A Guide to Bicycle Tires

Tires is the prominent reason behind the functioning of any type of bike - they are the only element that goes into direct contact with the surface. Tires are the prime reason behind generating lateral forces.

Braking systems, propulsion, aerodynamic drag, gravity, and rolling resistance perform with the help of a bicycle tire. So, they have to be in good shape to make your ride good without any performance issues. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about bicycle tires so you can always reach your destination safely.

History Of Bicycle Tires

The invention of bicycle tires dates back to the 1960s. Velocipedes had the privilege of holding the first bicycle tires. In earlier days, bicycle tires were iron bands on wooden wheels. It was heavy and challenging to ride. People were continuously trying their hands on different materials which led to the invention of solid rubber tires. Later in 1882, the first pneumatic tires were invented by Robert William Thomson. In 1891, detachable tires were invented by Edouard Michelin.

Types Of Bike Tires

Understanding the types of bike tires and their functionality will help you decide on the right one according to your requirement. No matter where you buy a bike, whether online or from a store, make sure to examine the tires and understand the specifications.

1.Tubular tires

These tires are designed to be a single piece where the tube is inbuilt and sewn with the tire. Tubular tires are directly attached to the rim of the wheel. A mounting sidewall is not necessary for a tubular tire as they are placed on the rim directly

2.Tubeless tires

As the name implies, the absence of a tube in the tire is the specific feature of a tubeless tire. Their puncture resistance property, higher grip, and traction make them the most preferred option. Repairing tubeless tires are relatively easy. These tires weigh less which helps to ride with maximum comfort.

3.Clincher tires

These are the most common type of tires for commuting. They get their name from the technique of installing a tire on the wheel. Clincher tires are usually strong and offer a higher amount of traction.

Parts Of A Bicycle Tire

Educating yourself on the parts of a bicycle tire will direct you to handle it in a better way. It will also enhance your skill in the sport and augment your performance.

1.Bike Tread

Tread is the outermost layer of the bicycle tire. It has much prominence as it is the only part that touches the surface of the ground. A bike tread is usually made of butyl rubber to prevent the tires from getting punctured.

Types of bicycle tread

  • Street tread - The absence of knobs and the presence of grooves are the main features of the street tire tread. The work of grooves is to let water escape and keep the tire tact and sturdy
  • 40/60 tread - 60% of dirt and 40% of the street is the literal meaning of 40/60 tread. Knobs are present in the 40/60 tread which allows the easy gripping of stones and rocks
  • 60/40 tread - Exactly the opposite of the 40/60 tread, the 60/40 tread leaves room for 60% street and 40% dirt. Distance between the knobs is comparatively less than the latter. Grooves are wider which is perfect for off-road adventures
  • Dirt tire tread - As the name implies, the pattern of dirt tire tread is to ride in the dirt. The tire has larger knobs at certain distance intervals to pick up larger rocks and stones

Tread patterns

  • Slick pattern treads - Slick patterned tires are the perfect option if you are able to find the best cycling route without any hardships such as smooth surfaces. Off-roads with minor rough terrains can also be ridden with slick patterned tires
  • Knobby treads - One of the perfect choices for off-road adventures such as sand, mud, and dirt. They have good traction on muddy roads thus offering a higher level of grip

2.Tire Valves

Bike tire valves are the air lockers of a bicycle tire. They control the amount of air in the inner tube. They are present on the rim of the bicycle. It is through these valves air is filled in the inner tube. The top of the valve is structured to hold a dust cap. This prevents mud and dirt from entering the tire valve and the inner tube. Ensure to get the right bicycle inner tube to make productive use of tire valves.

Types Of Tire Valves

1.Presta valve

Often referred to as the french valve, the Presta valve is narrow and long to let air in and out of the inner tube. This valve requires a small hole in the rim of the tire to get fixed. As the presta valve allows zero amount of debris, it is preferred by most of the riders.


  • Thin
  • Debris and dirt do not enter the tube


  • Width of the valve is prone to damage

2.Schrader valve

A wide valve stem into which a smaller valve is inserted to lock the air into the inner tube is the basic structure of a Schrader valve. A small spring is present in the core of the valve that has to be depressed to pump air into the tube. It is the most widely used variant of tire valves.


  • Affordable variant
  • Universally available


  • Heavier than Presta valve

3.Dunlop valve

A tight rubber sleeve is present in the valve to ease the airflow. The Dunlop valve is thick and durable and the core prevents the entry of debris into the tube.


  • Easy to operate
  • Thick


  • Heaviest of the three variants

3.Tire Bead

Edge of the tire that sits on the rim of the wheel is the tire bead. It is the proximate reason behind the rider’s speed and safety. A well-fit tire bead will offer a good ride without any mishaps. The tire bead protects the rim from getting damaged and holds the wheel intact. Tire beads are usually made from bronze, copper, and brass to offer high durability and strength.

Types Of Tire Bead

1.Folding bead

As the name implies, the foldable tire bead can be folded at the edge of the wheel rim. The property is achieved by the presence of kevlar strands. The weight of the tire is significantly reduced by using a folding bead.


  • Flexible
  • Reduces the weight of the tire
  • Protects the tire from punctures


  • Expensive

2.Wired bead

Wired bead are also called Clincher tire which is made of strong and heavy steel. They cannot be folded as the steel restricts the flexibility of the bead. A rubber casing is installed on the edge of the bead to keep them attached to the rim.


  • Affordable
  • Maintains the stiffness of side walls


  • Not flexible

4.Puncture Protection

Puncture protection is the extra layer of rubber or any other material that is added by the manufacturer to protect the tires from tearing and running flat. The level and intensity of the materials used for protection depend on the type of bike and its purpose.


  • Affordable
  • Lasts longer
  • Protects the tire from damages


  • Makes tire heavy

Is There an Alternative to Puncture Protection?

Adding more layers of rubber has the ability to increase the weight of the tire which makes the entire bike heavy. This may be uncomfortable in long run and stop you from riding long distances. Puncture-resistant tapes and sealants are the best alternatives to puncture protection. They are also light when compared to the puncture protection layer.

  • Tire sealants are an adhesive gel that is applied on punctured tires. It prevents the tire from tearing. Having a sealant handy at all times is highly recommended as it will help you to get back on the roads within a time frame of 10 minutes.
  • Anti-puncture protective tapes are also used to protect the tires. These tapes are made of aramid and ultra-resistant fibers. The anti-puncture tape is present between the rim and the inner tube


The outer wall of the tire that is between the tread and bead is the sidewall. A sidewall is designed uniquely by various manufacturers as it is an area that is highly visible. The sidewall is highly important as it protects the tread of the tire from getting damaged. Sidewalls also protect dirt and debris from entering the tire. This component can help you ride for a small distance at a lower speed when after reinforcing it with steel.

The rider has to decide between a hard and a soft sidewall depending on the type of bike and the style of riding.

  • A hard sidewall offers more traction and is easier to control. They have a thick sidewall to control the tire
  • A soft sidewall makes controlling harder but they absorb shocks and are smoother to ride

Tire Pressure

Tire pressure is the amount of air that is present inside the tire. Pressure is the fundamental force that keeps the tire inflated and maintains its weight. Tire pressure is measured in PSI which means pounds per square inch. It is highly important to check tire pressure before every single ride. This will prevent you from stopping on the sides frequently. Narrow tires need more tire pressure than wider ones.

Bike Tire Pressure Chart

Type Of Bike

Tire Pressure

BMX bike

Around 80 - 100 PSI

Gravel bike

40 - 80 PSI

Road bike

80 - 130 PSI

Mountain bike

25 PSI

Hybrid bike

50 - 70 PSI

Importance Of Right Tire Pressure

  • Grip - If the bike’s tire has the right pressure, the contact of the tire with the surface of the ground will be enhanced thus helping the rider to have a level of grip needed for the ride. If the tire is inflated more than the recommended level, the corners and outer edges of the tire may not have a proper landing on the surface thus losing the grip

  • Prevents flat tires - With the wrong value of tire pressure, your tires are prone to get punctured and torn. This will increase the chances of ending up on the roadside during rides. Ensure to keep the right tire pressure to avoid flat tires

  • Shock absorption - Correctly inflated tires will absorb shock and vibration from bumps. Overinflated or under-inflated tires will make the rider experience shock on the roads and bumps. This paves the way for the rider to put more pressure on the pedal which ultimately leads to muscle fatigue

Size Of Bike Tires

Learning about the bike tire sizes will give you better clarity as not all tires suit all types of bikes

  • 26” - Commonly used for mountain bikes and hybrid bikes. They are not suitable for road bikes as they limit speed. The weight of the tire is also light and they are not ideal for tall riders

  • 27.5” - These tires are maneuverable and suitable for touring. They also offer higher levels of suspension. This tire is ideal for a tall rider

  • 29” - The width of the tire makes it ideal for mountain biking. As the tire is built to be wide and heavy, it can absorb dirt, small rocks, and debris on rough terrains

  • 700 C - 700 is the width of the bike tires mentioned in millimeters. A 700C tire will be a perfect fit for road bikes and mountain bikes. These tires are 2 ½ inches larger than the 26” tire. On the other hand, 28”, 29”, and 700C-sized tires have the same rim diameter

Choosing The Right Bicycle Tire

The right bicycle tire can be chosen only after understanding every aspect of the bike. The type of bike, style of ride, type of ride, the weight of the rider, and the weight of the bike are a few factors that determine the righteousness of the tire. Be it any type of bike or tires, it is highly recommended to maintain the bicycle and tires to keep them in good condition and to make them last longer.

Guide On Reading The Bike Tire’s Specs

The tire’s specifications will be mentioned in the sidewall of the tire. The numbers on the sidewall are the size of your tire. The outer diameter and its width are the numbers mentioned in the tire. The order of the description varies from one brand to another.

For instance, if the number mentioned in your bike is 700 * 23C, 700 is the diameter of the tire in millimeters. 23 refers to the width of the tire.

The alphabet C does not depict centimeters. It has been carried over from the french system that explains the tire sizes using the alphabets a, b, and c.


Bicycle tires may seem to be an element of a bike that does not require much concentration. But the functionality and importance of a bicycle tire are immense. It has to be noted that the right tire has the potential to take you miles. Choosing the right tire can be done only after a thorough possession of knowledge of all aspects that revolve around the tires.

Hope our article will help you make the right choice with bicycle tires. If you have any questions regarding the same, feel free to share a comment.

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