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When to Replace Bike Tires: 7 Signs to Look For

Carlos Glover
September 13, 2022

When you´re riding a bike, falling into a hole is always a possibility. While bicycle tires are designed to be durable, they are also not indestructible. Eventually, there comes a point where enough is enough, there are several telling signs on the tires, such as cracks on the tire´s sidewalls or a flat sport in the center and you can also notice it in the bike´s performance.

Knowing when to replace bike tires is very important and has come in handy many times throughout my biking career. I'm sure I’ve even avoided an accident or two thanks to this. By knowing when to act, you´ll not only be prepared to take advantage of your current bicycle tires but will also be aware of when it´s time to move on from them.

In today´s article, we´ll be talking about the best possible time to replace bike tires and some signs that may warn you when the time to replace them is coming.

Tire Wear Indicators

As you may have noticed, when a tire is damaged or is really worn out, there are usually some clear telling signs that the time to replace them is coming.

Here are some of the most notable signs:

Fixie Bike on the Pavement

1. A Worn Down Tread

After many miles of use, the tread slowly begins to wear out, kind of like a shoe sole. Just like a shoe sole, a worn tire tread has less grip and can therefore be tougher and more dangerous to use.

If a worn-down tread isn´t taken care of, it could eventually damage the workings of the tire itself, such as the inner tube.

2. Flat Spot in the Center in the Tire

A flat spot on the surface of the tire is one of the most reliable tread wear indicators. It mostly means that the tire´s tread is particularly worn out in a certain part, thus leaving a flat spot. This could in turn expose the bike tire to damage, a lack of a discernible tread pattern could lead to things like getting constant flats or getting bumps and scratches on the wheel.

3. Cracked Rubber

Cracked rubber appears when the rubber on the tire begins to strain, slowly but surely it gets so stretched or bent that cracks could begin to appear. Over time, these cracks can worsen, leaving the tire very vulnerable to damage and significantly reduce its puncture resistance.

Cracked rubber is a classic sign that you have either old tires, or have ridden a really long distance with them. Either way, the best thing to do would be to get a new tire.

4. Having Constant Flat Tires

Another very reliable wear indicator is when you constantly get a flat tire during your bike ride. This means that the tire´s tread and tire sidewalls aren´t in their best shape. Additionally, getting a flat tire can mess with the tire pressure, which can in turn damage the inner tube as well.

5. Cuts and Holes on the Tire´s Tread

Another indication that you have worn-out tires is if they easily get cuts or holes. Mountain bike tires are particularly susceptible to this particular one, mainly because in a normal mountain road you´ll find lots of tiny pebbles which could cut or damage you bike tires. In this type of environment, make sure to mind your riding style and keep it as gentle as possible.

Most bicycle tires have puncture protection, but as time passes they´ll more easily get damaged.

6. The Tire is Worn Down to the Casing

When a tire is overused, it´ll slowly wear itself down. It could even reach a point in where the wheel´s casing is exposed. This is a sure indication that new bike tires are immediately needed as the tire is completely worn out.

Although this can happen to any type of bike, you´ll most often see this in a road bike tire and mountain bikes.

7. Bubbles, Bumps, or Deformities

Another sign that your bicycle tire needs replacing is if they have bubbles, bumps of any kind of deformity. This mostly means there was a trauma to the wheel and that replacement is advisable, as they aren´t easily fixed and could end up breaking the tire.

Bike Tire Information

The durability of a tire depends on the use the bicycle. Nevertheless, the average durability for quality tires is about 2,500 miles. Road bike tires with more intensive use, can usually last only to 1,000 miles. Some tourist bike tires can usually work very well until about 4,000 miles.

A normal tire is also made out of several different layers or parts. These are:

Bicycles Parked On The Road

Casing

The body of the tire is usually composed out of a series of nylon threads. The amount of threads is measured in TPI, which means threads per inch. These threads are then covered in rubber to form the body.

Beads

Beads are essential to the tire´s mechanism. They are the tiny parts located at the edge of the tire, they have the function of securing the tire to the wheel rim. They are normally small and composed out of wire.

Tread

The tread is the part of the tire that comes directly in contact with the ground. This particular part of the tire is designed to be particularly thick and resistant to damage, nevertheless, it is the most commonly damaged part.

The Anti-chafing Mechanism

This part has the purpose of protecting the tire beads and to make sure they don´t get damaged, as it could be really dangerous.

Most tires also have a protective layer to avoid any damage and cushion impacts.

Protect Your Tires From Wearing Out

To make sure your tire stays in the best possible state, always check the air pressure, as it is a important factor that will determine a large part or your tire´s overall health.

Another good way to avoid damaging your bicycle wheel is to alternate bikes. You could try alternating between your road bike and your mountain bike to make sure they both last a long time.

Bad weather and bad road surfaces may also catalyze your wheel´s over use. On the other hand, training on a well-paved surface will keep your bicycle in good shape for a long time.

Some Recommendations of What You Could Do

As tires can easily wear off, here are some tips and suggestions to help you keep your bicycle tires in the best possible state.

Normally, there´s a bigger strain on the rear wheel than the front wheel, mainly because all your pedaling force is directed to the rear bicycle tire.

What some people do to solve this is to eventually switch the front and rear tires. Over time, there have been many debates over the efficacy and safety of this strategy, with some riders opting to do it and others not. However, it is safe to say that a rear tire and a front tire don´t wear out in the same way. Therefore, swapping them could be a bit risky.

If you´re only considering replacing one tire at a time, always change the rear tire, as it´ll more easily get worn out.

If you see that your tire is starting to wear out, you should act quickly. Once tires get damaged, it won´t be long before they don´t work.

Just because your bike got a flat tire, doesn´t mean you should go and get new tires. Accidents with a bike tire can happen under any type of conditions, so don´t be keen to discard a wheel that is in good state. You should always try to have a spare patch to fix your tire. Just make sure the inner tube isn´t damaged or punctured.

Finally, If you haven´t ridden your road or mountain bike in a very long time, be sure to check for cracks before your next spin. If you have them, don´t ride your bike. Instead, focus on changing the tires as soon as possible

Riding a Black Bicycle on Gray Concrete Road

How Much Do New Tires Cost?

Now that you know some of the signs that your bike tire is ready to be replaced, you might be wondering how much money it´ll cost to restore your bike to it´s former glory.

The average price for a new tire is between $30-$100. The price can vary, depending on TPI, size, and material differences. You can order them online or most likely find them in specialized bike shops.

Keep in mind that there are many tires out there with different widths, lengths and diameters, so take special notice of your wheel´s measurements when replacing them. Otherwise, you might just get the wrong tire.

Final Thoughts

To find out when the best time to change your bike tires is, you´ll have to take a good look at your wheels. Try to identify any of the aforementioned indicators. They should be easy enough to spot. However, if you´re really having a tough time finding a problem with your tires, you can always take your bike to the local bike shop for some help.

If you decide to fix your wheel, but keep having issues, this could also tell you it´s time to move on.

Now that you know when to change your tires and also how to protect them, you´ll be able to get the best out of your bike. Just be sure to act in case it´s needed. 

Carlos Glover
About the Author
I took up cycling in high school and haven’t looked back since. My love of cycling eventually evolved into an obsession with bicycles. From road bikes to mountain bikes, I have tried them all – and have the scars to prove it! I love sharing my findings with the rest of the cycling world as unsolicited as they may be.
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