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Choosing the Right Tyres for your Bike Guide + Video

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This guide is here to help you get a grip on the different kinds of tyres that are available.

Wearing out the tyres on your bike is always a mixture of achievement and annoyance - especially with so many different ones available. Use our guide to help find out what size you need and what to look for.

Road, mountain or hybrid?

The first thing to be aware of is that different kinds of bike have different tyres. Road bikes have skinny and slick tyres, while mountain bikes have wider and more knobbly tyres. Hybrid bikes can go either way, while cyclocross bikes tend to have skinny and knobbly tyres.

Normally, if you have knobbly tyres, you can swap them for more speedy slick ones, but you might struggle with the extra width of getting knobbly off-road tyres on a bike designed for skinny slicks.

Size matters

The size of bike tyres is normally shown by two numbers, which give the size of the wheel it is designed for as well as the width of the tyre. You might see this as 700x23c (a 23mm wide tyre for a 700c wheel) or 26x2.1? (a 2.1 inch wide tyre for a 26 inch wheel). Let's go a bit further into this:

  • Road bikes normally have 700c wheels, but kids' bikes or very small bikes may have 650c wheels. A normal width is 23 or 25mm, but 28 is also not unusual for winter conditions or more comfort.
  • Mountain bikes can have 26 inch, 27.5 inch (also known as 650b) or 29 inch wheels, but you can't mix and match - for example, you couldn't put 26 inch wheels in a frame designed for 27.5 inch wheels. These tyres are much wider and normally measured in inches. Tyres between 2.2 and 2.5 inches are normal for off-road riding, and give a good mixture of grip and speed, but you might choose to go narrower or wider depending on whether you want to do more extreme off-road riding or go faster on roads or lighter trails.
  • Hybrid bikes can have wheels of any size from road or mountain, depending on their design. Some will be more similar to road bikes, while others will resemble mountain bike tyres. Take a look at your bike and the size of the tyres it comes with to see what options might be suitable for you. Generally, hybrid-specific tyres are designed to give a comfortable ride and protect against punctures, but might not be the fastest.
  • Cyclocross bikes have the same size wheels as road bikes (700c), but much more clearance (room around the frame and the brakes) for wider tyres. This means that they can fit tyres of around 34c or more, with tread for off-road riding. If you want to ride on the road a lot, it might be a good idea to also get some road tyres for extra speed.

Looking for more information?

If you're looking for more information about the kind of performance you want from your tyres, take a look at our buyer's guides for specific bike types.