For several years we’ve heard of their lower rolling resistance, and experienced firsthand the improved comfort & grip of larger road tires. But pro roadies have been resistant to change. That time for change seems to have come, as 28mm tubulars become de rigueur in the peloton of the World Tour. And lest we forget the controversies of just a few years ago… rim brake tracks look to be disappearing as well.

“The rise of the 28 tubular”: wider tires are faster!

The Rise of the 28mm tubular, Pro roadies get fatter to go faster: Behind the Peloton at Gent-Wevelgem, photo by Mikey van Kruiningen
Wanty-Gobert – all photos courtesy of Mikey van Kruiningen

With the Spring Classics underway, Mikey van Kruiningen head mechanic for the Team Wanty-Gobert has given us a unique glimpse at what goes on Behind the Peloton. What do we see?

Mikey calls it “The rise of the 28 tubular”. And it’s certainly not limited to the 28mm Continental Competition Pro Ltd tubulars glued to his own team’s Fulcrum Speed 55T DB wheels on Cube Litening C:68 bikes…

The Rise of the 28mm tubular, Pro roadies get fatter to go faster: Behind the Peloton at Gent-Wevelgem, photo by Mikey van Kruiningen
Dimension Data
The Rise of the 28mm tubular, Pro roadies get fatter to go faster: Behind the Peloton at Gent-Wevelgem, photo by Mikey van Kruiningen
Trek-Segrafredo
The Rise of the 28mm tubular, Pro roadies get fatter to go faster: Behind the Peloton at Gent-Wevelgem, photo by Mikey van Kruiningen
EF Education First

With more wide carbon wheels being raced at the top level of road cycling now, there is less of an aerodynamic penalty for stepping up to wider tires. So pro riders are finally taking advantage of what lab tests have shown to reduce rolling resistance, decrease rider fatigue, improving comfort, grip & control. And Gent-Wevelgem doesn’t even feature the harshest cobbles that will come into play over the next couple of weeks of racing. (It only has about 2km of proper cobbled climbing out of the 250km course.)

The Rise of the 28mm tubular, Pro roadies get fatter to go faster: Behind the Peloton at Gent-Wevelgem, photo by Mikey van Kruiningen
Correndon-Circus
The Rise of the 28mm tubular, Pro roadies get fatter to go faster: Behind the Peloton at Gent-Wevelgem, photo by Mikey van Kruiningen
Sunweb
The Rise of the 28mm tubular, Pro roadies get fatter to go faster: Behind the Peloton at Gent-Wevelgem, photo by Mikey van Kruiningen
Bora-Hansgrohe

We also notice that out of the photos of wheels from seven different teams that Mikey sent, only one has a brake track. And even those are on a spare bike where you can see in the background the team’s A-bikes have rotors. Clearly disc brakes are no longer an oddity in pro racing either.

23 COMMENTS

    • Maybe, but 28c tubulars weren’t widely available before, so we don’t know what they’ll choose come July. The pavement in the Pyrenees is fairly nasty and might be an incentive to run them. As mentioned in the article, these photos were taken at Gent-Wevelgem, a 250km race with only 2km of pave in it.

      • They were available from a few small French manufacturers (and in 30mm too) that were widely used. Now Conti, etc are getting into the game.

        Gent Wevelgem had 2km of flat pave in it but all the climbs are cobbled as well.

  1. +1 And if they had the choice between rim and disc brake this would also look different. Many teams proclaimed to be disc only this year. Synergy effects for the industry are more important than common sense. 😉

      • ^This. There is still a choice, but it seems people buying new bikes are overwhelmingly choosing disc brakes. Often, the pros are the last to adopt a change.

  2. The ONLY reason pros ride disks is that they are FORCED to by the team. Disks, tubeless… the bike industry won’t give up on forcing them on everyone. Both tubeless and disks have SOME application that they excel at but BOTH have significant limitations and downside. The problem is, the average consumer is too overcome by hype and marketing to make rational decisions.

    • It’s so exciting that your extensive survey of every pro rider on every team came out to corroborate exactly your specific personal feelings on the matter. You seem to have your finger on the pulse. Thank you for doing all the research.

      • I’ll answer for him a bit.

        1. Weight. No less than 1 pound added to the bike. Pros want a light weight set up.
        2. Hydraulic fluid brakes that need bleeding before every race rather than nearly maintenance free cable activated brakes. Yes you bleed them that often if your career is based on you actually finishing a race.
        3. Brakes need to have a nice modulation because pros just want to scrub speed not come to a complete stop.
        4. That hot little rotor sucks to be around when you are bar to bar in a sprint finish.

        • 1. This one’s going to pretty irrelevant since pros will soon be racing only on disc brake equipped machines.
          2. Maybe. I’m not convinced yet that pro mechanics are bleeding the brakes every day.
          3. Disc brakes tend to modulate better and have more consistent modulation.
          4. Meh. I bet there are very few sprint finishes where that rotor is actually hot. It’s only going to get really hot on twisty downhills.

        • 1)Bikes can easily be built at the UCI weight limit, even with disc brakes
          2)Codswallop. Hydraulic disc brakes need FAR less maintenance than rim brakes. I’m not riding for my livelihood byut I am pretty finicky about my gear performing well, and I bleed my brakes only once every couple of years on average. For all those scenes of riders hanging onto a team car while the mechanic adjusts their RIM brakes to stop them dragging, some of them have to be legit:)
          3)Disc brakes have vastly better modulation than rim brakes.
          4)Anyone dragging their brakes to heat up their rotors won’t be featuring in a sprint finish.

        • Most of those are terrible reasons. I’d say the biggest disadvantage to disc brakes in the pro peloton is neutral wheel incompatibility and slow wheel changes. Sometimes a team car is just not around to do a bike swap.

        • “The 4 Myths of Road Disc” – by Colin M
          Thought the post was tongue in cheek but there’s too much anger for that.

        • hate on me all you want. I’m just telling what I’ve heard from pros (who aren’t the most highly educated and prone to believe misconceptions)

          You’ll have to wait from direct input from a real pro who doesn’t want to go disc. the BikeRumor “journalists” ought to get you that information first hand. I doubt they will give that interview as they don’t want the common bicyclist site know-it-all to call them stupid and behind the times. They just want to race their bike and cash those checks.

          BTW weight is still weight. That is why you still see pros on canti brakes in cyclocross cross. it may seem stupid to you but again a racer is in their head a lot when their career is racing bikes.

          • I asked the mechanic from this post (I’ve been following him for awhile on instagram) and he’s always pretty responsive to questions. He said they almost never bleed brakes, but do use the reservoir to tap any air out.

          • And the influence of bike weight or bike component weight on bike performance is not as influential as you might suggest. If it were, every bike in the pro peloton would weigh in at 6.8kg. The evidence shows that bike weights in the pro peloton are above and, often, well above 6.8kg.

  3. It was almost impossible even several years ago to visit the comment section of an article about road disc brakes and not be presented with endless whining and postulating. Even those that NEVER used disc on road wanted to make sure how much anyone else using them simply rubbed them the wrong way. It’s akin to writing endless drivel about cherry slurpies. If you don’t like cherry, don’t buy that flavor of slurpy! Literally no one is forcing it on you.

    And still, years later, the same cavalry from operation rescue, here to save the day and save us from ourselves so we don’t end up quitting riding altogether because riding disc on road is so filled with endless horror.

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