28 vs 32 Tires: Are They Equally Good for Road Cycling?

From this article, you will learn the difference for 28 vs 32 tires, how they work on various terrains and feel on the road
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Last updatedLast updated: April 08, 2022
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Every bike needs tires, though there are a few different options to choose from. Different tires work for different terrain, so you can’t just put any tires on your bike and expect to go from city streets to rugged trails. The size of the tire can determine the best type of terrain that it is suited for, so you need to choose carefully.

For this reason, we’re going to compare 28 vs 32 tires. The different widths of these tires affect how they accelerate, their speed, the air pressure, and even the comfort you’re feeling when you’re riding. If you’re unsure which ones are the best tires to put on your bike to get you where you want to go, check out our comparison review below.

32 mm Tires Overview

32 mm tires are wider tires, which gives you more traction and shock absorption. These features are why these tires are often found on mountain bikes or gravel bikes. Of course, these tires aren’t perfect, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of what these types of tires have to offer.

Pros

A wider tire gives you more traction on uneven surfaces, plus they can absorb more of the shock Trusted Source Wear and Tear of Tyres: A Stealthy Source of Microplastics in the Environment Wear and tear from tyres significantly contributes to the flow of (micro-)plastics into the environment. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov when you’re hitting those bumps, ensuring more comfort during your ride. The extra comfort and support also reduce how much time and energy you have to spend avoiding bumps, so you can ride longer with less strain. They also offer more security and stability around sharp corners, which also helps when carrying extra weight.

Cons

The 32 mm tires are somewhat heavier than the smaller sizes, which adds weight to your bike. They also don’t accelerate as quickly, are less aerodynamic, and aren’t great for climbing. The fatter tires may not fit onto all forks and frames, either, so you can’t use them on every bike.

28 mm tires Overview

The 28 mm tires are lightweight and narrow, which makes them great tires for bike models designed for smoother terrain, like road bikes. These tires do lack the width and traction of wider tires, so aren’t great for rugged areas, though for commuting to work or riding paved trails in cities or towns, they are great options.

Pros

There are a few benefits to using 28 mm tires over the larger ones. These narrower tires are faster and more aerodynamic than 32 mm tires, so they offer faster acceleration and higher speeds on smoother terrain. They are also lightweight, so are easier to lift, and hold more air pressure.

The fact that these tires are so narrow also ensures that they can fit on a variety of forks and frames, so you can use them on more bikes than larger tires. This also gives you more room to install fenders without any complicated adjustments.

Cons

Though there are a lot of benefits to using 28 mm tires, there are also a few reasons you may not want to use them. These tires can be difficult to change since the thinner tires are more challenging to insert into a rim or be removed from one.

The thinner tires also don’t offer much shock absorption, so you will feel every crack and bump in the road, making them a poor choice for uneven terrain. The higher air pressure required also makes the tires quite hard, so they will bounce off of any obstacles. This makes them much more uncomfortable and even dangerous to use when off-roading.

28 mm vs 32 mm Tires Compared

There are several differences worth noting when comparing 28 mm vs 32 mm tires. To help you understand exactly what each one has to offer, we’ve broken the features down into separate sections. This will help you determine which tire excels in each area and which one is best for the type of terrain you’re planning to use your bike on.

Air pressure

Tire air pressure for bikes and other vehicles is measured in PSI, or pounds per square inch. The higher the air pressure, the harder the tire will be, though you don’t necessarily need hard tires for them to perform well Trusted Source The effect of tyre pressure on the economy of cycling Cycling requires power generation to overcome gravity, air resistance, and rolling resistance. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov on every surface. For instance, mountain bikes require a tire pressure between 25 and 50 PSI, which makes the tires softer and more comfortable to ride on over rugged terrain. Road bikes are usually rated at about 80 to 120 PSI for more stability on even terrain.

The width of the tire is also something to consider when it comes to air pressure. Wider 32 mm tires have more air volume, which means you can actually use lower air pressure to give them more traction and shock absorption capabilities. Narrower 28 mm tires have less air volume, so need higher PSI levels to keep you from bottoming out on uneven surfaces.

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

Ride comfort

As we discussed above, there is a difference in terms of ride comfort when comparing 700×28 and 700×32 bicycle tires. The thinner tires have higher air pressure, which makes them much harder. Though there are benefits, like stability during sharp turns, the hard tires don’t absorb shock, so you feel every single bump, crack, or stone you travel over. This can make for an uncomfortable ride, so these tires are best used on the smooth, paved paths and roads of a city or town rather than any rugged off-road trails.

The thicker 32 mm tires can hold less air without damaging the tires, giving them a bit of bounce as you ride. This way, when you hit a bump, the tires on your bike absorb most of the shock without riding the rim. Your ride is much more comfortable, even over rough surfaces, so you can use these tires almost anywhere.

Weight

Though the 4 mm difference between the width of the 28 mm and 32 mm tires doesn’t seem like a lot, it can actually add more weight to the tires than you may expect. If you take a look at the table below, you’ll notice that every single 32 mm tire weighs more than the brand equivalent 28 mm tire. In fact, the smaller tires are about 20% lighter on average than the 32 mm options.

The lighter, narrower tires may not be that much noticeable when you lift the bike onto a bike rack or into the back of a truck. What it does affect is the aerodynamics, so the thinner tires have less wind resistance and can move faster.

Model 28 mm (grams) 32 mm (grams) Difference
Donnelly LGG 290 382 31.7%
Panaracer Pasela ProTite 280 350 25%
Continental UltraSport 3   295 400 35.5%
Continental Contact Urban 400 445 11.25%
Vittoria Zaffiro 440 480 9%
Continental GatorHardshell 410 450 9.75%
Schwalbe Lugano II Active 310 400 29%
Continental Grand Prix 4-Season 280 320 14.2%
Continental GatorSkin       300 350 16.6%
Average: 20.2%

Speed

The narrowness, lighter weight, and higher air pressure of the 28 mm tires offer higher speeds on the smooth surfaces of paved roads. For those commuting to work who want to get there quickly rather than spending a great deal of time in traffic, this is a definite plus for these tires. Of course, this doesn’t help you on rough terrain, so if you want to go faster on those rugged trails, it’s best to stick to the higher traction and heavier weight of the 32 mm tires.

Acceleration

Acceleration is defined as how quickly your velocity changes over time, which is determined by the speed and direction you’re traveling. When it comes to bike tires, acceleration refers to how quickly you can speed up or slow down using the specific tires on your bike. The lighter weight and narrow width of the 28 mm tires are the results of less material used to make the tires. This also reduces the rotational mass, so the tires can spin faster for better acceleration.

The 32 mm tires are larger and heavier, so they spin slower. Though they still offer decent acceleration, it is lower than what you’d expect from the smaller tires.

28 vs 32 Tires: Are They Equally Good for Road Cycling?

Resistance

The resistance refers to the force you need to fight against to keep the bike moving forward. The main cause of resistance on the road or trail is due to the deformation of the tire where it comes in contact with the surface of the terrain as the wheel turns. The larger wheels, like the 32 mm options, remain rounder under pressure as you ride, so they have less rolling resistance. Narrower 28 mm tires have more resistance.

Of course, this is only the case when the two tires are inflated to the same pressure. If you add more air to the 28 mm tires, it will reduce the rolling resistance, though this hardens the tires and makes them less forgiving over those uneven areas.

Can 28- and 32-mm Tires Be Interchangeable?

No, 28 mm and 32 mm tires are not interchangeable. Aside from the differences that we discussed above, there are a few other reasons that these two tires can’t necessarily be swapped out.

First, the width of the rim on your bike will determine how wide of a tire you can use. You also need to be sure that both the frame and forks have the clearance needed for larger tires. Each tire also works well on specific terrain, so changing them out will affect how well it can handle certain surfaces as well as your comfort level during your ride.

Final Thoughts

Every type of bike needs tires, though not all tires are created equal. You need to consider where you’re going to be using the tires and what kind of ride they’re going to give you before choosing a set for your bike. When comparing the 28 vs 32 tires, there are benefits and flaws for both choices.

The 28 mm tires accelerate quickly and have faster speeds on smooth roads, though they are much more uncomfortable on rougher terrain. The 32 mm tires are wider and can handle less air pressure to absorb shocks over bumps. This means that you need to consider exactly where you’re going to be doing the majority of your riding and pick the tires that have the most advantages for those rides.

References

1.
Wear and Tear of Tyres: A Stealthy Source of Microplastics in the Environment
Wear and tear from tyres significantly contributes to the flow of (micro-)plastics into the environment.
2.
The effect of tyre pressure on the economy of cycling
Cycling requires power generation to overcome gravity, air resistance, and rolling resistance.
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