Road biking is the most widespread form of cycling, and can be an addictive form of exercise. Whether you are a beginner, or have hundreds of kilometres under your belt, the huge range of bikes and tires means there is something perfect for your level. Regardless of experience, one thing all riders should be aware of is the difference that rain can make to your tires and normal routes.
Rain makes any road surface more slippery, and significantly affects the grip of tires on the road. While it is worthwhile regularly checking the strength of your brakes, your chain lube, and general maintenance of your bike, tires are the most impacted area when it rains. The best road bike tires for rain can depend on your specific needs–some people have a separate bike for wet weather (usually one of the first they brought, and kept when they upgraded), while others just change their tires1. If your budget won’t stretch to two separate sets of tires, it is best to get one set for all-round conditions, so make sure you check features such as puncture protection, and whether they are tubeless or not. The important thing is to be more cautious in the rain, as you are more likely to have an accident.
Some of the best bike tires for rain include:
Many of today’s best road bike tires are tubeless as standard, but it is always worth checking. Tubeless tires offer a greater range of pressure adjustment. This is useful when braking or cornering in the rain, as the tire’s casing is able to conform and absorb any abrupt braking2. Basically, the tires can better adjust to any potholes, bumps or road imperfections that are common during rain, as well as capably handle sudden braking or cornering without spinning out. It is easier for the cyclist to remain in control in unexpected conditions.
In wet conditions, the wider the tire, the better. More width offers a better grip to the road. While tire width does depend on your bike clearance and rims, for rainy days, aiming for the casing that will fit in your frame snugly is the way to go3. Wider tires are also proven to be faster, though testing this is not always the best idea in rain! If you get caught out unexpectedly in wet weather, the best way to improve your tires is to release a small amount of pressure. This will automatically create a wider tire, and is the best option for on-the-go rain-friendly tires.
Puncture protected tires
Ensuring your tires are made of a puncture protecting sub-tread is a good idea for any road cyclist, and particularly helpful in the rain. Riders used to push old tires into new ones to give a double-layer of protection, but luckily technology has advanced beyond this. Sub-tread can now be made of rubber, or synthetic fabrics such as Kevlar or Vectran4. The latter tend to be a bit pricier, but can save you money in the long run, as they stop punctures before any damage can occur to your tire. Some tires can also release a liquid sealant, effectively plugging any puncture long enough for you to ride to your destination.
Whether you cycle to and from work every day, just run down to the shops, or try to fit in 50km every weekend, it is always a good idea to be prepared for any kind of weather. Keeping the above tips in mind when searching for the best road bike tires for rain will save unnecessary wear and tear, and also help to keep you safer when cycling in wet weather. Not even rain will be able to stop you from cycling like a pro!
- 2020, Dealing with Wet Weather on a Road Bike, RealBuzz.com
- Lance Branquinho, 2020, The Benefits of Tubeless Tyres, Cycling News.
- Colin Levitch, 2019, Winter Road Bike Tyres: The Best High-Grip, Puncture Resistant Tyres for Your Winter Bike, Cycling News.
- Christophe Noel, 2018, Tire Tech: How Protective Layers Prevent Cuts and Punctures in Mountain Bike Tires, Bike Rumor.