The modern bike tire is a marvel of engineering and manufacturing. There is a huge variety to choose from. I won’t recommend one tire that is great in all conditions, because there is no such thing. Take negative comments you may read with “a grain of salt”. Luck has much to do with a tire’s failure; so everyone’s experience is different. There is no universally “best” tire. Tire choice factors 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. Rotating weight from the tire and rim make about four times as much difference as static weight from the frame or components. Reducing weight by reducing tread thickness simply reduces the life of the tire, though. Folding tires reduce weight in a sensible way by replacing the steel wire bead with Kevlar or a similar material. This does not affect the life, handling or any other aspect of the tire except weight and price. In my opinion, folding tires are the most performance per dollar you can buy for your bike!
You may safely and wisely change the width of your tires from the stock size. We don’t recommend tires that are narrower than the rim, though. The maximum width is determined by the frame and fork. Wider tires have many advantages, including comfort, mileage, flat reduction, traction, and rim damage prevention. You do not have to use the same width on the front and rear. Many cyclists choose a wider tire for the rear, as that tire carries more of your weight. Many dirt riders choose a wider front tire for increased traction and control. It is often thought that a narrower tire is faster. It is not so simple, and makes very little difference. Try some wide tires - you might be surprised.
Tire handling can be subjective. A bicycle tire is supposed to flex and deform as you corner and put side pressure on the tire. It lets you corner harder and faster. 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 usually means finer threads and more flex which means better handling and comfort.
Tread pattern is perhaps the most subjective factor in choosing a tire. For pavement riding, pattern makes little difference. Tire traction on pavement is a function of the type of pavement, tread material and contact surface area. It may seem counterintuitive, but a bald, slick tire will actually increase the surface area contacting the road compared to a tire with tread thus increasing traction.
For offroad riding, tread pattern makes a big difference. Again, there is no one pattern for all conditions. Wet, muddy conditions want a more open tread to shed the mud. Hard packed dirt wants smaller, closely spaced knobs. If you are going to mountain bike in an unfamiliar area check the local bike shop to see what works there. The sharpness of the corners of the knobs makes a big difference in how a tire grabs, too. A worn tire won’t perform as well as a new one.
There are also special tires for winter riding. The best traction on ice comes from studded tires. Better studs are tipped with carbide for wear resistance. Warning: cheaper studded tires wear out very fast.
Some tires are marketed as “flat preventive”; no pneumatic tire is flat proof. Most flat-preventative tires have one or more layers of material to stop foreign objects from puncturing the tube. Some tires have this protection under the riding surface only. This is where most flats occur. Other tires also have a belt in the sidewall of the tire. More intense flat protection is also available. Some tires have a very stiff sidewall thus reducing the possibility of a pinch flat when the tire pinches the tube between the tire and rim. As with many things in life, flat protection in tires is not free. You’ll pay for more flat protection in both dollars and weight.
Many people ask me how many miles a tire will last. There are many factors that determine this. The types of pavement you ride, your weight and how much you carry all affect wear. Under- or over-inflation ralso reduces tire life. Harder rubber compounds increase tire life, but generally reduce traction. Some tires have a dual compound, which means harder rubber in the middle of the tread, with a softer compound in the sides to increase grip during cornering.
Are you tired of the same old tires? Tires make a very big difference to your bike. You can change the comfort, flat resistance, handling, speed, and the look of your bike by changing tires. Ask us for some advise and then try some different tires, you may like your bike even more!