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!