How to Choose the Right Bicycle Tires

A quick guide into finding the right tires for your ride

Flickr/ Michiel S.

When you've found the perfect bicycle, you want to make sure your ride is as smooth as possible. Tires are one of the most important pieces of equipment on your bicycle. They keep you moving while staying durable and gripping the ground. Whether your tires are worn out and in need of replacement, or you simply need to add tires to your frame, this quick guide to choosing bicycle tires will make your shopping a bit easier.

Related: How to Buy a Bike

There are many different elements of a bicycle tire. They come in different widths and sizes, with different types of treads and valves. Knowing which tire you need depends on the type of riding you do. There are a few steps in finding your perfect bicycle tires.

1. Sizing. Sizing really depends on the type of frame you own, and what type of riding you do. If you already have tires, and you are replacing them, that is a good measurement to start with. Your new tires do not have to be the exact same size, but knowing what already fits will help you in your search.

  • Mountain Biking: Most mountain bike tires are a 26” diameter. Their width range will depend on what type of mountain biking you are doing, ranging from 1.8” to 3.0”. The wider the tire, the more it can withstand heavier drops and difficult terrain.
  • Road Biking: Road bikes are listed by a size in millimeters, for example most are 700C size. They then range in widths much smaller than mountain bikes from 18 to 23 mm.
  • Road Touring: Again, these will be listed by millimeter. They are a bit wider than road biking ranging from 25 to 28mm.

Some basic information to remember is that wider tires are better for training, providing extra traction and comfort. They are also popular among commuters because they protect the rim from damage of bumps and rougher roads. Narrow tires are for those who want to get some major speed. They are less comfortable but are lightweight and great for racing.

2. Tread. Tread type depends on the type of surfaces you normally ride on. Do you ride on pavement or on trails?

  • Knobbies: Knobby tires are used for off-road biking and have knobs that give more traction on the difficult terrain. There are different tread styles of knobbies for different types of off-road biking. The larger or taller the knob is the more technical terrain it can grip to.
  • Slicks: These look similar to road tires, but wider. They are smooth with a barely noticeable tread pattern designed for smoother surfaces.
  • Semi-slicks: These are a mix between knobbies and slicks with a smooth center but knobby-like sides. The sides help with cornering while the smooth center allows for faster acceleration.
  • Inverted: Inverted tread is when the knobs are depressed as opposed to the raised knobs of knobbies. This offers a smoother ride especially on smooth surfaces, but not as much traction as the knobbies.

Finding the right tire depends on what you want from your ride. There are many aspects to keep in mind; speed, durability, weight, and price. Know what kind of tires you want and need and head to a bike shop for professional help in finding the balance between the two. Test out tires or check out customer reviews so you know exactly what to expect on your ride. 

More Related Links:
What is a Hybrid Bike?
What is a Touring Bike?
What is a Fixie?


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