Choosing a bicycle tire can be more difficult than it seems. Many bike shops have sections dedicated to tires, but this often is more confusing than helpful to beginning cyclists. Use these tips to find the right tire for your bike and riding style, keeping in mind that many riders try several tires before finding a good match.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Select a tire that fits your wheels’ rims. There are two main types of tires: tubular, which glue onto the wheel rim, and the so-called clincher designs that are pressed or clinched against the rim by force of air pressure. The majority of bicycle wheels accept clincher tires, but if you have never changed your tires, be aware that the two designs are incompatible.
Choose the right size tire for your bike and wheels. Typical road bikes take 700 by 23c tires, but many road wheels require the wider 700 by 25c size. Check your old tires for size markings or read the manufacturer’s information for your wheels or bicycle to determine proper tire size.
Determine which tire materials and build designs best match your needs. Many recreational riders prefer a stiffer, heavier tire that can take significant abuse without flattening out. However, racers and performance enthusiasts often choose a lighter, softer and more pliable tire to provide superior road grip and feel. Many tires in both categories include weaved Kevlar or other fiber to reinforce the walls and belts of the tires. Of course, tire materials affect prices, but one type of tire is not necessarily cheaper than another. Build and material quality affect tire longevity and play more of a role in pricing than initial flat resistance.
Find a tire with an appropriate tread design. Good tires for all-around road riding have small grooves to provide greater purchase on rough or wet pavement, while racing and performance-oriented tires often have no tread at all. These “slick” tire designs achieve lower rolling resistance, but at the price of stability and flat resistance. Severely treaded tires are also available for cyclocross, poor road conditions and dirt road riding.
Consider the look of your bike when choosing a tire. Many riders find the traditional black tire to be tasteful and understated, while others look for colored piping to match or offset their bikes’ finishes. A fresh set of tires in complementing colors can complete the overall look of a bike and could help you feel refreshed on an old ride.