When to Replace Bike Tires? – The 3 Checks to Know

Bike mechanic replacing a mtb tire

Most manufacturers say that the average lifespan of a road tire is between 2,000 and 3,000 miles.

This is a wide range, so it’s essential that you know how to check the wear of your tires yourself. It is the component that binds you to the road, in other words, it is imperative that they are in good condition to ensure your safety and also performance. There is no precise theory on the life of a tire, it will depend on your practice.

In this article, I share with you the 3 points to check to determine when to change your tires. I also give you the elements to choose your new tires. Finally, you will learn my tips to extend their lifespan.

How to know if your tire is worn out?

Having fallen down one day while slipping on a wet road because of worn tires, I assure you that today, I no longer take risks.

To determine if the tires need to be replaced, I systematically check certain specific points and warning signs.

Here are the indicators:

Check for rubber loss.

Concerning the bike tire tread, there are 2 ways to check:

  • wear indicators, which are generally small hollow points.
  • the pattern of the tire, check if it’s no longer visible. The disappearance of studs on ATV/Gravel tires and smoothing of hollow lines on road tires.

Check for punctures and tears

We usually speak of punctures in the tread and tears in the sidewall of the tire.

The tire must be replaced if the puncture or tear is too large and reveals the inner tube.

As for the micro-cuts on the surface, their abundance shows the experience of the tire and could announce a puncture soon.

Personally, I prefer to replace the tire at this time and avoid doing it on the way back from the next ride, which would probably have ended on foot.

Check for cracks

Cracks are a sign of age and are a sort of “wrinkle” in the tire. Caused by the sun and/or age, cracks indicate a dry and unusable rubber. Whether on the tread or the sidewall, tires should be replaced as soon as they appear.

If the question “When should I change my bike tires?” does not have an absolute answer, these 3 checks will allow you to know if a change is indeed necessary. Once the need for replacement is identified, you need to choose new tires.

How to choose your new bike tires?

The choice of your bicycle tires is very important, both in terms of performance and safety. This decision is based on two main characteristics: the type of use and the product design.

Choose your tires according to the type of use

For road biking:

road bike tire and shadow
  • Smooth/slick tire = dry road
  • Lightly patterned tire = wet weather (evacuates water).

For mountain biking:

Mountain bike tire focus
  • Low studded tire = dry terrain/trail
  • Large studded tire = wet/rocky terrain

Choosing tires according to their design

We are interested here in the design of a tire, to justify its quality.

The Shore hardness index

The hardness index of soft materials (including tires) is given by Shore A against Shore D for hard materials. To measure the hardness of a tire we define its Shore A index from 0 to 100, from soft to hard.

In concrete terms, a so-called soft tire will be around 40A, which gives it a very soft rubber, fast wear but great grip. This is what you would expect from a “competition” DH tire. On the other hand, road bike tires have a hardness close to 75A, hard rubber, little wear but less grip.

The TPI index

The Thread Per Inch (TPI) index gives us the density of the tire’s casing. The higher the TPI, the less easy it is to puncture the tire, thus reducing the risk of a flat tire.

Depending on the quality of the tire, we find 33 TPI for the low end, 66 TPI for the medium, and 127 TPI for the high end.

Hard or soft bead?

The beads of a tire are the two ends of the sidewalls that fit into the rim and ensure its maintenance when pressurized. There are two types:

  • Wire beads
  • Folding beads

Wire beads are made of steel and are heavier and more resistant to stress. They are found at the entry-level or on BMX and DH.

The folding beads are generally made of Kevlar fiber, therefore lighter. They are often found in road and mountain bikes at the higher end of the market.

How to improve the lifespan of your bike tires?

Front of MTB tires on a bike rack

While tread wear may seem like a natural part of tire wear, there are some techniques for extending tire life.

With the following points, you can easily increase the number of miles you ride on your tires.

Properly inflating your tires

It’s no surprise that optimizing your tire pressure will ensure optimal longevity. Just like a car, an under-inflated tire will wear out faster than a tire with the right pressure. Understand that with less pressure, friction increases, and therefore wear increases. The tire is designed to have a precise shape at a given pressure, allowing it to adhere properly to the ground. If the tire is under or over-inflated, the wear will not appear evenly.

Braking properly

Applying the correct braking force will prevent you from skidding and wearing out your rear tire. Already responsible for the bike’s traction, the rear tire has a hard time with poor braking.

In concrete terms, in the same way as on a motorcycle, effective braking is carried out progressively: 70% of the loss of speed by the front brake and 30% by the rear brake.

The important thing is not to block the wheels, to avoid a skid or a fall. Braking properly and at the right time increases safety and performance. It limits slipping and pedaling relaunch.

Often cyclists underestimate the importance of the front brake. For instance, in the case of a fixie, the choice of one of the two brakes is obviously for the front. It allows you to lose a lot of speed without skidding.

A simple exercise to practice braking is to use only the front brake for a while. You will better understand its power and gain confidence for the future.

A tire adapted to your practice

It seems obvious that you are not going to ride an MTB with road bike tires. But let’s say that a tire with big studs will wear out faster on tarmac than on trails and on the other hand, a smooth tire for riding on gravel will tend to puncture more easily.

One technique I use on my gravel bike is to swap my rear tire mid-life with the front tire. This saves miles of use.

Note that some tire models offer a different front notch than the rear. Indeed, both have different missions, one has a directional function (front) and the other a traction function (rear).


Do I have to replace both tires on my bike at the same time?

There is no obligation to replace both tires at the same time, especially since the rear tire tends to wear out more quickly than the front. However, be sure to choose your new tire according to your riding style, you can also choose a different front tire than the rear one.

Where to dispose of used bicycle tires?

Used tires should be disposed of at the waste disposal center in the dedicated container to ensure their best recycling. There are also brands that collect used tires to give them a second life. I advise you to inquire around your home, they are usually great initiatives.

Can you repair a bicycle tire?

Repairing a tire is possible, especially in the case of tubeless tires. In the same way as a car, either by using a drill bit or by using a patch. However, make sure that the hole is not too large, as this could affect the tire’s performance.


Now, if you think your tire is worn out, check its tread, and if it has cracks or micro-cuts in its surface. When choosing your new tires, make sure you choose one that suits your riding style and design. Finally, make sure your tires are always properly inflated and avoid skidding when braking to make them last a few more miles.

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