Tires are one of the most important components of a bicycle. But which tires fit my bike? An overview.
They are often neglected to the point of breaking down. Cyclists can
Tires don’t actually pay enough attention. They are the only component of the bike that provides traction.
And depending on the usage scenario, the bicycle tire can even replace the full suspension. “Over an area much smaller than a postcard, it transmits braking force and acceleration energy and countless small steering impulses – with every ride,” says Thomas Geisler of the Göttingen press service bicycle.
According to the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC), wire tires, also known as clinchers, are the most popular. A metal wire holds the carcass – that is, the base fabric – on a U-shaped edge, explains Geisler. This base fabric carries the rubber layer to the tread and sidewalls of the tire.
There is usually a Kevlar or special rubber puncture protection belt between the rubber and the fabric. “But these tires are not as ‘bouncy’ as some advertisements promise,” writes Stiftung Warentest on its website.
Hoses are most commonly made of synthetic rubber (butyl). It holds air better than natural rubber (latex) tubes. Latex tubes are lighter and have lower rolling resistance.
While standard tires have an inner tube, there are also “tubeless” tires. To keep tight, tires need special rims with an airtight rim bed. It’s more expensive. Assembly is also more difficult. A special sealing milk must be filled through the valve. Immediately closes small tears or holes.
Bicycle tires are available in many widths: cyclists sometimes ride with tires that are only 20 millimeters wide, although the trend in cycling is also towards wider tires.
In some cases, the widths of sporty gravel bikes or comfortable everyday bikes exceed 60 millimeters, explains Roland Huhn of the ADFC. Fatbike Extreme tires are twice as wide for optimal traction on rough terrain such as sand.
The minimum and maximum allowable tire pressure is indicated on the sidewalls of bicycle tires as a guide, in units of bar and psi. According to the ADAC, up to one bar of air can escape per month.
“If you drive below the minimum value, you damage the tire, the tube and the rim and you can crash badly,” says the ADAC. Regular pumping helps prevent tire wear. On the other hand, if the pressure is permanently too high, the tire can burst.
So you shouldn’t wait until the spring check to see if the tire is still tight enough. It is also best to check the coat regularly – for small intruders in the tread.
A floor pump with a pressure gauge, i.e. with a pressure indicator, is suitable for measuring pressure. The thinner the tire, the higher the air pressure should be – racing cyclists ride flat and asphalt routes up to eight bars. Less air in the tires makes sense on forest roads, fields or gravel.
The nature of the tire’s rubber also plays an important role in adhesion, rolling resistance and grip. Experts have roughly differentiated between road tires and off-road tires.
One extreme form is treadless tires, called slicks. They offer good grip and low rolling resistance on compact and slippery roads. The opposite is mountain bike tires with coarse lugs. They guarantee good grip on soft ground and cornering.
Gravel bikes are an example of mixed tread tires. Road bikes for rough terrain should be fast, but also offer grip on gravel. The sliding surfaces are equipped with low friction flakes or lamellar structure. The profile on the outer edges provides extra traction. According to the ADFC, tires with a rather smooth tread in combination with side knobs are also more suitable for touring bikes.
Storing your bike in the winter can prevent damage. It is ideal if the bike is hanging. This protects the sidewalls of the tires. If the wheel is stationary, the tire should have enough air.
Bike tires with spikes should avoid slipping on ice and hard snow. “It works best with minimal air pressure, as most of the tips are in contact with the ground at the same time,” says Geisler. If in doubt, this shortens some braking distances. In studless tires, the reduced air pressure improves traction.
There are also tire covers. A Norwegian company has patented the skins: the second outer skin is attached to the base of the tire with a zipper. They are also available for the winter.
All-season tires are another alternative: thanks to a special lamellar profile and a softer rubber compound, they promise greater grip in sub-zero temperatures. They also often have better puncture protection – “a factor not to be underestimated, especially on cycle paths and lanes covered with loose gravel, to avoid a flat tire,” explains Geisler.