Bicycle Maintenance Tips: How To Choose Specialized Bicycle Tires

Choosing the right tire for the right application is imperative in order to achieve the most effective performance and safely enjoy cycling.

Choosing the right tire for the right application is imperative in order to achieve the most effective performance needed for a particular sport or event. To those serious about riding bikes either on the street or off road, finding the right tire is as important as a professional hockey player deciding whether or not they need ice skates, roller blades, or roller skates for the game is. The decisions seem limitless when you look at options like; how many treads per inch, width, inner tubes, slicks, and knobbies. You can begin to narrow your options once you have decided on your budget and riding style.

Basic guidelines

Bike style, your ability, and the terrain and conditions will determine the tire you use. If you can afford it, get two sets of tires and use them as conditions warrant. For the best grip, the edges of your treads should be sharp. If they're worn down, and rounded its time for new tires. Most road and mountain cyclists have at least two sets of tires. One set is for speed, and the other for grip. If you own a mountain bike for example it will require different tires if you are doing a lot of road travel than what you would use off road. More experienced riders tend to use more terrain specific tires but if your just getting into cycling then purchasing a tire designed for general use is the best option. The terrain usually dictates the tread design that will allow you to safely maneuver on either steep, rocky trails, gravel or paved roads.


There are some important things to consider when choosing the right tread for your tire. The tread of a road tire is often slick and has a very shallow pattern if any at all. Road bikes are made to go fast while still maintaining rolling efficiency. By limiting your treat you will increase speed by reducing rolling resistance. On pavement, traction is maintained because more tire is in contact with the pavement adopting the same theory motorcycle sport bikes use. Mountain bikes however need more tread to increase traction on water, mud, and rock. On uneven surfaces a thicker tread is required to grip the surface and force the obstacles away from the tire.

General-Purpose: This is a good all-purpose for use in the street, cities, or country riding. The tire has low tread, tough rubber compounds and a nice, rounded profile.

Knobbies: Great for the off road mountain biker looking to improve handling. Look for options like center treads for less rolling resistance with a minimal loss of traction. Directional treads will get you through the mud and water and Kevlar sidewalls will help with puncture resistance.

Inverted: Inverted tread and smooth sides allow for low rolling resistance and good traction on both pavement and gravel. This tread design works great on the street, town, or just touring the country.

Slicks: Little or no tread means very little rolling resistance and works great for city riding and road racing. The narrow profile and high air pressure makes for a very competitive fast ride.

Tire width

Road tires are narrow for speed, minimizing resistance they work great for street racing or touring and generally range in sizes 18mm through 20mm. Wider tires are for the single-track gravel road and dirt rider were traction is a must. The tires range in sizes 20 mm through 28 mm. If you use a tire narrower than 20 mm, the potential for a flat from pot holes, sharp rocks, and sticks is much higher. As a general rule, if you would like more speed and don't mind the bumpy ride and increased risk of flats, than try a narrower tire. If you want a smoother ride, reduced chance of pinch flats, and less acceleration, try a wider tire.

Inner tubes

Thinner tubes offer lightweight, but give a greater chance of a puncture from anything that cuts into the tire. Thicker tubes offer more resistance to flats from these causes but suffer from slow acceleration due to added weight. Keep in mind that all tubes loose air over a period of time and should be checked weekly for correct tire pressure. Remember, bike design, your ability, and the terrain and conditions you find yourself in will determine the tire you use. Making the right decisions on your purchase of specialized tires will ensure your safety and years of riding pleasure.

© High Speed Ventures 2011