When Experts Are Missing Something

Once again Jan Heine and the bicycle quarterly staff have provided sound, in depth research and tire test results.

Off The Beaten Path


Recently, I posted about slick tires and why they tend to offer poor traction, especially in the wet. Almost predictably, some Internet “experts” declared that it was all wrong. One of the more polite comments was: “Wow, lots of misinformation in this article.”

I guess it’s normal: If your research is breaking new ground, the results aren’t what people think they know. But the unexpected isn’t always wrong.

What the “experts” really are saying is: “This isn’t what most people believe right now. It may take a few years until it becomes widely accepted.”


The same thing happened when we first published Bicycle Quarterly’s real-road tire tests a little over eight years ago. Back then, the idea that higher tire pressures do not increase speed bordered on heresy.

The idea that tires roll faster the harder you pump them up seemed so evident that there wasn’t even a need to discuss this. Every tire company expert agreed…

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5 thoughts on “When Experts Are Missing Something

  1. So help me out here… I could, maybe, go from a 23 to a 25… I could even see a little bit of tread, but I went from a Spec. Turbo Pro (slick) to a Bontrager AW-1 (tread and SUPERIOR flat protection) but I’m switching back this year because the AW-1 feels like riding through mud. I’ve heard as much as 1-1/2 mph slower though my experience is closer to 3/4 mph… The question is, for pure road riding (paved only), what’s the best tire? It can’t be the AW-1, I know what I’m feeling and it isn’t just my imagination.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yeah, I wouldn’t be running anything less than 25mm’s Jim.
    I made that switch 2 years ago and didn’t feel like the tires were rolling ‘slower’
    I definitely can feel better edge grip.Now in fairness, I run 23mm wheels as opposed to the standard 20.5mm. So they accommodate the wider tires better. And at 51, I also appreciate the the extra compliance with the wider/softer tires!

    As far as what road for pavement only tire is fastest, I’m not sure. If you feel like it is slower, than it could be. I mean there are many variables to consider. I run Ultra Sport 2 25mm and feel they are as fast as the Vittoria pro slicks I was running. Perhaps it is perception. Maybe you could do a test of your own?

    I think it would depend on the tread pattern and even the depth of the tread and of course rubber compound… so much in the mix it’s hard to pinpoint what works what doesn’t imo. It is such a complex subject for sure. I think trial and error is the best way to determine what works for each individual rider/bike combo.

    I just ordered a set of 28mm Ultra Sport 2’s and can’t wait to see how they perform! My guess is they will give me the ability to lean the bike farther. Sure there will be a small weight penalty, but I am no longer concerned with weight so much. I’m getting slower and cannot climb well. For now, I just want something that will give me the most grip when I’m bombing twisty descents!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not fast fast, though descending I love but I certainly notice a difference with 25mm compared to 23s, both in comfort and perceived speed. I have noticed a difference in different tyres even at my level though. Grip on the rain is important here though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • See how it varies from rider to rider? I find it a very interesting subject FC.

      I don’t feel any perception of a loss of speed or an increased rolling resistance with the wider rubber. (Not fast on the climbs or flats either!)

      Definitely like you say, I feel a difference in descending on the 25mm tires compared to the 23mm. Much more edge grip and that builds confidence for me. I’ve hit 53 down a particularly fast, technical descent and the bike was rock solid stable in the tight corners. (40 mph apex speed)

      Like I said to Jim, I can’t wait to be riding on the 28mm Ultra Sport 2s!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I forgot to address the rain or wet road conditions comment FS. No doubt, more contact patch means better grip, period. That cannot be argued by anyone (well, it can but they would be pissing in the ocean) Anyone who thinks they can argue with physics is a bit short of any sense imo. I have Kenda Kwest 28mm mounted on my first carbon bike (what is now my Backup/winter bike) and I purposely push the front end on wet roads to see how far I can lean the bike over. To my amazement, those 28mm Kwest tires grip pretty damn well.

      Liked by 1 person

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