Jared: “I’ve never changed the tires on my bike, and I’ve had it for two years. How do I know when I need new ones?”
Jared: Back in college, I had a teammate on the triathlon team whose tires were practically leaking threads–always. One ride, we all went through a patch of glass (because for some reason, the tri team was too cool to point out objects. Instead, the leader would call out, “Glass!” and the rest of the group would look at each other and ask, “What did he say?” as we were riding through glass) and his tire blew out. Badly. He pulled to the roadside and proceeded to swap the tube.
As a group, we all exchanged concerned looks. The tire was pretty shredded, but he somehow made it home, and we all figured that surely on the next ride he would have a brand new set of tires. Well, he did have something new: a shiny carbon TT bike. But lo and behold, his tires were the same bald and bleeding set.
I’m not sure why I told you that story. I like telling stories. Especially when they’re not about me. But if your tires are anywhere near as worn as my freind’s tires, you’re definitely in for a new set.
How Many Miles Can I Get?
Most bike tires wear out after a few thousand miles, depending on the brand and model. Some manufacturers make tires that will last upwards of 6,000 miles, but more often they will need to be replaced closer to ever 2,000 miles. If you’re putting in long, regular rides, you’ll likely be buying a new set a few times per year. But often you’ll find that the back tire wears out about twice as fast as the front.
Conventional wisdom–meaning something about physics and weight and stuff–says that you’ll want your front tire to show less wear. Often, riders will rotate the front tire to the rear and replace the front with a brand new one. Since bike trainers will also beat them up at a pretty fair rate, I like to use the worn one on a spare wheel and keep it exclusively for my indoor workouts. It allows you to keep safer tires on the road, but still get plenty of use out of the ones that you swap out.
How Do I Know if My Tire is Worn Out?
If you see threads/fabric through the rubber, you’ll likely need a new one. If the tire is bulging, thin, or looks irregular, you’ll certainly need a new one. If you see any types of slashes from road debris or cracking along the sidewalls, you’ll probably need a new one.
One note, I tend to fall on the side of caution and replace tires more often. I’d rather not start worrying about their integrity on a 45mph descent.
One last piece of advice, make sure that you keep both wheels properly inflated. If you don’t, you’ll ruin the sidewalls (among other things), and you’ll be at greater risk of a blowout. 80-110 psi is the general rule of thumb, but it also depends on your weight, the weather, and personal preference (yeah, that answered it, right?).
Thanks for the question, Jared. Get out and ride to your LBS to check out a few options. They should be able to steer you toward a good set of sweet new tires.
Got a burning question? Send it over to me, and I’ll answer to the best of my ability. Because it’s important to remember, there are no stupid questions. And anonymity is really cool too.