With well over 2,000 miles on this set of bike tires, I decided that it was about time to think about replacing them. I learned long ago that the rear tire often wears faster than the front, so I had already rotated them at least once.
When it comes to replacement tires, there are many brands and types out there. I do most of my riding on paved trails, but I do enjoy going off-road as often as I can.
Which Tire to Choose?
I visited our local bike shop to talk to Ray, a long-time friend and shop owner. His father founded Ten Speed Drive, and together his father and I did a ride from Titusville to Savannah, Georgia thirty years ago. Ray’s thought was to go with road tires, since I spend so much time on hard surfaces.
Looking at the narrow and very smooth tread pattern, I had second thoughts. I like the idea of being able to turn off the pavement, a narrow wooded path, or just a packed dirt road. I enjoy riding off the beaten path and being automobile free. Knowing that road tires would limit my spur-of-the moment off-road ability, I stuck with off-road tires.
There are a couple of disadvantages to my decision. Larger tires do produce a little more drag, requiring a bit more energy on my part. It’s a price that I’m willing to pay for the ability to ride both on and off-road with the same bike.
Another minor annoyance is the sound. Once my speed goes above a comfortable cruise, there is a bit of a whine from the tires on pavement. It doesn’t bother me, but I have ridden with some hard-core riders that would be unhappy to listen to it.
My timing was perfect. One of Ray’s vendors was holding a close-out sale on their folding off-road tires. His shop specializes in Trek bicycles. We have been very happy with the service of the Trek Sky bikes we ordered from him a couple years ago.
We have already ridden a few thousand trouble-free miles on the tires that came with the bikes. I opted to stay with those Bontrager (Trek’s house brand) tires. I bought a pair of Bontrager XR1 Team Issue TLR MTB Tires, folding and “tubeless ready.”
Installing a Folding Bike Tire
Speaking from experience, it is much easier to mount a folding mountain bike tire than a thin little road tire. With a bit of patience, anyone should be able to install one. But seeing the folded tire in its packaging can be a little intimidating.
It’s been over thirty years since I ran my last triathlon and mounted a folding tire. When riding in a triathlons, your bike has no racks. You carry as little weight as you can get by with. A folding tire, spare inner tube, a CO2 cartridge and adapter all fit in a small bag that attached to the underside of the seat on my road bike for that purpose.
Start by unfolding the tire and letting it relax after being bound in its packaging. Next, inflate the tube enough to support the tire, then place the tube inside the tire.
I started at the top and worked my way down in both directions at the same time. When finished, the tube will fully support the tire and you’ll be ready to install them on the wheel.
This is where installing a folding tire takes a bit more care. Without a hard bead, more care is needed to make sure that the tire makes contact with the rim without allowing the tube to slip in between the tire and rim.
The manufacturer’s instructions show installing the tire from one side of the wheel and sliding it across the rim to the other side, then slipping the other side of the tire in place.
While installing the tire, place the valve stem into the hole as you mount the first side of the tire onto the rim. Once the bead of the tire is completely around the wheel, slide it to the other side carefully to avoid pinching the tube between the tire and rim.
Next, slowly slip the second bead of the tire into place, again being careful to avoid pinching the tube. With the tire now fully in place, check one more time to make sure that only the tire is touching the rim.
Slowly begin the inflation, watching that the tire expands in place evenly around both sides of the rim.
With the tire partially inflated, spin the tire and observe where the tire and rim make contact. It should smooth with out bumps or wobbles. With the tire in place it’s time to fully inflate the tire and reinstall it on the bike.
Fixing a Flat Bike Tire
While riding, I always carry at least one spare tube, a patch kit, and a frame pump designed to fit the valves on the bike.
When I have a flat, I use the new tube first. If I’m unlucky enough to have a second flat, I use the patch kit.
If you fix a flat, remember at the end of your ride to replace your spare tube so you have one with you next time you ride.
If you use a repair kit, the glue in it will probably not be any good the next time you try and use it. It dries out quickly.
I think of bike repair glue as a one-time shot and I always replace the patch kit I carry once the glue has been opened.