Top 5 Most Recommended Road Bike Tires

Published on 05/13/2023 · 6 min readLooking for a new set of tires for your road bike? Cycling Expert Ryan C. shares his top 5 picks for the best road bike tires and explains what types of tires to consider.
Ryan C, Cycling Expert
By Cycling Expert Ryan C

Photo by Tom Austin

So, you want to buy tires for your road bike? With so many bicycle tires on the market, trying to find the best road bike tires on your own can be quite intimidating. As Curated Cycling Experts, we often get asked, “what is the best tire?”, and, just as there are many bikes out there—with different riding styles to suit—the answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.

At its root, a tire is supposed to support your bike, prevent punctures and provide contact or grip on the asphalt as you pedal on a specific surface. But, depending on the tire you use, it can also help you move faster, offer more or less puncture resistance, enhance support and traction, and even provide the means to travel on to different terrain.

To make matters even more complicated, tires can come in several different types and numerous rubber compounds, and can allow for lower pressures and different TPI (threads per inch). And, depending on your goals for riding, your ideal tire may be higher or lower on another’s list. See, it’s not a very straightforward question. Don’t worry though, let’s dive in and I’ll share some of my top choices for tires and who they might best suit.

Types of Tires

When considering a tire, I like to look at tires by segmenting them into two buckets: racing tires and training tires.

Racing Tires

Racing tires are those that are going to have a balance of light weight, low rolling resistance, and some semblance of puncture protection. Generally speaking, lower rolling resistance and light weight are not features that are compatible with puncture protection. Rolling resistance is the added force that works against you when your wheels spin on the pavement. The more material present in a tire generally equates to more resistance. Similarly, lighter tires generally have less material, therefore lighter weight. When taken together, these two traits allow for a more supple feel that has less puncture resistance due to the lower, thinner profile of the tire. These are the tires I reserve for special occasions, like racing, and not everyday training.

Training Tires

When I am not racing, I spend 90% of the time riding on what I consider “training” tires. Unlike my “racing” tires, these may have more weight and higher rolling resistance, which is okay. For training, what’s a little extra weight if it prevents a flat or decreases the likelihood of a puncture? If nothing else, it means more time riding on the bike and less time off worrying about a flat kit.

Tubed or Tubeless

The debate about tubed versus tubeless tires is a valid discussion in road cycling that we should take up in another article, however, it is important to know whether your wheels are compatible before mounting any tire. If your current tires are tubeless, you may want to look for tires designated TLR (tubeless-ready) or TL (tubeless). If a tire does not carry that designation, check to ensure it is in fact tubeless or you may have a challenge on your hands (a tubeless tire can be used on a non-tubeless wheel, however, a non-tubeless wheel will blow off a tubeless wheel).

Similarly, the size of the tire is a critical factor that can make the difference between optimization, frame clearance, or an un-rideable wheel. The tire size can be found on the side of the tire. Usually, a 700x 25 or some variation can be found written on the side wall. Some wheels come with optimized size tires that will create a better interface with the rim for performance conditions. It ultimately will come down to what is compatible with your rim and rider preference. With those insights in mind, let’s take a look at my top choices from Curated.

Top Five Choices

1. Specialized S-Works Turbo Tire

This one is for the speed demons out there who prioritize speed over all else. Are you one of those riders seeking every bit of watt savings to set a PR/KOM or win a local race? If that sounds like the ideal challenge, then the Specialized S-Works Turbo Tire could be the top choice. Featuring Specialized’s Gripton compound, this tire boasts a lightweight blend with low rolling resistance and great traction to help you rail corners with confidence. This is the fastest tire on our list and comes in three sizes, 700x24, 700x26, and 700x28. It is definitely worth evaluating the wheels on which you will mount these tires so that the optimal tire width is selected.

2. Vittoria Zaffiro Tire

The Vittoria Zaffiro works perfectly as an everyday training partner. These tires are the most durable on our list and offer a rigid bead casing for longevity and performance training. To accommodate a wide range of wheels, these tires come in four different sizes, 700x25, 700x28, 700x30 & 700x32, but keep in mind that the larger size allows for lower tire pressures.

The Zaffiro trades speed and suppleness in favor of puncture protection and mileage. While these are not as smooth as the Michelin or the Specialized tires, they will help keep you rolling with confidence and away from stops at the side of the road with a puncture. If the Zaffiro catches your eye, you should also check out the Rubino Pro. Vittoria's Graphene compound, which covers every square inch of the tire for enhanced ride performance, is also worth looking into.

3. Michelin Power TLR Tire

Close behind the Specialized S-Works Turbo is the Michelin Power TLR tire. Utilizing Michelin’s extensive MotoGP experience, these tires aim to lock in speed and comfort while enhancing durability, grip, and rolling efficiency. The benefit over the S-Works tires is that these come tubeless-ready, which provides numerous benefits including improved ride feel. If you are looking for a faster tire with the benefits of tubeless technology, these may be your next ride.

4. Specialized Nimbus 2 Sport Reflect Tire

Perhaps road bikes aren’t your first choice of bike but you still need a road tire. If you are looking for some fresh rubber to spruce up your hybrid or commuting bike, then your tire should focus on comfort and grip. The Nimbus 2 is available in many different widths to accommodate different riding styles, bikes, and tire widths.

More importantly, however, is the enhanced tread pattern that allows for maximum grip and comfort for both the road or the bike path. These tires are made with Specialized’s Flak Jacket compound to mitigate roadside maintenance, to keep you enjoying the ride for longer. These tires come in sizes 24x1.5, 26x1.5, 700x32, 700x35, 700x38, and 700x45.

5. Maxxis Re-Fuse Tire

Between the hard-hitting race tires for all-out performance and the sluggish training tires prioritizing all-out flat protection, lies the Maxxis Re-Fuse. This tire has been part of Maxxis’ lineup for a while now and is known for its durability. Purposely designed for durability and not speed, Maxxis recommends the Re-Fuse for training and commuting.

The Re-fuse stands above the Vittoria Zaffiro when it comes to performance, and it offers more puncture protection and support. However, this added benefit does come with an additional cost. Also, be sure to identify your tire specs when purchasing because this model is clincher and tubeless compatible. Its available sizes are 27.5x2, 650x47, 700x32, and 700x40.

There you have it! Those are my selections for Curated’s top 5 road tires for your next cycling adventure. Whether you are looking for your next racing tire, training tire, something for on-road or off-road, tubed or tubeless, or more, Curated has your back.

To explore more Cycling articles as you pursue your journey in the sport, check out the Expert Journal here on Curated.

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