Which is Better for Commuting: 700c or 26″ Tires?

Whether you bike commute by choice or necessity, you’ll want the best tires for your ride. But how do you choose between 700c tires and 26-inch tires for your commute? Which tires are better? We’ll help you figure it out. 

700C tires are the best for commuting on a modern road bike. However, for a beach cruiser, older mountain bike, or hybrid bike, 26″ tires are the best.

This article will discuss the difference between 700c tires and 26″ tires for commuting. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each so you can choose the best tire for your commute. But first, we’ll look at some factors to consider when selecting a bike tire. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Bike Tire 

  • Bike Type. Unless you are purchasing a new (or new to you) bike, you’ll need to choose your bike tires based on the type of bike you have. For example, most modern road bikes will require a 700c tire, while modern mountain bikes will probably take a 650c. On the other hand, a hybrid bike or a beach cruiser just might require a 26-inch tire. If you don’t know which tire you need, you can look at the sidewall of the tires that are already on your bike or consult your local bike shop. 
  • Preferred Speed. If you prefer a more leisurely trip, you might enjoy the more relaxed feel of 26-inch, wider tires to the faster speed of 700c tires. But if speed is what you need, you’ll want to look for 700c tires. 
  • Preferred Feel. If you like the speedy, stiff feel of a racy road bike, you’ll prefer the 700C tires. However, if you prefer a smoother, cushier ride, you might like wider, 26-inch tires to 700cs. 
  • Toughness. If you ride in an area prone to causing flats, you’ll want to consider which type of tire will be tougher. If you are a heavier rider, you’ll want to think about which tire size will be stronger. If you are worried about flat tires, this might affect which type of tire you need for your bike. 

Pros and Cons of 700C Tires for Commuting 

If you commute with a modern road bike, you’ll likely need to use 700c tires. These are the most common tires for road bikes. But why are these types of tires so popular? 

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  • Speed. If you need to get there in a hurry, you’ll want a bike with 700c tires. These larger but thinner tires are built to maintain speed. 
  • Distance. If you are going to be commuting a long distance, you might prefer 700C tires. Since you can go faster more easily, you’ll be able to cover long distances better with this larger-rimmed tire.
  • Availability. If you live in an area with an avid cycling community, you’ll probably be used to seeing plenty of road bikes with 700C tires. 700c tires will be much easier to get. 
  • Options. There are many more options for 700C tires, from slicks to gravel, mountain bikes, and everything in between. 
  • Bike fit. Modern bikes with modern tires come in more sizes, so you can choose a bike that fits you better. 

On the other hand, there are a few reasons you might not want 700C tires for your bike. 

  • Road feel. A skinny tire, like the 700c, will transmit vibrations and chatter from the road to you. A thicker, cushier tire will reduce the feel of the road. 
  • Standover height. If you are a petite rider, you’ll have trouble with the standover height of a bike with 700c wheels. You might be more comfortable on a shorter bike with 26-inch wheels or even a step-through bike. 

Pros and Cons of 26″ Tires for Commuting 

If you are commuting on a beach cruiser, older mountain bike, or even a hybrid bike, you might already be using 26″ tires. There are some compelling reasons to use this type of tire and bike. 

  • Availability. If you are commuting in a developing nation, 26″ tires will be more readily available to you. You might also want to consider this if you will also use your commuting bike for bike touring or bikepacking in other countries. 
  • Wheel size. Smaller wheels might be lighter weight and accelerate more quickly. 
  • Maneuverability. Smaller wheels are more responsive and maneuverable when you need to respond to a situation quickly. For example, if you need to dart swiftly around a car door that opened into your lane, a 26-inch tire will react to your steering changes more quickly. 
  • Strength. The spokes of a 26-inch wheel are closer to the hub and much shorter. Shorter spokes make these wheels a little stronger. If you are a heavier rider, you might need sturdier, stronger wheels. 
  • Comfort. Wider, cushier tires will give you a more comfortable ride, which is great if you ride over bricks and cobbles, rough pavement, or other urban obstacles.  You can also run them with a little less tire pressure
  • Flat-resistant. 26-inch tires are typically a little heavier-weight than 700c, making them a little tougher and more resistant to flats. 

There are also some compelling reasons not to use 26-inch wheels. 

  • Availability. In regions with more modern bikes, 700c wheels are more common, and 26-inch wheels are getting harder to find, especially as bike manufacturers stop making bikes that use those tires. 
  • Speed. 26-inch wheels won’t ride as fast as their larger counterparts. Your overall speed will probably be lower on a 26-inch tire than a 700c, given that they are usually wider and have more rolling resistance than a skinny tire with high tire pressure.
  • Tire clearance. If you are riding a road bike, you won’t have the tire clearance needed to fit a 26-inch wheel. You’ll be limited by the size of the wheelbase and potentially by the rim brakes if you have them. 

Final Thoughts on 700c versus 26-inch Tires

If you already have your commuting bike, you are probably already locked into the type of tire it needs. But if you are in the market for a commuting bike, you can help decide which bike is best for you by understanding which type of tire is best for your commute. You’ll need to consider terrain, speed, tire clearance, strength, and of course, availability. 

Sam Benkoczy

Hi, I'm Sam. I own and maintain 6 e-bikes, 15 regular bikes (road bikes, folding bikes, hybrid bikes, city bikes among others). I learned about bikes from my local bike mechanic as well as from bike maintenance courses. I love being out there in the saddle, and using my bike as a practical means of transportation. You can also find me on my YouTube channel at youtube.com/bikecommuterhero Say hi to me at sam@bikecommuterhero.com.

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