Which folding bike tires are best?
Whether you plan to purchase a bike to conquer the mountains, casually ride throughout the city or go touring, folding bike tires are there to help if you run into a sudden flat.
Unlike a car, bikers can’t exactly ride around with a couple of non-foldable spare tires strapped to their back. Luckily, you can with a folding bike tire.
The best folding bike tires, like the Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Tire, fold down into a compact size that fits into a small backpack.
What to know before you buy a folding bike tire
Packing and installation
The manufacturer and retailer play a vital role in determining how easy it will be to install your new tire. The tires unfold with relative ease when the manufacturer puts care into how they’re folded and packaged.
When lazily done, you’ll run into a tangled mess that’ll likely require some time and weights to uncrease before it remotely resembles something you can install.
Folding bike tires have a lower pressure than their standard counterparts.
That means they could easily pop when overfilled. It’s always recommended to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, but the general rule of thumb is to keep them at 40 to 60 psi for most 20-inch tires.
Folding bike tires come with a softer rubber compound, giving them better traction on a majority of surfaces. While softer material typically means it’ll wear out quickly, some folding bike tires add polyester strands to increase the thread density.
They may also have synthetic woven polymers as an additional layer of protection for the tire’s side walls without giving up the required flexibility. Unlike the steel wire manufacturers use to construct the bead in regular tires, folding tires commonly use Kevlar or other synthetic fibers to maintain durable flexibility.
What to look for in a quality folding bike tire
The most basic of features, regardless if you ride casually or competitively, is wheel size. Smaller bikes with 20-inch wheels require, obviously, 20-inch tires. Where it gets convoluted is when adult bikes come into the picture.
Larger wheel sizes may have varying measurements that can get confusing if you’re not prepared. For example, a 27.5-inch wheel may be presented as 650b, while a wheel at 29 inches might show as 700c.
There are varying reasons why a biker might go with a 650b wheel over a 700c and vice versa. The 650b wheels, while smaller, allow the biker to run higher-volume tires, which creates an increased contact patch.
That means there’s more grip when accelerating, cornering and improved bump absorption, making it an excellent choice for unpaved surfaces. The 700c wheels, on the other hand, are the wheels of choice when it comes to riding on paved streets or gravel. That’s due to these wheels offering better rollover capability and less rolling resistance.
Threads per inch
One of the reasons folding bike tires sell at a premium is the higher threads-per-inch count. Manufacturers create the tires you see today by tightly winding threads together.
When the tires they produce have a higher density or higher TPI, they offer a smoother ride quality to the user than their cheaper, lower TPI counterparts.
You can identify high-quality folding bike tires if they have TPI counts of 60 or higher. One key point to keep in mind is that lower TPI counts mean thicker threads and ultimately a heavier, sturdier tire.
When the TPI counts reach 120 or greater, the threads get thinner, making it much more lightweight, but also that much more delicate and susceptible to faster wear.
As mentioned earlier, folding bike tires like the Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Tire use a softer rubber compound that provides better traction, but wears out sooner than regular tires.
High-quality folding tires will utilize dual-compound treads to reduce rapid wear. These tires have a regular tread rubber compound along the center with the softer compound on the sides to offer support when cornering.
On rare occasions, you might locate a manufacturer that produces regular tires with a soft rubber compound.
How much you can expect to spend on folding bike tires
Folding bike tires typically sell at a premium for the reasons stated above. Ranging from inexpensive to high-quality, you can expect to pay anywhere between $20-$115 per tire. It pays to keep in mind that numerous considerations factor into the final price point, like whether they’re tubed or full tubeless and overall weight.
Best folding bike tires FAQ
Can I get a folding bike tire for any type of bike?
A. Like regular tires, retailers and manufacturers provide varying sizes and threads of folding bike tires for different surfaces. So whether you plan on touring, casual city biking, mountain biking or tearing up gravel, you should find folding tires for any occasion.
Are folding bike tires more difficult to fit?
A. Some steps in the fitting process may need extra focus, but it’s not necessarily more difficult to fit than standard tires. You must take extra care not to pinch the tube and to not overfill with air. After the first fitting, it becomes a relatively quick process the next time it needs replacing.
What are the best folding bike tires to buy?
What you need to know: Continental hit it out of the park with high-quality tires made to last for any passionate road rider.
What you’ll love: The polyamide and carbon blend offers puncture protection without increasing rolling resistance and superior durability. Available in various sizes, it’s the perfect tire for city riding and long-distance touring.
What you should consider: The puncture protection may not live up to some people’s expectations.
Top folding bike tire for the money
What you need to know: Perfect budget-friendly option for commuting and off-road biking.
What you’ll love: You’ll find that the Ultra Sport III is highly durable and offers excellent performance for any biking activity. Budget-conscious bikers will be happy to hear that you can purchase two tires at a highly affordable price.
What you should consider: While most foldable bike tires are easy to fit, these require a little more concentration.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: A reasonably priced tire manufactured to help bikers take control of gravel and rugged landscapes.
What you’ll love: WTB created these tires to combat quick wear with a dual-compound build and they are available for both tubed and tubeless use.
They have a straight-line design to reduce rolling resistance with soft compound walls to maintain a grip around corners.
What you should consider: There’s potential for leaks when used tubeless.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Christopher Lee writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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