Earlier I wrote an article about the best ways to upgrade your road bike, and it sparked this question…

I was interested in your “Upgrade a Road Bike” column, as I am on one of the bikes mentioned, a Trek 2.1. Will upgrading the tires really make a noticeable difference? I’ve gotten about four flats as of late after about 1200 miles on the stock Bontrager tires and getting really frustrated, so better tires are appealing. But should I notice a big improvement in the ride, speed, etc? Looking at Continental 4000s… Thanks,
Tired Tim

Hi Tim,

Yes indeed, upgrading tires makes a huge difference. I’m not sure if you thought I was playing a practical joke on you, but I assure you, I speak the truth.

Going from a stock tire to a pro-level tire will offer many benefits. First, there is a big difference in road feel and ride quality. The good tires use fancy rubber compounds that yield a supple tire, making for a smooth “riding on air” feeling.

Second, the biggest improvement – cornering. Due to the amazing traction offered by the quality rubber, cornering is much more stable and therefore can be done much faster on good tires.

Speed in a straight line on a smooth, dry road will be virtually the same, but who rides on perfectly straight, perfectly smooth roads?

However, since the tire will be a little lighter, there could be a slight improvement in speed.

(*As for flat tires, I don’t consider those in a comparison unless you’re switching to a heavy-duty tire designed specifically for flat protection. The reason is, given the same conditions and riding style, any performance tire will be as susceptible to flats as any other.)

Any way you look at it, the upgraded tires are worth it.

I haven’t ridden the latest version of the low-end Bontrager tires, but the ones I rode in the past don’t even come close to nicer tires. Going from those to any brand of mid- to high-end tire is like night and day!

For $100, there’s no better investment than good tires and tubes. You’d get more improvements by going to tubular or tubeless wheels and compatible tires, of course, but that upgrade will cost you as much as (or more than) the Trek 2.1 cost you!

So my personal favorite upgrade is switching to Michelin Pro3 Race tires and Michelin latex tubes. Purchased on eBay, the cost is about $100. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a Continental 4000s, I’ve just been happy with Michelin.)

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  1. I bought the Michelin Pro3 Race tires on ebay and they definately improved my cornering. I really like the tires (although I got a cut in one on my first ride and had to replace the tire).

  2. @Bryant

    Don’t you just hate it when that happens? I think it’s more common to rip brand new tires than it is to rip your older tires that are almost ready to be replaced anyway.

  3. I can vouch for the Continental 4000s. I put a pair of 700x25s on this year and they ride fantastic. As Levi says, smooth ride and excellent cornering. Worth every penny. Would ride again.

  4. @John Doe

    Thanks for the input. The Continental grand prix (4000, 3000, etc) were always at the top of my shopping list, but for whatever reason I started riding Michelin and have stuck with them.

    (Note: your comment was originally caught by my firewall, which did not log your name and info, so I resubmitted the comment under “John Doe.”)

  5. FYI – I just switched to the Continental grand prix 4000 from the Michelins. I got another flat on my century last saturday (tiny piece of glass) and then today while sprinting my front tire completely blew out. I thought the tire was going to come off the rim.

    So since both tires now have cuts/holes in them and I’ve already replaced one I’m switching to a tire that hopefully will be more durable and the Pro3 Race.

  6. Every bicycle sucks with the stock tires.

  7. I just upgrade to the grand prix 4000 all seasons from Maxxis Detonators that came stock on my Devinci SL4. I had not expected to notice any difference and am happy to report the difference is night and day. They are so much softer and absorb bumps more than I could have imagined. Because of this I’m able to inflate them from about 90 PSI on the old tires to 115 to 120 and I think this has made for a much faster ride and is still just as smooth. Easily the best investment I could have made. After this experience I’d suggest never riding on the stock tires just bite the bullet and invest in new tires.

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