Maintenance – How Do I Know When to Replace My Bike Tires?

By Jiri Kaloc

Cycling enthusiasts know that the journey is only as smooth as the tires beneath them. Recognizing when it’s time to replace bike tires is crucial, not just for maintaining the joy of the ride but for safety and performance as well. With tire lifespans ranging from 1500 to 5000 km, several factors come into play, from the type of terrain you conquer to your riding style and weight. But how do you navigate these variables and understand the true signs that it’s time for a change?

Your tires will last 1500 to 5000 km

Bicycle tires have a big range when it comes to how long they last before needing a replacement. High-performance ones with lighter weight and softer rubber tend to be on the lower end at around 1500 km while thicker and puncture-resistant ones can carry you for up to 5000 km. What other factors influence the lifespan of your tires?

  • Mountain bike tires often last less than road bike ones, especially if you tend to ride on very rough terrain.
  • Heavier cyclists wear out tires quicker as any extra weight adds to wear and tear.
  • Choosing tire pressure that over or under the recommended range by the manufacturer can significantly shorten the lifespan of your tires.
  • The tire compound matters too. Softer rubber offers more grip but wears out faster.

Top 4 signs your tire needs replacing

You can’t rely just on your tire’s average lifespan to decide when to get a new one. It’s important to know how to recognize when your tire should be replaced. Here are the four signs you should keep an eye on.

MTB tyres

#1 Worn tread

This easiest way to see that your tires need replacing is to simply look at the condition of the tread. If it’s getting worn and thin, you will benefit from a new tire.

Lost side knobs – If you ride a MTB on rocky terrain and do aggressive turns, make a habit of inspecting the sides of your tires too. The side knobs are often missing even if the tread on top is still ok.

Visible ridge – The middle part of the tire always touches the ground which wears the rubber there much quicker than on the sides. This happens most often to road cyclists.

Flat spots – If you often skid on your bike for fun or during difficult descents, this could create flat spots where the rubber wears off really fast in one spot. Check the whole tire carefully to locate these.

#2 Constantly getting flats

If you get several flats in one week or during one long ride, your tire may have holes or may be too worn to protect your inner tube.

#3 Cracking rubber

This is a clear sign of a very old tire or a tire that has spent too much time in the sunshine which accelerates the degradation process. Check the sidewalls of your tires, that’s when it’s often visible first.

#4 Poor performance

If you feel like the tire is not grippy enough while cornering or in difficult terrain, that can also be a good reason to change it, even if it’s not worn out. Getting the right tire for your riding style is one of the cheapest and most noticeable upgrades.

The two benefits of changing your tires

If you’re on the fence whether your tires qualify for changing or if you’re not excited about spending money on them, here are two reasons you should buy new ones.

Improved safety – New tires have optimal tread depth, ensuring better grip and traction on various surfaces. This is particularly important in bad weather conditions, such as rain, where the risk of slipping and accidents is higher. Fresh tires are also less likely to suffer sudden failures, like blowouts.

Enhanced Performance – New tires offer lower rolling resistance, meaning you can achieve higher speeds with the same amount of effort or maintain your usual pace with less energy expended. New high-quality rubber also offers improved grip for cornering and braking.

How to choose the right replacement tires

Now that you know how to spot tires that need replacing, chances are you’re going to be faced with the next logical question: which tires should I buy? This depends a lot on your budget, but there are two things you should really consider before you head out to your local bike store.

What type of cycling do you do most often? As a road cyclist, you should think whether you ride mainly on smooth tarmac or if you often end up on gravel. As a mountain biker you have to think how often will you ride on smooth trails, mud, gravel, or rocks. If you’re mainly just commuting, then it’s simple, look for tires with the best durability and puncture resistance.

What kind of performance do you need from your tires? Consider what you want to improve in your ride. Are you looking for speed, grip, durability, or a balance of these? Lighter tires with a smoother tread might offer speed and efficiency for road racing, while thicker, knobbier tires provide traction and stability for mountain biking. Some tires are designed for specific conditions, like wet weather.