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5 of the Best Clincher Tires for Ironman Triathlon

Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.

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?

A Merida Timewarp in action. Could your tires for Ironman racing be slowing you down?

A Merida Timewarp in action. Could your tires for Ironman racing 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

Schwalbe Ironman

Designed for Ironman races

Aerodynamic advantage

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

Michelin's Pro4 Service Course tire offers professional peloton performance with enhanced durability. These are great tires in conditions where the weather can be unpredictable

Michelin's Pro4 Service Course tire offers professional peloton performance with enhanced durability. These are great tires in conditions where the weather can be unpredictable

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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?

Challenge Record

Fast Tire

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)

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