The Best Strategy to Buying New Bike Tires!
Whether you are a daily city commuter, downhill demon, or a cat 1 racer everyone wants to choose the appropriate bike tire for the best performance and most enjoyable ride. Tires are your contact point with the road and keeping the set on your bike fresh ensures a safe and fun ride, every time.
From versatile, anti-puncture, and even all-weather tire options to aerodynamic race tires and knobby-treaded mountain bike tires, we've got the perfect tires guaranteed to bring more traction and performance to any riders style.
Bike Tire Size
What size tires are on my bike? Simple solution is to check the tire's sidewall. You'll see a number pairing that looks like 29x2.4. This is the diameter(29) by the width(2.4).
Want to get away from the roadways and escape into nature on two wheels?
Mountain bike tires have gotten larger in diameter and width over the years. The old standard, 26", has been replaced with 27.5" and 29" as the current options in the industry. Mountain bikes come in different styles depending on the type of riding the bike is designed for.
Cross-Country (XC): These tires will generally be equipped with tires in the 1.9" to 2.25" width range.
Trail and All-Mountain: These tires will step up to the 2.25" to 2.4" width range.
Downhill Bikes Tires: These tires which are meant to tackle terrain previously thought impossible for a bike, are equipped with tires as wide as 2.5".
Three key factors in mountain bike wheel size selection:
1. LIGHTER WEIGHT
Significantly lower bike and rotational wheel weight helps you climb faster with less effort.
Overall Bike Weight
Compare the weights of identically equipped bikes with different wheel sizes and you'll see substantial weight differences. As expected, the 26-inch-wheel bike is somewhat lighter than the 27.5, and substantially lighter than the 29 (up to two pounds of overall bike weight savings from 29 to 27.5). Every gram saved helps you ride faster.
The overall weight of a 27.5 wheel set (wheel, tire and inner tube) is only 5% greater than that of an identically built 26-inch wheel set. Compare this to the 12% increase of a 29-inch wheel set and you can see how a seemingly small increase in diameter results in substantial weight gain—and poorer performance when climbing or accelerating.
Static wheel weight
Lighter wheels/tires result in a quicker acceleration and lighter overall bike weight - a win-win combination.
2. MORE EFFICIENT
Snappier acceleration and a reduced angle of attack for a smoother, more agile ride.
Increased wheel diameter decreases the angle of attack (the angle in which a round object intersects a square object). This is a good thing. A 29-inch wheel rolls over a 6-centimeter square-edge obstacle 14% more efficiently than a 26-inch wheel does. In comparison, a 27.5-inch wheel rolls over the same obstacle 9.8% more efficiently than a 26-inch wheel does.
Another way to analyze angle of attack is the degree of impact—where 26-inch equals X degree, 27.5 equals X-4 degrees and 29 equals X-6 degrees. Again, a shallower angle is better—so 29-inch takes the win, with 27.5 exhibiting nearly the same performance but without the weight penalty.
Arguably the most important benefit of 27.5 over 29 is quicker acceleration. This is the "snap" that a rider feels when they push hard on the pedals. It is affected not just by overall static weight but also where the weight is distributed throughout the wheel. The farther the weight is from the center of the hub, the slower the acceleration. So a similarly constructed 1000-gram 29-inch wheel is slower to accelerate than a 1000-gram 26-inch wheel—because the larger diameter rim and longer spokes place weight farther from the hub. The key to snappy acceleration is minimizing the weight of the outermost components (rim, nipples, spokes, tire, tube). As you can see, a 27.5-inch wheel is only 1.5% slower to accelerate than a similarly constructed 26-inch wheel, but a 29-inch wheel is 3.6% slower than a similarly constructed 26-inch wheel.
3. BETTER CONTROL
A larger tire contact patch, increased stiffness, and optimized frame geometry improve traction, braking and handling.
The larger the diameter of a wheel, the greater the contact patch of the tire. A larger contact patch results in better traction, which leads to improved acceleration, deceleration and cornering. As you can see, a 27.5-inch wheel has a similar contact patch to the 29.
Lateral (side-to-side) frame stiffness can be affected by wheel size. To accommodate larger wheels, frame dimensions must be elongated. Therefore, a size medium 29-inch wheel frame has more lateral flex (bottom bracket and headtube) than a size medium 27.5 or 26-inch wheel frameset. Additional flex compromises handling under heavy pedaling or sharp cornering.
The larger the wheel, the more difficult it is to optimize geometry, especially on smaller frames. As the frame size decreases, headtube heights become higher (in relation to saddle height). On 26 or 27.5-inch frames, it's less of a problem, but geometry limitations can affect smaller 29-inch-wheel frames.
Road and Touring Bikes
Ever thought about joining one of your local cycling group rides?
Road bikes generally are running 700c tires (occasionally 650b) with widths ranging from 18 to 23mm, which is about as narrow as it can get. If the rider is touring or exploring then they will likely opt for a wider tire in the 25-28mm range to provide stability and comfort along the ride.
What if I can't choose between a road bike and a mountain bike?
The gravel scene is calling your name! Cyclocross bikes feature 700c tires that feature knobbies or tread and a wider tire to allow the rider to navigate terrain such as gravel, hard dirt, and grass in addition to pavement.
BMX & Kids
Remember your first bike? Give the gift of freedom, fitness and fun to a kid in your life!
BMX bikes and youth bikes are often fit with 20" tires of varying widths depending on the bike style. Many tread types are available however most are aimed at versatility. Kids bikes can get as small as 12, 14, 16, and 18" as well.
Bike Tire Tread Types
Slick Bike Tires
Slicks are designed for the road, urban, touring and mountain bikes. They appear nearly smooth with a slight tread pattern varying from manufacturer. Slicks are designed to roll the fastest on pavement and asphalt as well as groomed single track. Slicks often feature grooves to improve handling in corners and dealing with foul weather conditions.
Semi-Slick Bike Tires
These bike tires are a hybrid design with a smooth center to roll similar to a slick tire, but aggressive tread on the side to aid in cornering. These tires are popular with commuters who experience both pavement and dirt on their ride.
Inverted Tread Tires
Tires with inverted tread achieve great traction and minimal rolling resistance compared to a knobby tire. These tires are great if your route strays off the asphalt as well as if your roads are rough and potholed.
Knobby tires come in a variety of style for different applications, often your riding environment or personal preference will determine what type is best. Smaller knobs provide a faster ride and are suitable for smooth singletrack.Tall knobs offer more grip in technical terrain including rocks and roots. Wider tires with sturdy knobs will perform in soft trail conditions. The industry offers a plethora of options when it comes to tread patterns and widths.
Front Wheel vs. Rear Wheel Tire Tread
Mountain Biking tires often come in front and rear specific treads. The front tires are designed with a focus on front-end traction, while the rear tires give optimal power transmission and rear wheel control. The sidewall will feature an arrow indicating which direction the tread should be run, this is crucial to proper tire performance.
Road tires are less complicated as the front and rear specific treads are often sold as sets. Road tires grip the irregularities in the road and therefore the variation in design is much less than mountain tires.
Bike Tire Valves
Presta Valves are narrower and have built in valve caps that you can loosen to pump up the tire and then re-tighten to seal. Presta valves are common on higher-end bikes, especially road bikes. Presta valves cannot be used in wheels that are drilled specifically for Schrader style valves, as it will have room for play, leading to failure.
Schrader Valves are wider than Presta valves, and are similar to those found on our automobile tires. These are most commonly found on inexpensive to mid-range bikes. Schrader valves will not fit in wheels drilled for Presta valves.
Still curious? For a more in depth look at bike tire valves our friends over at Bicycle Guider have a great article breaking down the differences between presta and schrader valves. To rear more Click Here!
Presta Valve Schrader Valve
Bike Tire Features
Folding Bike Tires
Rather than a wire bead running around the edge of the tire, folding tires utilize an aramid-fiber bead such as Kevlar®. This makes them light and able to fold for easy storage and transportation. This option is available for both road and mountain bikes, and they tend to cost more than a rigid tire.
Tubeless Ready System Bike Tires
Fewer flat tires. Greater traction. Less rolling resistance and a smoother, faster ride. Giant’s Tubeless System makes it easier than ever to experience all these benefits.
The tubeless trend has exploded recently in the cycling industry and we are seeing more and more options in this category. Tubeless tires are able to be installed without an inner tube, rather a liquid sealant, rim tape and special valve stems will create an airtight seal. This allows the tires to be run at a much lower than normal PSI (pounds per square inch), down to 20. This allows for better traction without pinch flats and a smoother ride. The installation process is more complicated than changing a tube, but the benefits are arguable well worth it.
Puncture Resistant Bike Tires
Many tires feature puncture resistant technology in an effort to prevent flats for the rider. Ideal for commuters these tires will not feel as fast as a normal tire. Many manufacturers increase the tread thickness as well as include a belt of aramid fibers to resist puncture.
Bike Tire Thread Count Casing
The TPI (threads per inch) you see on a tire description refers to the thread counts. This has the highest impact on road tires, where tire pressures can get extremely high. A higher thread count allows the use of lighter materials which usually offers a more comfortable ride.
Thread counts for a road tire start at 60 tpi and go up to320 tpi when you get into racing tires. Tires can have thread counts as low as 20 tpi, and mountain bikers often prefer a lower count for a more durable tire.
- Tire Width – Tire width has a dramatic effect on speed and grip, the wider a tire is the more grip it will have because it increases friction and enlarges the contact patch of the tire with the riding surface. Alternately, the more narrow a tire is the greater potential there is for a faster tire due to a smaller contact patch and less rolling resistance.
Tread Pattern – Tread pattern, as a whole, is comprised of sections objectively designed to accomplish specific desirable characteristics that correlate to better handling, grip, and speed; additionally molded channels in the tire can help evacuate water and/or other small debris out and away from the tire to maintain grip with the ground.
- Outer Tread – Located on the sides of the tire tread pattern. The outer tread is often made up of short to tall grippy lugs for added grip on rougher surfaces. Additionally, the outside tread section of the tire can be manufactured to a different durometer, or “hardness,” to provide different handling characteristics.
- Center Tread – Located in the middle of the tire tread pattern. The center tread can be nearly smooth for straight-line speed, or alternately, covered with large lugs for lots of off-road grip. The center tread can also be manufactured to a different durometer, or “hardness,” when compared to the outer tread to provide different handling characteristics.
- Tread Siping – Thin slits cut or molded into the surface of the tire tread. These thin slits are designed to aid traction in wet slippery surface conditions.
- Lug Ramping – Ramping, or angling, of the front leading edge of individual tire lugs in a tread pattern, commonly found on tires indicated to have a directional-specific bias of rotation. The ramping of the lugs is usually concentrated along the center tread and supposed to increase straight-line speed potential.
- Rubber Compound – Overall, a tire is manufactured using proprietary blends of rubber, silicone, and other ingredients that aid grip, longevity, and puncture resistance. Durometer, or hardness, of the rubber is also engineered to positively effect grip and handling characteristics as well as durability and tire life.
Bicycle Warehouse has a number of financing options to help you get your dream bike and all the gear you need to have more fitness, freedom and fun.
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