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Choosing tyres for commuting

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Article posted: 27/08/2013

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Tyres are a critical component on every bike in every application. In competition, the right tyres can mean the difference between winning and losing. It is also true that in the field of the daily commute, the right tyre can mean the difference between winning and losing the race to work.

Above: A typical commuter tyre with all the features that you need to look for; tough sidewalls, road-friendly tread and profile, decent width, puncture protection, reflective sidewall and dynamo track.

Durability over Efficiency 

"A superlight race tyre might make your commute a speedy affair but it won’t cut muster day after day on debris strewn streets."  

In the sphere of commuting, these two terms amount to the same thing. Think about it. A superlight race tyre might make your commute a speedy affair but it won’t cut muster day after day on debris strewn streets. For commuting it’s far better to plump for a tyre with more tread, thicker sidewalls and puncture resistance. Repairing punctures at the side of the road when you’re late for work is not efficient in anyone’s book. Think tortoise and hare.

Puncture resistance

No tyres are puncture-proof so don’t believe the hype. However many commuting tyres have layers of puncture resistant material (usually a Kevlar/aramid weave) sandwiched between the casing and the tread as illustrated on the right, making it much more difficult for glass and other debris to penetrate the inner tube. Don’t be tempted to go for slime-type tubes, which claim to automatically fix small punctures. They’re great when they’re working but get a big puncture and they will fill your tyre with goop, making repair nigh on impossible and very messy. Much better to go for better tyres.  Click here to find out more about puncture prevention.

Width

If you are commutifying a road bike, you may be able to go for a slightly wider tyre than stock and reap the benefits of more comfort and better durability. Conversely, if you’re modifying a mountain bike for commuting purposes, you’d do well to drop down to a 37mm tyre width to increase efficiency without compromising comfort too much.

Tread

Go for a tread depth that will give you extra durability and puncture resistance but don’t go for anything too aggressive – you don’t need it. Also, go for a tyre with a nice, rounded profile. It will handle and grip much better in the corners. Don’t believe any of the hype around tread patterns and water dissipation – you’d have to be riding at around 200mph before you aquaplane. However, many riders find that a fine file or herringbone pattern tends to grip well on greasy surfaces without compromising speed too much.

Reflectives and other features

Many commuter specific tyres will have a Scotchlite reflective strip on the tyre sidewall, giving you some much-needed sideways visibility. Other features to look for is a ribbed sidewall – known as a dynamo track. If you’re considering using a bottle type dynamo for lighting, this track will help the dynamo’s drive wheel to grip the side of the tyre, especially in wet conditions.

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