Knowing when you should replace your mountain bike tires is an important part of caring for your bike. While there are a lot of factors to be considered when trying to estimate how long a new set of tires should last you, there are some obvious signs of wear that you should always keep an eye out for that will let you know when the right time is.
So how often should you change your mountain bike tires? As the tire wears away it will have less traction and will be more prone to skid and/or slide. If that is alright with you then you can keep going, but if you want your tires to perform really well for you then it is time to replace them once this starts happening. When you replace a tire it will depend on your own personal preferences.
If you participate in any races you will want to replace your mountain bike tires any time they start to feel sluggish or that the cornering isn’t as good as it used to be. Lighter tires tend to be faster for this, but they will also need to be replaced more often due to not only wear but punctures as well.
Often times when you ride a lot of trails that have countless fast twists and turns you might find that your cornering knobs – also called your side knobs – wear out faster than the center tread of your tires, especially on your front tire. This is because it is mostly pavement that will wear at the center tread and the back tire will not do the turning that the front one does. If your cornering knobs wear out too much it can potentially make turning dangerous due to the reduced amount of grip you have.
Another interesting fact is that your rear tire will wear out faster in general than your front tire will. This is sometimes referred to as “squaring off” and while this can be a good way to wear out the center tread of an old front tire, if you wear the center tread too much on a back tire then the result will be that it will take you longer to come to a stop when you put your brakes on because of having less grip.
The reason why back tires wear out faster – sometimes even up to twice as fast as front tires – is because most of your weight goes on the back tire. This is particularly true when you are going uphill and when you are accelerating. This is also why the less you weigh the longer your tires have the potential to last because the less weight will be put on them.
In general you can pretty easily tell when the tread is getting worn down, the smoother at flatter it looks the more worn it is. As mentioned this can really affect the grip of your bike, but this can also make it easier for your tire to get punctured as the rubber of the tire becomes thinner. So if you start noticing that you keep getting a lot of punctures then it is probably worn thin enough that you want to replace it.
Some mountain bike tire companies do their best to make the wear easy to see by putting certain indicators on the tire. This could be a set of knobs or a line that is a certain color that will wear away. When you no longer can see the indicator at all it is usually a good time to replace the tire.
If you keep wearing it past that eventually you might get to the point where you see white. If you see white past the black rubber it is long past time change out and you should replace your tire immediately! This is because that white color is from the nylon threads that form the outside frame of the casing and this means that there is only a very thin casing which holds the air left on your tire. This casing is not made to contact the ground and will wear away much faster than the rubber will.
One of the key signs that shows not only wear but age is when a tire gets little cracks all over it. This is a clear sign that your mountain bike tire is in need of being replaced. This is especially true if you can see any of the threads though the cracks in the rubber.
Mountain bike tires can last longer or shorter and some of this is how you care for them and the rest depends on what you are doing with them. It is pretty much a given that mountain bikers ride most of the time on off-road trails with lots of dirt, rocks, gravel, etc and this type of terrain does wear away faster on a bike tire than riding on relatively flat roads would.
This is why mountain bike tires need to be replaced more often than do road bike tires. Some features of certain mountain biking trails can cause tires to wear exceptionally quickly, sandstone being one terrain which really wears on soft tires in particular.
Other Reasons To Replace A Mountain Bike Tire And A Couple Of Temporary Fixes
Accidentally putting a hole in the sidewall of your tire is undoubtedly a problem that can call for a replacement. In fact, too many holes anywhere on your tire can be a problem and at some point can make it leak air badly in spite of being patched up everywhere where you see a hole. Holes can be caused by thorns from a cactus plant, sharp rocks, or even from broken glass from a bottle or a nail that someone dumped on the trail.
Sometimes you can fix small holes or even fairly large ones on a tire by using either a patch or a plug kit for the purpose and this can be a whole lot quicker and easier than replacing the tube if you are on the trail. Patch kits can be taped under the bike seat and are therefore much more convenient than having to carry a spare tube, not to mention that a spare tube that has been sitting for too long might become unusable without even giving you a chance to use it once.
However, for the most part it is far better to replace the tire when this happens and only to consider a patch to be a temporary fix. While it is true that patches can last a long time and that patched tires can be great to keep around as a sort of spare tire, heat can sometimes affect the patches and plugs can sometimes be pushed out of a tire if you like a high psi.
If your mountain bike tire is leaking air and you can’t tell where it is coming from though, it is definitely time to get a new tire. The same can be said if you get a new hole right by an old patch or get a hole that is too big to patch up.
Bulges on your tire can be caused by a few different things. One is that the tire itself is a defect and did not go through production correctly, and in this case it will likely be noticed within the first few rides of you getting the new tire. On the other hand, a cheap tire will be likely to get bulges in it soon after reaching the lifetime of miles it is made for, so keep an eye out for this when your tires get close to this number.
Another reason for a tire to bulge that is more common among less experienced mountain bikers is because the tire was not properly installed. Keep an eye on the air pressure of your bike too, since this can cause the tire to bulge if it is too low and a bump is hit. Lastly, if you weigh a lot this does put extra pressure on your bike and could potentially result in a bulge forming somewhere along the tire.
Whatever the cause may be, it is not safe to ride on a bike that has a bulge in the tire since at any moment it could go flat or the bulge may simply burst. These can sometimes be temporarily fixed by using a tire boot if they are small enough, but if there is more than one then the tire will definitely have to be replaced.
“Booting” a tire is quite simple and has nothing to do with the kind of boots you wear on your feet or “booting” someone out of a door. Instead it is something that can be done on tubed tires as a temporary patch for bigger holes in the tire that allow the tube to poke out. Essentially you place something inside the tire in between it and the tube which keeps the tube in its proper place until you get home.
One of the most common things to do this with if you don’t have something that is specifically for being a tire boot is perhaps a dollar bill that is folded into quarters, but an energy bar wrapper or anything else of that sort will work fine too. It just needs to be something that won’t rip or tear or, if you are riding in wet weather, which will get soggy and turn to mush.
Once you have the boot on the tire and the tire and tube back in place you can then air up the tire, keeping a hand over the spot to make sure that it stays in place while you air up. Because of how this works it isn’t really possible to truly boot a tubeless tire, but you can use patches on the inside of the tube and use some of the same basic principles for a temporary fix.
Another reason to replace your tires is that over time they will get to be brittle and more like plastic and this is not only bad for your grip when riding but can also lead to other problems like blowouts too. This is why tires that get too old should be replaced even if they aren’t necessarily worn out. Often this can be seen by cracking particularly on the sidewalls of the tire and this can tend to happen more if a bike has been stored for a while without being used.
If the tire is really, really old or has been stored for a long while then it might be bad enough to be referred to as “dry rot”. This is where not only has the rubber become brittle but the casing itself has started to rot and crack. And signs of perceptibly frayed threads or signs of any visible rotting of any kind on an old bike tire are a sign that it needs to be replaced immediately. Even if it seems to be holding air just fine it will not likely do so for long if any weight is put on it.
Perhaps the worst thing that can happen from riding a tire that should have already been replaced is that it can burst in the middle of a ride. If you are going at a fairly slow speed then you might not get too badly hurt, but if you are going at a high speed down a trail that is on the side of a steep cliff this can be really dangerous. This can also be dangerous to anyone who might be riding behind you on the trail, so it is good to replace your mountain bike tire when it needs to be replaced not only for your own safety but for the safety of people around you.
How To Care For Mountain Bike Tires
Making sure that your tires have the right amount of air in them is a vital part of caring for your mountain bike tires. If you have the wrong amount of air in them you could ruin the sidewalls of the tire, are far more likely to have a blowout, and all sorts of other problems. Not being aired up properly is in fact one of the main things that can potentially cause your tire to wear out before it otherwise would have, so if you want your tires to last you for a long time then you need to check their air regularly.
The simplest way to check the amount of air in a tire is to press the tire in between your hands. This can take a bit of practice before you get really good at using this to measure your air pressure, so until you get it down it is usually best to simply hook up an air pump to the tire, give it a little air to make sure that the valve is open, and then see what the reading says the pressure is.
There is much debate on the “right” amount of psi – pounds per square inch – that it is good to have in a mountain bike tire, most of which boils down to being simply a matter of personal preference. Some of this can depend some on the type of tire you have and what kind of riding you are doing on your mountain bike, but there are pros and cons both ways to help you decide whether you want a lot of air in your tire or as little air as you can get by with.
Tires with more pressure in them can tend to go slightly faster, but they also tend to have a little less grip. High pressure is also less impact-absorbing which means that you will feel the bumps more. This feature can really wear you out if the terrain has a lot of small bumps and can even wear out the frame of your bike over time. This will also make your tires easier to puncture and when you get a lot of small punctures you might need to replace the tires out more frequently.
Low pressure, on the other hand, gives great grip and shock-absorption even if it isn’t as fast. This makes for a nice smooth ride, however it is by going too low with the pressure that you risk damaging your sidewalls and this can also cause you to get more of those bothersome pinch flats that you then have to fix.
Many tires have a maximum and a minimum tire psi that they are equipped to handle and this is a great place to start since it is a good idea to always stay within those numbers. Although tubeless tires can in general go lower than their tubed counterparts, there are a few factors that do play a part in finding out what the perfect psi for your mountain bike tires is.
The more you weigh, for example, the more tire pressure you will need to have in order to counteract your weight, while if you are very light you won’t need as much psi. Also, your style will play a big part as well.
If you rush down rocky and bumpy hillsides on pressure that is too low you are almost asking for a pinch flat, so you should increase your psi to help avoid those if you know that you do this. On the other hand if it has been raining and the trails are slick and slippery you are far more likely to need the extra grip that having a low tire pressure can give you.
All in all, when it comes to tire pressure it is well worth considering changing it throughout the year based on the trails you will be riding it on. Even if you decide not to change the psi at all you should still check it at least every month if not every week.
If you are riding on tubeless tires another important part of caring for them is making sure that they have plenty of fresh sealant in them in case you run across thorn or something that might poke a small hole in your tire. It should be a regular part of your bike maintenance to add fresh sealant in your tire once or twice a year either through the valve core if you have one that is removable or by breaking a small section of the bead off of the rim.
Also it is very important to check your tires regularly and to remove any small rocks or any other debris that might get stuck in the tread of your tire. If this is left alone it could cause premature cracking in that spot or even cause a puncture there if that spot were to hit a hard rock at the end of a jump. It is also a good idea to keep your tires clean by washing them after any trip that gets them muddy or dirty and this can help keep the rubber in good shape so that it doesn’t dry out.
As mentioned your front and rear tires will wear differently, with your front tires tending to wear more on the sides and the back tire wearing more on the center tread. For this reason it can be a good idea to switch your tires every once in a while in order to get the maximum amount of use out of both and yet still be able to have the grip that you need for turning and braking.
What Tires Should I Replace My Mountain Bike Tires With
The first thing you have to do when choosing new tires out for your mountain bike is to of course determine what size tires that you need to be looking at. There are two numbers that you have to look at for this: one is for the size diameter of the wheel it needs to fit on, and the other is the width of the wheel.
Mountain bikes tend to range from 1.9”-2.5” wide, but to verify this sometimes all you need to do is to look at your old bike tire. Many tires have two sets of number pairings on the side somewhere and if you see one that says something like 27.5×2.0 then what you are looking at is a tire for a 27.5” wheel that is 2” wide and that is therefore the size tire you should get to replace it.
There are a wide variety of different tires on the market to choose from, even once you have it narrowed down to the size and width that will fit your bike. For people who ride trails like mountain bikers, good all-around tires are generally the way to go.
The tread is one of the key parts of the tire and can vary widely from brand to brand. Different treads are better suited for different things. For example, a tread that has large gaps in between the lugs – also called knobs or knobbing – are much better suited for riding over muddy terrain that might be slippery.
More side lugs can help your tire grip on tight turns so would be a good idea to make sure a tire has if you tend to do a lot of that. Lugs that are slanted to the rear are to minimize resistance to help you go fast and those lugs that have the small slits in them are for gripping slick surfaces like rocks or wet wood. This is why you should always take the tread into consideration when picking out new tires for your mountain bike.
There are mountain bike tires that are thinner and therefore are lighter in weight. While these do tend to make you a little bit faster these will also wear out faster for obvious reasons. A thicker tire will give you more grip on the trail and will last you much longer before wearing out. The same can be said for the different kinds of rubber that can be used to make the tires: softer rubber having more grip and less durability than harder rubbers.
Another optional feature that some tires have is extra protection by having either a 2-ply tire or one that is reinforced with Kevlar or some other such material. This does tend to be expensive, but in areas where plants like cactus abound these can really save a tire from repeated flats. Or, you can get such things as tire liners that protect the sidewalls in particular from being punctured.
Lastly, there is the whole tubeless vs. tubed tire debate, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages that all boil down to your own preferences and how you ride your bike. As a final note, when it is time to replace your tires it is a good idea to consider what you will do with your old, worn ones. If you are buying new tires from a bike shop you should ask if they will recycle your old tires for you.