard road wheels, you can probably put anything from a 23mm tire on up – but make sure that your tires clear the brake calipers. Montague pavement bikes come with tires that range in width from 23mm to 28mm. If you want something a little wider, you can fit 30mms on there, but any wider than that and you risk not clearing the brake calipers. Of course the Montague Navigator comes with disc brake mounts on the fork and frame, so if you convert to disc brakes, you can definitely go wider, but then you need to make sure you’re clearing the frame. If you’re concerned about fitting wider tires on your bike, just take it on down to your local shop and see what they recommend.
Knobby or Smooth?
If you’re going to be riding mostly on the road, a smoother tire is probably going to be fine for most of the year. If you want more cushioning, go as wide as you can, but stay with slick or semi-slick – unless you’re riding off-road, knobby tires are just going to add rolling resistance and slow you up. In the winter, some people prefer knobbier tires for the better traction. If you’re riding a bike with narrower clearances, you can still get knobby tires – try looking at cyclocross tires, which have more tread than your standard 700C.
For most every day riding (really, unless you’re racing) thicker is generally better, because nobody likes a flat tire. Proper inflation is an important factor too, but if you’re riding over road debris or gravel or prickers on the trail, the thicker your tire is, the better off you are. If that shard of glass or sharp rock can’t make it through your tire rubber to puncture your tube, you’re going to have fewer flats. There are companies out there that make tires out of extra-thick, extra-tough rubber. They tend to cost a little more, but depending on how much and where you ride, you might find that it’s worth the investment up front to save yourself a headache down the road.
Tell Us How You Roll
What kind of tires do you have on your bike? Knobby? Semi-Slick? Colourful? Do you use what came standard on your bike? Or did you set it up to your personal preference? What are you using, and why?