Bicycle Tires are designed to match your cycling style and needs,
and it is ALWAYS a conversation of compromise, weight vs peddle
efficiency, low friction vs traction etc. Reality is that there
are no bicycle tires that fits every applications, but here's some
There are two types of bicycle tires: bike racing motivation may
determine your preference...
- Clincher Tire: This is the bicycle tire you all know and love,
consisting of an outer tire and an inner tube. It is what you
find on 90% of all bikes. The tire consists of two nylon sidewalls
rimmed with a steel or kevlar cable, and dipped in rubber for
traction on the face that meets the pavement. The rubber exterior
takes on many forms, each appropriate to the rider style from
very slick road tyres to very knobby and/or studded tires...bicycle
rides up mountain single track certainly appreciating the later.
- Tubular tire: This bike tire is typically only used by the serious
racer. It consists of an outer tire and inner tube assembled as
a unit and glued in place to a special rim. The glues require
overnight drying, thus not a style appropriate to roadside repair,
but as a racer the upside is the lower weight of both the tire
Sizing: Bicycle Tires are basically sized with two measurements;
the tire's width and its diameter.
Historically the diameter has related to the actual outside diameter
of the tire when installed and inflated on the rim. In later years,
as technology and style has changed the actual profile of the bicycle
tire, these numbers have become somewhat inaccurate. A 26"
tire (the most common) may only be 25" in actual diameter.
The Europeans, in order to get around this confusion are now labeling
tires by the diameter of the rim where the tire seats itself, irrespective
of the actual size on inflation... for most of us this may be somewhat
irrelevant. If it just fits over your rim then for most casual bike
riders and owners it is undoubtedly the right one... so don't sweat
it and put the tape away... take it seriously if your racing!
The width of your tire can vary from 1" to 2 1/4" depending
on the style of riding; narrow typically for road riding, getting
wider as you approach the bush. Although it is technically feasible
to mount any width of tire on any width of rim, it is not always
wise to do so. If you use a very wide bike tire on a narrow rim
you risk sidewall collapse and lose control at low speeds. If you
use a narrow tire on a wide rim you risk pinch flats and could damage
your bicycle rim... thus try for an intelligent match.
Wider tires, will also have more shock absorbing capabilities so
aside from any traction issues, some casual riders will go wider
on the front tire to relieve wrist strain.
Rubber: As with car tires, bicycle tires use various types
of rubber. Harder formulations for longer wear and softer rubbers
for good traction. It is always a trade off.
Tread Pattern: extreme knobs on any tire are designed to
dig into soft ground or grab on rocky surfaces, but in general road
riding aggressive tread patterns create a huge amount of drag and
require significantly more pedal power.
Combination Tires: Some tires designed for casual riding
will include a central ridge of hard rubber and relatively fine
tread, and a softer rubber and more aggressive tread pattern on
the outer edges for when you hit the gravel. I have found this to
be a great all purpose, city tire when you might hit the odd gravel
path. Especially if used on the front wheel to offer great cornering
control and then matched with a narrower, low tread tire in the
back that offers greater pedal efficiency.
Remember selecting bicycle tires appropriate to your style of riding
can go along way towards preventing skid outs and improved performance,
but it must be understood that it can not be taken to the exclusion
of issues surrounding tire air pressure and riding technique.
Bicycle Wheels: Tubes and Tires, Spokes
Bicycle Parts including Wheels,
Power Train, Brakes & Frames