There is a common adage “never go cheap on things that separate you from the ground”, this typically refers to shoes, beds, and tires. These purchases have a huge impact on your everyday health and even safety. They should be thought of as an investment. And although most people might be thinking of car tires, I believe that this adage extends to bike tires.
The tires that you run on your bike can be the determining factor to the overall ride quality of your bike. A good set of tires will keep you more comfortable. They will allow you to stop on a dime. Tires can be the difference between a successful turn and washing out. A good pair will last longer and keep you safer while out on your bike.
On most of our models of bikes we use fat tires. There are numerous reasons we like fat tires. For one, fat tires offer more traction and grip. This is great when you are riding on mud or rocky terrain. Added grip also means that you will have increased braking power. Even with the best hydraulic disc brakes in the world it's only going to do so much if your tires are not gripping the ground beneath you.
Also fat tires are total beasts in regards to rolling over obstacles. When you are getting out into the backcountry it is important to have the confidence to tackle technical parts of trail. On a dinky tire, a tree root or a protruding rock can easily buck you off of your bike, however with a fat tire it is easy to roll right over such obstacles. And even if your routes are a bit more tame, a fatter tire is simply more comfortable and easy to ride.
Tire tread will also play a big role in determining your ability to grip the trail and how easily you are able to keep rolling. Big knobby tires will typically offer more traction than tires with small knobs but this does mean that they can be a bit harder to get up to speed. The pattern of the knobs is also important. Tires with little spacing between knobs allow for a faster rolling tire whereas tires with greater spacing allow the tread to bite into the ground thus increasing grip.
The composition of the rubber used in a tire will have a large impact on performance. Some rubber compounds are better at different temperatures. As an example, winter tires on cars will maintain elasticity and grip at low temperatures due to their unique composition. As far as bike tires though we are usually concerned with the durometer or how hard the tire is.
A harder tire will typically last longer and roll faster. On the other hand a softer tire will wear down faster but it will also provide excellent grip. Luckily nowadays many tires are created from more than one type of rubber. This allows us to get the benefits of both harder and softer durometers on the same wheel.
Even with all the engineering that has been done to optimize rubber, it is a reality that flats will still occur. One way to make flats more rare though is to run a tire liner in your eBike tire. A tire liner is a thin piece of extruded plastic that sits between the tire and the inner tube. Tire liners are a great way to protect your tubes from being punctured by thorns or any other obstacle you may run over on a trail. Some people don’t like to use tire liners because they add weight to the wheel, and “rolling weight” is often considered a negative when outfitting a bike.
The “optimum” tire pressure is a surprisingly contested point in the biking community. Tire pressure will vary widely depending on the type of riding you are doing. A road biker may run their tires as high as 120psi while a fat biker may go as low as 10psi. In general with trail riding you are trying to find the sweet spot where you will get great traction but still have tires that roll fast. Also when running a setup that uses tubes you want to avoid pinch flats. A pinch flat happens when you hit something so hard that it compresses your tire into your rim and you slice through the innertube. Thus typically when running tubes you run at a higher tire pressure than with a tubeless set up. On our bikes with 4” fat tires we usually run between 15-25psi.
Most tires will have markings somewhere on the outside to let you know what is the highest (and sometimes lowest) tire pressure that you can run.
Replacing you Mountain Bike Tires
Sadly, like all things, even the best set of mountain bike tires will not last forever. And since they are such an important part of your overall ride experience it is important to replace your tires when the time comes. The best way to know when it is time to replace your tires is by simply inspecting them. You will know it is time for a new set of tires if:
- Center knobs have lost more than half their depth
- Sidewall knobs are cracked or fold over when riding
- You find yourself easily losing traction while riding
- You are easily sliding out when turning or cornering
Remember that a worn tire is not only less fun to ride but also a safety issue. It is important to keep an eye on the state of your tires and replace them when it is time.
The Best Tires for EBikes
Answering what is the best tire for an eBike comes down to weighing all the factors discussed and deciding which ones are most important to you and the type of riding you are looking to do. For example, when we sourced the tires for our bikes we took all of these factors into consideration. We decided that for aggressive backcountry riding a fat tire would be the best for its ability to handle all types of terrain. We choose Maxxis Minion Tires (and CST BFT tires for our 24” bikes) because they are a premium rubber composition that allows for great traction while still being fast. These tires are time tested to get you in and out of remote areas consistently. If you have any other questions about tires let us know in the comments!