What Does 700x38c Mean For Bicycle Tires (Fully Explained!)

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What Does 700x38c Mean

Have you seen the engravings “700 x 38C” on your bike tire and wondered what secret meaning it has?

What does 700x38c mean?

Well, the label “700 x 38C” stands for a bike tire with an outer diameter of 700mm, rims of 38mm and a width that has a grade of “C”.

But this is not all.

After hours of experimentation and research, we have compiled this extensive guide that allows you to find the BEST 700 x 38C tires in the world!

Today you will learn:

  • The true meaning of “700x38C”.
  • How to change a 700x38C tire.
  • And so much more…
What's In This Guide?

      700x38C: The History

      This system for labeling tires goes back almost 100 years.

      The bike industry was booming. People wanted to buy different types of bicycles such as mountain bikes and racing bikes.

      But there was a problem: a mountain bike tire could not fit into a regular bike.

      So, to make life easier, a bunch of French engineers came up with a labeling system for these tires.

      Numbers such as “700” and “38” can be quickly understood as the diameter of outer wheels and rims, respectively.

      But what does the letter “C” mean?

      To avoid a number splash, the widths of your tires were graded from the letter “A to D”. The letter “A” tire stands for a thin width and the letter “D” is wide. So, a tire with the letter “C” can be considered to be quite thick.  

      How Big is 700x38c in Inches

      700 x 38C tires are around 27 ½ inches by 1 ½ inches.

      Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

      If you try to replace your 700 x 38C tires with tires of 27 ½ inches by 1 ½ inches, it may not fit (What?!)

      Bike tire sizes are often referred to as “nominal”. This is a fancy way of saying that the wheel measurements can be a bit imprecise.

      For example, the outer diameter of a 700 X 38C tire doesn’t have to be 700mm sharp. Instead, it can be between 655mm and 705mm.

      Bike manufacturers know this and create wheel hubs that allow for such uncertainty in tires.

      Unfortunately, each tire type has its range of uncertainty. For example, the outer diameter of a 27 ½ inch by 1 ½ inch tire can be between 26 and 30 inches.

      So, you may (unluckily) receive a tire with an outer diameter of 26 inches. This is outside the deviation of what a bike with 700 x 38C tires allows.

      Be smart, and save yourself time, money and effort by only getting 700 x 38C tires rather than other wonky models.

      Is It Hard To Change 700x38c Tires

      Everyone can do it!

      Replacing tires should be a compulsory topic to learn in primary school.

      Yes, you read that correctly.

      The instructions for replacing the wheels on your bikes are similar to the level of primary school.

      So, get all your materials ready. This includes:

      1.   Your replacement tires.
      2. A Bike pump
      3. Tire levels – A piece of equipment that removes the inner tube from the tire (VERY USEFUL)

       Ok, you have the tools and knowledge. Now it’s time to get to work!

      1. Locate the wheel hub. Use the skewers to remove the wheel from the bike.
      2. Deflate your wheel (if not done already).
      3. If you have just bought your tire levers, get them out of the packaging.
      4. Use the levers to remove the tire from the rim.
      5. Check the rims out and see if it is in ok condition.
      6. Fit the new tires over the rim.
      7. Open the valve and fill up to 50% of the wheel with air.
      8. Make sure the tire can hold pressure. If it does, then continue pumping air until desired.
      9. Pat yourself on the back! You have replaced a tire.

      What Bikes Are Best For 700x38c

      Before compulsively searching for every brand that sells bikes with 700 X 38C tires, take a moment to understand your riding habits.

      What do you use your bike for?

      Everyone has different reasons for riding their bike. Some use it for commuting while others race with it every weekend.

      The second step is to choose the type of tire. Even if you want the cool 700 x 38C wheels, they come in three types:

      • Slick:  These tires are PERFECT for helping you achieve top speeds on a bike. It is probably not the best for daily use as it has low traction (like its name).
      • Hybrids: A mix of performance and traction. You cannot go wrong with a good pair of hybrids.
      • Off-road: You can probably guess where these tires are used. Off-roads contain small, hollowed knobs that hook into the ground while riding. This gives you maximum grip, but it is not very useful for drifting across a corner.

      Another benefit of these off-road wheels is that they can take a lot of beating up by sharp rocks or gravels without causing any problems.

      Ok, you know your purpose (for riding a bike) and the type of 700 x 38C tires you want. There is only one thing left: choosing the correct brand.

      There are TONS of brands that sell bikes compatible with 700 x 38C tires. Below are a few selected high-quality but affordable manufacturers:

      • WTB: The California based company, Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB) specialize in creating cheap but high-quality off-road tires.

      The most famous wheel texture from WTB is called “Resolute”. If you buy this, your 700 x 38C tires will come with unique square knobs that give full traction while allowing supreme stability.

      • Hutchinson: The French company Hutchinson are GIANTS in the industry and have been producing for 160+ years.

      The company specializes in creating hybrids called “Override”. This allows for easy riding while getting solid speed AND traction.

      • Bonrager:   This company provides all types of tires. But they are best known for making your 700 X 38C light and fast.

      If you want to break records on the track, tires from Bonrager are the way to go.

      The Bottom Line

      ​​700 x 38C tires have an outer diameter of 700mm, rims of 38mm, and a grade of “C” width.

      If you are in the market for buying the tires, make sure to NOT get the alternative of these wheels (which are in inches).

      Finally, before clicking the “buy” button, be sure to have defined your riding aims and the types of 700 x 38C tires you want (slicks, hybrids, or off-road).

      In such a way, you can have a fun, fast, and thrilling ride.

      Photo of author
      Bryan Ray is the Co-Founder of The Biking Apex. He's a cyclist and a trainer who loves fitness and loves to teach people how to ride and maintain their bikes and bike accessories.

      The Biking Apex

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