Today’s question is about putting skinnier road tires on a hybrid bicycle in order to go faster and keep up with the road bikers…

Hi Coach Levi, Not to long ago I wrote to you about whether I should trade in my bike (Scott Sportster P6) for a road bike. I was told by my brother to stick with this bike and he may upgrade in the future and he’ll give me the road bike he has now (Orbea.) let’s suffice it to say that convinced me to stay with it. I was told by some people on a forum to replace the 37c tires that it came with to something smaller like 28c/30c, will this make it faster in the long run?

I know mine is no match to his speedwise but just to add a little more speed what size do you think I should upgrade to?

Thanks,
Hybrid Henry

Hi Henry,

I bet you could feel a noticeable difference if you put some new rubber on there. I haven’t seen the bike’s tires in person, but I saw them labeled as “700x37c semi slick.” So not only are they wider than necessary, there is probably excess rubber to add weight, and an excessive tread pattern to add rolling resistance. That’s not necessary when road riding.

I would upgrade to a 700x28c tire that’s as slick as possible. Not many actual racing tires come in that size, but there should be a few decent options.

It might also be possible to go to a 700x25c tire. That reduces the tire width by about 12mm (half an inch,) or 50%. And you get more options, as many racing tires come in 700×20-25c sizes.

The main question is, would it fit the rim? You would need to make sure the rim is narrow enough. I think the rim should be ~ 15mm wide (measurements are for inside rim width) to run the 700x25c tire. (You can do further reading here.)

Or you can measure the outside rim width with a caliper and make sure it’s narrower than the tire you want. If the rim is wider than the tire, that’s not good!

To be safe, though, it’s probably best to stick with a 700x28c tire or larger.

All that said, you might not notice much difference in speed. It’s still a hybrid, after all. Since I haven’t done this exact swap I can’t say for sure.

The situation is similar to another question I had about getting a cyclocross bike and putting skinny tires on it, rather than buying a true road bike. It’s just not the same, and after the time and money spent trying to make it into something it’s not, you’ll probably be left disappointed.

Worst case scenario, you put up with the slow hybrid, then you notice a gigantic speed increase when you switch to the road bike later!

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