width |widTHwitTH| noun
the measurement or extent of something from side to side: the yard was about seven feet in width | the shoe comes in a variety of widths.• a piece of something at its full extent from side to side: a single width ofhardboard.• ORIGIN early 17th century: from wide + -th2, on the pattern of breadth (replacing wideness).
In the world of bicycles tires and rims, things are definitely getting wider. There seems to be a growing awareness that wide is somehow better. It's really not a new concept but a return to some previously held wisdom from a bygone era.
Advocates like Jan Heine, editor of Bicycle Quarterly have published their findings on the benefits of wider tires running lower pressures. And it's not just cycle tourists and gravel riders who are adopting this new mindset.
It begs the question as to when we might see wider tires in the pro peloton. For a long time now 25mm tires have been pretty much standard fair among pro road riders. But this may change in the near future as riders fears about going slower on comfy wide tries gets assuaged with the current testing that shows just the opposite.
There has simultaneously been a trend among rim designers to go wider as well. These new designs compliment wider tire profiles perfectly and they also have the benefit of being stronger stiffer rims.
This combination makes for a slightly stiffer wheel with enhanced comfort and only a tiny weight penalty that's offset by improved rolling resistance. This new thinking will challenge the obsession with both weight and aerodynamics as being the all important considerations. There are other factors at play that must be balanced to produce the fastest wheels out there. Stiffness, bearing friction and rolling resistance start to be equal concerns. Maximising all these variables will eventually provide us with the fastest set of wheels known today.
Wider tires have proven to decrease rolling resistance, making them a faster option. With a little less tire pressure they move over rough terrain much better and don't cause the bike to be bouncing excessively. Races like Paris Roubaix come to mind when contemplating the best wheel design to get you over big cobblestones with the greatest speed and comfort.
All of this has made perfect sense to mountain bike riders for years now. Their varied terrain demanded wider tires with a much more forgiving and enjoyable ride. It's the realisation that road riders can now enjoy a more plush ride without paying a speed penalty, and scientific testing has confirmed this to be true. Frame designers will have to catch up to provide more room for wider rims and wider tires.
All in all I see this as a great move forward that has been too long in coming. If I never see another 700X23mm tire again I'll be a happy man.