Tires are often the first things buyers choose to upgrade. Your choice of tires has a big effect on your ride. Here we’ll talk about choose the right tire for your needs and making sure it fits. We’ll also talk about inner tubes as well.
Some of the main qualities riders look for in tires are puncture-resistance, speed, and durability. Cost is sometimes a factor, but where you see cost become an impediment is when you start wanting multiple benefits, like speed and puncture resistance.
There are some truly cheap tires out there, but we don’t try to stock them. These tires are made for common, upright bike applications since knobby BMX or mountain bike tires, or slick 700c road bike tires. Most recumbents are aimed at street use and most don’t use 700c wheel sizes. Anyway, we never said we were competing on price.
Some notable tires we sell are:
- Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires are very puncture resistant and the first choice of riders who don’t have speed goals but want to avoid fussing with fixing flats. Such tires are often chosen for electric motor wheels and rear wheels with internally-geared hubs, since these wheels can be more difficult to remove. Buyers who want a flat-resistant tire on a budget should look at the Schwalbe Marathon, our “working-man’s tire.” The whole Marathon line is strong on durability and having enough tread for reliable stability.
- Schwalbe Tryker tires (who taught these people to spell?) were designed for tricycles, with a high-durability rubber compound at the centerline of the tread. Since trikes don’t lean, all the wear is along that one line. Tadpole trike steering puts scuff on the front tires, and Trykers were designed with that in mind. They have some puncture-resistance, but that isn’t their specialty.
- Schwalbe Durano tires are fast tires, narrow and slick (no tread at all), aimed at road racers who are training and riding lots of miles, so durability is their specialty.
- Schwalbe Durano Plus tires have extra puncture protection, making them long-wearing, flat-resistant, and somewhat fast. As we said, such tires start becoming expensive since they have all three qualities riders look for.
There are other tires besides these, and like anything else on your bike or trike, the key is to talk with us about what you want in your ride, what is important to you, and consider our suggestions.
It is critical that the tire you choose fits your wheel. Or, more particularly, the tire needs to fit your rim, which is the part of your wheel that holds the tire. A tire has two dimensions… its diameter and its width.
Tire diameter must match the rim’s diameter exactly. While there are some common standards, such as 559mm for 26” mountain bikes, or 622mm for 700c road bikes, things get complicated quickly. The “inch” measurement of tires and wheels is quite inexact, often used for different, incompatible sizes of rim. Tires called “20 inch” may be for either 406mm or 451mm diameter rims. “24 inch” tires might be for rims with 507mm, 520mm, 540mm or (perversely) 541mm diameter rims. 16 inch has at least two sizes, 26 inch has at least two. 27 inch tires fit slightly larger rims than 28 inch tires. Keep this in mind when you shop for bicycle tires on your own. If you buy tires from us we might want to know that exact rim/tire diameter so we sell you the right thing. The exact metric measurement is often printed on your tires, but most people don’t notice it. For example, a common 20×1.50” tire would read 40-406. That second number, the 406 in this case, is the critical number.
Width is the other tire dimension, and it isn’t as exact as diameter. The rule of thumb is that your tire’s nominal width should be between 1.5x and 2.5x your rim’s width. The exact width of the rim is measured in some inaccessible place on it using special tools, but it is often printed on the rim. If your rim is 18mm wide then tires between 27mm and 42mm are ideal. The advantage of right-sizing your tire is that if it is too narrow then in a blowout it will fall inside your rim and you’ll be rolling directly on your rim. On a 2-wheeler that would mean a certain fall, and likely rim damage as well. If the tire is too wide it can pull itself off the rim in a blowout, resulting in the same problem. Too wide a tire often complicates rim brake adjustment. Trikes don’t have as many concerns about falls, but they don’t want to damage their rims either.
Inner tubes typically fit a range of tire sizes. The Schwalbe brand tubes we sell are so stretchy, fitting such a wide range, they don’t even try to size them like tires. Again, tell us your tire size and we’ll find the right tube. We sell lots of #6 and #7 tubes.
Tubes are mainly distinguished by the type of valve they use. Mostly we see “schrader” valves, which are the same valves you see on car tires. Also common on bicycles are “presta” valves. Your tire doesn’t care what valve your tube has. Your rim cares, since it has a hole drilled in it for the valve to come through. Presta valves are more narrow than schrader valves, so a “presta rim” will have too small a hole for a schrader valve tube without drilling. Why this difference? Presta valve tend to hold high pressure better. Schrader valves are easier to use. Yes, it’s a pain, but there used to be a whole zoo of valve types, not just two, so count your blessings.
Some inner tubes have special features. If you want to maximize your speed you can seek out extra-lightweight tubes to put in your lightweight tires. Or you can get extra-thick inner tubes for puncture protection. This is a weight-intensive way of protecting yourself, but some riders, especially those with cheap tires, swear by them. We’ve seen more than one case where such “heavy duty” inner tubes went flat anyway because the valve stem broke completely off the tube (no patching that at the roadside). Certain rims require tubes with longer valves. Usually these long valves can only be found in presta.