I'm just getting into biking and last week I just purchased a Cannondale Bad Boy 4 from REI. They still have it in the shop as I'm in the processing of moving and they agreed to hold onto it for me.

My question is regarding tires. I purchased the bike as an urban commuter vehicle as I've just moved downtown and am planning on using it for my commute to work. I also plan on taking it on some longer rides now and then on the city greenway (paved path), to get groceries, or to see friends. Nothing super long, maybe 10-20 miles max. The vast majority of my trips will be much shorter though, 1-2 miles through downtown.

I noticed the bike comes with "smooth" tires (not sure the right term for them), which appear (to me) more like long distance touring tires or something. Should I ask REI about switching out the tires with something with a bit of tread? I'm a bit concerned about running into rain on my commute and slick conditions.

The guy at the shop told me that the ones on the bike "should be fine" for what I'm looking to use the bike for and that I should just be sure to be careful in wet conditions. He said if I wanted to, I could get some "gator skin" tires down the road to have as another option. But I don't think I'd be interested in storing and/or switching out tires on my bike. I'd rather just have one set of good tires and stick with that.

Anyhow, what do you think? Based on my situation, should I stick with the smooth tires or see about switching them for something with a bit of tread on them? I'm more concerned with safety than lightning speed. Thanks for any insight!

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    You appear to have true "slick" tires, which are not ideal for your use, but are acceptable. For city riding it's nice to have a modest amount of tread, to better deal with spots where sand/dirt/oil has accumulated on the road. However, a big part of dealing with such spots is learning how to keep an eye out for them and either avoid them or pass through them without "cornering" to any degree. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 3 '15 at 17:45

Bikes don't have enough speed / surface area to hydroplane. A slick does as good as tread in the rain.

  • Thanks Frisbee. Hydroplaning isn't exactly what I was particularly concerned about (at least in my inexperienced head).... what about just slipping out from underneath you on a turn? – Brian FitzGerald Aug 3 '15 at 15:26
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    Rubber on the road is rubber on the road. A slick does as good as tread in the rain as tread. Yes any tire will slip with too much speed. And you get less traction on a wet surface. – paparazzo Aug 3 '15 at 15:33
  • Understood Frisbee, thanks. With that in mind, and considering that slicks are faster, what are the benefits of treaded tires? Thanks for your help – Brian FitzGerald Aug 3 '15 at 15:36
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    In my opinion on the road none. You see a tread on bike tires because people expect tread. Maybe in dirt or gravel the tread helps. In a car tread is used to channel water and reduce hydroplaning. Yes tread does other stuff on a car or truck. But on a bike there is not need to channel water. On a race track they run slicks unless there is standing water. – paparazzo Aug 3 '15 at 18:06

You only need tread on soft surfaces like mud, snow or gravel where the tire can sink into and interlock with the ground. Low tire pressure helps for the same reason, because the tire can cling to the ground and runs smoother.

Unless you have really rough tarmac where some kind of interlocking can happen, a slick, high pressure 23mm tire will have as much grip as a 50mm mountainbike tire.

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    It is sometimes useful to have a modest amount of tread, to deal with surfaces that have a loose coating of grit or muck. This is especially helpful at intersections. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 3 '15 at 17:40

I switched my badboy 2 to schwalbe marathon plus tires to get just a bit of tread for extra grip in wet conditions (and extra leak-proof ness! Not unimportant in a bike for daily use!). There is always some grit or dirt on the road and in the wet some tread just gets you a bit more grip in those cases.

  • Thanks for your response Jilles! It's been so long since I've ridden, I'm not up to speed on all this, but one of the most important things to me is keeping things as low-maintenance is possible. Reading a bit about the Schwalbe Marathon tires, they seem to be quite puncture resistant. From your experience, would slick tires such as the ones that come default on the bad boy 4 be much more prone to puncture? Thank you – Brian FitzGerald Aug 3 '15 at 20:55
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    Hi @BrianFitzGerald, I have no real experience with the puncture resistance of slicks, but from what I understand the schwalbes should indeed be much better (in exchange you get a heavier tire with a higher rolling resistance). – jilles de wit Aug 5 '15 at 13:39

+1 for Schwalbe Marathons - practically a staple for commuters.

For a slightly different angle maybe look at Surly Knards? I have one on the front paired with a Continental Cross King on the back of my cross bike and I use that set up for gravel, road, fire roads, forest trails and pretty much anything inbetween. Only thing I wouldn't use them for would be thick mud as they don't have enourmous amounts of tread.

IMHO the Knard is the most versatile tyre I've ever used.


I've been riding the Bad Boy for 4yrs now in Atlanta. Very bad roads and sidewalks. Up and down curbs and haven't had a problem with the slick 28s. In fact I've had a hell of a time wearing them out so I can get 38-42s with a little tread. I want to go fatter because I have broke a couple spokes. So that would be my advice for your riding. Something a little fatter.

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    If you want to put different tyres on your bike, do that. There's no law that says you have to wear out the old set first. – David Richerby Jan 13 at 11:27

The slicker your tyres the better "grip" on the road because there is more tyre surface in contact with the road. Tread actually reduces the tyre surface in contact with the road.

  • That's true for a perfectly smooth road. However, real roads aren't perfectly smooth and you do get some effect from the treat pattern interlocking with the texture of the road. Overall, though, I do agree that slicks should be fine on the road. – David Richerby Feb 20 at 14:27

The responses saying slicks are just fine are mistaken. I recently had a nice accident sliding on some wet pavement that I shouldn´t have with normal tires. Nope... don´t know why Cannondale went with these as the default.This is supposed to be THE monster urban bike.

  • I'm sorry to hear of your accident. Perhaps the footpath was slicker than you anticipated. Please have a browse through the Tour, found in the Help menu to learn about SE and how its all about the Question and its Answers. This is not a general purpose chat forum, and your answer doesn't really answer the question. – Criggie Sep 27 '16 at 0:19
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    Welcome to Bicycles @Ric. We recommend all new members take the tour, and since you're answering How to Answer is worthwhile also. Typically roads are paved with bitumen, or rough finish concrete, and slick tires grip well even when wet. But surfaces such as steel (access covers) and smooth finish concrete are very dangerous when wet. The big danger is oil on a wet road. Treads make no difference in any of these conditions; where treads are valuable is when there's a loose surface. – andy256 Sep 27 '16 at 3:24
  • I chose to leave answer as is, but let the votes speak. – Criggie Jan 15 at 2:24
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    @Criggie "Perhaps the footpath was slicker than you anticipated." "Pavement" here is almost certainly being used in the American sense of "paved road surface", rather than the Commonwealth sense of "footpath". – David Richerby Feb 20 at 14:26

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