Tires are one of the biggest wear items on the bike. Over the lifespan of the bicycle, a rider will go through many sets of tires. While Ride1UP does not sell tires or tubes for most of our models, they are easy to find online and locally. The following article will go over, how to correctly determine the size of a bicycle tire, how to select an appropriate tire and size recommendations for each of our models.
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How to Interpret Tire Size
Bicycle tire size can seem like a mess of confusing numbers are first however it is really quite simple once one learns the format. All bicycle tires have a label on the side or the size is molded into the rubber. This is true in all cases dating back to around 1950. Sometimes the numbers are harder to find due to lack of contrast, however using a flashlight, one can always find them.
The format in which tire size is written is always: Diameter x Width
Sometimes this number is written in metric, other times it is written in imperial. The easy way to tell is by looking at the first number. If it is two digits or three with a decimal point, it is going to be imperial. Three digits, with no decimal point, would mean it is metric. The following photo is from our Prodigy XC model and is a good example of how to read tire size:
In the picture above the Diameter of this tire would be 27.5 inches and the width would be 2.35 inches. If one were to walk into a bicycle store with the intention of buying the same exact sized tire, common vernacular would be: "Hello, I am looking for a twenty-seven five, by two point three five-inch tires." Oftentimes, the decimal points are left out of the conversation when spoken so do not let this throw you off.
Tire Size Selection
Choosing a new tire size is a highly personal thing, many riders enjoy customizing their bike for the terrain they are riding most and for fashion. If you are just riding the bike recreationally or do not have an interest in customizing the bike; choosing the stock tire size is the best bet. The tires on Ride1UP specs on the bikes are in the middle of the range for both size and functionality. If you are interested in customizing, the following information can help however a local bike shop is your best resource. What tire is best can vary based on your region and a local bike shop would have that experience and info.
The first number in the tire sizing, the diameter, cannot be changed. The metal wheel does not change in size and will not fit other diameter tires. Even measurements that are close, for example, a 27.5" tire on a 27" wheel will not work. The tire may be able to be mounted, however, will blow off the rim under pressure or during a ride. The exact fit is paramount to a safe bike.
The second number, tire width, is where riders really get to customize. This number can often be changed up to +/- a half inch from stock and can greatly influence the ride of the bike. There is no one size that is perfect for everything, or the tire market wouldn't be very big. Instead, tire width is a game of trade-offs. Typically the wider a tire is the more stable it feels but the more effort it takes to pedal. Wider than stock tires are great for loose terrain, heavy cargo, or passenger loads, however, will slow down the bike's turning and decrease the range. Thinner tires are great for commuting because of their efficiency and offer more fender compatibility.
There is a common misconception that wider tires are more durable, this is not true and in some cases can be less durable. A wider tire going down a trail is more prone to sidewall tears as it is frequently coming into contact with more obstacles. The main factor that influences a tire's durability is the tire casing. While that topic is deeper than this article covers, a thicker casing is more durable whereas a thinner casing is lighter and more efficient. Bicycle customization is all tradeoffs as one will begin to realize.
Tire Size Recommendations Chart
The following chart goes over what Ride1UP has tested as acceptable ranges for our bicycles. Please note that there is no uniform way to measure tires in the industry regarding width. Some companies measure at the widest part of the tire, others measure at the tread. The numbers below are a safe range in which all brands should work however there may be some outliers. It is best to purchase tires from a reputable store that allows returns or exchanges if you are picking a non-stock size.
|Model||Wheel Diameter||Min Tire Width||Max Tire Width|
Tubes to Match
Most bicycles in the world today use inner tubes to hold the air in the tires. This tested and true system of a tire and tube dates back to the late 1800s and is still in use today. While some high-performance bikes use tubeless systems; these setups require significantly more routine maintenance. While an unpunctured tube can work for years, tubeless systems need new sealant every 3-6 months to perform reliably. For this reason, we stock all our bikes with standard tubed systems, and changing is not recommended.
To select the correct sized tube to work with your bike, all of the info above applies however the numbers are a bit more flexible. Inner tubes can stretch and will do so to fill the space. All tubes have the same numbers printed on them in the same format as tires, however, the second number for width is often represented as a range. Below is a photo of a tube to demonstrate this:
The tube in the photo above would work for our Prodigy example from earlier. Since the 2.35" width of the tire falls in the range of 2.1 to 2.4 inches, it would fit. Tubes can stretch a bit over their recommended range however more than a half inch is not recommended. As one can see, since tubes are flexible they do not have to be as exact as tires.
Tubes come in two types of valves in the United States; there are other valves in the world, however, they are quite uncommon and outside the scope of this article. Presta valves (PV) and Schrader valves (SV) are the two valves one will encounter when shopping for tubes domestically. Presta valves are used on road and racing bikes, the main advantage is that they are smaller and allow for a smaller hole in the rim/ a stronger rim. Schrader valves are the most common type and this is what the automotive industry uses. All Ride1UP bicycles are Schrader valves due to the ease of use with this valve type. The following photo shows the difference so riders can be informed when shopping for tubes.
Since Presta valves are smaller they can be used in Schrader valve rims, however, this is not advised. Since the diameter is much smaller it will wiggle in the rim and eventually fail. Keeping with the stock valve is always the best plan however they can work in a pinch. The website the tubes are purchased from will always state what valve the tube, in addition, the box will also say and may have an SV or PV added to the tube measurement label for further confirmation.
Once confirming the size there will be a few different types of tubes. While the benefits and drawbacks of specialty tubes exceed the scope of this article, a brief overview is listed below. In most cases "Standard" tubes are the best option for the majority of riders.
- Standard- regular thickness and no modifications. Easiest to install and cheapest.
- Self-Sealing- Have a goop in them that seals holes. More expensive but more will seal small punctures. Harder to install. The most common name brand in this category is the "Slime" brand.
- Thorn Proof- Typically much heavier and thicker rubber than standard tubes. Often about double the price of standard tubes and significantly harder to install. Sometimes marketed as "heavy duty" tubes
- Latex tubes- Standard tubes are made from butyl rubber. Latex tubes are made from lighter-weight rubber. Some racers use these however the cost and decreased durability make them impractical for most.