28mm vs 32mm Tires: What’s Best for Road Cycling and Commuting?

The material below compares the characteristics of 700x28c and 700x32c tires and aims at helping you make a more informed choice. 

The Advantages of 28mm Tires 

The main advantages of 28mm tires over 32mm are: 

1. More Speed (on the road) 

28mm tires are narrower, lighter, and support higher air pressure. Those properties make them more aerodynamic and faster when riding on smooth roads.  

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 Gator
Hardshell
250g
Vittoria Corsa G2.0 270gContinental GatorSkin 290g
Average:287gAverage:342.125g

Conclusion: 28mm tires tend to be 16% lighter than 32mm tires on average.  

The next table compares 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% 

Conclusion: 28mm tires are 20% lighter on average than the same 32mm model.

Air Pressure Comparison 

The table below compares the air pressure supported by some 28mm and 32mm tire models. 

Model 28mm 32mm Difference* 
    
Donnelly Tire Strada LGG 85-105 PSI 40-80 PSI 23.8% 
Continental UltraSport 3 80-116 PSI 65-102 PSI 12% 
Continental GatorSkin 95-116 PSI 85-102 PSI 12% 
Continental GatorHardshell 95-116 PSI 85-102 PSI 12% 
Panaracer Pasela ProTite max. 115 PSI max. 95 PSI 17% 
Cont. Grand Prix 4-Season 95-115 PSI 85-102 PSI 11% 
Continental Contact Urban 80-110 PSI 65-94 PSI 14.5% 
    
Average:14.6%

*The difference column expresses the discrepancy between the maximum air pressures supported by the two tires.  

Conclusion: On average, 28mm tires can operate at 14.6% higher air pressure.

2. Faster Acceleration 

The lighter weight of narrow tires results in lower rotational mass.

In simpler terms, this means that slimmer tires are easier to get spinning because there’s less material to move. The end result is better acceleration.

This is also one of the reasons why professional cyclists stick to fairly slim tires (25mm is the current standard.) 

The greater acceleration of slimmer tires is appreciated the most during racing when you have to get back to speed after a tight turn.

For commuting, however, the acceleration boost offered by 28mm tires in comparison to the 32mm models is negligible.  

3. Low Rolling Resistance on the Road 

When the air pressure is the same, wider tires have a lower rolling resistance than their narrower brothers.

Why?  

Because wider tires deform less under pressure. Consequently, they remain rounder (closer to a perfect circle) and roll more easily.

In different, narrower tires deform over a greater length and showcase a more pronounced deformation (less perfect circle). This hurts rolling resistance.

However, this is the case only when both tires are representatives of the same model and have identical air pressure.

Most of the time, narrower tires are inflated to greater values. The extra pressure prevents the tire from deforming and decreases its rolling resistance on the road.  

When comparing 28mm and 32mm models, the same principle stays true –28mm tires can operate at a higher air pressure keeping their rolling resistance low.

That said, if you use the same air pressure for both widths, the 32mm tire should actually roll better provided that all other parameters are equal. 

Note: The difference in rolling resistance between 28mm and 32mm tires is too little for an average cyclist to notice on their daily commute to the office. 

4. Slimmer Profile  

28mm are notably slimmer than 32mm models. Their “slim figure” allows them to fit on a greater variety of frames and forks.

The extra space makes the installation of fenders easier too.

The Disadvantages of 28mm Tires 

1. Less comfort 

Narrower tires can’t hold as much air as wider tires of the same diameter due to the restricted space.

In consequence, a slimmer tire needs less air to reach the PSI of its wider equivalent. The low air volume makes narrower tires more susceptible to pinch flats at low PSI.

Hence why tires with a slim profile have to operate at higher air pressure. The end result is a very firm tire transmitting the road irregularities to the rider with great precision. 

The extra vibrations result in more joint strain, energy expenditure, and consequently fatigue.

2. More difficult to remove and install 

Thinner tires tend to be more difficult to install and remove from a rim. This could be very frustrating when changing tires on the side of the road.

Having said that, the tire model and its structure influence how easy or difficult it is to change a tire too.

A 28mm tire is not always harder to put on than a 32mm, but in many cases, it is.

3. Worse performance on off-road terrain 

High air pressure improves rolling resistance on smooth roads but has the opposite effect when riding on uneven terrain.

Tires pumped to the maximum are rock hard. This state prevents them from deforming and absorbing the irregularities of the road.  

The tire bounces off the obstacles and makes the ride uncomfortable and even dangerous. The rider has no choice but to slow down or else too much traction would be lost.

For the same reason, mountain bikers ride low air pressure tires and go tubeless to drop the PSI even further.

Tubeless systems allow you to get away with even less air since there isn’t an inner tube that can get pinched.  

In the word of off-road riding, low PSI equals speed and safety.

The Advantages of 32mm Tires 

The advantages of 32mm tires over 28mm are as follows: 

1. Better performance on dirt and light gravel/off-road terrain 

32mm tires are only 4mm wider than 22mm models. The difference may not sound like a lot from a width perspective, but it’s actually substantial when you account for the total volume increase of the tire.

Width augments linearly whereas volume increases in 3D (cubic fashion).  Those extra 4mm result in a perceivably more voluminous tire better suited for facing suboptimal conditions.  

Bikes that use 32mm tires perform better off-road because the lower air pressure and the additional width contribute to greater shock absorption. Instead of bouncing off irregularities, the tire squishes.

This phenomenon has a positive effect on the cyclist’s stability because the bike remains “grounded”. 

Of course, 32mm tires are still too thin to absorb big bumps. You will need an MTB or a street tire for that. 

2. More stable cornering 

Wider tires make sharp cornering feel more stable thanks to the larger contact patch resulting from the extra width and the lower air pressure.

3. Better for Hauling Cargo 

If you intend to use your bicycle as a transporter, a wider will enhance the experience by increasing the bike’s stability and reducing the stress transmitted to the frame and the cargo.  

4. Reduced Vibrations and Joint Stress 

Wider tires are more forgiving and spare the joints from some of the strain. If you’re experiencing, wrist, elbow, shoulder, or back pain, you could consider softening your ride via more voluminous tires. 

5. Better for Cities with Imperfect Roads 

If you live in a city where the roads are full of potholes, wider tires will make the ride safer and more pleasant. 

6. Extra Endurance/Lower Fatigue 

The comfort of larger tires conserves energy that would otherwise be spent on fighting the bumps on the road. The saved bodily resources will allow you to cover a greater distance. For that reason, a wider tire may end up being faster in the long run. 

The Disadvantages of 32mm Tires 

1. Worse climbing performance 

Wider tires have a larger overall circumference than thinner tires. The additional height and the low air pressure (squishiness) have a slightly negative effect on the bike’s climbing performance.  

Note: A 700x28c tire has a 2130mm circumference and a diameter of 678mm. On the other hand, a 700x32c tire has a 2155mm circumference and a 686mm diameter. The difference is only 1.17%. 

2. Sluggish Feeling  

Switching from a narrower tire to a wider one can make the bike feel a bit sluggish.

In this case (28mm to 32mm), however, the change isn’t as substantial and that aftermath is reduced. If you were to go from a 23-25mm tire to a 32mm, you are a lot more likely to experience this issue.  

3. Less Aerodynamic 

In theory, 32mm tires are a bit less aero than their thinner 28mm versions. The discrepancy is small and has no impact on an average cyclist’s performance. 

4. More clearance is needed 

32mm tires fit fewer bikes due to the extra volume. If your frame and fork have poor clearance, this could be a problem, especially if you want to run full fenders. 

Summary 

28mm tires offer slightly more speed and acceleration on the road, but the improvement comes at a price – a harsher ride and less grip on off-road terrain. 

32mm tires make the ride more comfortable and perform better when the surface is less than ideal.  

If the highest priority is speed on smooth asphalt, 28mm tires have an edge.

Meanwhile, 32mm tires are a better choice for commuters and people who want to reduce the stress on their joints caused by road vibrations.  

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Dave G

    Brilliant! Something explained in a clear and concise way. Told me all I needed to know as I am thinking of using 32mm tyres on my bike. Thanks

  2. Vítor

    Good analysis, thanks !
    Now, I’m riding on 28mm tubeless. I run them at around 5.5 bar, which I think is comparable to the 32mm tube-types. Do I get the best of both worlds ?

  3. Roanna

    So simple to understand! Thank you

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