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How to Choose Tires

There are a variety of mountain bike tires available today, hopefully this article will simplify your search for the tires you need.

The most important things to consider when purchasing a tire are the width and tread pattern (and, of course, cost).

All adult mountain bikes have 26” diameter wheels and come in a number of different widths. Most widths of tires will fit on your rim, so you won’t have to buy a new rim if you’d like to go to a wider or narrower tire. Note: not all manufacturers list their widths the same.

For strictly road riding on paved surfaces, the ideal choice would be a narrower “slick”, which has a smooth surface with a minimum of rolling resistance. For hard surfaces (a paved or dirt road) with some fine gravel or sand, a slightly wider tire with grooves should be used – the grooves will allow the raised part of the tire to contact the firm ground and not ride on top of the (sometimes slippery) sand.

Getting more off-road and into soil where the upper layer of dirt is deeper. To get traction on this type of soil requires a tire with knobs which are spaced wider apart, so the dirt and gravel don’t accumulate in the grooves. The knobs must be larger and stronger as only one knob may be taking all of the traction.

With softer soils, the tires will sink in deeper, allowing the knobs on the side and the bottom to contact the dirt. Since the traction will be spread over a number of knobs, they don’t have to be very large but the tire should be wider (2.00 to 2.50). In mud, the tire should have an additional feature – center knobs which are perpendicular to the direction of rotation. This will help the knobs to work as paddles and provide the necessary traction needed. Modern off road tires are available in different rubber compounds. Softer tires add traction on rocky, loose terrain but wear faster. Harder tires wear slower and roll faster, but can be less predictable on loose terrain. Ask the technicians at Cyclepath for advice on the best tire to suit your riding.

Remember, ride don’t slide!

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