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Best road bike tyres: fast-rolling, ultra-grippy tyres for training and racing

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Best road bike tyres
(Image credit: Colin Levitch)

Choosing the best road bike tyres for your intended use can make or break a ride. A good set of tyres is one of the most important weapons in your bicycle’s arsenal. It is, after all, the only point of contact your bike has with the ground and failing to recognise this fact can completely affect the way your bike performs.

You’ll be surprised by how much a tyre can affect the overall efficiency, traction, compliance, rolling resistance and weight of your bike. Technology has also contributed to the evolution of the tyre where wider rim tracks have given rise to a whole new breed of options.

The introduction of wider rubber has all but put paid to the 23mm tyre with the industry now very much in favour of 25-28mm, the benefits of which are greater comfort, lower rolling resistance, added cornering grip and better aerodynamics.

The best road bike tyres for your bike will very much depend on your bike's compatibility, your usual riding conditions, and your own personal preferences. Our pick of the best tyres are listed below, and jump to the bottom to find our comprehensive guide on how to choose the best for your bike. 

The best road tyres you can buy today

Best Road bike tyres: Specialized Turbo Cotton

(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

Specialized Turbo Cotton

The best blend of straight line speed and cornering grip

Specifications
Protection: BlackBelt
Tubeless: No
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher
Width: 24c, 26c, 28c
Weight: 260g (700x25)
Reasons to buy
+Fast-rolling+Low weight+Unparalleled grip
Reasons to avoid
-Rubber known to peel away from casing

The Turbo Cotton is an out-and-out race tyre designed for maximum grip and even more speed. It was launched as far back as 2016 and immediately gained plaudits among criterium racers on tight, technical criteriums due to their unrelenting grip which simply invites you to push the boundaries to the limit. 

More recently, with the help of Roval's Rapide CLX wheels, Deceuninck QuickStep and Bora Hansgrohe have switched to Turbo Cotton tyres in WorldTour races, shunning the old-guard tubular and the new-kid-on-the-block tubeless tyres in favour of good old fashioned inner tubes. 

That's not all though, the Turbo Cotton is still the tyre that Specialized will spec on any of its range-topping race bikes due to its outright speed. It might have been around for a number of years, but the only thing Specialized has done to keep it current is introduce a wider 28mm version, as well as a limited run of Hell Of The North edition, which adds a little more grip. 

(Image credit: Schwalbe)

A grippy, super-fast tubeless tyre geared for competition use

Specifications
Protection: MicroSkin
Tubeless: Yes
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher
Width: 25, 28, 30, 32mm
Weight: 260g (700x25)
Reasons to buy
+Fast rolling+Weight+Grip
Reasons to avoid
-Price-Puncture protection

Tyre manufacturers love coming up with colourful marketing prose designed to entice you in every imaginable way, but with Schwalbe, we’re inclined to believe the claim that its Pro One tyre is the fastest of its kind.

Even at the minimum tyre pressure of 70psi the Pro One delivers great rolling speed, feedback, and pliancy levels. Schwalbe claims the Pro One tyre is 25 percent lighter than its predecessor — it certainly feels this way, even with sealant mixed into the equation.

In terms of puncture protection, the tyres mightn't be the sturdiest out there, but run tubeless, any holes caused by thorns, glass and flint are quickly sorted by latex sealant.

Bar the premium sticker price, the Pro One is hard to trump as far as outright speed and grip are concerned.

Schwalbe Pro One tubeless review

Best Road bike tyres: Pirelli P Zero Velo 4S

(Image credit: Pirelli)

Pirelli P Zero Velo 4S

The best for all-weather race-ready performance

Specifications
Protection: Aramid fibre belt, breaker
Tubeless: No
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher
Width: 23, 25, 28mm
Weight: 220g (700x25)
Reasons to buy
+All-weather grip+Fast rolling+Weight
Reasons to avoid
-Not tubeless

While Pirelli is one of the oldest tyre manufacturers in the world it's better known for the rubber it produces for the car market. Few realise, however, that the Italian company produced an impressive range of cycling tyres until it left the world of pedal-power for internal combustion in the 1980s.

Having recently returned to cycling, Pirelli's current portfolio comprises options not just for road riders but gravel grinders and mountain bikers, too. The P Zero Velo 4S is Pirelli's range-topping all-year-round road tyre, boasting a SmartNET Silica compound and a 127tpi casing which claims to strike a balance between puncture protection and rolling efficiency.

The tyre certainly looks good too, with blue accents denoting its position within the range. In terms of performance, the P Zero Velo 4S tyres offer prodigious grip, speed and water displacement making them an ideal option for wet-weather riding. They come in three sizes for now - 23, 25 and 28mm - and are not yet configurable as a tubeless application.

(Image credit: Continental )

With a choice of black or tan and clincher or tubeless, Continental is the popular choice

Specifications
Protection: Vectran
Tubeless: Yes
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher, tubeless
Width: 23, 25, 28, 32mm
Weight: 220g (700x25)
Reasons to buy
+Performance +Weight+Grip
Reasons to avoid
-Price

The GP4000’s 14-year reign at the top of the Continental pile was usurped by the GP5000, a clincher/tubeless tyre aimed at the performance enthusiast. Recently, continental has followed the en vogue trend by offering the GP5000 in a limited edition tan wall version

Like its predecessor it also employs a BlackChili compound, albeit an updated formula, which claims to be faster and more compliant than before. While puncture protection on both tyre formats - clincher and tubeless - is handled by a Vectran Breaker layer, the latter adds another line of defence comprised of latex sealant.

Despite these innovations Continental has managed to keep weight to a minimum and, in some cases, lighter than the GP4000 - just 220g in 25mm trim, resulting in the fastest and most resilient clincher tyre the company has ever produced.

Continental GP5000 tubeless review

A truly versatile tyre that combines the best of speed and grip

Specifications
Protection: Corespun casing, graphene
Tubeless: Yes
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher, tubular
Width: 23, 25, 28, 30mm
Weight: 255g (700x25)
Reasons to buy
+Performance+Aesthetics+Grip
Reasons to avoid
-Price

The Vittoria Corsa falls under the company’s ‘Performance Race’ range of tyres and is available in clincher and tubular guises. Using an updated four-layer Graphene 2.0 compound, Vittoria claims to have improved rolling resistance, grip, durability, braking performance and puncture protection considerably over previous models.

The Corsa is part of a three-tier range, which also includes the Corsa Speed and Corsa Control. The Speed has continually been a high performer in rolling resistance tests and is the go-to model for time triallists looking for maximum performance. The Control is a durable model designed for fast winter riding. The Corsa sits in the middle as a balance between the two. All of which are available in a choice of tubed or tubeless construction. 

In our opinion, the Corsa TLR is a real contender for the best road bike tyre for all-round use, thanks to superb puncture protection, easy speed and a supple ride feel. 

Vittoria Corsa Graphene 2.0 tyre review

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Ultra-fast, user-friendly, high-volume tubeless race tyre

Specifications
Protection: BlackBelt
Tubeless: Yes
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher
Width: 26, 28mm
Weight: 260g (700x26)
Reasons to buy
+Blisteringly fast+User-friendly+High volume+Low weight
Reasons to avoid
-Limited sizing-Short-lived sealant

Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir is the fastest feeling 28C road tyre we’ve used, but still all-weather confident and really easy to live with. Available in 700 x 26C and 28C, the RapidAir tyres are the result of a long process of testing in Specialized's own factory dedicated to creating the best tyres

Specialized has been developing its new RapidAir tyre for three years working closely with the Deceuninck-QuickStep pro team on the evolution of their silica enhanced Gripton rubber compound and totally new carcass construction.

Despite the generous sizing, the ride feel of the tyres isn’t as damped and ‘warm’ as the smoothest feeling 28s we’ve ridden. It's certainly not harsh, it's more purposeful than plush, but it is intended as a race tyre. It also happens to be - so far - an extremely impressive high-speed, high-volume all-rounder that is also refreshingly easy to live with. 

Read our Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir review

(Image credit: Challenge)

Challenge Strada

The indisputable king of all surfaces

Specifications
Protection: PP3
Tubeless: Yes
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher, tubular
Width: 25mm
Weight: 240g (700x25)
Reasons to buy
+Compliance+Performance
Reasons to avoid
-Price

Soft in feel but hardy in nature, the Challenge Strada Pro is available in both clincher and tubular format. They have an elegant yet retro look about them thanks to the use of tan sidewalls and bold graphics.

At 240g, they're on the lighter end of the weight scale but still manage to provide a compliant and controlled ride quality, something that’s noticeable on bumpier terrain.

Available in 25mm only, the Strada Pro can also be used as a tubeless setup which further bolsters its reputation as a do-it-all tyre.

Vittoria Rubino

An all-round training tyre with exceptional performance

Specifications
Protection: Breaker, graphene
Tubeless: Yes
Bead: Foldable, wired
Format: Clincher, tubular
Width: 23, 25, 28, 30mm
Weight: 250g (700x25, Rubino Pro)
Reasons to buy
+Weight+Performance+Variety
Reasons to avoid
-Prone to puncturing despite protection measures

The Rubino represents the middle ground of Vittoria’s tyre collection, doubling up as training and all-weather racing option. The five-prong line-up offers tyres of varying functionality and weight class - a standard Rubino weighs in at a portly 335g while the race-focussed Rubino Pro Speed just 200g (25mm).

Graphene 2.0 features throughout the model line-up, a compound known for adding life and improved levels of performance to mix. The Rubino offers impressive levels of grip and puncture protection, the trade-off of which is straight-line speed.

(Image credit: Bontrrager)

Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR

The best road bike tyres for commuters

Specifications
Protection: Hard-Case Lite
Tubeless: Yes
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher
Width: 23, 25, 28, 32mm
Weight: 200g (700x25)
Reasons to buy
+Easy tubeless+Puncture protection+Reflective option

Bontrager's R3 Hard-Case Lite road tyres have been designed a combination of speed, grip, durability and protection. They might not trouble the likes of the Corsa or the Turbo Cotton when it comes to rolling resistance, but they'll last considerably longer and offer increased grip thanks to a tread-pattern design for all-weather security.

More importantly, the R3 range is resistant to punctures thanks largely to Bontrager's proprietary TR-Speed compound and updated Hard-Case Lite casing. They are available in both tubed and tubeless construction, of which our pick is the tubeless version. 

The range is pretty extensive and offers sizing options ranging from 23-28mm - there's also a 32mm tyre which is reserved for the tubeless TLR version.There's also a model that utilises reflective sidewall technology for added visibility in low-light conditions.

(Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Maxxis High Road SL

The best for weight weenies

Specifications
Protection: K2 Breaker
Tubeless: No
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher
Width: 25c, 28c
Weight: 170g (700x25)
Reasons to buy
+Price is competitive+Weight
Reasons to avoid
-Limited puncture protection-Not tubeless

Weighing in at just 170 grams (size 25c), the Maxxis High Road SL is a tyre for the weight conscious. They are positioned right at the top of Maxxis' range, touted as the brand's 'lightest and highest-performing tyre' to date. 

At such a weight, it's perhaps unsurprising to see even Maxxis confirm that the tyre isn't built to be durable. 'They're designed to be fast, not last' was the official line at the recent launch. For the time being, we're limited to clincher-type only, however tubeless is set to be made available later this summer. 

(Image credit: Veloflex)

Veloflex Master SPS

Super-light clincher, now carbon-rim compatible

Specifications
Protection: SPS sidewall protection, Kevlar
Tubeless: No
Bead: Foldable
Format: Clincher
Width: 23, 25, 28mm
Weight: 220g (700x25)
Reasons to buy
+Weight+Aesthetics+Now carbon-rim compatible
Reasons to avoid
-Not tubeless

Italian tyre maker Veloflex refers to its clincher tyres as open tubulars, citing the ride quality and feel is on par with the real thing. Weighing 220g, they're also very competitive in this regard and have become a staple choice for weight weenies the world over.

Owing to incompatibility concerns with non-ETRTO-approved wheels, the company has just released its new Master SPS Line rubber designed specifically for all forms of carbon hoops. In terms of performance, the tyres offer similar levels of rolling efficiency and pliancy as the tubulars on which they're based - thanks in part to the core-spun, high-density 320 TPI casing.

Featuring a trademark tan-wall design and prominent Veloflex moniker, the Masters are quite possibly one of the most aesthetically pleasing options on the market.

Pirelli P-Zero race

(Image credit: Pirelli)

Pirelli P Zero Race

The best road bike tyres if you want all-weather grip, rolling speed and durability

Specifications
Protection: TechWALL+
Tubeless: Yes
Bead: Foldable
Format: Tubeless
Width: 24, 26, 28mm
Weight: 245g (700x24)
Reasons to buy
+All-weather grip+Durability and protection
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly harsh ride feel

The Pirelli P Zero Race tyres offer a combination of all-weather grip, quick rolling speed and puncture protection, making them some of the best road tyres for anyone looking to ride and race in grisly conditions. 

If you're looking for even more speed, there is also an SL version, but with that extra puncture protection and wet-weather performance, the standard P Zero Race TLR is our pick. 

That protection is only boosted by the 120TPI casing - not to mention Pirelli's Techwall+ puncture layer, however it does mean that it's not quite as supple as tyres with a higher thread count. 

How to choose the best road bike tyres for you

Clincher vs Tubeless vs Tubular? 

There are three major road tyre types to choose from. Clincher, tubeless, and tubular. Tubular is uncommon on today's crop of road bikes as they need to be glued to a tubular-specific rim, so we'll focus on clincher and tubeless here.

Clincher tyres are probably the tyres you're most familiar with as they've been fitted to all manner of bikes for years. They fit to a clincher-specific wheel, and inside the tyre itself, you'll need to fit an inner tube. This inner tube is sized specifically in both circumference and width to match the size of the tyre it's going into. On road bikes, look for inner tubes with presta valves, as these are designed to hold higher pressures more securely. 

The third, is the more recent invention of tubeless tyres, which have grown at a fast rate over the past half-decade or so. Tubeless tyres are designed to be used in conjunction with tubeless-ready rims and, as the name suggests, they forego the need for an inner tube. Instead, a small amount of tubeless sealant is squirted into the tyre via the valve. This sealant then clogs up any holes that would otherwise puncture the tyre, allowing you to continue riding. 

We have a separate roundup of the best tubeless road tyres, and many of them are now just as good - if not better - than their clincher counterparts. The potential benefits include reduced weight (since they don't have an inner tube), they're often fast-rolling, they can run lower pressures and the sealant radically reduces the threat of puncturing. 

How often do you change your tyres? 

Tubeless tyres can often be a bit of a pain to set up in the first place, since you need to form a seal between tyre and rim before you can inflate it. This might even require the purchase of an air compressor or tubeless 'charger' which is basically a pump that can be filled with compressed air, before blasting all the air into the tyre in one continuous shot. 

This additional setup time means consumers are also slow to take up the technology. However, the best road bike wheels and tubeless tyre manufacturers are slowly conforming to a single standard, meaning fitment is definitely improving.

However, sealant is also inherently messier than an inner tube, meaning anyone regularly swapping between tyres is likely to prefer inner tubes.

What conditions do you ride in?

Your usual riding conditions and terrain will decide the best road bike tyres for your needs. If you regularly take your bike over rough terrain or ride on debris-covered roads, then the added puncture security from tubeless will no doubt make the initial setup worth the hassle. However, if your riding is typically over smoother cleaner roads, then the risk of punctures is less of an issue. 

If you typically ride in wet conditions, then you'll probably want a tyre designed for winter use, which will typically offer thicker compounds for increased protection and increased longevity. Some of the tyres listed in this guide are great options for winter riding, but we also have a guide to the best winter road bike tyres.

Aaron Borrill

Aaron is Cyclingnews' tech editor. Born and raised in South Africa he completed his BA honours at the University of Cape Town before embarking on a career in journalism. As the former gear and digital editor of Bicycling magazine and associate editor of TopCar, he's been writing about bikes and anything with wheels for the past 16 years. A competitive racer and Stravaholic, he’s twice ridden the Cape Epic and completed the Haute Route Alps. When not riding, racing or testing bicycles in and around the UK's Surrey Hills where he now lives, he's writing about them for Cyclingnews and Bike Perfect


Height: 176cm

Weight: 61.5kg

Rides: Cannondale SuperSlice Disc Di2 TT, Cannondale Supersix Evo Dura-Ace Rim, Cannondale Supersix Evo Ultegra Di2 Disc, Trek Procaliber 9.9 MTB 

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