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Road Bike Tires vs Hybrid Bike Tires: What's the Difference?

If you’ve ever been tire shopping for your bike, you’ve likely wondered what the difference is between road tires and hybrid tires. Road and hybrid bikes share the same diameter, typically. However, road bike tires are less wide. This makes the contact area for the road bike tire smaller than that of the hybrid bike tire.

The hybrid tire offers a more cushioned ride compared to the road bike tire. However, the road bike is typically capable of greater speed due to less friction. Although the wheels on both types of bikes are the same, a hybrid bike has the frame to support swapping to larger wheels.

What Size Are Hybrid Bike Tires?

Hybrid bike tires are normally 700c. This means that their diameter is 622mm across. 700c hybrid tires are usually between 35mm and 45mm wide. If you have a hybrid bike currently, you can find the size of the tires printed on the side. The format may either be 700Cx35 or 700x35C depending on the manufacturer. These formats mean the same thing regardless of where the C is placed.

If you are buying replacement bike tires, also pay attention to the pump valve. There are two common types of valves, each taking different bike pumps. They can either be Schrader or Presta. The former is more common in the U.S. and is wider and flat. The latter is skinnier and with an exposed valve at the top.

Is a Road Bike Better Than a Hybrid?

No, both bikes have their strengths and weaknesses. A road bike has smooth and skinny tires with dropped handlebars. It is meant to be ridden in a forward-leaning position and used for racing or other high-speed cycling.

A hybrid bike has wider tires than a road bike. It also has flat handlebars and is ridden in an upright position. It is a rough compromise between a road bike and a mountain bike. Hybrid bikes are usually more comfortable than road bikes.

On a smooth road surface, the road bike will typically outperform the hybrid bike due to its skinny tires and low weight. However, the hybrid bike is more comfortable and can be more easily taken on gravel or dirt.

Why Are Road Bikes Faster Than Hybrids?

Road bikes are faster than hybrids due to a few properties: weight, riding position and tire width. Road bikes have very lightweight frames, especially more expensive ones. They also have smaller and lighter wheels. This makes them poorly suited for a lot of common biking situations. However, on a road, they are much lighter than any other option.

The lighter wheels are especially significant. The reasons are complicated physics, but the end result is that saving a few grams on the wheel is about twice as impactful as saving the same weight on the frame.

Road bikes also have dropped handlebars. This causes the rider to lean forward and low while riding. Aerodynamics play a huge role in cycling. The lower riding position helps the rider slip through the air more easily on a road bike.

Finally, the skinnier tires are better for high speed because they cause less friction. Ironically, being thin makes them less ideal for initial acceleration from a standstill. However, once the rider has built up inertia, the thin tires help to keep the bike moving forward quickly.

Is a Hybrid Bike Good for Long Distance?

A hybrid bike can be good for long-distance riding. Compared to a road bike, a hybrid is relatively comfortable. However, for long races on the road, a road bike is typically better suited because its low weight requires less effort to move. The answer to this question depends on the circumstances of the ride. If it is just a casual ride, a hybrid may be the best choice.

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