Expected Mileage on Road Bike Tires

Bicycle parked on the beach, San Diego, California, USA
A row of bicycles parked on the street. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Across the country, the number of people who use bicycles to commute to work, though still small, has been increasing, reports the League of American Bicyclists. For example, in Portland, Oregon, 6 percent of people commuted to work by bike in 2007. Whether you are a commuter or a weekend road warrior, the mileage you can expect to get from your bicycle tires is more than a matter of casual interest. Few things spoil your bike ride or throw off your schedule like a flat tire.

Tire Construction

Several aspects of tire construction affect the durability of the tire. Most tires are made entirely of soft rubber or hard rubber. The soft rubber provides more grip and traction, but does not wear as well. The hard rubber gives less control, but is more durable. Hybrid tires use both kinds of rubber, featuring soft rubber on the outside to provide grip, and hard rubber between the tread and the casing to improve grip and cornering in all conditions. Still, the soft rubber will be prone to wear, and your improved control will deteriorate as the tread wears down. Tires with higher thread count casings have a sturdier construction and a longer street -life.

Expected Mileage

The conventional wisdom is that your road bike tires last anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 miles. High-end tires should last at least 2,500 miles. Racing tires, which are designed for speed and high-performance, may need replacing after 1,000 miles, but tough touring tires can last as long as 4,000 miles. If you are a commuter who rides on asphalt you may have slick or inverted tread, which improves the road-life of your tire. If your commute takes your through patches of gravel or stone, you may have a tire with small knobbies on the edge to enhance your grip and stability. Small knobbies wear down quickly. Once your knobbies wear down, your tire won’t necessarily be ready for the recycle bin, but it will no longer increase your stability in soft conditions.

Causes of Wear

Under inflating your tires can cause greater wear at the edges of your tire, and increases your risk of pinch flats – flats that occur when your inner tube is pinched between the rim and a sharp or hard object. Potholes, glass, sharp stones, thorns and other road debris can damage your tires.

Improve Tire Life

To improve your tire life, use puncture-resistant tires and add a tire liner between your tire and tube. When you do get punctures, after you fix the flat, seal the puncture or slit in the tire using super glue or epoxy, squeezing the glue into the wound. Use a flat sealant. This proprietary goo seals punctures when you get them. Rub it along the inside surface of your tire to reduce flats and extend tire life. If you ride through areas with lots of thorns, consider thorn resistant tubes, which are basically thicker and heavier than average tubes.

When to Retire Tire

If you are getting more flats than you care to repair, it may be time to retire your tire. Give your tire a visual inspection. If the tread is entirely gone or if you see slits, tears or small chunks missing from the tread surface or deterioration on the sidewall, you are likely more vulnerable to flats. Slick road tires will wear flat across the center of the tire where the contact patch is, while tires with ribs or treads will look slick down the center. Rear tires wear out more quickly. As your rear tire wears, swap it for your front tire to extend its life and even out the wear on both tires.

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