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When it comes to cycling, the tyres you choose can make a big difference in terms of how your bike performs. Here we’ll discuss the different types of tyres for bikes that are available, and help you decide which ones are best for you.
Some time ago my wife took her bike along to a big box bike store as the original tyre that had come with the bike was worn and needed to be replaced.
The bike tech offered her a replacement tyre and my wife, quite reasonably, asked whether this was the same style and quality as the original.
The tech told her (in quite a patronizing manner) that, “yeah, it’s black and round, so of course it is!”
You won’t be surprised to learn that the store didn’t get my wife’s business and she took her bike elsewhere for a fresh tyre.
Despite what that not-very-helpful bike tech tried to claim, there are many different types of tyres for bikes, and it can be difficult to know which ones to choose for your particular bike.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the different types of tyres available and help you decide which ones are best for you, depending on your bike and the style of riding you tend to do.
We’ll cover MTB tyres, road bike tyres, commuter bike tyres, hybrid bike tyres, and electric bike tyres.
So, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned cyclist, read on to learn more about picking the right types of tyres for your bike!
How do I choose a new bike tire?
Wondering how to choose a new bike tire from all the multitude of “black and round” tires available on the store shelf?
Well, you’re not alone. Choosing bike tires can be tricky because they’re NOT all the same.
Picking the right one depends on two main factors:
- What type of bike you have (mountain bike, road bike, ebike, etc)
- What terrain you’ll be riding on (rough trails, smooth pavement, or a mixture of trails and pavement)
- What weather conditions you cycle through (wet/dry, hot/cold, etc)
The start point with choosing bike tires is to determine what size your existing tires are.
Luckily, this is an easy process on most modern bikes.
Hunker down next to your bike wheel (either will do) and take a look at the sidewall.
Follow this round in a full circle and you’ll see numbers printed. These will look something like:
700 x 28c, or
26 x 2.1
This is the size of your tire and is measured in either millimeters (the top example) or inches (the bottom example).
Bear in mind that these measurements are nominal, so the tire won’t necessarily have these dimensions if you run a tape measure across it.
That doesn’t actually matter, because the simple rule to follow is:
How many miles do bicycle tyres last?
So, how long do bike tyres last?
The easiest way to measure this is in distance travelled, rather than years.
Unused bike tires might be good for between five to ten years on average.
Bike tires which are being ridden on might last for between 1000 – 3000 miles.
That’s just a guide though and it’s worthwhile checking your tires regularly for damage (such as cracking on the sidewall or holes) and wear (bald patches on the tread).
If your tire has significant damage or wear, then it’s time to fit a replacement.
Can I put any tyres on my bike?
Surely, bike tyres really are “black and round” though? Are there significant differences between tyres? Do bike tyres REALLY make such a big difference?
Well, yes they do.
Take a look at the pictures below.
The first tyre is virtually smooth and very skinny. It’s a tyre that’s designed for road bikes traveling on smooth pavement.
The second tyre is very knobbly and over twice the width of the first tyre. It’s a tyre that is perfect for mountain biking on rough terrain.
Big difference, yeah?
How much will a replacement bike tire cost?
So, how much does a new bike tire cost?
When it comes to choosing new bike tires, price is an important consideration.
But don’t let that put you off – there are plenty of affordable options available, and you don’t need to spend a fortune on the latest and greatest tyres.
In fact, most good quality bike tires will range in price from around $25 – $50.
There are of course more expensive options available, but for everyday cycling, those prices will likely be overkill.
Is it safe to cycle on cracked bike tyres?
If you have a bike tire that has a crack on it, is it safe to continue to ride on it?
The answer to this question isn’t a simple one.
If the crack is small and doesn’t appear to be widening, then you might be able to get away with riding on it for a while longer. Make sure you keep a close eye on it to see if it develops.
However, if the crack is large or growing or there are multiple cracks or splits, then it’s time to replace the tyre immediately.
Riding on a cracked tyre can be dangerous as it increases the risk of the tyre popping or bursting.
What does C mean in tyre size?
If you see a letter “C” as part of the size numbers on your tyre sidewall, you might be wondering what it’s referring to.
An example would be “700 x 23c”.
The answer is that this is part of the old French system for classifying tyre widths, where “A” was the narrowest and “D” was the widest.
The letter c is the only one that’s still tends to be used by tyre manufacturers today.
You can safely ignore it now as we have all the size information we need to choose a new tire with the “700 x 23” bit.
Choosing road bike tires
A good set of road bike tires can make a huge difference to the speed you can cycle at and the comfort you do it in.
Unlike mountain bikes (which often have suspension to dampen vibration) and large volume tires (which also dampen vibration), road bikes have neither.
All you have is a skinny set of tires.
So, how do you pick the right tires for your road bike?
First, get the tire sizing from your existing tires.
Most modern road bikes have tires that are 700mm in diameter. The sizing on the tire sidewall will look like this: 700 x [tire width].
The tire width will be a number of between around 23mm – 30mm (e.g. “700 x 23”).
You’ll then need to decide on the amount of tread on the tires.
Generally, road bike tires have very little tread on them – ‘smooth’ pavement is actually rough enough to give good grip and the more tread a tire has the higher its ‘rolling resistance’, which causes it to go slower.
If you tend to cycle on roads and pavement in warm and dry weather only, then choose a tire that has as little tread as possible.
However, if you cycle in wet/icy conditions or where the road surface can be a little loose, muddy, or gravelly, then pick a tire which has more tread, particularly along the edges to keep you upright when cornering at speed.
You can find a list of recommended road bike tires below for all the most common tire sizes.
Choosing mountain bike tires
Looking for the best new tires for your mountain bike?
Great! The best place to start is by finding the size of your existing tires – just check along the sidewall of your tire to find printed numbers looking like:
26 x 2.1, or
27.5 x 2.2, or
29 x 2.4
These are the approximate diameter of your tire (the 26, 27.5, or 29) in inches, with the approximate width of your tire (2.1, 2.2, or 2.4), also in inches.
When you’re choosing a new MTB tire, pick one that also says that it has the same dimensions as your existing tire.
Now consider what conditions you ride in and what terrain you ride on.
If you only take your bike out in warm, dry weather and on smooth hard-packed trails or pavement, choose a mtb tire with less pronounced knobbles.
Some hybrid-style MTB tires also have a solid strip of rubber down the center of the tire and a tire like this will give a really fast, vibration-free ride if all your cycling is on smooth pavement.
On the other hand, if you enjoy going out in the ice and snow, or on rough bike trails, with loose or rocky surfaces, then choose a bike tire that has big, gnarly knobbles all across the tread surface.
A tire like that will give excellent grip, particularly when cornering at speed.
You can check out our top-recommended MTB tires below for all the most common tire sizes.
Choosing hybrid bike tires
If you need to get replacement bike tires for your hybrid bike for city or urban and bike commuting, then you should buy a tire that is a good all-rounder.
Hybrid tires need to perform in all weathers (come rain or shine) and on a variety of surfaces (because you might be lucky and get to ride on smooth pavement, but then you’ll get plenty of bad luck too with rough roads and looser dirt tracks).
Buying a replacement hybrid tire starts with checking your existing tire size.
Squat down next to your bike wheel and look along the sidewall till you find the tire dimensions.
The commonest tire sizes for hybrid bikes are “700 x [something]” and “26 x [something]”.
Armed with this information you can then choose your bike tire.
My recommendation for a hybrid tire is one that has a smooth strip of rubber down the center with good tread on either side of this.
The solid strip gives minimal rolling resistance (meaning that you can travel faster) and little vibration (meaning that you won’t be shaken to pieces as you pedal along).
Meanwhile, the tread gives you the ability (and grip) to corner confidently at speed and on looser terrain.
Hybrid tires like this work great as replacements on both road bikes and mountain bikes (where you’ll be cycling on roads and pavements, not gnarly double diamond MTB trails in the deep backcountry).
Click the button below to see our recommendations for great hybrid bike tires.
Choosing electric bike tires
You won’t necessarily need to get specialist tires for your ebike (they’re all “black and round” after all, yeah…?).
However it’s worth being aware that electric bike tires may need to be replaced more frequently than tires on regular bikes.
Firstly, research (and my own experiences) have shown that ebike owners tend to ride more frequently than owners of regular bikes.
Secondly, because of the assistance from the electric motor, you’ll likely be riding at higher speeds than normal.
Both of these factors will lead to faster wear and tear to the tire rubber resulting in more frequent replacements being needed (the costs of which will be offset by the great big smile on your face from cycling faster and more often!)
The start point to picking appropriate replacement tires for your ebike is to check the size of your current tires.
Make a note of the tire dimensions that you see on your tire sidewall.
(Electric bikes come in all shapes and sizes, so their tires can have a much wider range of dimensions than either road bikes or mountain bikes, for example)
With these tire measurements, next consider the terrain you’ll be riding on and the weather conditions you’ll be out in.
If the weather is always sunny and dry, and the road surface smooth and well-maintained, then you should go with a smooth tire that has low rolling resistance. You’ll travel faster, won’t run the battery down so quickly, and be vibration-free as you do so.
If you take your bike out in a range of weather conditions, and on a variety of unsurfaced trails, then it’s a good idea to choose a tire that has a deeper tread pattern. This will give you much better grip.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the rolling resistance of knobblier tires like this is higher with smoother tires, but the motor assistance of your ebike counteracts this, meaning that you can power along at higher speeds and with confidence!
Great cycling needs the right type of tyres for your bike.
Whatever type of bike you have – road bike, MTB, hybrid, or ebike – choose your replacement tires by beginning with the tire dimensions of your existing tires (check the numbers on the sidewall).
Then consider the conditions you’re most likely to be out riding in – weather (good, bad, wet, or icy) and the terrain (smooth road, gnarly trails).
All of these need to be factored in to choosing the correct type of tyre for your bike.