Rolling resistance: Are your tyres holding you back?

When it comes to speed, one area where you can buy some noticeable performance gains are tyres. I’m not talking tyre weight, but rather rolling resistance. Fast, supple tyres absolutely make a difference.

A set of tyres with high rolling resistance will require more power from the rider to travel at the same speed, compared to tyres with low rolling resistance. Investing in tyres with lower rolling resistance means you will need less power to maintain the same speeds (or go faster for the same power). The difference between a cheap set of road tyres, and “performance” race tyres can be night and day.

The testing below was performed by Aero Coach, one of the UK’s leading specialists in cycling and time trial aerodynamics. The tyres were tested as either tubeless, or with a Latex inner tube (which are faster than standard Butyl tubes). You can click on the image below to enlarge it:

In their testing, they’ve found a difference of over 20 watts between the fastest tyre and the slowest, and none of the tyres on the list are considered “slow” tyres! Twenty watts is considerable!

I’ve always been a Continental GP4000/5000 man, but a year or so ago switched to Pirelli P-Zero Velo tyres. This was on a recommendation from a friend, but also due to availability during Covid times. I like them, they “feel” fast and at 26mm are pretty comfortable. According to the Aero Coach testing, they’re costing me 4.5 watts in comparison to Conti GP5000 tyres.

A caveat. Those figures are at 45km/hr. There’s still a difference at “mere mortal” speeds, just far less of one. It’s likely only 2-3 watts max and not a difference worth writing about. At our regular speeds you’re really just splitting hairs. It’s likely not going to cost you the town sign sprint to the café.

Now, my time trial bike is where things gets interesting!

My TT rig came shod with Vittoria Corsa Speed 25mm tyres. Vittoria Corsa Speeds are highly regarded by time triallists and are one of the top rated tyres on the chart. Compared to my usual 26mm Pirelli P-Zero Velo tyres, the Corsa Speeds save 10.4 watts at 45km/hr. Even at my lower-end time trialling speeds, that’s a decent saving.* It would take a a lot of hard training to add 10 watts to my FTP.

And they do feel WICKEDLY FAST, although not without compromise! I don’t hold high hopes for their durability/mileage on the rough Tasmanian roads. They’re expensive too. The cheapest I could find right now with a quick Google search was AU$130 PER TYRE! (US$80, GBP£75)

I am considering taking them off in favour of a pair of GP5000 tyres, saving the Corsa Speeds for “race days” only. Continental GP5000 tyres are around half the price. I’ve put tens of thousands of kilometres on GP4000 and now GP5000 tyres. In my opinion, they are a near-perfect balance of price, lower rolling resistance, puncture resistance, and overall durability (mileage).

* It’s technically an even greater wattage saving, as I run Latex tubes on my TT bike, but standard Buytl tubes on my road bike. Every little helps!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks for the info and the caveat. Lots of folks like to quote data that make little difference to us mortals. Thanks for talking about both the raw data and the speed at which they were recorded.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. niall says:

    I found the Conti 4000s disappointing in terms of durability. I thought the last couple of pairs wore out far too quickly and I wasn’t doing huge mileage. Our roads are rough too mind you. When I changed my bike it came with Vittoria Pro something or other which I found very good and bought the same again when it came time to change. My current bike came with Mavic tyres and unfortunately I haven’t cycled enough to wear them out yet 😔 I’d be tempted by Vittoria again next time though…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I was in England, I binned a fair few GP4000’s from sidewall cuts before the tread wore out. That was annoying. These are my first pair of Vittoria tyres. I’ve got friends who swear by them (the more “everyday” ones though, not the fragile race ones).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve Hellaby says:

    Been using Continental GP5000S TR set up tubeless for a while now and love ’em. Yes they can be a bit messy to set up in the first place but I’ve never had a problem using Stans Race sealant. Well actually I had one puncture that didn’t seal but that was because I skipped topping up the sealant when I should have done.
    Looking for rolling resistance gains it’s definitely tubeless for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, my new wheels are tubeless ready and I have all the gear to set them up (the bike shop put tubes in). I may give it a go one day. I am yet to delve into the road tubeless dark side!


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