How to choose the best tyres for your bike

Tyres are a bike’s only point of contact with the surface – so they’re important! They affect grip, handling and comfort, so choosing the right set of tyres for your bike will make a big difference.

However, the world of bike tyres can be confusing. Not only are there different types of tyre for different types of bike, but there are also different systems of measurement.

In this article, we aim to break it all down and help you get your head around the options that are available so that you can identify the best tyres for your bike.

Tyre measurement systems

There are three main types of tyre measurement systems: British/American, French and the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO). The first two systems are effectively imperial and metric measurements, while the final system is an attempt to develop a unified approach that can be used worldwide.

  British/American French ETRTO
Definition Approximate diameter of the tyre x the approximate width of the tyre when inflated (in inches) Approximate diameter of the tyre x approximate width of the tyre when inflated (in millimetres) Approximate width of tyre when inflated – exact diameter in mm
Example 29x2.2” or 26x2.0” 700x23c or 700x45c 23-622 or 50-559
Rules for replacement tyres The diameter of the tyre needs to match the diameter of your wheel (for example, a 29” rim needs a tyre with a 29” diameter). So, you’ll need to replace your old tyre with one that has the same diameter. However, the tyre width can vary depending on what your wheel rims and/or frame can support. Your bike’s manufacturer should provide information on the maximum tyre width the bike can support. The diameter of the tyre needs to match the diameter of your wheel (for example, a 700c rim needs a tyre with a 700c diameter). So, you’ll need to replace your old tyre with one that has the same diameter. However, the tyre width can vary depending on what your wheel rims and/or frame can support. Your bike’s manufacturer should provide information on the maximum tyre width the bike can support. The diameter of the tyre needs to match the diameter of your wheel (for example, a 622mm rim needs a tyre with a 622mm diameter). So, you’ll need to replace your old tyre with one that has the same diameter. However, the tyre width can vary depending on what your wheel rims and/or frame can support. Your bike’s manufacturer should provide information on the maximum tyre width the bike can support.
Bike types This is the most common way of measuring mountain bikes, kids’ bikes and some hybrid bikes globally.

Note: tyres marked with a fraction instead of a decimal point are not compatible – these are British imperial sizes and require a tyre specific to that size.
This is the most common way of measuring road and some hybrid bike tyres globally. Most tyres have this marking on them as it’s used by manufacturers to get the exact size correct.

Road bike tyres

As road bikes spend most of their time on smooth roads riding at speed, their tyres are narrow. This reduces rolling resistance and keeps them lightweight. Here’s what to look out for when buying a road bike tyre.

Tyre diameter

  • Road bike wheels use the French measurement system and a 700c diameter, so you’ll need tyres with a 700c diameter too (622mm using the ETRTO system).
  • Gravel and cyclocross bikes will usually require a 700c tyre too, as do some hybrid bikes.

Tyre width

  • Road tyres generally come in widths ranging from 23c to 32c (the number refers to the width of the tyre at its widest point, in millimetres).
  • Go back 10 or 20 years and narrow tyres were popular (a 23c width was common, and race bikes sometimes used narrower tyres!). Now, wider tyres are more popular, and we recommend 28c for most types of riding. Having a slightly wider tyre boosts comfort (as more tyre is in contact with the road) without impacting speed.
  • If you ride on particularly rough roads, or are a heavier rider, then a 30c or 32c tyre may be a better option.
  • Note: before choosing a tyre, check what width your bike can support. Most modern road bikes can support at least a 28c tyre, but many can support even wider up to 32c and above.

Tread patterns

Tyre tread refers to the pattern on the top of the tyre and this pattern can affect performance. Tyres grip smooth surfaces like tarmac because of the way the rubber interacts with the road at a microscopic level. However, while you’ll see tyre treads on car tyres, road bike tyres don’t need a patterned tread because a bike never goes fast enough to build up a layer of water under the tyre and skid. They’re also too narrow to displace water in the way a car tyre tread would. That’s why the best tyres for road use have either a very light tread pattern or none at all.

  • Road tyres often come with slick or smooth designs, as this helps reduce rolling resistance and increase grip on smooth surfaces.
  • Many wet weather-specific tyres will have grooves on the sides of the tyres. This helps to displace or dispel water from the tyre, preventing a loss of traction and slippage.
  • If you ride primarily on smooth asphalt roads, then opt for our range of road tyres.
  • If you like to ride on gravel or tow paths, then choose a tyre with a bit more tread that can grip the loose surface.
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Mountain bike tyres

Mountain biking is all about exploring off road – and they need tyres that are up to the job! That’s why mountain bike tyres are wider and come with more tread. Here’s what to consider when buying mountain bike tyres.

Tyre diameter

There are three common mountain bike wheel diameters: 26, 27.5 and 29” (or 559, 584 and 622 using the ETRTO system). The mountain bike tyres you choose will need to have the same diameter as your bike’s wheels.

Tyre width

Tyre width is a key consideration when choosing new mountain bike tyres. Most mountain bike tyres will use a width between 1.8-3” and you need to pick a width that best suits your type of riding.

  • Wider tyres provide better traction, stability, ride quality and air volume, but they’re generally slower due to more rolling resistance. These are best suited to more technical riding.
  • Thinner tyres provide less weight and less rolling resistance but aren’t as grippy and stable. They’re favoured by those who ride less technical terrain.

It’s not uncommon for mountain bikers to run a wider tyre up front and thinner one at the back. This provides maximum grip on the front wheel when cornering, while allowing the back to be a bit more agile to help navigate around tight corners. Less tread on the rear wheel also allows you to roll a bit faster, helping to maintain speed.

Tread patterns

Tread pattern makes a huge difference to the performance of a mountain bike tyre. The smaller and more tightly packed the knobs on the tyre, the faster the tyre will roll but the less grip it will offer.

  • Grip is essential, but the amount you require will vary depending on the specific surface you’re riding on. A smaller tread pattern will give you plenty of grip on hardpack trails, while you’ll need a more aggressive, high-profile pattern for loose surfaces.
  • Tyre choice is always a balance between grip and straight-line speed. Which tread pattern you need will depend on your riding style and the terrain you ride.
  • An important consideration for UK riders – particularly if you like to ride natural trails – is how well the tyre can clear mud. If your tyre clogs up with mud easily, you’ll lose grip more often. Dedicated mud tyres have wide gaps between the tread, allowing mud to clear quickly.
  • A good all-round mountain bike tyre will have a relatively open tread pattern, a reasonably sized mid-tread and aggressive side knobs. This offers the ideal balance between grip and rolling resistance, without running the risk of the tyre becoming clogged up with mud in the wet.
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Commuter/hybrid bike tyres

Commuter/hybrid tyres are designed to cope with the demands of a daily commute. They often have a higher volume than standard road cycling tyres to help them roll effortlessly over uneven road surfaces, as well as increased puncture protection. While they’re often slightly heavier than road tyres, they usually still have a slick or semi-slick tread pattern to help you zip through the urban jungle at a reasonable pace.

Tyre diameter

Finding the right tyre for a hybrid bike can be a little trickier than it is for road or mountain bikes, as they use a wider variety of wheel sizes.

However, the same rule applies, and the diameter of any tyre needs to match the diameter of your wheel. Common diameters include:

  • 700c (this is the most common for commuting and hybrid city bikes)
  • 26” or 27.5”

Tyre thickness

Commuter/hybrid tyres are generally wider than standard road bike tyres to provide added comfort and grip, as well as reduce the risk of punctures. Here are some more top tips:

  • Most commuters will have tyres between 28c and 42c.
  • The width can have a major impact on the way your bike rides. Wider tyres offer increased grip and comfort as they have a larger air volume and lower tyre pressure can be run.
  • If your wheels are 700c, look for a tyre width of between 28c and 35c.
  • If your tyres are 26 or 27.5”, look for widths between 1.5” and 2.0”.

Tread patterns

As a rule, if a tyre can’t dig into a surface (like a pavement) then the tread doesn't add much, if any, grip. When choosing a tyre for a commute, think about the surfaces you’ll be riding on.

  • If it's paved all the way, a slick or lightly-treaded tyre will be your best pick.
  • If there’s some gravel or dirt, a bit of tread might be a good idea. Prioritise shoulder tread as this is what provides grip in the corners.
Shop all Hybrid Bike Tyres

Tyre types, bead types and compounds

Once you’ve identified the best tyre for your bike, it’s time to choose the type and quality.

Tyre types

There are three overarching types of bike tyre:

  • Clincher: This is the most common type, where the tyre hooks to both sides of the rim using a bead. An inner tube is then added into the tyre and is inflated. If you get a puncture, this inner tube can be taken out and replaced or repaired.
  • Tubular: In this type of tyre, the tyre and inner tube are sewn together and glued to the rim. Tubular tyres are mainly used for road racing as they can’t easily be repaired.
  • Tubeless: Tubeless tyres form an airtight seal with the wheel meaning you don’t need an inner tube. Sealant can then be added into the tyre to increase puncture resistance (this plugs most holes you’d encounter but doesn’t make your tyres completely puncture proof). Tubeless tyres have better grip, less punctures and a lower weight. Originally used by mountain bikers, they’ve become a popular option for road cyclists in recent years. You can learn more about tubeless tyres here.

Bead types

This is the part of the tyre that holds the tyre to the wheel rim. There are two different types:

  • Wire bead: Tyres with a wire bead use a thin piece of wire that runs all the way around the tyre on either side to help it hook to the rim and keep it in place. This is the most cost-effective way to attach a tyre.
  • Folding bead: Tyres with a folding bead use a material (normally Kevlar) to hold the tyre to the rim. These tyres are usually a lot lighter than those with a wire bead and allow for a tubeless set up. There’s also more movement in the Kevlar to allow for a tighter fit.


This is the make-up of the rubber and other materials that give the tyre its ride qualities. There are three main types:

  • Puncture resistant: A lot of tyre companies use a protective strip on the inside of the tyre to create an extra barrier between your inner tube and the road.
  • Sidewalls/casing: Some tyres mix other materials into the sidewall and casing of the tyre to prevent road debris or sharp rocks from damaging the side of the tyre.
  • Rubber tyres: It’s common to find tyres with softer rubber in higher-end tyres to allow for more grip while sacrificing longevity. At the other end of the scale, some tyres have a hard rubber compound to prevent punctures and increase the life of the tyre while sacrificing grip.

Tyres at Halfords

Ready to find new tyres for your bike? Head over to where you’ll find a wide range of tyres for every type of bike. 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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