Technically, all that you need for the cycling leg of a triathlon is a bike with working wheels and brakes.
But if you’re past the beginner stage and you want to maximize your performance, you need to start drilling down into specifics.
One of the things that can have a big effect on your cycling is your tri bike tires. If you’re racing with the ones your bike came with, there may be better options out there for you.
We’ve reviewed the best tri bike tires on the market so you can choose what works for your goals and the races you usually participate in.
Overall, we recommend the Schwalbe One TLE. It’s durable thanks to its MicroSkin carcass construction and RaceGuard puncture protection belt, plus it’s light and streamlined.
Choose from the five options on our list and kit your bike out with the best!
Top 3 Best and Favorite
Schwalbe One TLE
Pirelli Velo P ZERO Velo 4S
Continental Gator Hardshell
1. Schwalbe One TLE
The Schwalbe One TLE is a tubeless tire (as indicated by their label “TLE”). It’s high-quality and durable, using an EPI carcass construction with a variety of innovative and extremely helpful technologies incorporated into it.
First, Schwalbe’s MicroSkin technology is a cross-design fabric that’s applied to the rubber on the inside surface of the tire. As if tubeless tires weren’t already puncture-proof, this layer makes it cut-resistant and airtight, adding to its durability.
Even more puncture protection is provided by RaceGuard, a puncture-protection double-layer of nylon. On the sidewalls, monofile fabric protects from damage and allows for easy tubeless conversion.
These tires are crafted from Schwalbe’s Addix compound, a new formula using advanced raw materials. Their new mixing process and formula result in a tire with better grip, less wear, and improved rolling resistance.
Aside from all of these excellent features, Tubeless Easy Technology also gives you more stability around corners and better damping.
It’s a great choice of tire. The only thing that may make it less than ideal is if you specifically want a clincher tire for ease of use and repair. Or if you need more tread for rougher terrain. The tread on this tire is fairly smooth, and it isn’t the easiest to install.
- MicroSkin carcass construction
- RaceGuard puncture protection belt
- Tubeless Easy Technology
- Monofile fabric sidewall
- May not have enough tread for rougher terrain
- Difficult to put on bike
2. Goodyear Bike Eagle F1
You can get the Goodyear Bike Eagle F1 in both clincher and tubeless, which is a bonus. Both types have excellent features that make them durable and high-performance.
Goodyear has been making tires for a long time. It goes without saying that they’re among the best at making top-quality products that do their job well.
In true Goodyear style, these tires use a dynamic GSR compound (graphene and silica) to give you superb grip and extended durability on a variety of surfaces.
Supple sidewalls are protected by R:Shiled technology, which adds an element of puncture resistance to the tires.
- Available in clincher and tubeless
- Dynamic GSR compound
- R:Shield puncture-resistant belt
- Exceptional grip levels
- Non-lugged tire may have less grip in wet weather
Best For Wet Surfaces
3. Pirelli Velo P ZERO Velo 4S
If riding fast on wet surfaces makes you nervous, you may want to invest in a set of Pirelli PZero Velo 4S tri tires. They’re designed to withstand four-season use, which makes them an excellent choice for wet weather riding.
The tire, made of SmartNET Silica, has a deeper tread pattern than regular tires. The lighting bolt groove pattern mimics Pirelli’s motor racing tread design (Functional Groove Design, FGD), and improves water drainage.
Under the tread, an aramid fiber belt makes the tire cut-resistant and highly puncture-proof. A 127 TPI casing and tread designed with Ideal Contour Shaping technology allows for the best control over the tire.
It comes in three different widths, so you can choose the best fit for you and your bike.
- SmartNET Silica compound
- Motorcycle-inspired groove design
- Aramid fiber belt for puncture-resistance
- Three width options available
- Interestingly, Pirelli doesn’t recommend these tires for triathlons
Top Tire For Racing
4. ENVE SES Road Tire
This tire is streamlined enough for you to be more than happy using it in a race. Its aero-optimized shape has been through the wind tunnel and comes out with proof of its aerodynamics.
Aerodynamics are one part of the Smart ENVE System. The other is the optimized tread design for improved grip. They’re made from a rubber and synthetic blend, increasing durability.
Puncture-proofing is added thanks to a Vectran barrier underneath the tread, which protects the most vulnerable part of the tire.
These tires come in four widths (25mm, 27mm, 29mm, and 31mm) so you can find the right one for your rims and your riding style. They’re tubeless-ready and inner tube-compatible.
They’re also compatible with hookless and hooked-bead rims. Versatile, light, and unusually aerodynamic, these tires are slightly more expensive than others but worth it if you’re into speed.
- Aero-optimized shape
- Vectran barriers
- Available in four widths
- Compatible with hookless and hooked-bead rim
- Can be a little difficult to mount
5. Continental Gator Hardshell
If durability is your main concern, we recommend the Continental Gator Hardshell. Another highly recommended tire company, Continental has created the Gator Hardshell to be able to withstand just about any terrain.
Hardshell ProTection technology covers the tire from one bead to another, three layers deep (6- TPI each). You’ll be much more protected from any kind of debris that could cause punctures or sidewall blowouts with this tough shield.
PolyX Breaker technology creates a tough shell of overlapping polyester fibers. There’s not a lot of space between these fibers and layers, adding an extremely high abrasion resistance to this tire without compromising the rolling resistance.
The sidewalls are protected by DuraSkin, a polyamide fabric casing, so there’s an all-round barrier against external debris, hazards, and objects that could cause damage.
These tires are made in Germany, so they’re created with typical German precision. The only possible problem you may run into is the tire being slightly too smooth for comfort in wet weather.
- Wide PolyX Breaker
- Three-ply carcass
- DuraSkin sidewall protection
- Wear-optimized tread compound
- The Hardshell casing may be slightly too smooth for grip in wet weather
The best tri bike tires will differ for everyone. Here’s what you need to know to choose the best ones for you and your goals!
What Types of Tires are Available?
Clincher tires are the most popular type on bikes today, and for good reason. They’re fairly easy to install and repair if necessary. This means they’re an excellent choice for cyclists of all levels, and they’re the best way for beginners to go.
You’ll clamp these tires to your wheel rim. It uses a small bead to hook onto the lip of the wheel, securing it tightly.
Clinchers tires come with an inner tube. This helps to keep the tire inflated by keeping pressure against the rim.
They’re very easily available at almost any sports or cycling store. Clinchers are also one of the most reliable and safest types of tires.
As the name suggests, these kinds of tires don’t have tubes that keep the pressure inside the tire. Instead, the tire itself keeps the pressure by forming an airtight seal with the rim.
They can also run pretty well at a lower tire pressure, making them a smooth ride over rough terrain. They’re also extremely light.
But the best thing about tubeless tires is that they’re very hard to puncture, because the outer layer is thick and sturdy and there’s no fragile inner tube.
The biggest con is likely to be the price, as they’re somewhat more expensive than the other types. Installation can also be difficult, as you’ll need liquid sealant and possibly an air compressor instead of a regular bicycle pump.
Tubeless tires are also known for slightly inconsistent sizing. If you don’t see the “UST” or “Road Tubeless” labels on them, there’s a chance they may not quite fit your tires.
It’s important to note that some clincher tires come with the label “tubeless ready”. This means they can be used with or without an inner tube, although they’re not true tubeless tires.
Tubular tires have a light tube attached directly to the rubber of the tire. They’re secured to the rim using a special type of glue or rim tape.
The downside? You need a special rim for these tires. You won’t be able to mount them on just any wheelset. These kinds of tires can also be a little more difficult to change in the event of a puncture, as they’re glued securely to the rim.
This also means you’ll need to change the whole tire if you get a puncture, not just the inner tube.
They have some good pros, though. They’re the lightest type of tire, on account of not having a whole extra tube inside them. Tubular tires also perform best under low tire pressure.
This makes them safe, reliable, and also a little more immune to punctures if they’re running at a lower tire pressure.
Things to Consider
You’ll need to know your bike’s wheel size in order to choose the right tires. Two measurements are important here – the diameter and the width. You can find these numbers printed on your tires’ sidewalls.
Width has become a more important number in the triathlon/cycling world in the past few years. 23mm used to be the most popular, but 25mm has become the new favorite.
Technically, a wider tire is more stable and performs better. It’s not as aerodynamic as a thinner one, but the extra millimeters give it a better platform, it maintains its shape better, and rolls more smoothly.
Obviously, the diameter of your wheelset is important and you don’t want to get tires that are too small or too big for your wheels!
Once you’ve figured out which tire type you’re going to use, the next step is to decide what kind of tread you want. Choosing the right thing for where you’re going to be riding is important to maximize your performance and safety.
Road tires usually come in three options: slick, semi-slick, and inverted. Slick tires have no tread whatsoever and are smooth as can be. Semi-slick have chunky tread on the side of the tires to help with cornering.
Inverted tires are designed to offer smooth riding on road-type surfaces and more grip on harsher terrain.
Road tires are typically great for smooth, dry conditions, but tend to be harder to use on wet or rough terrain.
Mountain bike tires are the better choice for triathlons on rougher trail-like terrain. Even so, you’ll have to choose between smaller, more closely spaced lugs (excellent for smooth, dry terrain), and widely-spaced tread (perfect for muddy conditions and those trails with loose dirt).
Threads Per Inch (TPI)
Tires are created from different layers. They’re specified in threads-per-inch (TPI). This can become complicated, but all you need to know is that the higher the TPI, the thinner the tread is likely to be.
That means a higher TPI equals a more streamlined, faster, but less durable tire. A lower TPI means a slightly heavier and slower tire, but much more durable.
What Size Tires Do Pro Triathletes Use?
Most professional triathletes use 21 to 23mm tires. Sometimes, pros will switch between tires depending on the race, the terrain, and the conditions, but 21 to 23 (inflating to 25+mm) are the most popular sizes that the pros use.
As a beginner, this isn’t really something you need to think about. But if you want the safest, easiest-to-handle tire, you’d do well with a 25mm (inflatable to 28+mm).