Last updated: August 9, 2021

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No matter whether it is wet or dry outside, whether you are going off-road or into town, the right bicycle tyre is essential! Tyre size, tread and puncture resistance are just a few criteria that play an important role when buying a bicycle tyre.

With our big bicycle tyre test 2021 we want to help you find the perfect tyre for your bike. We have compared clincher and folding tyres as well as tubular and tubeless tyres and listed the respective advantages and disadvantages. We hope this will make your purchase decision easier.




Summary

  • Bicycle tyres usually consist of an outer casing and an inner tube. In shops you can buy bicycle tyres either with a separate inner tube or with one built in. A small speciality is the tubeless tyre, which does not need an inner tube at all.
  • The different types of bicycle tyres can be divided into clincher and folding tyres as well as tubular and tubeless tyres. They differ primarily in weight, puncture resistance and handling.
  • If you consider yourself a beginner in cycling, then clincher tyres with a separate tube are exactly the right tyres for you! They are easy to fit and if you get a puncture on the road, they are relatively easy to repair. For real cycling professionals, folding/tubular or tubeless tyres are of particular interest.

The Best Bicycle Tyre: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for bicycle tyres

Here you can find out which criteria can be used to distinguish between bicycle tyres. In this way, we want to make it easier for you to decide between the large number of possible bicycle tyres. The criteria that you can use to compare bicycle tyres with each other include:

In the following we go into a little more detail on the individual aspects.

Size

When it comes to bicycle tyre sizes, there is no single size that you can use to distinguish between tyres. Instead, there are three different size designations:

  • ETRTO (European Tire and Rim Technical Organization)
  • English designation in inches
  • French designation in millimetres

The ETRTO size designation is a European tyre and rim standard size that indicates the width and inner diameter of the tyre in millimetres (e.g. 28-622). The English inch designation distinguishes between two variants: it can indicate the outer diameter and tyre width in inches as a decimal number (e.g. 28 x 1.10) or it indicates the outer diameter, tyre height and width in inches as a fraction (e.g. 28 x 1 1/4 x 1 3/4). The French designation indicates the outside diameter and tyre width.

At the end of a French size designation there is an abbreviation (e.g. "C") which determines the inner diameter of the tyre (e.g. 700x20C). In order to get a small overview of which bicycle tyre sizes are available on the market, we have compiled the common sizes in the following table:

Course designation in inches French short designation in mm ETRTO in mm
12' - 203
16' - 305
18' - 349
20' - 406
24' - 507
26' 650C 571
27' - 630
28' 700C 622
29' - 622

Tyre width

When it comes to tyre width, you can choose between narrow, wide and so-called plus tyres or fatbike tyres. Narrow tyres typically have little to no tread and are often ridden on even and dry roads. With a wide tyre you can cruise on flat as well as on uneven terrain and have better skid resistance due to the existing tread. Plus tyres or fatbike tyres are particularly suitable for sandy and snow-covered ground due to their large volume.

Bicycle type

Not every tyre fits every type of bicycle! Depending on whether you prefer to ride your bicycle off-road, through the city to your place of work or as a cyclist on tours, you need a suitable bicycle including the appropriate tyres. Below we have compiled a list of common bicycle types:

  • City bike (e.g. Dutch bike)
  • Trekking bike
  • Road bike
  • Mountain bike
  • E-bike
  • Pedelec
  • Dirt bike
  • Fatbike
  • Crossbike
  • Folding bike
  • BMX
  • Fitness bike
  • Tandem
  • Cargo bike

With / without inner tube

A bicycle tyre usually consists of a tyre, which is also called a "casing", and a tube. You can buy a bicycle tyre either with or without an inner tube.

Tip: When buying a bicycle tyre, always make sure that the tyre and inner tube match each other and base the size on the rims of the bicycle.

There are types of bicycle tyres that are commercially available with a separate inner tube. Tubular tyres can only be purchased with an integrated inner tube. In addition to bicycle tyres with an inner tube, there are also so-called "tubeless tyres". These do not have an additional inner tube and are therefore considered more puncture-proof. We will take a closer look at tubeless tyres in the next section.

Puncture resistance

When buying a tyre, you should make sure that your bicycle tyres are puncture-proof. Puncture resistance depends on various factors. One important factor is the rubber compound of the tyre. A soft tyre is more grippy and has a better grip on the ground, but it is not durable.

In contrast, a harder tyre is more durable but has poorer grip. Another factor is special belts made of fabric. They are clamped between the tyre and the tube and thus protect the tyre from sharp objects. There are tyres that, according to the manufacturer, are almost indestructible due to a special protective layer. The disadvantage of these tyres is that they are relatively heavy and therefore roll much worse.

Valve type

If you want to choose a particular bicycle tyre, you should also consider the type of valve. There are three different types of valves:

  • Auto valve: This is also called a Schrader valve and is usually used on mountain bikes.
  • Dunlop/ Blitz valve: It is also called Dutch or German valve and is used on trekking or city bikes.
  • Presta valve: This valve is also called French valve or Sclaverand valve and is used on road bikes or mountain bikes.

Decision: What types of bicycle tyres are there and which are the right ones for me?

If you want to buy new bicycle tyres, there are four alternatives to choose from:

Type advantages disadvantages
Clincher tyres inexpensive high weight
Folding tyres low weight relatively expensive
Tubular tyres puncture-proof relatively expensive
Tubeless tyres puncture-proof costly to change tyres

If you would like to learn more about the different types of bicycle tyres, we have summarised the most important points in the following sections.

Clincher tyres

Clincher tyres are one of the most commonly used bicycle tyres. In cross-section, they traditionally look like an inverted "U" and are reinforced with a steel wire that forms a tyre bead together with the rubber material.

They are usually commercially available with a separate inner tube. Clincher tyres are universal and suitable for every bicycle model from mountain bikes to city bikes. They are very inexpensive and easy to handle. Whether changing a tyre or repairing it - clincher tyres are uncomplicated to handle and quick to mount.

Advantages
  • inexpensive
  • large selection of tyres
  • easy handling
Disadvantages
  • high weight
  • more prone to punctures
  • increased rolling resistance

Compared to other tyres, they have a relatively high weight and therefore a higher rolling resistance. This prevents you from being able to pick up high speeds quickly. Due to their construction, they are usually more susceptible to punctures. Last but not least, clincher tyres are also available with puncture protection, which makes the tyre a little heavier but also less susceptible to defects.

Folding tyres

Folding tyres are a special form of clincher tyres. You can also buy them with a separate inner tube. In contrast to clincher tyres, they do not have a wire, but plastic fibres to stabilise the tyre. They owe their name to the fact that they are easily foldable due to the flexible material. Folding tyres have a low weight due to the lack of wire and therefore also a lower rolling resistance. They are also suitable for every bicycle model and have easy handling.

Advantages
  • low weight
  • wide range of tyres
  • easy handling
Disadvantages
  • somewhat more expensive

  • puncture-prone

Price-wise, folding tyres are a bit more expensive than the typical wire tyres. If you want to become a real cycling pro, then folding tyres are the better choice for you.

They are especially popular with cyclists who prefer higher quality and are interested in bikes in the higher price segment. To make the tyre more puncture-proof, folding tyres are also available with puncture protection.

Tubular tyre/ tubular tyre

In tubular tyres, the inner tube is sewn directly to the casing and is thus an inseparable part of the tyre. The casing and tube are then glued directly to the corresponding rim. You should make sure that you have a rim that is specially designed for tubular tyres.

Tubular tyres have a low weight due to their construction and therefore have a lower rolling resistance. In addition, this feature also offers better comfort when riding the bike. Another advantage is that they are much more puncture-proof, as the tyre cannot slip off the rim in the event of a puncture and you can therefore continue riding on the tyre.

Advantages
  • low rolling resistance
  • good comfort
  • low weight
  • puncture-proof
Disadvantages
  • relatively expensive
  • poor handling

Due to their special construction, tubular tyres are somewhat more expensive than wire wheels or folding wheels. Another disadvantage is that repair is not easily possible and changing the tyres also involves a lot of effort.

Tubeless tyres

Externally, tubeless tyres are almost indistinguishable from clincher or folding tyres, but unlike them they do not have an inner tube. They are almost airtight even without an inner tube. This makes them largely puncture-proof and less susceptible to defects. With these tyres it is also important that your rims are suitable for the tubeless system.

This system also makes it possible to ride the tyres with less air pressure. This allows for a comfortable riding experience and better control over the bike. Another advantage is that the lack of a tube means that there is no friction between the tube and the tyre and you have less rolling resistance.

Advantages
  • puncture-proof
  • low air pressure required
  • good comfort and better control
  • low rolling resistance
Disadvantages
  • regular checking of air pressure
  • time-consuming changing of tyres

With tubeless tyres it is very important that you check the air pressure regularly to avoid rapid wear. Another disadvantage is that changing these tyres, similar to tubeless tyres, is very time-consuming.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about bicycle tyres answered in detail

In the following section, we will answer the most important questions about bicycle tyres. We have selected the questions for you and will answer them shortly. After reading the guide, you will know all the essential background information about bicycle tyres.

Which bicycle tyre suits the bike?

When buying a bicycle tyre, it is essential to consider the diameter and width of the tyre. The tyre size is flexible and you can decide whether you want a narrow, wide or extra wide tyre.

Fahrradreifen-1

Tyres for mountain bikes should be wide and have sufficient tread. Off-road, it is important that the tyres have enough grip.
(Image source: Basel Mahmoud / Unsplash)

However, it should not drag on the fork or the frame. In contrast, you have to make sure that the diameter of the tyre always fits your wheel size.

When buying a bicycle inner tube, you should make sure that the size of the tube matches the size of the tyre and that they are compatible with each other.

What size bicycle tyre do I need?

To find the right tyre size for your bike, you should follow these steps:

  1. Recording the old tyre size: First orientate yourself according to the size specifications of your old tyre.
  2. Use a tyre size chart: If you need to translate the size you found into another size designation, use a tyre size table.
  3. Visit an online shop or local retailer: Now search for the size you need in your local shop or online shop.
  4. Ensure that there isenough space between the tyre and the frame or fork. The tyre should be at least one centimetre narrower.

How much do bicycle tyres cost?

To get an overview of the prices of the different types of bicycle tyres, we have summarised a table with all important price information below:

type price
clincher and folding tyres approx. 4 to 115 euros
tubular tyres from 8 euros
tubeless tyres from 7 euros

How do I inflate a bicycle tyre?

In order to inflate your bicycle tyre correctly, we have put together a small guide with the most important points you should bear in mind:

  1. Observe the air pressure specifications: As a rule, the exact air pressure specifications (minimum and maximum value in bar or PSI) are engraved on the sidewall of your tyre. You should never deviate from these values and choose a value within this range.
    1. High air pressure: With a high air pressure you have less rolling resistance and roll faster, especially on slippery surfaces.
    2. Low air pressure: With a lower air pressure, your tyre will roll a little worse on slippery surfaces, but you will have more grip and thus more control over your bike.
  2. Using the right pump: As you have already learned in one of the previous sections, there are three different types of valves. Depending on the valve, you will need a suitable air pump. A possible alternative is to buy a standard air pump with suitable adapters. This ensures that, for example, when cycling with friends, you can not only pump up your own bike, but also theirs. Make sure that your air pump has a display so that you can see the exact values when pumping.
  3. Regularly check the air pressure: To ensure quick wear and sufficient air pressure, you should regularly check your air pressure.

Fahrradreifen-2

When inflating, always make sure that you use an air pump that matches the valve.
(Image source: Daniel Kirsch / Pixabay)

How can I change a bicycle tyre?

We have put together a short guide to help you remember everything you need to know when changing your bicycle tyre. In this guide we explain how to change a clincher or folding tyre with a separate inner tube.

  1. Dismantling the old tyre: First you have to open the valve on the bicycle tube and release the air from it. Once you have removed the wheel from the frame, try to push the tyre into the rim. The next step is to use a tyre lever, which you clamp between the tyre and the rim. Next, try to lift one side of the tyre over the tyre lever and then the whole tyre.
  2. Changing the bicycle tyre: First place only one side of the casing in the rim. Then inflate the tube only so far that the tube just takes on its desired shape. In any case, it should not be fully inflated. Now first insert the valve of the tube through the matching hole in the rim and clamp the tube between the casing and the rim. The next step is to put the other side of the tube onto the rim. This part is particularly demanding and requires a little patience. Once this step has been completed, pump the inner tube onto the tyre according to the air pressure specifications. The last step is to mount the tyre to the frame.

To give you a better idea of how to do this, we have put together a video with instructions on how to mount a tyre.

Where can I dispose of old bicycle tyres?

You should make sure that you do not dispose of your old bicycle tyres in the household waste! It is better to take your old tyres to the shop where you bought your new tyres. Some bicycle dealers accept old bicycle tyres for recycling. Another option is to collect the old bicycle tyres and take them to a recycling centre along with other recyclable waste.

Image source: maridav/ 123rf.com

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