We’re often asked at BikeTips: “How long do bike tires last? And how do you know when to change them?”
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, this is a vital bit of knowledge to learn and understand.
It’s easy to spot a worn-out tire when you know what you are looking for, and catching it in time can save you a lot of trouble.
As an ultra-endurance cyclist and seasoned bike mechanic, I have been through many sets of different tires and know when to change a set before I start getting problems.
In this article, we’re going to be telling you everything you need to know by discussing:
- How Long Do Bike Tires Last?
- What Affects The Life Of A Bike Tire?
- 5 Key Signs That You Need To Change A Bike Tire
- 4 Top Tips To Help Your Bike Tires Last Longer
Let’s jump into it!
How Long Do Bike Tires Last?
A bike tire can be made of several different materials, such as rubber, nylon, wire, and even kevlar. It can be very challenging for a tire manufacturer to get it right.
They must find the right combination between performance, longevity, and comfort. There are a lot of different factors that will govern the longevity of a bike tire.
The answer to “How long do road bike tires last?” or “How long do mountain bike tires last?” will depend on a number of factors, but roughly:
- Road bike tires last roughly 2500-4000 miles
- Mountain bike tires last roughly 1000-3000 miles
- Gravel or hybrid tires last roughly 1500-3500 miles
Although it doesn’t just come down to distance, tires also have a shelf life, so if left unused in poor conditions become old and brittle.
Old tires may have a lot of tread, but typically are full of cracks and are splitting inside, making them useless.
What Affects The Lifespan Of A Bike Tire?
As you can see above, we have to give a very vague answer to this question. That’s because so much affects how long a tire will last.
Here are 6 key factors:
#1: Tire Compound And Type
The most important factor is the tire compound; this is what the tire is made of.
A lighter racing tire will break down quicker than a heavy touring endurance tire. A hard-wearing tire will create more rolling resistance and weigh more, but it is fantastic at chewing up miles.
- Want to know more? Check out Types Of Bike Tires Explained, Clincher Vs Tubular Vs Tubeless here!
#2: The Terrain
The terrain also makes a lot of difference when it comes to tire life.
If you are riding off-road, it takes much more out of your tires than riding on smooth tarmac. The smoother the surface, the longer the tire will last.
A lot can also be said for the quality when it comes to tires.
Another big factor affecting a tire’s wear is the load it has to carry.
#5: Tire Pressure
Next, we have tire pressure.
A lot of cyclists make the error of using the incorrect tire pressure for the riding they’re doing, which can shorten the tire’s life dramatically.
If you want to know the perfect tire pressure for your riding, check out Bike Tire Pressure Explained.
#6: Riding Style
Then we have riding style.
If you are a cyclist who loves to skid, take corners sharply, and descend at high speed, you will get through tires much faster than the person popping to the local shop.
Look after your tires well, and they will look after you well.
5 Key Signs that you need to Change A Bike Tire
When it comes to knowing when to change a bike tire, it is challenging because it will be different for everyone.
There will be warning signs to let you know, and we highly recommend you start looking for new tires when you find these. As an experienced cyclist, I’ve been through my fair share of tires!
Here are the warning signs that tell me when it’s time to change my tires or, in some cases, stop the ride altogether:
#1. Tread Wear
By visually inspecting your tires, you will be able to see tread wear. If you are using knobby tires, then the wear will be obvious.
On slick tires, you will struggle to notice much wear, but instead, you will want to see how flat the top of the tire is. If it looks misshapen, then it’s time to get rid.
#2. Frequent Punctures
When tires get old, they start to offer much less protection.
This could be because they have much less tread, are old and brittle, or have slits or holes in them.
There are many reasons for getting punctures, and most of them are because the tires are too worn or aged.
If you find you are getting lots of punctures and the terrain you’re on shouldn’t reflect that, then more than likely, it’s time for some new tread.
Good tires should only see a few punctures in their first few thousand miles. Then after that, when they are worn, it comes more frequently.
#3. Splits Or Cracks
When tires get a lot of use, they start to get the odd crack or split in them.
It might be from a rock or something sharp you might have run over, or it could be because they are just getting a little too old, and the compound is starting to split.
No matter the reason for having a lot of cracks in your tires, it is a good idea to change them sooner rather than later.
Not only does it leave them weak, but it also makes them very vulnerable to splitting and cracking further, which could lead to a blowout.
#4. Sidewall Damage
When tires get too old and worn, they don’t always show it where you might expect.
Most cyclists, when checking their tires, always look at the point which contacts the ground when sometimes you need to look at the side.
Sidewall splits are a common problem in tires when they get older.
The wire or fabric which holds them together in the sidewall is constantly stretched on bumps and corners and eventually gives up, and the tire can split.
This needs the tire chaining before being ridden if the sidewall is compromised.
#5. Poor Cornering And Lag
Tires perform their best when they are fairly new.
When tires get older, they slowly start to underperform.
Not only do they get more flexible on the corners, but they also start to get a bit laggy on the road in general.
If you feel like your tires are getting slipper or generally not feeling as agile as they were before, it’s a good investment to upgrade them sooner rather than later.
You wouldn’t see professional riders cycling on worn-out tires.
4 top Tips To Help Your Bike Tires Last Longer
There’s plenty you can do to improve the life of the tires you have and keep them healthy as long as possible!
#1: Keep The Tires Clean
Clean tires are happy tires. The less dirt that gets on them, the less wear they get.
Small stones, flint, and mud will stick to your tires if you don’t clean them, and although it may look harmless, it works its way in. Giving your bike a clean every so often takes 20 minutes and goes such a long way for your tires.
For a comprehensive guide on how to clean a bike, check out How To Clean A Bike In 8 Steps!
#2: Avoid Riding Aggressively
Aggressively braking, unnecessary skidding, riding on the wrong terrain, and cornering too fast are easy ways to shorten the life of a tire.
In racing, you might need to, but when just out training or the club run, it isn’t going to do you any favors. When it comes to how long bike tires last, for racing cyclists the answer is: not long!
Tip #3: Swap Front To Rear
A little trick that helps prolong the life of a set of tires is switching them front to rear.
The majority of your weight while riding sits on the rear tire; because of this, it wears out quicker. When I see it’s more worn, I swap the back with the front to prolong the life of the set. It saves me buying a rear tire sooner to replace it.
Tip #4: Keep On Top Of Your Pressures
Tire pressure is the amount of air you have in the tires. This can make them harder for smoother surfaces or softer or rougher surfaces.
The correct pressure in the tires goes a long way to giving them a much longer life. Too little gives too much flex, and too much can stretch the compound.
An excellent tool for tire pressures is the SILCA Calculator. You can use this for the perfect PSI, no matter the bike and who you are.
Now You Know How Long Bike Tires Last…
How long do bike tires last? Well, bike tires will generally last anywhere from 1000 to 5000 miles.
It comes down to a lot of different factors, such as tire type, where and how you’re riding them, and even the pressures you keep inside.
The best advice we can give you is to look after your tires and don’t leave them too long before changing them.
Thanks for taking the time to read our article!