How can bicycle rolling resistance affect your ride?

How can bicycle rolling resistance affect your ride?

What is bicycle rolling resistance? How does it affect your ride? Can tyres help to optimise it? If so, which ones? That's what we'll be discussing in this article. 

What is bicycle rolling resistance? 

In simple terms, bicycle rolling resistance is what prevents you from riding fast. There are several factors that produce this: gravity, mass and aerodynamics. 

1 - Mass and gravity 

Your bike and all its components have mass. You, the cyclist, have mass, as does your load (backpack, water bottle...). When you get on your bike, all of these elements form an overall mass that the earth's gravity pulls to the ground, making it more difficult to move forward. 

Take the example of an eraser: the harder you press it down on the table, the harder it is to make it slide. When you're on your bike, it's a similar story. The greater your overall mass, the harder you're drawn to the ground, the harder it is to move forward and the more effort you need to make in order to ride. 

Depending on the gradient of the terrain, the forces either increase or decrease. If you're pedalling uphill, the force of gravity pulls you down harder, in the opposite direction to where you're going. Bicycle rolling resistance increases and you need more energy to counterbalance this force and reach the top of the hill. 

The force of gravity when riding uphill

Conversely, it becomes easier to drive downhill because you're going in the same direction as gravity. Bicycle rolling resistance is reduced and the energy you need to get to the bottom of the hill is minimal or non-existent. 

2 - Aerodynamics 

Another factor in bicycle rolling resistance is aerodynamics, which is closely linked to speed. If you're driving down the motorway in a car and you stick your hand out of the window, it will feel a strong resistance from the air coming against it. If you turn your hand so that it is parallel to the ground, its position will be more aerodynamic and will therefore reduce this resistance. 

On a bike, it's much the same thing. In terms of aerodynamics, the position of the cyclist, his bike and any baggage constitute resistance to forward movement. 

The role of tyres in rolling resistance 

As you can see, the higher the rolling resistance, the more energy you need to expend while pedalling to overcome it. And in this context, your tyres, which are the only two elements in contact with the ground, can in some cases reduce bicycle rolling resistance so that you can make less effort, and therefore use less energy. 

Bike tyre rolling resistance 

As we drive, a zone of the tyre enters what is known as the contact area, then leaves it for the rest of the lap and re-enters it again on the next cycle. Each time it passes, this area of the tyre is deformed, which implies energy consumption. 

An optimised tyre is one that is designed using carcass, rubber, tread and tyre shape technologies that will reduce energy consumption when driving.  

Michelin's expertise helps us to refine these designs to create tyres that dissipate as little energy as possible so that the effort applied to the wheel is exploited to the maximum. This is what we call rolling efficiency. 

Thanks to its expertise, MICHELIN creates tyres that dissipate as little energy as possible

What is the impact of tyres optimised for rolling efficiency? 

It's important to know that, depending on the use, a tyre will have a greater or lesser impact on bicycle rolling resistance. 

On the road, if you're going uphill, tyre optimisation isn't very noticeable, but it is more noticeable during a relaunch phase. This is because the tyre helps to optimise your performance. A non-optimised tyre, on the other hand, can penalise relaunching, particularly in competition. 

It's a bit different in mountain biking or road racing when you're travelling at speeds of over 20 km/h, since aerodynamics contribute over 60% of the energy consumed by the forward motion, which reduces the impact of a tyre, no matter how optimised. 

Which MICHELIN tyres should you choose to optimise your rolling efficiency? 

For road use, our best offer in terms of performance is currently the MICHELIN Power Time Trial.

This is one of our most efficient tyres in terms of low bicycle rolling resistance in the Tubetype tyre category. 

For MTB/Cross-country use, we recommend the MICHELIN Jet XC2 racing line for better performance.

Both tyres benefit from MICHELIN Gum-X technology, which provides better rolling efficiency while delivering a good level of grip. 

If you are looking for more grip, the MICHELIN Force will perform better but with a loss of 2 Watts compared to the MICHELIN Jet XC2.

Finally, our more extreme product, the MICHELIN Wild XC, which is suitable for more intensive cross-country use, offers even better grip, but at the cost of losing an extra 2 Watts.

You too can optimise the performance of your tyres 

Depending on how you use your bike, tyre pressure will play a decisive role in tyre performance and therefore bicycle rolling resistance. And the good news is that tyre pressure is something you can control. 

Pressure for road use 

For road use, the more you optimise the pressure, the more you optimise your performance. 

If your tyres are under-inflated, bicycle rolling resistance will increase. That's why it's important to check and adjust your tyre pressure regularly. 

Be careful, it's not a question of inflating as much as possible, but of inflating to the recommended pressure. Over-inflation is useless and can even be hazardous to your safety.  

At Michelin, the maximum pressure not to be exceeded is always indicated on the tyre sidewall. Make sure you don't exceed it. Also check your rim's maximum permissible pressure. 

Pressure for MTB use 

If you're riding a mountain bike, the pressure you need to adjust will depend on the terrain. On gravel paths with dust or on sand and other soft ground, it is better to ride at low pressure. In this type of surface, high pressure would otherwise mean a drop in performance. Over-inflated tyres tend to penetrate the ground and make it harder to move forward. 

Pressure for Gravel use 

For gravel use, you will have to choose a pressure which enables you to reach the versatility you wish. A high pressure will give good results in terms of rolling resistance on the road, but at the expense of off-road grip. A low pressure will enhance offroad grip, but with potential downsides in terms of pinch protection and on-road rolling resistance. Always make sure not to exceed the maximum pressure written on the sidewall of the tyre and of the rim.  

For more information about pressure, check out our tyre pressure guide.

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