Here’s the simple answer:
At its most basic, a 700x32c tire is around 27 1/2 inches by 1 1/4 inches (or 1.26 inches).
Yes, but… Unfortunately, nothing’s that simple when it comes to bike tires. Why? Ok, so if we assume that the tires you’ve got on your bike right now state that they’re “700x32c” then you should really only swap them out for replacements that state they’re the exact same size i.e. “700x32c”. Fit a bike tire that’s marked in inches, and there’s a better-than-average likelihood that you’ll have problems now, or further along the bike track (when you’re too far from a nice handy bike repair shop).
But why is this? There are a number of reasons behind it. We’ll look over these in a second and I’ll also give you details of excellent replacement 700x32c bike tires and perfectly-sized inner tubes. Hopefully, these are useful if you’re having difficulty tracking them down from other sources.
What does 700x32c really mean?
700x32c is basically the size of your tire as measured using the old ‘French system’.
If we look at this in details we can see that 700 is the approximate (or nominal) diameter using millimeters of the bike tire. The number afterward, 32, is the approximate tire width (and again, the sizing for this is actually in millimeters). The last c is a historical bit of code that was used to denote the tire width in the French system (i.e. which would be the section of tire you can see if looking at the tire from either in front or behind your bicycle).
But, these days, we can keep it simple and ignore that “c”. In today’s bicycling it’s normally not used. As a bit of background trivia though (maybe for your next office quiz), it was a key part of the French tire categorizing system which split widths up from narrowest (which was called “a”), stretching up to the widest tires (which were called “d”). By that French system, “c” tires were just about the biggest you could buy for fitting to 700 size bike wheels.
What’s so bad about swapping over from 700x32c to inches?
Lots of things in life are never as easy as they first appear… and bike tires are one of them. The problem is that the numbers stated on tire sizing are what’s known as ‘nominal’. It’s not a word that normally crops up in conversation! But it’s a fancy way of explaining that those numbers embossed on the sidewall of your tire don’t often match up closely to the actual dimensions of your bike tires.
There will likely be lots of very important reasons why. Sometimes it can be down to inaccurate manufacturing processes. Sometimes it may also be due to tire manufacturers trying to cut a little rubber thickness from the width/diameter of the bike tire (or sometimes both) so that they can lower the weight of the finished article.
From our perspective, the reason doesn’t really matter. What actually matters is that tires that are ‘just about the right size’ will often not be close enough at all and will give you problems and opportunities-to-learn in the near future.
As with many things, you need to get the proper product to do the proper job.
So, let’s have a closer look at what this means for our 700x32c bicycle tires.
What size bike tire do I need for my 700x32c?
When purchasing your new bike tires, make certain that you pick tires that state they are “700×32”.
When you hunt about online you’ll no doubt see a ton of bike tire sizes for sale. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen so far, tires that seem to be about ‘close enough’ to your correct size will possibly not fit correctly on your wheel rims. This can lead to you having issues to deal with such as flats. You might also need to choose amongst (A) the brand of tire that you want to buy and also (B) the thickness of the ‘tread’ or rubber traction that you wish the tires to possess. For bicycles that will mostly be ridden purely on roads or even smoother paved tracks, then I’m normally a fan of smoother, less grippy, bike tires. They’ll tend to be much speedier and also give you less unwanted juddering as you move along. But always keep mindful that, should you experience slippery conditions such as loose gravel or ice, then it would better to swap to knobblier tires that will give a better grip in slippy conditions.
I’m a big fan of Maxxis tires and the tires shown in the image are a very good example. They’re the ideal replacement size to swap for your current tires and get great reviews for puncture resistance and ease of install amongst other benefits.
Take a close look at the tread pattern and you’ll see that they’re a great all-rounder tire for roads, paths and gravel tracks.
In my view they’re a fantastic choice for bicycles needing 700x32c tires.
What inner tubes should I get for my 700x32c tires?
If you need a new inner tube as well, then you must be sure to match the diameter shown on your bike tires (for us that would be 700) with a width sizing range that also meets the diameter embossed on your tire (32 in our case).
That might sound quite complicated, but don’t worry, it’s actually very simple!
Just like balloons, the dimensions of inner tubes vary with the volume of air that you put into them. So you’ll find that tubes are labeled with the diameter and a width range, e.g. “700×28-38”.
In that case, a tube with the size 700×28-38 would be great for tires from 700×28 right up to, and including, 700×38. The tube shown in the image is a fantastic choice. Notice that it has a Presta style air valve and you’ll need a Presta adaptor like this one to inflate the tubes with an auto-style bike pump.
How do I fit a new tire and tube?
This is where it all comes together – literally! If you’re prepared and have got the right tools, then punctures might be a little frustrating but won’t ruin your day out.
Always make certain, when going for a spin, that you carry a spare tube (I generally take two), a simple small repair kit, couple of tire levers (plastic ones are lighter) and a means of blowing up the new tube. For this, I prefer to use a CO2 tire inflator or you can go with a hand pump. You should then find that it’s only around a half-hour job to the job done and cycle away. You can also use the time to rest the muscles and get yourself a drink and/or snack to replenish your energy reserves.
There are five steps to fixing a puncture:
Remove the bike wheel
Remove the tube
Find the cause of the flat
Repair or replace the tube
Reinstall the bike wheel
For an easy how-to guide, have a quick watch of this video.