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Bike Tires – Why Having the Right One Makes the Difference!

Simply put, a tire is a ring of rubber, which, mounted on a wheel rim, generates contact to the surface you’re cycling on – this is all correct in principle. But it often comes down to the smaller details. Modern bicycle tires provide a balance between grip, low rolling resistance and comfort that is optimised to their use. As such, bicycle tires come in an array of different types and with different treads. Do want to find out about tubeless MTB tires or why only clincher tires fit on your bike? Then >>> Read more

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The History of the Bicycle Tire

If you’ve ever been to a technical exhibition, perhaps you’ll know that the first bicycles saw the light of day around 1860. But did you know that they didn’t actually have any tires, just wheels, like those on a carriage? And did you also know that the bicycle tire was the prototype for the pneumatic tires we use on cars? The principle of wheels and tires that is still current came to be with the introduction of the penny-farthing around 10 years later, with tires made from solid rubber and wheel rims of heavy steel. A combination that the rider first had to get rolling before starting to pedal. If you’re thinking that there were standardised tire sizes or that you could do a quick change of tires back then, you’d be wrong!  
The first bicycle tires were manufactured to specification out of natural rubber. What’s more, the tires showed no give when it came to impacts and hardly provided a positive contribution to the steel wheels which lacked any suspension. One advantage of solid rubber tires, however, was the protection they provided against punctures. And seeing as filled bicycle tires continue to provide the most reliable protection against punctures and slashes today, there are currently weight-optimised tire designs that build on this principle. You can find more on the topic by reading: “Bicycle tire puncture protection”. 
The bicycle increasingly became an individual mode of transport available to the masses, but extracting large amounts of the natural rubber required for solid rubber tires was time-consuming and expensive. Unknowingly, two inventors, who remain well-known in the cycling world to this day, made the step from solid rubber to comfortable pneumatic tires around the same time. We’re speaking about John Dunlop, who actually worked as a vet, and Édouard Michelin. At almost the same time (1888 & 1889), they provided the basis for all the pneumatic tires we use on bicycles today. Read on to find out how their design differs to today’s bicycle tires.

From Clincher Tires to Wire Bead Tires

The first pneumatic tires were known as clincher tires due to how they were attached to the wheel rim. The name “clincher tire” comes from the way the tires “clinch” to the rim. They had a bead on the left and right which also used to be made of natural rubber and gripped onto a compatible rim flange. The rest of the rubber lip lay inside on the bare rim well and almost completely enclosed the inner tube. On the face of it, an unmounted clincher tire would appear to have a significantly smaller internal diameter than the rim. A textile carcass, made of cotton for example, formed the base for the first tires of this kind and is still sometimes used today. Rubber was then adhered to this carcass, and later vulcanised on. 
And so the basic tire design was born, a design which is still used to this day:

Component Description
1. Bead on clincher tires (wire bead and folding)
2. Carcass often made of nylon, or of cotton for high-quality models
3. Sidewall

often a layer of rubber vulcanised onto the tire

may also feature additional protective layers, of Kevlar for example

can also be coloured, e.g. skinwall, gumwall or whitewall

4. Tread Can come with a puncture-proof layer


In contrast to the tire design we are used to seeing today, tires in the past were practically closed all the way, also in the rim well. Even though the beads were already rather well-defined, this additional support was necessary so that the tire would hold in place in the rim even under pressure. Back then, it was still quite common for tires to simply spring off at pressures much lower than we are used to today. Compared to current tires, this construction caused a high weight and with the emergence of competitive road cycling, it was necessary to develop a tire which was also able to withstand higher forces. For this reason, those competing in the grand tours, such as the Tour or Giro, would use tubular tires at the start of the 20th century. Unfortunately, this kind of tires was rather less suited to your average cyclist due to their price and the way they handled, and the same can be said today. Not to mention the fact that they were in scarce supply during times of war and shortage. It’s hard to believe, but cycling enthusiasts had to wait around 60 years before wire bead tires became the norm as they are today.

One for All – The Wire Bead Bicycle Tire

Huge progress was made with wire bead tires. They’re more lightweight than their predecessors and stay securely on the rim even at high tire pressures – up to 9 bar for modern road bike tires. Wire bead tires remain open in the rim well, that is to say above the spoke holes, and get their name as they feature two thin pieces of wire which clinch securely into the rim well.  
Wire beads are made of either steel or Kevlar fibre. Additional stability is provided through the carcass which wraps around the wire bead (see Fig.). The carcass is a piece of fabric which serves as a supporting base for the tire. The thinner the carcass on a wire bead or folding tire, the more it can adapt to the surface you’re riding on. This also means that the carcass is lighter. You can tell how flexible a tire carcass is by its threads per inch – EPI or TPI. Rubber is then applied onto this carcass and vulcanised. This is known as the rubber compound or tread – the part of the tire that comes into contact with the floor – and is optimised in terms of grip and rolling resistance. It is thicker so that the tires can go a certain distance and a tread pattern can be moulded into it.

The compatible bike rims, which can also be used for folding tires as they have a similar construction, feature slightly articulated flanges that the wire bead slides into through air pressure. Nowadays, wire bead tires are available for every type of bicycle and they are usually fitted onto complete bicycles ex works, especially for beginners. The reasons for this are their affordable starting price and durable design, with moderate levels of rolling resistance and grip. 
Wire bead and folding tires are compatible with the same rims and have a similar construction. But there are some differences: read on to find out more.

The Special Case of Folding Tires

The lower the rotational mass, the easier it is to accelerate. As it’s the tires that make up the majority of this mass on bikes, it’s no wonder that tire manufacturers started to optimise their weight.  
And they did so particularly effectively, with the introduction of folding tires. The folding tires currently used on MTBs can easily weigh 120 g less than comparable wire bead tires. But what is a folding tire? Like a wire bead tire, a folding tire is also a clincher tire, but instead of using bundles of steel wire for the bead, foldable aramid, Kevlar or even carbon fibres are used instead. In addition to the significant reduction in weight, these models, at around €6-10 more, have the advantage that they can be folded up and easily taken with you, when you go on a bike ride for example.

Tubeless or Traditional?

We’re now going to tackle the question on everyone’s lips when it comes to bicycle tires: is it better and less fuss to ride with an inner tube or is it worth investing in and installing a tubeless tire system?

Everything You Need to Know about the Classic Tire and Inner Tube

Presenting the classic tire, inner tube and rim tape set-up, which is used on many complete bikes we see around today. But how does it work?  
An inner tube sits in the U-shape inside a wire bead or folding tire. This tube is then pumped up, like you would a balloon, so it sits against the wall of the tire. In principle, this set-up allows the tire system to adapt itself to any impacts and bumps and then the pressure can even back out. The tube is thin and made of butyl rubber or latex so the rotational mass doesn’t get too high. A valve is used to add the right amount of air pressure. The thin rubber inner tube, when inflated, is easily punctured by sharp objects, which is why it should be protected from the sharp edges of the rim well using rim tape.  
Putting on a tire and inner tube is easy. Once rim tape has been applied and your tire is half mounted on the rim, insert your inner tube. Then push the free bead over the rim flange. Once the tire is fully on the rim and nothing is pinched or stuck, you can start to inflate.  
This system would appear to work away quietly, but on the inside, friction between the tire and tube can mean that the power the rider exerts is lost in flexing, increasing the rolling resistance. To keep this from happening as little as possible, tire pressure, in road bike tires for example, should be very high in order to reduce the rolling resistance. This, however, reduces comfort and grip off-road. And this often changes at frequent intervals, especially on single tracks.

Once you’ve found the sweet spot riding on soft, dry ground, you could be in for a rude awakening when you turn a corner to find you’re riding on hard stone. And a sharp rock could push things over the edge, with the quick impact leading to the dreaded snake bite.  
A snake bite happens when the rims pinch the inner tube to punch two slits into the rubber. Even when it comes to standard punctures, the thin rubber inner tube is the weakest link in the chain and your tire will become flat.  
You should carry a spare tube or repair kit with you, so your ride doesn’t have to come to an end if this happens. You’ll usually have to take off the rear wheel and tire and then search for the puncture, which can be a real pain. Then it’ll take you another 5-10 minutes to patch it up and get everything back on your bike again.

If that sounds a bit too much for you, we can put your mind at ease. With a little practice, it’s easily doable, even when you’re out on a ride, and it’s the most reasonably priced and widely available system. You can usually buy a pair of wire bead tires and inner tubes for a city bike for around €75, even at smaller bicycle retailers, and wire bead tires and the related tire accessories are available almost everywhere in the world.

Tubeless-Ready: The Latest in Bicycle Tires

Tubeless tires are a special kind of wire bead tire originally developed for the MTB sector. Meanwhile, folding tubeless-ready tires offer the possibility of converting the set-up for all types of bikes, including e-bikes and city bikes. And ambitious mountain bikers and road cyclists have long since sworn by them. Find out why below.

It was originally necessary to have a UST system made up of compatible components, including the wheel, or rim, and tire. The tires were heavy due to their additional butyl sealing layer, which meant that they kept their pressure without the need for sealant, but which hardly made them attractive for road bike racing.  
Current tires which can be used without inner tubes are refreshingly different in this regard and combine the best of both worlds: low weight and compatibility with many of the rims currently in use. This is made possible with the use of sealant, which makes the system airtight, even if there is only a thin additional layer in the carcass and the beads are designed to fit onto standard rims. Needless to say, compatibility can only be guaranteed if the rims have been approved by the manufacturer as being tubeless-ready. In addition to sealant, you’ll also need tubeless rim tape, a rubber base valve and a high-volume floor pump to achieve that tubeless bliss. There are also special pumps or separate tanks to make things easier. 
Once you’ve applied your tubeless rim tape and valve, you can then start to pull one beaded edge onto the rim. The next step can be a bit tricky the first time you do it. Either you add the sealant directly at the lowest point, or you use an injector. Then inflate your tires until you hear a distinct pop and spin your wheel a few times, so the sealant can properly spread out and everything is airtight. You can then reduce the pressure in line with your tire manufacturer’s recommendations before you first head out for a ride.

When you first get going, whether that’s on or off-road, you’ll notice that the tires initially seem to ride just like tires with an inner tube. It’s only when you hear that occasional mild sloshing sound that you’ll remember what’s going on inside your tires. Tubeless tires have some interesting differences in terms of damping and rolling resistance, grip, and protection against punctures and snake bites. As there is no inner tube, there is also less flex, which in plain terms means: you can feel free to ride with less pressure and still have a low rolling resistance – similar to riding with inner tubes and high tire pressures. And will I hear that familiar hiss of a snake bite? No. Running low pressure, tubeless tires are superior to their fellow tires with tubes also in the fact that they eliminate the risk of snake bites. To even get a snake bite on a tubeless tire, you’d have to have a rather aggressive riding style on downhill or enduro trails and if this is the case, you may want to think about getting some additional puncture protection.

Punctures are the most common cause of flat tires, but with tubeless systems, punctures of around 4-6 mm will seal back up and it’s often the case that you’ll keep on cycling without taking any notice or interrupting your ride. If, however, a puncture does make its way through, you can either patch up your tire on the trail with a tubeless repair kit or pop an inner tube in.  
Whether you’re riding a gravel bike or trail MTB, you’re bound to be blown away by the shock absorption and grip on tubeless tires, and there is a clear increase in comfort, especially on hardtails and wheels without suspension. There are, however, two tiny flies in the ointment. This kind of tire will lose pressure more quickly if left for longer periods, but if you regularly check your tire pressure anyway, then this isn’t a problem. Sealant will dry out after around 6 months to one year and won’t be a reliable way of keeping your tires airtight. This means: you’ll have to add new sealant to keep on enjoying your tubeless set-up.

To make your decision easier, we’ve made a list of the pros and cons of both systems and noted down the costs (wheelset not included).



Pros Cons Price check
Tires with inner tubes

+ compatible with all rims currently used for wire bead tires

+ available far and wide at an affordable price

+ no-fuss installation

+ can be inflated with a standard bicycle pump

+ no definite subsequent costs every year

- more rotational mass and rolling resistance due to the inner tube

- continuous loss of pressure in the event of a puncture

- often only time-consuming repairs or changing the tube can help in this case

- trade-off between grip and risking a puncture on changing terrain

- significant increase in rolling resistance when tire pressure drops

A pair of wire bead or folding tires* for a 29er MTB: approx. €60 and €90 respectively 
Two compatible inner tubes: approx. €15 
Rim tape: approx. €6 
Total costs: €81 for wire bead and €111 for folding

*many of the tubeless-ready tires currently available are also folding tires

Tubeless-ready tires

+ seals punctures back up

+ significant reduction in rolling resistance

+ can be ridden with less air pressure for more comfort

+ low pressures increase grip and there is a low risk of puncture

+ affordable way of reducing rotational mass

+ are also easy to use with an inner tube in the event of an emergency

- slightly more effort involved in installation

- high-volume floor pump required for initial installation

- expensive to buy, with definite subsequent costs

- not all tire-rim combinations are tubeless-ready

One pair of tubeless-ready tires for a 29er MTB: approx. €90 
Tubeless rim tape: approx. €17 
Tubeless valve: approx. €20 
500 ml sealant: approx. €16 

Semi-annual costs for 200ml of new sealant: approx. €6.40 
Total costs in one year: €149.40


Tire repair sprays can also be used as a quick fix to help get you quickly back on your way in the event of a puncture through your tire and inner tube. The foam seals up punctures and slashes up to 2 mm in size until you get back home.  
Doesn’t sound like your thing? Then why not check out our self-adhesive inner tube repair patches?

Even the sealant used in the tubeless system has its limits and sometimes your tire begins to hiss again when you pump it back up or set off. But don’t worry, there are handy tubeless repair kits for when this happens. Using a special mini fork, push a plug that’s approx. 5 cm long and made of sticky rubber into the hole whilst the tire is still mounted on the rim and filled with air. Now the sealant will be able to move around and seal things up again. Pump your tire back up and that’s that!

If you don’t want to get any kind of flat tire, then you’re best heading to our section on puncture protection right away!

Design Features of Tubular Tires

Tubular tires are a special type of performance-oriented tires. It was hard to imagine professional cycling without it for many decades and it still holds a certain popularity among hobby cyclists and triathletes. In contrast to wire bead tires, there are no beads on the carcass of a tubular tire. Instead, it is sewn together and then glued to the rim well and sealed with base tape. The inner tube is built into the tire itself. Additional rim tape is not required, which is another way to save on weight.

Component Description
1. Carcass

often made from very finely woven cotton or even ultra-soft silk

no additional layer of rubber on the sidewalls on super lightweight skinwall models

2. Built-in tube made of butyl rubber or latex for example
3. Tread  Can come with a puncture-proof layer 


Tubular tires are attached onto special hookless tubular rims. Nowadays, they are often made from carbon and do not feature flanges, which means they are particularly lightweight and rotational mass can be reduced even further. What’s more, almost all cyclo-cross and most road bikes have disc brakes, which is why current tubular tire systems are setting new benchmarks when it comes to acceleration. Tubular tires becoming loose due to heat developing on the rim’s braking surface is a thing of the past.

You may be wondering: how are these tires attached to the rim? 
When mounting them, tubular tires are stretched over the rim under tension like a sealing ring with a round cross-section. The bases of the compatible rims are concave and the side of the tire carcass with the seam sits in here well. Tubular tires also have the optimal support if rims are the correct width. The tires are finally fixed in place with a special glue or double-sided tape. Once attached as so, and thanks to their ultra-flexible carcasses, tubular tires can withstand the highest pressures of up 10 bar (around 150 psi) and more, whereby rolling resistance is significantly reduced.  
When it comes to carcasses: thanks to the 170 TPI/EPI (threads or ends per inch) of each carcass layer (often made up of two to three layers) and the use of cotton or even silk thread, tubular tires are also extremely grippy. At the same time, rolling resistance and weight can be brought down to an absolute minimum.

One tire, two extremes! Tubular tires can withstand the highest pressures just as they can withstand low pressures too. And the best thing: there is a low risk of getting a puncture, and the risk of getting a snake bite (tube coming into contact with the edges of the rim) is eliminated completely. On this basis, it’s no wonder that tubular tires are the go-to in cyclo-cross due to their high levels of grip, as well as in time trials, track and indoor cycling due to their low rolling resistance. 
From day dot, there has been a lot of manual effort put into making tubular tires in order to realise all these benefits whilst maintaining high levels of quality and durability. This comes at a price, which, starting at €50 per tire, isn’t all that cheap.

And what do I do if I get a puncture? Simple: either you fit a replacement tubular tire, use repair spray or apply a special sealant for tubulars. With some practice, the whole thing is even quicker than patching up an inner tube and you’ll be back rolling on two wheels before you know it. Many manufacturers of tubular tires offer a repair service, so once you’re back home, you can even send your tires in to them. Based on their higher price point per tire compared to wire bead tires, as well as the higher repair costs involved, we wouldn’t recommend tubular tires for touring or everyday cycling with a view to their price-to-performance ratio.

What Are the Markings That Can Be Seen on Tires?

Whether written on big stickers, printed in large font on the tire, or etched or stamped on in super small writing, cryptic combinations of letters and numbers can be seen on practically every bicycle component. And no doubt you’ve seen the markings which stand out on both sides of the tires? We’ve taken two examples, a gravel bike tire and an MTB tire, to show you what they mean. But first we’d like to give you a little introduction into the seemingly infinite depths of the bicycle tire sizing system.

The Sizing System for Clincher Tires

On today’s clincher tires – wire bead and folding, as well as tubeless tires – it’s often the case that you’ll see markings from three different sizing systems: the inch system, the French system and the E.T.R.T.O system.

When it comes to the inch system, one inch corresponds to 25.4 mm. Inches are written either as decimals, e.g. 29 x 2.40 inches, or as fractions, e.g. 28 x 1 1/2 inches. The first value relates to the approximate outer diameter, whilst the second usually describes the width of the tire. If there are three values indicated and written as fractions, such as 28" x 1 5/8" x 1 3/8", the second value represents the height and the last the width. Multiplication symbols are written in between the values. When cyclists talk about a 26er or 29er, they’re always referring to the first value in the inch system. So if you’re wondering in which category to start your search for the right tire on the BIKE24 online store, you can often find out by reading it on the tire itself. In reality, however, the outer diameter indicated rarely corresponds to the actual diameter. The reason for this is the wide range of widths and the internal diameter of the rim. You should also use with caution when it comes to converting fractions, e.g. for Dutch or old touring bike tires. After measuring, it’s highly likely you’ll end up choosing a model with a different internal diameter.

The E.T.R.T.O (European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation) system is a standardised system in accordance with ISO 5775 to make the sizing of bicycle tires and rims consistent. 
Values are written in millimetres and may look like this: 43-584. The first number is the width of the tire and is often measured at the widest point of the carcass. The result obtained may differ on the same tire depending on the rim and tire pressure. The second three-digit number after the dash is the tire’s internal diameter. This corresponds to the diameter of the rim where the tire is mounted, so you can be confident that your tire will fit onto your wheel or rim if it corresponds to the three-digit E.T.R.T.O number.

The oldest sizing system used for tires is probably the French system. Originally invented in the birthplace of competitive cycling, the French method is as follows: a three-digit number indicating the approximate outer diameter of the tire in millimetres, a multiplication symbol, a two-digit number referring to the width of the tire in millimetres and a letter. It may look like this: 700x38B. The letter used to indicate the recommended internal diameter of the rim and the height of the tire, and it goes from A = narrow to D = very wide. However, the method has since evolved and the letter no longer refers to the actual width, as current 700C road bike tires, for example, are rather narrow and ridden on the corresponding rims (21 mm wide). Wide 29er MTB tires are also 700C according to the French system and are sometimes put on 40 mm-wide rims.

A summary of our brief journey through the sizing systems: The only reliable indication of whether the tires you’re looking at will fit on your bike is given by the E.T.R.T.O system! 

For this reason, the BIKE24 spec sheet for every tire in our large selection always includes the E.T.R.T.O sizes.

If you’re the lucky owner of a rare classic and the French rather than the E.T.R.T.O sizes are marked on the tire, don’t worry. You can measure your tire’s internal diameter on a flat surface, take note of the sizes marked on your tire, look at our tire sizing overview and then find the corresponding E.T.R.T.O size:


 Inch sizing system 
(tire’s outer diameter)
French sizing system 
(tire’s outer diameter)
E.T.R.T.O sizing system 
(tire’s internal diameter when mounted on the rim)
29" 700C 622
28" 700D 587
700C 622
700B 636
27.5" 650B 584
27" 630
26" 650 559
650C 571
650A 590 
24" 507
600/600A 541
20" 406
500A 438
500 450
18" 349
450A 390
16" 305
14" 350 288
350A 298
12.5" 203

In a Nutshell: Two Tire Examples and Their Markings

  Gravel Tires: Panaracer Gravelking SK 27.5x1.75 [650B] [43-584] Folding Tires MTB Tires: Maxxis Rekon TR WT EXO 3C MaxxTerra 29x2.40 [66-622] Folding Tires
1) Manufacturer
  • in the example: Panaracer
  • also available from Schwalbe, Continental and WTB for example → all BIKE24 tire brands
  • in the example: Maxxis
  • other well-known MTB tire manufactures include: Kenda, Continental, Michelin, Schwalbe and Bontrager
2) Name of the tire model
  • Gravelking SK
  • Rekon
3) Sizing information
  • 43-584 is the E.T.R.T.O size in mm
  • 27.5x1.75 is the size in inches, using decimals
  • 650x43B is the French size
  • 29x2.40 is the size in inches, using decimals (common for MTB tires)
  • 66-622 is the E.T.R.T.O size in mm (embossed without colour)
  • NO French size
4) Additional information
  • “Made in Japan” tells you where the tire was manufactured
  • TLC stands for TubeLess Compatible, meaning tubeless ready (airtight with sealant without an inner tube)
  • 3C MaxxTerra stands for the rubber compound on the tread which is all-important for MTB tires
  • EXO Protection refers to the additional sidewall protection against cuts and punctures
  • TR stands for Tubeless Ready (airtight with sealant without an inner tube)
  • 120 TPI in the example indicates the number of threads per inch in one layer of carcass
5) Information on tire pressure
  • max. 400 KPa (4.0 bar / 60 psi) – this indicates the maximum pressure
  • Many manufacturers choose not to indicate minimum pressure – regardless of whether tires have an inner tube or not and which rim is used
  • 140-280 KPa (20-40 psi / 1.4-2.8 bar) – the first number indicates the minimum and the second the maximum pressure

Special Kinds of Tires

With the numerous cycling disciplines out there, it’s no wonder that each discipline has its own specific bike with optimised components, and the tires you use play a key role when it comes to performance. Here’s a brief overview of some main tires used on mountain, road and gravel bikes and more.

Tires for Road and Triathlon Bikes

The tire is one of the most important components on road and triathlon bikes and converts the rider’s power into performance. Narrow 28" tires with hardly any tread pattern tend to be used as standard. 26" (E.T.R.T.O 571) tires can only be found on very small bikes for women and children. Modern road bike tires make for high speeds and maximum performance with minimal rolling resistance and a low weight.  
At the same time, the latest designs also manage to achieve both grip on corners and comfort, thanks to a larger cross-section. But how so? A classic road bike tire is super narrow (previously 19-21 mm) and inflated with 8 bar to be as hard as rock (poor rims!) for optimal rolling resistance and aerodynamics. But this set-up is now seen as outdated. It has been possible to increase the volume and width of road bike tires for more comfort thanks to thinner carcasses, tubeless tires and, depending on tire pressure, a somewhat rounder contact patch. A very thin carcass and tubeless tires mean less flexing.

But what’s a rounder contact patch all about? The contact patch is like a tire’s footprint and is created depending on pressure, tire stability, volume and tread pattern. The more traditional road bike tires created an ellipsis-shaped contact patch, whereas the modern, chunkier designs are more similar to a circle. A tire with a contact patch as long as it is wide distorts less when rolling, therefore having a positive effect on rolling resistance. Naturally, this only works optimally with equal tire pressure. Thanks to a thinner structure and tubeless compatibility, tire pressure can be reduced to create more damping and grip whilst still providing similarly low resistance.

These technical innovations have led to two different lines of development in this tire sector: wider touring tires with increased protection against punctures and which are often tubeless-ready, and extra lightweight tubular tires for races.  
Most touring road bikes are equipped with folding tires with a width between 25-28 mm and tire pressures up to 6.5 bar. Especially if they’re tubeless-ready, they offer a good balance between comfort and rolling resistance and are therefore designed for ambitious sports enthusiasts and hobby cyclists who don’t count on every last watt. Many amateur athletes and professionals, on the other hand, prefer it harder, farther, faster, and so prefer to opt for tubular tires at widths between 22-24 mm and sometimes even inflate them to more than 9 bar to achieve their best times during races. But nothing can come close to super lightweight triathlon and road bike tires with their ultra-fine silk carcasses in combination with carbon wheels. 
Things look a little different again when it comes to training bikes. Folding tires with widths from 23 to 25 mm are used so flat tires are easier to deal with. In the road biking sector, clincher tires with inflexible wire beads are only used on more affordable complete bikes for beginners and can be easily replaced in time with more lightweight folding tires.

And what's coming up in future? As we’ve already mentioned, demand for tubeless tire systems is on the rise, including for road bikes. And even the professionals are opting for more traction and increased protection against punctures and snake bites for the classics on the cycling calendar, such as Paris Roubaix.

Cyclo-cross & Gravel Bike Tires

Current cyclo-cross & gravel bikes bring together the best of both worlds, combining quick, comfortable rolling properties on the road, but having enough in reserve so that riders can also have their fun on fire roads and flowtrails. Special gravel bike tires, among some other things, are required to make this possible. The tires available in 27.5" (650B), 28" or 29" have better damping properties thanks to wider wheel-tire combinations, providing that typical gravel bike comfort and more grip. Visit our gravel tire category page now and learn even more about the hoops specifically for gravel road racers.

Cyclo-cross tires that conform to the international UCI rules are 33 mm in width.

The frames used on cyclo-cross bikes, however, can actually take chunkier tires with widths of 35 to 37 mm. Depending on the ground you’re riding on, these tires will have varying tread patterns to give you traction on mud, slippy grass or small pebbles, for example. Lightweight folding tires with traditional inner tubes are used as standard, however the trend is clearing heading in the tubeless direction. Most professional cyclo-cross riders, however, take the crown when racing on tubulars.

MTB Tires

Knobs are perhaps one of the most important features on modern mountain bike tires. You may be thinking, that sounds like a strange word - what has it got to do with bicycle tires? Knobs, lugs or spikes refer to the raised bits of rubber which form the tread pattern on MTB tires and give them their distinctive, aggressive look. Their size and the way they are spaced out can be a science in itself and often an optimised rubber compound is used to form them.  
You may be wondering: “What’s all the fuss about?”, so to give a bit of background, let’s take a quick look at two typical types of MTB trails.

Modern cross-country racetracks are all about riders getting their best times on an off-road circuit. They’re usually an eclectic mix of fast flat sections, steep ascents and challenging downhill runs. The ground switches between road and loose, solid or muddy tracks through forests and across fields, and there can even be some drops to give riders some airtime.

On the other hand, downhill courses, as the name suggests, are steep, almost non-stop descents with hard, sharp rocks, root-strewn ground and incredibly high drops and jumps. Riding conditions are extremely challenging as the ground can be completely washed-out and muddy, or covered with loose gravel and large rocks. 
It’s clear that tires need to be specifically optimised depending on what kind of riding you’re doing, and tires can be split up into the following basic types, each with their own specific features:


  Cross Country All Mountain Enduro Freeride/Downhill Mixed Terrain*
Purpose Fast XC courses Also suited for multi-day trail riding Steep ascents leading to even steeper, sometimes highly technical descents The steepest downhill trails with jumps and drops / challenging gravity courses strewn with rock gardens and root sections Good rolling properties on hard road with enough reserves for moderate single tracks
Carcass structure Very finely woven (120 TPI and over), lightweight carcass layers, single-ply composition – 3x overlap under the tread, 2x at the sides Finely woven (120 TPI), lightweight carcass layers, single-ply composition – 3x overlap under the tread, 2x at the sides Fine to rather coarse carcass layers, but single-ply (60 to 120 TPI) to dual-ply (2x60 TPI) composition (6x overlap under the tread, 4x on the sides) Coarse carcass layers, dual-ply (2x60 TPI) composition (6x overlap under the tread, 4x on the sides) Coarse to finely woven (60 -120 TPI), lightweight carcass layers, single-ply composition – 3x overlap under the tread, 2x at the sides
Sidewall protection/reinforcement Often none Lightweight version All-encompassing, solid version, sometimes with additional butyl rubber inserts All-encompassing, solid version, sometimes with additional butyl rubber inserts  Lightweight to all-encompassing version 
Tread pattern Low, widely-spaced knobs More pronounced tread pattern with distinctive shoulder knobs and tight central knobs More pronounced tread pattern with distinctive shoulder knobs and tight central knobs Particularly aggressive pattern with knobs that are wide but not especially high – optimal bite during acceleration with easy corner transitions Mixed pattern with a compact mid-section for smooth rolling properties without vibration and tilted outer knobs to provide a certain amount of confidence when required, including off-road
Rubber compound Dual or triple compounds: middle of the tread set up for low rolling resistance, more grip towards the sides, harder basic compound with triple compounds Dual or triple compounds: middle of the tread set up for low rolling resistance, more grip towards the sides, harder basic compound with triple compounds  Dual or triple compounds: medium-hard basic compound, middle of the tread set up for less rolling resistance, high grip towards the sides Dual or triple compounds: medium-hard basic compound, middle of the tread and shoulder knobs with super tacky rubber compound Dual or triple compounds: middle of the tread set up for low rolling resistance, more grip towards the sides, harder basic compound with triple compounds 
Rolling resistance (on hard ground) Very low Low to moderate Moderate to high Rather high as grip, durability and damping are more important Low thanks to the compact pattern in the middle of the tread
Grip Very high on dry, unpaved but hard terrain Good all-round traction Particularly high traction thanks to the knobby tread that really bites into ground Particularly high traction thanks to the knobby tread hat really bites into ground and super tacky rubber compounds Something in between, providing traction on loose ground and hard tarmac in the city, for example
Width 2-2.25 inches 2.2-2.4 inches 2.4-2.6 inches, but also up to 3.0 inches as a plus 2.5-2.6 inches 2.1-2.35 inches
Weight Very low, for quick acceleration Moderate touring weight Stability and durability come before weight, large spectrum – depends on carcass composition and beads Absolute stability and durability come before a low weight, wire bead tires with multiple reinforcements are often used Wide spectrum, from very lightweight folding tires to very heavy wire bead tires with hight  protection against punctures 

*Mixed terrain tires are also known as hybrid tires

You can filter according to these types on the BIKE24 online store. You can also choose from various tire sizes (smaller than 26", 26", 27.5" [650B] and 29"), so you can kit your MTB out with a new set of tires, regardless of whether it’s a current model or older version. Almost all genuine MTB tires are now available with different types of carcasses, as well as either with or without reinforced sidewalls.

Big, bigger, the biggest: When it comes to recent developments in mountain bike tires, quite a bit has happened in terms of tire width. Tubeless tires made it possible for width to be increased for more comfort and damping, whilst still keeping rolling resistance at a reasonable level. Taken to extremes, plus-size tires can get up to 3.0" in width. e-MTBs are an attractive option for getting into mountain biking and the demand for them is currently on the rise. Manufacturers have reacted and now stock reinforced versions of their most popular tires, as well as special tires for e-MTBs.

If you’ve got the choice, shred the trails with BIKE24. Our site has filtering options and makes clear distinctions between tire names, so you can always gain an overview of what’s on offer and easily navigate between affordable wire bead tires, lightweight folding tires and tubeless models. What’s more, tubeless MTB tires are the most popular way of upgrading your MTB as they have the best cost-benefit ratio.

City & Touring Bike Tires

For many people, city and trekking bikes are one of their most reliable companions' day in, day out. But even the best bike needs new wear parts after a few thousand miles. Besides the drive, this applies in particular to the tires. 
City and trekking bikes are usually equipped with clincher tires ex-works. Most of these offer a very good price/durability ratio. Classic city bikes roll on 26" tires, but the 28" tire format, which has proven its rolling characteristics on trekking bikes, is increasingly gaining ground on city bikes as well. The wider models, also known as balloon tires, offer noticeably more comfort for the often unsuspended city and touring bikes with the right pressure. In addition, modern trekking and city bicycle tires are optimised to efficiently reduce rolling resistance compared to the factory spec and increase safety, e.g. with integrated reflective strips or more puncture protection.

There is a choice of different tires or tread types:

Classic city bike tires often have a tread with no profile and only a fine negative tread on the sides. Some tires also have a fine diamond pattern for more traction in sand and wet conditions, for example. Advantage: Good rolling characteristics, especially in the centre of the tread, as well as maximum road contact for plenty of grip and to displace water, sand and small stones towards the flanks. Disadvantage: Poor grip on dirty roads, mud or soft surfaces.

Trekking tires with a pronounced, negative block tread achieve the perfect balance between good rolling behaviour and above all cornering grip, which is why the models that come as standard in the trekking sector are also increasingly popular on city bikes. They have a flat part or central rib in the middle for low rolling resistance. Advantage: Low rolling resistance on straight tracks, quiet rolling behaviour. On the left and right of the tread, for example, continuous blocks alternate with blocks crossed with sipes. Advantage: High contact area with better adaptation to uneven ground and better displacement of water and small particles to the sides.

Last in the trio are so-called semi-slicks. Their tread usually has either narrow small blocks, a continuous central rib, a diamond tread or a negative tread. They are equipped with smaller shoulder lugs towards the flanks. Advantage: Low rolling resistance in the centre and a significant friction gain on curves or when leaning, even if you decide to leave the urban road surface for the countryside. 

E-Bike Tires

An electric motor assist on the bike provides insane acceleration power and incredible uphill performance. But to achieve this, the bike’s components have to be optimised for the load. E-bike tires play a crucial role here. Like the bikes, they are divided into tires up to 25 km/h (pedelecs) and up to 50 km/h (e-bikes & S-pedelecs). For easy differentiation, the casings carry easily recognisable imprints such as E-Bike ready, E-Bike ready 25, E25 or E-Bike ready 50 or E50. Bicycle tires with an ECE-R75 test mark have been certified for e-bikes and S-pedelecs travelling at speeds of up to 50 km/h.  
However, tire manufacturers also recommend using special E25 tires for electric bicycles that go up to 25 km/h with pedal assistance. Is it all just marketing or is there more to it than that?

A modern e-bike can constantly deliver up to 250 watts and peaks of over 500 watts of additional power as well as torques of almost 90 Nm. If you combine this extra power with the cyclist’s performance, immense forces and high average speeds are quickly generated. An e-bike usually weighs more than 20 kg, which puts additional strain on the load-bearing e-bike parts. For these reasons, e-bike tires as well as the drive and suspension components need to be more robust. In order to ensure a comfortable ride despite the higher dead weight, tires for e-bikes tend to be somewhat wider. But don't worry, the increased rotating mass and rolling resistance are easily compensated for by the increased power of the motor.  
The increased width also leads to more traction even on curves and a better transmission of braking power. The basic structure is more stable for greater control. The construction is optimally complemented by elaborate multi-layer puncture protection to minimise the risk of flat tires as well as by rubber compounds with less abrasion.

E-bike tires offer better puncture protection on the tread and reinforced sidewalls (also useful for low air pressures off-road). These help to mitigate the greater repair effort and more complicated handling of an e-bike on the road. Furthermore, the reinforcements of the carcass and sidewall prevent buckling when cycling at an inclined angle, especially with less air pressure.

Bike Tires for Roller Trainers

Wheel-on bike trainers are probably the most widespread exercise equipment in the cycling sector. These stationery bikes are clamped by the rear wheel and form contact with a roller. The friction that occurs between the tire and the roller is different than when rolling on or off-road, as the tire is pressed tightly and evenly onto or around the roller’s small surface. To avoid excessive tire wear and loud vibrations, you should use a special indoor training tire. They usually have a harder rubber compound for less wear, longitudinal grooves to minimise heat build-up and vibrations, and often a minimalised carcass construction to reduce friction even further. In addition, the special casing’s rubber compound is optimised for as little friction as possible to reduce power loss and heat generation.

Tip 💡: Check air and roller pressure regularly to maximise service life.

Winter Tires

When snow and ice cover the landscape in a glorious white blanket, cycling with normal tires often becomes a dance on a razor's edge. The changing road conditions between wet, slush, snow and freezing wet make it difficult for normal tires to build up sufficient grip. The solution that works for cars works for bicycles too: winter tires! With them, you can reach your destination without a care in the world or hit the snow-covered trails. The special tires are available either with a winter rubber compound that provides good grip even in cold weather or with spikes. To make your choice easier, specific winter tires for road bikes and MTBs can be selected via a filter at BIKE24. Studded tires are equipped with spikes made of stainless hard metal alloys such as tungsten carbide on the tread and sidewalls.  Advantage: They cut into icy surfaces, no matter how slippery, as well as into frozen snow and provide good lateral support even on bends. Disadvantages: The already greater rolling resistance on wintry terrain is increased even further, including on cleared surfaces. In addition, the grip on loose (new) snow is not really improved by studded tires.

As is so often the case, the same applies to tires for winter cycling: getting the right mix is key! Besides the optimal balance of air pressure and tread, this can also be taken literally. Brave commuters or hardy cyclists doing winter training should first check whether the rubber compound of their tires remains soft and flexible even at temperatures below freezing. Otherwise, the rolling noise of the hardened casings can be heard from a distance and can easily be mistaken for studs.  
While we’re on the topic of compounds, a word of advice from our experts: Not every soft or Super Tacky rubber compound necessarily remains flexible and grippy in winter. The manufacturer’s description of their tire technology and rubber compound on their website will usually give an indication of which one is suitable.

Even if a rubber compound stays flexible in the cold, there is still a good reason to invest in proper winter tires, especially for road bikes. In addition to the right compound, winter tires for road, trekking and city bikes offer a specific negative tread, as opposed to the otherwise usually partly treadless tires. It still allows sufficient grip even for aquaplaning, uneven surfaces and ruts
Does that make studs superfluous? Not quite. Especially in late winter, the issue of studs comes to the fore once again: Warm rays of sunshine and the first signs of approaching spring ensure more pleasant temperatures during the day, but at night ice and frost gain the upper hand again. Now you have to be very careful, because the paths often become smooth as glass overnight and so hard that you’re better off staying clear of them. That’s when it’s worth changing to a studded tire on the front wheel, because this is the weakest point, especially on bends or similar steering movements.

Finally, a few words about the relationship between contact pressure and tire width or air pressure. Wide tires with low air pressure are the best for rolling on snow. They distribute the contact pressure over a larger area and increase grip at the same time. A nonplus ultra in the field of winter mountain biking are fat bikes with, for example, 4.6" wide tires, which are used at less than 1 bar air pressure. Once the first real snow falls, it is generally advisable to lower the air pressure until the tire is well-supported under load without risking a puncture. The next thing to do is to check the tire clearance – it is often possible to use wider tires even on road or trekking bikes.

Bicycle Tire Puncture Protection

Sometimes it’s a small pop, or a sudden clear hiss, or gradually over many days – a puncture happens to every cyclist at some point. It is the most common cause of a bicycle breakdown. A flat tire or puncture is annoying, but luckily it's a problem that can be easily fixed with the right equipment. And better tires can almost completely prevent it in the future. Find out here what the puncture protection of a bicycle tire fundamentally depends on and what options there are for you to optimally adapt it to your requirements.

A modern bicycle tire’s puncture protection is fundamentally dependent on the rubber compound used, the density of the carcass fabric and the air pressure. If the pressure is high enough, obstacles can be displaced. If the opposite is the case, the tires are more likely to roll over sharp foreign objects, with a puncture soon to follow. Everyone has probably experienced this at some point: tar splashes from the hot asphalt onto your shoes in the summer heat. The splash marks quickly attract a lot of dirt.  
This doesn't happen quite as quickly with rubber that is too soft on a bicycle tire, but the same applies here: The higher the temperatures and the softer the rubber, the stickier it becomes and consequently small stones, grit and glass are more likely to penetrate it.

The choice of rubber compound should therefore depend on where the tire will be used and how much grip is required. There is also a trade-off between traction and puncture protection when it comes to air pressure. If it is high, the displacement of foreign bodies improves and the rolling resistance decreases, but the contact area and thus the grip decrease. On the other hand, traction and ride comfort increase, but the risk of punctures also increases because even small loose obstacles are rolled over. 
To get around this problem, tire manufacturers use so-called puncture protection layers. These are puncture protection layers made of aramid, nylon or rubber which are integrated into the tread (vulcanised in) or run around (from bead to bead). One of the best-known examples is ‘flat-less®’ from Schwalbe. Untouched even by carpets of nails or glass, the puncture protection under the tread relies on 4 mm thick special rubber and an additional 2 layers of nylon. This effectively extends the mileage of city, trekking and e-bike tires.

Different terrain makes different demands on puncture protection – off-road it is often sharp stones and sticks from the side that make life difficult for cyclists. For this reason, many MTB as well as gravel tires are equipped with sidewall protection. The spectrum ranges from light cut protection to thick butyl rubber inserts on the side walls. If you buy such a tire in the tubeless-ready version, the puncture protection on off-road terrain increases to the maximum possible. Tubeless tire systems can effectively prevent punctures, cuts or punch holes. The only limits are in the low-pressure range or with a particularly aggressive riding style on demanding terrain. This can result in punctures or burping air (a short burst with loss of pressure). Luckily, there is also a simple solution for go-hard-or-go-home cyclists: a tubeless system combined with tire inserts that protect against punctures.   
But even if a normal tubeless system no longer seals at the puncture point on the trail, this is no cause for concern. With a handy tubeless repair kit or replacement tube, you'll be shredding again in no time.

Another handy tip from our experts 💡 for all those who rely on the classic tire-tube combination: If your tire still regularly gets a puncture with no detectable reason after several rounds of repairs and replacement tubes, feel the inside of the dismantled tire. Foreign bodies are often stuck deep in the carcass and slowly work their way through. A set of new rim tapes can also work wonders.

Durability and When to Change Your Bicycle Tire

Even the best bicycle tire wears out with use over time and will also succumb to natural ageing even with low mileage. At the end of our big tire article, you can find out how to recognise the signs and whether you need to buy new tires in any case. No matter what type of bicycle, the tread is subject to the most wear due to friction, uneven surfaces and sharp objects.  
Some road tire manufacturers make it particularly easy for frequent riders to recognise the degree of wear by incorporating wear indicators in the form of small indentations. If these are no longer visible, you should start looking for a new tire. For all other tires, the tread serves as an indirect indicator, regardless of whether it has lugs, negative tread or a treadless slick. When the centre grooves, knobs or lugs are almost level with the tread base, the tire is already well-worn. Many holes and cracks also signify a high degree of wear and an increased puncture risk. This can go so far that in the worst case the tube pushes outwards at high pressures. You should change the tire at this point at the very latest. 
Also, torn-out lugs on the sidewalls of mountain bike tires indicate that a change is due or else you risk losing grip on bends. Another problem that can bring the life cycle of a tire to an abrupt end is deep cuts or cracks in the sidewall. Often, only a replacement will help to ensure pressure stability. Visually similar, but not quite as critical, are fine cracks in just the rubber portion of the tread and sidewall. This is usually caused by a combination of natural ageing due to off-gassing, UV light and riding with underinflated tires. To avoid changing your tires more often than you need to, here are 3 hot tips to finish off.

Tip 1 💡: Your tires will offer the best mileage performance when the air pressure is optimally adjusted to the weight of the rider and luggage or load as well as the surface.  
A greater load needs a higher air pressure. This reduces the friction between the tread and the ground and ensures the sidewall or carcass is not overloaded. If you often ride on hard, paved surfaces, a higher pressure is also advisable. If you are riding a lot on varying surfaces, e.g. forest paths, trails and roads, it is recommended to adjust the pressure in between.  
It is best to check the air pressure regularly with a pinch check. If the tire can be pressed in easily at the tread, it urgently needs pumping up. The minimum and maximum pressure indications on the tire are a rough guide and strongly depend on the tire-rim combination. Furthermore, whether the tires are used with or without an inner tube is important. You should only go below the minimum pressure for certain scenarios, e.g. mountain biking on snow. Otherwise, as with exceeding the maximum pressure, there is a danger to tires, rims, life and limb.

Tip 2 💡: Regularly check whether sharp stones or glass fragments have started to bore into the tire and remove them carefully. 
Even the smallest bit of grit can press deep into the tire over a long period of time and cause a puncture. If you nip this process in the bud, your tires’ service life and mileage will increase.

Tip 3 💡: If both tires are the same, before you replace both of them, check whether the front tire could be moved to the back. 
Braking behaviour, weight distribution and power transmission mean the rear bicycle tire suffers more wear, which is why it often needs to be replaced sooner. The tire at the front is usually good for a few more miles.