Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.
The Lure of the Track
To the uninitiated, track cycling looks pretty daunting between fixed wheels with cranks you can’t stop turning and those intimidatingly steep velodrome gradients. However, once you’ve experienced the speed and adrenaline, it’s likely you’ll be hooked.
With many bicycle manufacturers offering track racing bikes, it’s possible for beginners to become overwhelmed with the choices they have available. In an industry where the cost of a small family car can be spent on a bicycle, it’s still possible to be competitive on a simple, relatively inexpensive, aluminum-framed race bike that won’t cost the earth. In fact, many racers choose to purchase a track bike for their simplicity.
Cost-Benefit of Clincher Wheelsets
Many of the lower-range track bikes keep costs and fuss down by having clincher wheelsets with relatively inexpensive tires. One example is the excellent Fuji Track Pro. Another great-value-for-performance bike is the Felt Tk3 featuring Rubino slick road tires.
Cost vs. Longevity
Tires won’t last a lifetime. Many riders choose to upgrade their tires as one of the first things they’ll change on a stock track bike once they’ve made sure their position is right. At the high-end, many of us luster for a glamorous set of lightweight and aerodynamic tubular carbon wheels, but it’s not always a justifiable expense. For training, they’re not a necessity. Instead, a better set of tires could add a bit more zip to your ride, whilst enhancing your handling on the banks.
5 Best Clincher Tires for Track Cycling
- Vittoria Diamante Pro Pista
- Continental Supersonic
- Continental GP 4000 S II
- Veloflex Record
- Schwalbe One
1. Vittoria Diamante Pro Pista
If you want a great tire at a reasonably low price, the Vittoria Diamante Pro Pista clincher tire is a great option. The tire is currently selling in the UK for around £20 upwards (although a little more expensive in the USA, at around $50). The Diamante Pro Pista is a great track-specific clincher tire for the money and compares favourably to many more expensive tires.
The Ultra-Light Track Tire (and Great Value for the Money)
One of the best features of the Pista Pro is its exceptionally low weight. At just 150 g per tire, it's designed to be light to limit rolling resistance. The lack of any puncture protection strip signifies that this is a tire for the velodrome only.
220 TPI keeps the tire pretty supple without adding significant expense. Plus, the capacity to handle a claimed 10 bars of pressure (if your rims will allow) means you can pump it up nice and high for low rolling resistance.
As you would expect from a track racing tire, the grip is good to give a reassuring ride on the banks. All in all, the tire provides a great value package that would make a nice upgrade from the stock tires on a beginner track bike whilst being good enough to satisfy even the most discerning of experienced riders.
2. Continental Supersonic
If you're feeling like you are supersonic, needing a gin and tonic to get you through a track league event, the Continental Supersonic could be a great clincher track tire for you.
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The Ultimate Clincher Tire for Speed
German engineered for speed, the Supersonic is fast. It's also one of the lightest tires you'll find at a claimed 140/150 grams (20 mm and 23 mm versions respectively). Thanks to a 310 TPI construction, it offers a beautiful ride.
The downside of such speed is longevity. This is a limited-use road tire. However, the more refined and reliable surfaces in track racing should add to its lifespan. It's a great tire for track racing if you don't mind compromising on its longevity.
Now featuring Continental's Black Chilli compound, the tread has improved over previous incarnations with enhanced strength, grip and better durability. Still, this tire is a choice of compromise in the long term. If you want to ride faster, go supersonic.
3. Continental GP 4000 S II
If you train a lot on open asphalt velodromes, you're well aware that the surface is never going to rival the near-perfection of a wooden track indoors. The track can pick up debris in the wind and the surface can lift, bobble and roughen up as a result of exposure to the weather.
The Best Tire for Balancing Grip, Speed and Longevity
If you are riding an outdoor track, a great choice in such circumstances is a high-quality road cycling tire like Continental GP 4000 S II. This tire features class-leading grip, relatively low rolling resistance and puncture protection (because there's no logic in sitting out a scratch race in training whilst sorting a puncture).
The GP 4000 S II features Continental's excellent Black Chilli compound which increases the tire's durability and grip to satisfy the performance-orientated racer in each of us. A Vectran puncture resistance strip protects from punctures which are a rarity on the track but can occur if you're racing outdoor circuits.
Compared to the other Continental tire featured above, the GP 4000 S doesn't gain a huge amount of weight for its increased durability. The weight for a 700x23 mm tire is a sensible 205 grams, putting it well within the weight band you would expect for performance-driven road cycling tires.
If you're looking for a quick, reliable and long-lasting tire for your track training wheels or simply want something that will happily do what you need for racing, the GP 4000S II is a great option.
If you shop around, you can often pick them up on a special offer for around $50 (USA) or around £20–25 (UK).
4. Veloflex Record
Featuring a tried and tested file tread pattern that's been around for decades, the Veloflex Record demands attention if you're considering options at the premium end of the marketplace.
The Track Tire for When You Need a Little Tread
A claimed weight of 130 grams makes this the lightest clincher tire on this list, but don't assume Veloflex has compromised to get such a low weight. A feather-light 350 TPI casing gives the kind of track feedback you may have only experienced in dreams. This is matted to a file tread that will offer impeccable track handling, grip and speed when you need it.
5. Schwalbe One
Sometimes life is all about compromise. The German rubber powerhouse, Schwalbe, doesn't actually make a track cycling tire. Their One tire has replaced their extensive and well-loved Ultremo line of fast, great grip tires for road races and sportives.
Another Brilliantly Engineered German Tire
Weighing just 205 grams, the One is light for an all-around tire. You could even race on the road in the summer with these, and then swap them to your track bike for the winter months. They're exceptionally durable. The respected publication, Tour Magazine, had a pair on one of their bikes for over 6000 km and suffered just one puncture as a result of a blackberry bush thorn in Southern Italy.
These are great multi-use purpose tires. They are hardwearing but fast and grippy enough for you to switch from using your track bike for fixed-wheel time trials to the velodrome with ease (and without the worry of punctures on the roads).
Overall, this is another great all-rounder to rival the Continental GP 4000 S II as a track clincher for those demanding more than just speed.
If you're looking for bargains, many companies are selling the predecessor to the One—The Ultremo—at very good prices for a great tire.
conrad clark on November 25, 2019:
the Vittoria Pista is the best tyre, pumped up to 150 psi, it has less rolling restitance than any clincer i have ridden
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on September 25, 2016:
Thanks for your feedback David. I'll check them out
David Jack on December 15, 2015:
Challenge Pista. Similar tread to the Veloflex and you can pump them up to 175 psi.
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on February 05, 2015:
Thanks tireless. You never know when you could need this knowledge (It's amazing what will come up in a pub quiz) Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Take Care. Liam
Judy Specht from California on February 02, 2015:
Always enjoy your writing. Must admit I know almost nothing about track racing save what you have revealed here.