Given a similar bike frame, different tire pressures will give a very different ride feel. High tire pressures will give a harsh ride, while lower tire pressures will give a more comfortable ride. This is regardless of whatever material the frame is made of.
Depending on your usage and requirements, a good set of tires can be defined in different ways. For a road bike, the features that I look out for in a road bike tire would be low rolling resistance, good cornering grip, and lightweight construction. These are the features that will help the bike to roll just that little bit faster. In this case, puncture resistance and off-road grip are not the priority, which is why the tires can be lightweight and have a smooth tread.
On the Merida Scultura 5000 road bike, the stock tires are Continental Ultra Sport 700x23C tires, which are actually a decent set of tires. I have done less than 50km on them, which is too short to actually do a decent review. In any case, I decided to swap them out for 25C tires which are slightly wider for a bit more comfort. On roads that are not exactly smooth, wider tires inflated to the same pressures will have less rolling resistance compared to a narrower set of tires. You can read up this excellent article comparing 23C to 25C tires. Some of the information there are facts, while others are opinions. In any case, you can try for yourself to see if there is really a difference.
My main purpose for getting new 25C tires is to try out for myself to see if there is any difference in ride quality. Although I have done only 50km on the stock tires, I can remember the ride quality clearly as it is my first road bike and I was very aware of the ride feeling.
Before I introduce the new tires, let's take a look at the stock tires first.
Continental Ultra Sport tires. 700x23C with a maximum pressure of 120 PSI.
Weighs 252 grams for one tire. An average weight, considering that it is a 23C tire. Nice to see that it is a folding tire which makes it easier to install/remove and for storage.
The inner tube that comes stock with the bike. CST brand, and is suitable for 18-25C tires. I will use it again for the new 25C tire as it is not damaged.
The stock inner tube is surprisingly lightweight at only 65 grams. A standard tube would weigh about 100 grams.
As you can see, the tire and inner tube that comes stock with the bike are quite decent. A nice Continental tire with lightweight tubes. I will be reusing those inner tubes with the new 25C tires.
The new Schwalbe One tires! It is apparently one of the top level road bike tires from Schwalbe.
Slightly wider at 25C, meaning that it is 25mm wide when inflated. Hopefully this gives a smoother and faster ride.
245 grams for the 25C tire. This is about the same weight as the stock 23C Continental tire. Not bad considering that it is wider and yet has a similar weight.
How it looks when mounted on the wheel! It was easy to mount the tire on the rim, thanks to the folding bead and also good tolerance control on the tire and rim sizes.
Sufficient clearance between tire and brake calipers. Should be able to accommodate up to 28C tires.
Nothing too flashy about this tire, just a plain Schwalbe One logo on the tires.
Some of the features of these tires are good puncture resistance and a supple carcass for lower rolling resistance. There is a whole list of other features, but they don't mean much to me on paper, as it is ultimately about the ride quality.
I had actually swapped to these tires one month ago, but did not write about them until I managed to clock some mileage on them. Up till now, I have done 150km on these tires, and have a rather good feel for these tires and its ride characteristics. 150km is not a lot, but it is enough to get a rough overview of the tire.
The Schwalbe One tires have a maximum rated pressure of 130 PSI, which is 10 PSI higher than the Continental Ultra Sport. A higher PSI rating does not mean that the tire is better, just that it can tolerate over-inflation a little better.
On the previous Continental Ultra Sport tires, I pumped the tires to 110 PSI. The ride was quite good and fast, but it felt a little harsh, despite the supposedly vibration dampening effect of the carbon frame.
Schwalbe One tires are available in different colours for 23C, but not for 25C or 28C.
With this new set of Schwalbe One tires, I pumped them up to 120 PSI, which is 10 PSI short of the maximum pressure. The tires felt rather hard and the ride was not comfortable. I then tried a lower pressure of 110 PSI, which improved the comfort. Finally, I used 100 PSI for the new Schwalbe One 25C tires. This made a huge difference to the ride comfort!
At 100 PSI, the ride felt very smooth and fast. On smooth roads, the tires roll very well and are very silent, and it feels like you can just keep accelerating. On rougher stretches of roads, the tires manages to filter out most of the bumpiness. The ride does not feel harsh like how it feels when riding on over-inflated tires, and yet there is no sluggishness in the ride, which is normally associated with under-inflated tires.
Another way to describe it is to imagine that a rough road is made up of many small jagged imperfections on the road surface. On a hard road tire, this uneven surface will cause the bike tire to bounce all over the bumps, and this translates to strong vibrations and a harsh ride. Now, imagine putting a nice radius on all these small jagged imperfections, by rounding off all the sharp edges. This is the difference and effect that the Schwalbe One tires can make, when inflated to 100 PSI.
At this tire pressure, it gives a perfect balance of speed and comfort, by filtering out the worst of the vibrations, and yet retain the speed by rolling over and absorbing all the small bumps instead of bouncing over all the bumps. This concept can apply to all road bike tires, so you can try changing the tire pressure to see if it gives a better ride.
Lastly, I also noticed that cornering on this set of tires feels really good. Somehow I get the feel of carving through the turns as if on rails, and I am able to find and hold my line easily. I have also done a couple of wet rides on these tires, and they have performed well on wet roads. No skidding feeling when cycling over wet metal drain covers, and generally no abnormalities detected. So far I don't have any complaints about these tires, they have performed very well.
The Schwalbe One tires are a nice set of tires that roll really well and are relatively lightweight. At the right tire pressures, they give a great balance of comfort and speed. As for puncture resistance and tire durability, this can only be known after using it for some time. A top level tire that can possibly make a difference to your ride.