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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.

Choosing the Right Tyres for Your Bike

Wearing out the tyres on your bike is inevitable, and usually results in two feelings: achievement that you've ridden enough to get to this point, and annoyance that you now need to shop around to find out what tyres are best for you and your bike. We hope our guide makes the choice a little easier!

Road, Mountain or Hybrid?

The first thing to be aware of is that different kinds of bike have different tyres. Road bikes have slick, skinny tyres for speed, whilst mountain bikes have wider and more knobbly tyres, designed to bite into gravel and mud. Hybrid bikes are usually a good mixture of both, and cyclocross bikes tend to be on the skinny and knobbly side of things.

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.

mountain bike tyres

Ideal for off-road riding

. Knobbly tread pattern for maximum off-road grip.

. Shallow tread pattern for riding on mixed terrains.

. Upgrade to puncture protection.

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mountain bike tyres

Versatile and great for
commuting & leisure

. Knobbly tread pattern for extra grip off-road.

. Smoother tread for city riding.

. Upgrade to puncture protection.

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mountain bike tyres

Designed for smooth road riding & tarmac

. Increased tyre width for better grip and comfort.
. Upgrade to puncture protection for extra durability when commuting.

. Upgrade to a lower weight folding tyre

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Tyre Sizes

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

Road bikes usually have 700c wheels, but junior road bikes or very small bikes may be a bit smaller, at 650c. A normal width is 23 or 25mm, but 28mm isn't unusual for winter conditions or more comfort.

Mountain bikes can have 26", 27.5" (also known as 650b) or 29" wheels, but you can't mix and match - you couldn't put 26" wheels in a frame designed for 27.5" wheels, for example. These tyres are much wider and normally measured in inches. Tyres between 2.2" and 2.5" 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, whereas 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 with 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.

Types of Tyres

Clinchers

The most common type of tyre, clincher tyres get their name from the way they hook, or 'clinch', onto the inside of a wheel's rim using air pressure. They require an inner tube, are easy to repair and change, and come in two types - folding and rigid. Rigid tyres have a bead made from steel, whereas folding tyres have a bead made from Kevlar. (The bead is the edge of the tyre.) The advantage of folding tyres is that they're lighter, they can be easier to fit, and they're easier to carry. However, the trade-off is that they're more expensive than a tyre with a wire bead.

Tubeless

Tubeless tyres are a more recent development from the world of mountain biking, but they're fast gaining traction in the road cycling community. Whilst they're similar to clinchers, they don't use an inner tube. This means they need a specific rim to create an airtight seal, and they often use sealant inside the tyre to fill any holes. Tubeless tyres tend to be lighter, have more puncture resistance, and can be ran at lower pressures for increased grip.

Tubular

A more traditional kind of tyre, tubular tyres use an inner tube inside a sewn-up tyre, which is then glued to the rim. These are the lightest form of tyre which is why they're most often seen in racing. However, the downside to tubular tyres is that you'll need to replace the entire tyre if you get a puncture out on the road. Properly repairing the puncture involves unstitching the tyre, which is another reason why they aren't really seen outside of racing.

When Should I Replace My Tyre?

There's no hard and fast rule on when your bike's tyre needs to be replaced. Some tyres have a wear indicator (usually a groove in the tread of the tyre), but on tyres that don't, there are a few tell-tale signs that you need to retire them:

  • any gashes and cuts in the tyre is a sure sign it needs to be replaced
  • tread that's worn down
  • a flat line down the centre of the tyre
  • any lumps and bumps
  • cracked rubber
  • you're getting more punctures than you used to.

More Information

Our Road Bike Tyres Buyer's Guide and Mountain Bike Tyres Buyer's Guide go into a little more detail about what to look for in each of these types of tyres. If you're still unsure what you're after, pop into your local store and speak to one of our colleagues who'll be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

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