I'm from, Kolkata, India, and the place isn't best known for its roads, at least. Thinking of getting a new bike.. But I happen to be someone who's got absolutely no knowledge about any, and I'm even yet to ride a geared bike!

I don't want to run into many punctures and still have a comfortable ride. The bike would mostly be used for commute and then for longer rides during the weekends (100 kilometres or more). I'm guessing if I have thinner tyres they're very likely to get punctured often. So I chose relatively thick tyres, but not too thick since that'd get me lower speeds.. Would 700×35c tyres be better or 700×32c?

The attached image I'd of how typical roads here happen to be, if there arises a need for reference.

typical roads in Kolkata

  • 4
    With this type of terrain you improve rolling resistance by a tyre with good damping, that is a wide tyre.
    – gschenk
    Aug 17, 2020 at 14:53
  • 5
    There are wide tires that are delicate, and there are narrow tires that are sturdy. You want wide tires that are sturdy.
    – Adam Rice
    Aug 17, 2020 at 15:46
  • 2
    What's the max clearance for your frame and brakes? Aug 17, 2020 at 17:41
  • @Daniel, that's the problem, the bikes available round here and within my budget don't tell me what the clearances are, but I believe my options would be able to accommodate upto 38c tyres.
    – Timon
    Aug 20, 2020 at 7:03
  • @Timon - Use a ruler ("rule") to measure it. Aug 20, 2020 at 12:19

3 Answers 3


Good wide tires don’t necessarily have bad rolling resistance. If you have to go slow because of bad roads it will slow you down much more (and be much more uncomfortable).

I’d consider going even wider than 35mm or at least get a bicycle which has the option of fitting wider tires.

I’m not sure what’s available in your area but I’d get something like the Schwalbe Marathon Racer or Marathon Almotion or Continental Contact Urban or TopContact.

Punctures are not directly related to tire width. Pinch flats are mostly related to low tire pressure (i.e. your pressure being so low that the tube gets pinched between tire and rim).

  • 3
    Timon, if you cannot ship anything wider than 35 on the bike you like, you'll manage these roads still easily. There is not compelling reason to go to a tyre that is narrower than what your frame allows. Just don't take a bike with anything below 28.
    – gschenk
    Aug 17, 2020 at 14:52
  • 2
    Punctures are somewhat related to tire width too. A larger, supple low pressure tire would be more likely to conform to a sharp object instead of forcing it all the way thru the rubber. However in this respect, the difference between 32 and 35 mm seems quite marginal to me and will not help at all if the tire is habitually inflated to the same pressure. Aug 17, 2020 at 15:06
  • 3
    Just noting that Marathon Racer is one of the worst rolling lightweight tires. Even the thick basic Marathon is better.
    – ojs
    Aug 17, 2020 at 16:51
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    @Michael the slower tires are all heavy touring tires except Kojak, and Marathon Racer is marketed as fast lightweight one. Anyway, now that "gravel" is a thing, there is a lot more choice in lightweight wide tires than some years ago and the 35mm rule from cyclocross isn't so much a limit than before.
    – ojs
    Aug 18, 2020 at 7:12
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    @Timon wider is nice but 35c really is fine for any type of road, even very bad ones. I rode across India on 35c and I only would have wanted wider for situations where I was off-road (like on sand, or mud). On a street, even like the ones pictured, 35 is fine. Bear in mind as well that 35 is often more like 40, and on a bike that takes 35 you can probably go to 40+. I'd also consider mudguards (fenders), these really are essential IMO for a general utility bike you are going to ride in all weathers. I don't use them on my road bikes but I tend not to ride them in the rain much either.
    – Ivan McA
    Aug 18, 2020 at 7:34

On this poor road, if you have the choice between 32mm and 35mm, definitely pick the 35mm, but I would advise an even wider tire, something between 45mm and 60mm at least. You could also consider >100mm fatbike tires. The road doesn't look so bad that a fatbike is a necessity but it's something for you to consider.

Don't select the bike based on the stock tires it has (unless you want fatbike tires in which case you have to buy a fatbike). You can always change the tires. Other components may be more difficult to change. However, the rim width can constrain the width of tires you can mount on them so avoid bikes that have narrow rims.

However, do note that bikes tires suffer from punctures more than car tires. Especially on this road! There are two approaches to punctures:

  1. Always carry the tools required to repair punctures with you (tire levers, mini pump, patch kit, spare tube) and select tires based on their low rolling resistance which means low puncture resistance
  2. Select tires with high puncture resistance which means high rolling resistance. In this case, punctures are rare but they still happen so you'll probably still have to carry a puncture repair toolkit with you unless you ride only distances short enough to walk.

Usually for strategy (1) I would recommend the widest low rolling resistance tires you can find (which in today's market seems to be Continental Grand Prix 5000 32mm).

For strategy (2) I would recommend some truly puncture protected tire like Schwalbe Marathon Plus. It still occasionally suffers from punctures but more rarely than low rolling resistance tires.

In my opinion, on reasonable roads strategy (1) is better because the time you lose repairing punctures is only less than one tenth of the time you would lose because of the puncture protection increasing rolling resistance.

For this road, I might consider strategy (2). The widest Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire seems to be 622-47 so it's 47mm wide.

Unfortunately, for fatbikes, tires as well puncture protected as Schwalbe Marathon Plus don't seem to be easily available (or at least I couldn't find such tires), so if you select a fatbike you'll have to sacrifice on puncture protection.

  • 2
    You can easily do 100km rides on tyres with good puncture protection. My first few 200s were on marathon mondials (like marathon plus but with more tread). Or you can buy something with good puncture protection on the tread but supple sidewalls. A fatbike would be overkill and hard work for the longer rides
    – Chris H
    Aug 17, 2020 at 16:02
  • Well, the description of the tyres say that they're made of "durable nylon that lasts long and is puncture resistant". The 35c tyres are from Ralson (they are known for offering "quality" products at the price tag).
    – Timon
    Aug 17, 2020 at 17:27
  • 8
    Fatbikes are for "floating" over sand and snow, ie loose stuff. There's no need for that on the pictured road.
    – Criggie
    Aug 17, 2020 at 19:20
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    There is a happy medium between GP5000s and Marathon Plus. Things like the Marathon Supreme, Vittoria Voyager Hyper, Marathon Almotion. All decent puncture resistance. Many high end "gravel" tyres these days, Rene Herse, or the likes of the Schwalbe G-One. Less resistance there. It's a false dichotomy, that if you go wider than you can get in a high end road racing tyre you must go IMMEDIATELY to the Marathon Plus. There are many other options. I'd never put the Marathon Plus on any bike I own because it is an incredibly heavy, horrible riding tyre. I did once, 20 years ago. Never again.
    – Ivan McA
    Aug 18, 2020 at 7:44

The general rule today is that wider is usually better, up to the point where it exceeds your frame's and rims' limits, taking you into a different bike type.

Your photo shows what would be considered a gravel road by Western cyclist standards. Such roads are best served by 32 to 47mm tires, on the wide side of road tires, what's known as gravel bikes today. 42mm will be better than 35.

Tire rolling resistance, as measured on a flat surface, is of most concern on good quality asphalt/concrete roads. Elsewhere, the better traction provided by wider tires, and especially tires with some thread, wins hands down. Narrow tires are vulnerable to surface irregularities and don't save much except for weight and drag.

Since bikes that are "just right" might be expensive, if cost's a concern, you could also consider a mountain or hybrid bike, which tend to use ~2" wide tires. They're not as well-geared for speed. The main reason 2" tires are "slower" than 47mm is that they're usually fitted to "slower" bikes, and tend to be knobbier.

A hardtail can make the ride easy on your hands, eating up all the bumps, but a suspension fork is still very optional here. Against small potholes, 2" tires at moderate pressure are sufficient suspension by themselves.

Wider than 2" is off-road tire territory, and any increase over 2" won't add value here. I often have to ride asphalt (to the actual trails) on a 3" tire, and you begin to feel the extra weight and rolling resistance there. Wider than 3" is fatbikes, and these are for snow or very loose terrain. With 35-47mm, the loss vs narrow tires is just a small amount of weight and drag.

At your level, the "engine" is more likely to limit the speed than the bike. The differences comes from road, CX or gravel bikes having faster gears and a more aggressive riding position, which saves on drag. But this position also takes some effort to get used to.

All in all, it's not SUV vs racecar; it's maybe 1-2 km/h of average speed between a "fast" cyclocross and a "slow" mountain/hybrid bike, for a rider that's just starting out and doesn't take either to their limit. Pick the bike you're comfortable with, both riding and maintaining, not the one you think might be faster.

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