5 of the Best Clincher Tires for Ironman Triathlon
Searching for Seconds for Your Next Ironman Triathlon
When it comes to race day we all want to do our best. Whether it's a faster bike split or overall time for an Ironman we put in the training with race day in mind. But when it comes to our events we're looking at every possible option to enhance our performance.
If you're looking for a faster Ironman your tires could be holding you back and costing your vital seconds. We've all heard of athletes using a pair of Continental Gatorskin tires in an Ironman for their puncture protection but is this going overboard when they offer slow speed, additional weight which could subsequently add to muscle tiredness and their damp conditions grip being of question that could further slow you down.
With a little research and investigation upgrading your tires could be one of the easiest and cheapest ways of enhancing your Ironman race performance
You've Got The Bike, Helmet and Wheels- Could Your Tires be Slowing You Down?
The Trade-Off. Puncture Resistance, Speed and Weight
There are some fantastic and fast clincher tires on the marketplace, however that counts for little if you puncture mid-race and have to spend time fixing a puncture. Many racers have fitted an ultra-light tire and cursed the subsequent puncture in the opening miles of a time trial event.
For many an Ironman triathlete there should be a degree of compromise between lightweight and puncture resistance. As their no neutral service like seen in many bike races it makes sense to take necessary precautions, yet fitting puncture proof winter or commuter tires will really slow you down and sap your much needed energy.
Having ridden much of the Ironman Lanzarote bike course it's worthwhile to note that some of the roads are rough and rugged. Particularly the sections up to, and down from the impressive Mirador de Rio at the North of the Island. These tough sections put additional demands on your bike which might not usually be a consideration in your race planning.
Why choose the Schwalbe Ironman
Designed for Ironman races
Light at 185g
Schwalbe Ironman- Specifically Made for Long Distance Racing
Schwalbe believe that at an average of 25 mph (40 km/h) over a 120 mile bike leg their Ironman tire can save a rider 3 minutes. That's pretty significant time when you add in other bike related aspects that can save you time from an aero helmet, to deep section wheelsets and an optimised aerodynamic position.
The Ironman tire features a 22 mm profile to help cut through the air more aeodynamically to enhance performance and their RaceStar compund creates a tire with great rolling resistance whilst offering grip when you really need it whilst only weighing a paltry 185 grams per tire.
Ironman Specialist Tires From Schwalbe
More on the Schwalbe Ironman Tire
Why choose the Continental Grand Prix TT
Continental GP TT
Time trial orientated
World Championship winning pedigree
180g- ultra lightweight
Ultra supple at 330 TPI
World Championship Pedigree- The Ultimate Clincher Tire for Time Trials
As used by Germany’s Tony Martin during his World Championship winning ride in Copenhagen, 2011 the Grand Prix TT has shown just what a clincher tire is capable of when you consider that every pro cycling team tends to use tubular tires.
It's exceptionally light at 180 grams and features an ultra fine 330 TPI casing for suppleness and added road feel. Puncture protection is via the Vectran puncture protection which adourns the near bulletproof Gatorskin tire.
Featuring a small, low rolling resistance central tread and sipped edges for enhanced surface area whilst cornering the Grand Prix TT is as close to a specialist clincher tire as you could get. As with all specialist tires longevity will be compromised so they're best to save for race day.
Continental Grand Prix TT- The Ultimate Ironman Clincher
The Perfect Balance Between Rolling resistance, Grip, Puncture Reistance and Longevity
Why choose the Michelin Pro4 Service Course
Pro4 Service Course
Balanced between performance and durability
Great wet weather performance
Moderate weight at 200g
Speed and Durability- Michelin Pro 4 Service Course
If you're looking for a road tire that can handle bother wet and dry conditions well the Michelin Pro 4 Service Course could be a great tire for a faster bike split whilst limiting puncture risk.
The Pro 4 is a great compromise tire for Ironman racing. Fast enough to race competitively as many top road cyclists will attest, yet with enhanced grip for those fast mountain descents such as the twisty 10km downhill from Lluc at Ironman 70.3 Majorca. The Pro3 was a favorite amongst racers and Michelin have made adjustments in compound to enhance wet weather performance as you never know what race day could throw at you.
At a sensible 200 grams per tire the Pro4 won't hold you back or sap vital energy away but it will help smooth out rougher surfaces where required and allow you to attack corners both whilst racing and training.
The Michelin Pro4 Service Course Tire for Ironman
Why choose the Challenge Record?
Traditional file tread for purists
300 TPI for suppleness
Double puncture protection
Another Contender for Your Bucks- Challenge Record Open Tubular
You may not have heard of Challenge tires however there's a possibility you may have ridden some tires which have been made by them over the years labelled with another company name.
Challenge are a company that make some very high end bicycle tires. Many of their tires feature exceptionally high TPI numbers which create supple, great feeling tires. The other benefit to such a high thread count is the dense web of fibers which add better puncture resistance to a carcass
The Challenge record features a 300 TPI carcass and a claimed weight of 215 grams which is slightly heavier than many of the tires mentioned above. This doesn't mean the Record is heavy and it features a double level puncture protection strip for race reliability.
The tread pattern is a very traditional file tread which will please the purists and they also offer exceptionally low rolling resistance to satisfy even the most demanding of racers.
Why choose the S Works Turbo Cotton
S Works Turbo
24mm casing for lower rolling resistance
Fast with great road feel
Supple 320 TPI casing
Wider Tires Equal Lower Rolling Resistance- S Works Turbo 24 mm
The latest road cycling tire from Specialized features a wider 24mm profile which Specialized believe offers significant benefits on rolling resistance when compared to the 22 and 23 mm tires featured above.
It's a tire built for speed that will satisfy the racers with it's sublime ride and suppleness thanks to a cotton casing. However it's 320 TPI cotton casing means they're best not to get wet or alternately you'll need to treat the tire casing for protection from water. The soft sidewalls are also a little more susceptible to cuts.
If you're looking for a high performance, race day only clincher tire the S Works Turbo Cotton could be ideal however their lack of a significant puncture protection could be limiting come race day in the wrong conditions
This is a great tire if you're willing to take some chances on puncture resistance but will not stand up to the regular abuse of rough roads anywhere near the levels of a middle of the road tire like the Michelin Pro4.
What's Your Favorite Clincher for Ironman Events?
We're always interested in your feedback. What's your favorite clincher tire for racing and what do you prioritize for your events? Speed or puncture resistance?
Thanks for reading
Liam Hallam (CyclingFitness)