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For me, riding a bike is often practical, good for my health, the environment, etc., but I ultimately ride bikes because I enjoy it.

I'm curious to learn about others' decisions for riding knobby tires on their commuters, aside from practical reasons, which don't interest me.

I tried it for awhile on my CX bike in NYC, and wasn't in love, but I see so many commuters setup with knobbies I can't help but wonder if there is some unexplored land of fun I've yet to experience.

And yes, the 'answer' is: just try it myself again.

  • They like to get a massage while they ride. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 20 '18 at 18:15
  • Since I don't ride knobbies on the road I can only speculate. Flat resistance is a good reason. The thickness of the knob could be the difference between a flat or no flat. – mikes Aug 20 '18 at 22:29
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    Not quite 'knobbies' but I use Specialized Sawtooth tubeless tires (38mm) for my normal commuter - they are gravel/adventure tires. My commute involves riding entirely on pavement, but much of it is a terrible shoulder with debris (small rocks, small branches, glass, etc.). I like the confidence the larger, more durable tire gives me but I realize it's slower. – tylerwal Aug 21 '18 at 2:01
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    A tyre you already own is cheaper than a tyre you have to buy. I have sub-optimal tyres on half my bikes, mostly to use them up. – Criggie Aug 21 '18 at 8:19
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One of my bikes, used as a commuter, is kept seriously cheap. I paid as much for the bike as I've been known to spend on a decent tyre. So it has the tyres it came with (well, one of them, I had a slightly smoother spare in the garage for the other). This bike lives outside 24/7 with a high risk of theft, and does 3km/day. Looking cheap is like a third lock.

That's an extreme example but most people riding around town are riding cheap bikes with whatever cheap tyres some marketing person thought looked good on a bike styled like a mountain bike. Some of these riders are also quite noticeable as they do daft things like running red lights. And it's still much quicker than walking for the same effort.

That accounts for the majority of cases. A few people really like gravel biking and don't like changing tyres. But actually on rubbish roads and with a decent chance of going up/down kerbs even to join official bike paths, a 40+mm tyre isn't so bad, if its smoothish on the centre line

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Rephrasing the question: why do many cyclists riding on paved surfaces use tires designed for unpaved surfaces?

I speculate that it is because many riders choose mountain bikes or near MTB-hybrids because of their practicality and comfortable riding positions, and never swap out the tires.

  • I'm referring specifically to people who spend time and money building up their bikes and obsessing over details, not just people who bike mostly for utility. And if the answer is just because knobbies look cool, that makes perfect sense to me. – Zian Aug 20 '18 at 17:57
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    The same reason people have 4x4 cars: because some day they might go off road and they are preparing for that or at least showing they could in principle pull it off – ojs Aug 20 '18 at 18:00
  • @Zian I dunno then, unless they have a fetish for high rolling resistance, tire noise or vibration. – Argenti Apparatus Aug 20 '18 at 18:55
  • @Zian Do many of those people actually exist? Most people who spend time and money on their bikes are going to have a bike that's appropriate to the conditions. – David Richerby Aug 20 '18 at 22:36
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    @ArgentiApparatus You mean the ones that are available in a thousand different bright colours? Those bikes are fairly cheap and bought off-the-shelf(/internet) so aren't people who are "spending time and money on their bikes." – David Richerby Aug 20 '18 at 22:39
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I can think of many reasons why I used to commute on knobblies.

I owned 1 bike and I am lazy. Changing tires to slicks took longer than the time it saved with a weekend off road ride. Even if I had invested in another set of wheels, I was honest with myself and admitted would probably be too lazy to swap wheeles.

Its just wrong to run slicks on a MTB

If I am riding for fitness, what does it matter if I do an hour at 25km/h or an hour at 35km if I am putting out the same power? With Nobblies, as soon as you slack off, you slow down and you hear it - they keep you honest.

Nobblies are 'tougher' - hit a pot hole or mistime a kerb jump, and you are far more likely to get away with it.

I really enjoyed catching up to slower roadies on slick carbon racers, and watch the cadence go up as the buzzing got louder. Now I understand what Mosquitoes do for fun.

They’re a great excuse when you get passed by a faster roadie.

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    OK but the question's about commuting, not riding for fitness, so the difference between riding at 25km/h and 35km/h is that the former takes you nearly 50% longer to get wherever you're going. – David Richerby Aug 20 '18 at 22:41

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