Modern bike tires are fantastic marvels of engineering and manufacturing, with a vast array of options. There is no one perfect tire. My goal is to help you fit the tire to the riding situation. Factors in tire selection include: width, tread pattern, weight, puncture resistance, durability, handling characteristics and price.
The lighter the tire, the faster your bike will ride, climb and accelerate. Folding tires reduce weight by replacing the steel wire bead with Kevlar or a similar material. They may be more expensive, but in my opinion, folding tires offer the most performance per dollar you can spend on your bike!
Wider tires have many advantages, including comfort, increased mileage, flat reduction, traction, and rim damage prevention. The current trend for road riders is wider tires, which I wholeheartedly endorse. Many cyclists choose a wider tire for the rear, the tire that carries more weight. Many dirt riders choose a wider front tire for increased traction and control. Try some wide tires - you might be surprised.
Tires feature flat prevention with one or more layers of material to prevent punctures. Some tires add it only under the riding surface. Others add belts in the sidewalls that can reduce the chance of pinch flats. As with most things, flat protection is not free. It adds cost and weight and can inhibit handling.
Many people ask me how long a tire will last. There are many factors, including your definition of “worn out”. Your weight, how much you carry and the types of pavement you ride on all affect wear. Under or over inflation reduces tire life. Harder rubber compounds increase tire life, but generally reduce traction. Some tires have a dual compound - harder rubber in the middle of the tread and a softer compound in the sides for increased grip during cornering.
Tire handling can be subjective. A bicycle tire is designed to flex and deform as you corner and put side pressure on the tire. This allows harder and faster cornering. The more a tire flexes the better for comfort and handling. One measure of this is the threads per inch (TPI) used in the casing. More threads mean finer threads, more flex and better handling and more comfort.
The right tire for the job – tread pattern makes a difference
Traction on pavement is a function of the type of pavement, tread material and contact surface area. A bald, slick tire will increase the surface area and therefore traction compared to a tire with tread.
Wet, muddy conditions want a more open tread to shed the mud. Hard packed dirt wants smaller, closely spaced knobs. If you want one pair of mountain tires for all your riding, I suggest a tire for the most aggressive terrain you expect to encounter.
Ideal gravel tires are wider than road tires and have some knobs or other tread for traction. Like dirt, there are many types of gravel. Looser, rutted conditions want a wider tire with more tread, and smooth hard packed gravel can benefit from a smoother tire.
The best ice traction comes from studded tires. Better studs are tipped with carbide for wear resistance. In our experience, cheaper studded tires wear out very fast.
Tires make a very big difference to your bike. You can change the comfort, flat resistance, handling and speed by changing tires. Ask us for advice and then try some different tires, you may like your bike even more!