Tyres buyer’s guide
They might seem insignificant, but tyres are one of the most important parts of your bike. As well as keeping you stuck to the road or trail, they also provide suspension. If your tyres are wrong for your needs, you’ll find yourself getting lots of punctures, wearing them out quickly, or even falling off!
If your tyres are getting a bit worn, or you’re looking for an upgrade, the selection can be really confusing. In this guide, we’ll take you through the basics of bike tyres to give you a starting point.
What sort of bike have you got?
Road bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids all use different tyres, and each one is designed to best suit the sort of riding that you’ll be doing on your bike. For example, while a road tyre has a slick surface (or very little tread) for the best grip and least resistance on smooth tarmac, a mountain bike tyre will have aggressive tread patterns for biting into soft ground.
So first things first, have a look at the bike you’ve got. Then, you’ll be able to tell the different tyres apart:
Road tyres are normally the easiest to spot. Here’s what you’re generally going to find:
- They’re the narrowest of all – normally from just 23mm wide.
- Hardly any tread, or they’re completely slick.
- Thinner rubber on the tread and sidewalls.
- Lighter than other tyres.
Mountain bike tyres stand out too. Here’s how to recognise them:
- Much wider – most mountain bike tyres start from around 2 inches and up!
- Aggressive treads for digging into the dirt – look for big rubber knobs.
Hybrid tyres are in the middle, and sometimes it can be easy to confuse them with road or mountain bike tyres. However, they’ve got some features that make them really suit the commuter or leisure rider:
- Wider than road tyres, narrower than mountain bike tyres.
- A little bit of tread for grip on bike paths.
- Generally thick rubber with lots of puncture protection.
- Often heavier than road tyres.
- Hybrid tyres are more likely to feature details like reflective sidewalls for improved visibility on the commute.
Once you know what the tyres for your bike are going to look like, you can get a bit more technical. You see, bike wheels aren’t all the same size, and neither are the tyres. Each tyre comes with numbers to tell you the width of the tyre and the size of the wheel it’s been designed to fit.
You’re likely to see a number like 700x25c or 29x2.25.
The first number is the size of the wheel. Road bikes normally have 700c wheels, while mountain bikes have either 26”, 27.5” (also called 650b) or 29” wheels. Hybrid bikes generally have 700c or 27.5”/650b wheels.
The second number is a guide on the width of the tyre. Road tyres are normally measured in millimetres, while mountain bike tyres are normally measured in inches. Hybrids can use either one. It should be fairly obvious which is which – if it’s in double figures, it’ll be in mm, while single figures probably mean inches. The width of the tyre can vary depending on things like the wheel it’s mounted to, so just take this as a guide.
Folding and rigid tyres
You might also notice that some tyres are tyre-shaped and hanging on a rack, and some are folded up in boxes. The folded ones are called ‘folding’ tyres, and the bead (the bit that holds the tyre on the rim) is made from kevlar instead of the steel found on the ‘rigid’ ones. Folding tyres are generally a good chunk lighter and higher end too.
They both work the same – for example, if you’re replacing a rigid tyre, you can use either a folding or rigid one and vice versa. You shouldn’t come across any compatibility issues, so just choose the one you want – as long as it’s the right size!
So there you have it – a quick primer on tyres to help you shop around and make a decision on what you need, or just find a replacement to keep you going. To put your knew knowledge to use and see all of our tyres, click here.