Why I Switched From 28mm To 32mm Tires (deep analysis + one sad story)

From the desk of Rookie,

Hello and welcome to my site 🙂

Today, I am going to tell you about my conversion from 28mm to 32mm tires (on my road bike).

28mm Tires Were Awesome But…

I own a steel retro road bike that I bought second-hand in 2021. It came with 32mm Schwalbe tires, but the fork didn’t have enough clearance for that size.

The clearance between the crown and the tire was so small that you could “open letters with it”. If the wheel was lightly out of true, the tire would “lick” the crown of the fork.

It wasn’t the end of the world, but I had a plan to install full fenders on my bike, and my only option was to downsize my tires.

I went for a 28mm Continental model and put the original 32mm Schwalbes in the storage room even though they were in good condition.


The 28mm model performed well. I can’t complain. Other people reported a higher-than-expected number of flats when using it, but I didn’t have the same experience.

Ironically, I also got a flat on the first day I tested the bike, but that was more bad luck than anything. After that, I kept using the tires care-free for a long time.

The main benefits that I can list immediately are:

  • Extra clearance that allowed me to fit full fenders on the bike. By the way, the tinkering required to install a set of full fenders on a road bike is worth it if you plan on being a dedicated bike commuter.
  • Speed. As expected, 28mm tires let me pump them to a higher air pressure. I’d run them around 5-7bars. One time, I pushed the limit to around 8 bars, but it was way too much. The rear tire was so firm that it was grabbing rocks with the side wall and throwing them around. On a few occasions, this felt dangerous for those around me.

And that’s about it.

There is one more benefit, of course, and that is weight. The narrower the tire, the less material it requires and the lower its weight becomes. But as you can already guess, I couldn’t care less whether my tires are 100-200 grams lighter. I will include a weight comparison between 28mm and 32mm tires later.

32mm Tires Are Simply“Gangsta”

After riding 1000s of km with my 28s, the rear one started to show wear and ought to be replaced. Of course, my initial plan was to do the old “swap the front and rear tire” strategy, but since I already had a pair of new 32mm tires sitting in the closet, I just got one of them and installed it on my rear wheel.

Oh, man. What a difference!

My bike felt almost like an off-road machine that could also perform stupidly well on pavement.

You have to remember that the rear tire is responsible for both – overall comfort and most of the bike’s rolling resistance.

For instance, if you put a wide tire with knobbies, it will increase the comfort but also the rolling resistance. A 32mm model with a road/slick pattern is the best of both worlds when you want performance on paved roads.

(Contrary to popular belief, slick models offer better traction on asphalt than knobbies even in wet conditions thanks to the larger contact patch. But that’s a story for another post.)

So, once I tried the 32mm rear tire, I had only one goal in mind – to install one at the front.

I had three options.

  1. Replace the fork with one that has more clearance.
  2. File the crown of the existing fork ever so slightly to gain a bit more clearance.

It goes without saying that if you go for the second option, you’re losing whatever warranty your fork has.

This is exactly what I did. After all, I only had to remove about 1mm from the forward-facing part of the fork’s crown. And given that my fork was made out of steel (a.k.a. the most resilient material on the planet), I wasn’t particularly stressed.

I filed the spot gently and then painted it again to avoid corrosion.

Then, I installed a 32mm tire at the front and turned my road bike into a commuting monster.

Even before, I was often riding on “gentle gravel”, but with the 32s, those routes became even more fun. Jumping over small stones and dropping ledges was also easier and more stable.

That being said, I noticed that the bike had lost some acceleration prowess.

Honestly, maybe it was all in my head, but that’s how I felt consciously or not. I guess the beefier look of the tire contributed to that conclusion.

Let’s Do a Technical Comparison

In this section, I will compare the technical properties of 28mm and 32mm tires.

I am not a technical guy, at least not as much as needed for ultra-accuracy so I had to outsource.

I’ve taken this data from a site known as brainybiker.com with written permission from the website.

The table below compares the weight of 28mm and 32mm tires: 

28mmWeight32mmWeight
Continental UltraSport 3350gDonnelly LGG 362g
Panaracer Pasela ProTite 280gTeravail Rampart 455g
ZIPP Tangente Course R28 260gContinental Grand Prix 5000 295g
Mavic Yksion 215gWTB ExpanseTCS332g
Tufo Comtura Duo 250gGiant Gavia Fondo 1 445g
Maxxis Pursuer 285gPanaracer CG CX 300g
Schwalbe Lugano II Active 310gBontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite 340g
Teravail Rampart 380gVittoria Zaffiro V 470g
Donnelly LGG Dual 270gContinental GatorHardshell250g
Vittoria Corsa G2.0 270gContinental GatorSkin 290g
Average:287gAverage:342.125g
Weight comparison

So, 28mm tires are about 50-60 grams lighter than 32s on average. Thus, the weight savings amount to 100-120 grams total when using 28s on both wheels.

To me, personally, those weight savings are inconsequential, but I understand that some “weight weenies” might care about this info so I provided it.


But to be more accurate, I also have to include a table that compares 28s and 32s representing the same models. That’s exactly what the next table does.

Comparing the weight of matching 28mm and 32mm tire models:

Model 28mm 32mm Difference 
    
Donnelly LGG 290g 382g 31.7% 
Continental UltraSport 3 295g 400g 35.5% 
Schwalbe Lugano II Active 310g 400g 29% 
Continental GatorSkin 300g 350g 16.6% 
Continental GatorHardshell 410g 450g 9.75% 
Panaracer Pasela ProTite 280g 350g 25% 
Cont. Grand Prix 4-Season 280g 320g 14.2% 
Vittoria Zaffiro 440g 480g 9% 
Continental Contact Urban 400g 445g 11.25% 
    
    
Average:    20.12% 
Model-to-model weight comparison

In this case, we see a more substantial difference. In some cases, the 32mm model is about 100 grams heavier. In other words, we can save up to 200 grams in total.

To me, 200 grams is not a big deal either, although I have to admit that we are approaching a territory (around 500 grams) of weight savings that even I will care about.

Final Summary + Pros/Cons Comparison Chart

I like to do table summaries as they are easier to read and very illustrative.

28mm and 32mm Tires Pros

28mm 32mm
Faster on the road and also lighterNotably better performance on off-road terrain
Slimmer profile (less drag)More stable cornering thanks to the larger contact patch
Higher air pressure resulting in lower rolling resistanceBetter for heavier riders and/or bicycles hauling cargo
Faster acceleration thanks to the lower rotational massLower vibrations resulting is less stress on the joints
More clearance (better for aggressive frames and for people who want full fenders)Better for commuting in cities with subpar paved roads
Better for climbing thanks to the smaller circumference. (Smaller circumference = easier to maintain higher cadence.)Easier to remove from a rim thanks to the extra stretch
Pros

28mm and 32mm Tires Cons

28mm32mm
Reduced comfort due to the high air pressure needed to prevent punctures. Heavier
Harder to remove and install on a rimRequires more clearance
Off-road performance is not optimalSometimes results in sluggish feeling
More drag (less aero)
Cons

The Practical Choice

IMO, the practical choice from a commuting and general cycling standpoint is to go for 32mm tires. The comfort, the stability, and the overall feeling of “invulnerability” along with the decent speed on paved roads are super strong arguments.

I am not saying that 28mm tires are bad by any means. But if I had to pick one of the two, I’d always go for 32, as long as the bike has clearance.

And bros, never forget, that cycling is not about having the perfect equipment, but the journey.

Go out there and have fun with whatever tires you might have. Don’t trade tomorrow for today just because you think that you don’t have the right equipment.


And this brings me to the sad story that I promised you.

There is only one way to say this.

They stole my bike yesterday. I had three bikes. A steel retro road killer, a hardtail, and an urban commuter. The last one is gone.

I locked it near a shopping mall with a folding lock and when I got back some 30 minutes later, I found nothing.

That’s my first bike loss and honestly, it hurts…but I will survive. No worries.

But it didn’t end there, right at the moment when I’d realized that my bike was gone, my girlfriend of 3 years called and told me that we needed to have a “serious conversation”.

As you might guess, that “serious conversation” was bad news for me. That day, I lost not only one but two companions in life.

It is what it is, boys and girls.

I wrote this post to share my experiences and get my mind off the aforementioned problems.

Until next time,

– rookie


Posted

in

by

Tags:

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *