As a bikepacker and regular cyclist, it always surprises me how much of an impact a new set of tires can make on my bike. But the price of tires can be very confusing, especially with so many vague terms being thrown around. I thought it would be helpful to clarify for others exactly how much you should expect to spend on a new pair of bike tires.
The majority of people spend between $60 to $90 on a new pair of tires. However, some riders spent as little as $20 and others spent over $100. The amount you spend on your tires will depend on the quality and brand of the tire you are buying, as well as the type of riding you expect to be doing.
So, we’ve established how much cyclists actually spend on their tires, but how do you know how much you personally should be spending? I take a look at this in more detail, as well as look into why bike tires cost as much as they do in the rest of the article.
How much do bike tires cost?
A very basic introduction
Before we go into detail in the rest of this article, I want to make a quick clarification of what a bike tire is. While this may seem obvious to some, many new riders use the phrase wheel, tire, and inner tube interchangeably, and this is not correct.
A bike tire is the rubber part of the bike that fits around the rim of the (normally) metal wheel. Bike tires are also different from inner tubes. An inner tube sits inside the rubber tire and gets inflated to give the tire its shape. When you get a flat tire, the inner tube is the bit that has actually punctured and needs replacing.
In general, inner tubes are very cheap (and should be considered a consumable product), tires are then the next most expensive and wheels are the most expensive of all. This article will look at the cost of replacing the bike tire (just the rubber bit).
As with many things in the cycling world, how much a new tire costs will depend on multiple different factors.
The quality of the tire
Different tires come at multiple different price points. This is due to multiple factors but the most important is the quality of the tire in question. Tire quality is measured by something called TPI (threads per inch). The higher the TPI the more threads it has in the tire itself.
More threads help the tire to be more flexible and reduce the tire’s weight (more threads take the place of rubber). These are both good things as they can improve your speed, pedalling efficiency, and grip.
It is can be very interesting to take a look at this website which runs experiments on bike tires to help assess their quality and the drag they generate as they roll.
The brand of the tire
As with all things, the brand of the tire you are buying will also impact its cost. Just like a Ferrari will cost more than a Ford, a Continental tire will cost more than one from Walmart.
This is due to a combination of higher quality tires being sold by more reputable brands, but also the fact that you are partially paying for the name of the brand itself. This increases the cost of tires alongside other factors such as higher shipping costs of particular brands that only operate in certain countries.
The type of bike you have
Different types of bikes require different tires. For example, a fat bike runs wide tires with lots of tread (the bumpy bit down the middle of the tire that gives it grip) whereas road bike tires are designed to be smooth and thin (prioritizing speed over grip).
In general, the most budget version of both mountain bike and road bike tires will cost about the same, but once you look into the high end of both types of tires, bikepacking bike tires should cost less than the most expensive road bike ones.
How much do cyclists spend on a pair of tires?
I took the time to ask a large cycling community how much they spend on a new pair of tires. As you can see from the chart below, the majority of riders spend between 60 and 90 dollars on a new pair of bike tires.
When deciding how much to spend on a tire, it is worth remembering that a bike’s tire is the only thing that sits between you and the ground. Much like in the world of cars, skimping out on your tires can result in a much worse riding experience. If you can afford it, getting better quality tire is often a good idea.
In my opinion, I think that spending a little bit more to be able to afford a mid-range tire is the best bang for your buck.
Why do tires cost as much as they do?
So we’ve established how much a typical pair of bikepacking tires will cost, but why do round tubes of rubber cost as much as they do?
Research and development
The formulas that manufacturers use to create their tires, both through the composition of the rubber as well as the thread count and placement have to be heavily researched by bike tire manufacturers.
There are kept top secret by tire companies and can make a huge difference, especially at the high end of tire sales.
This not only costs time, but also a lot of money to pay for scientists, test runs, and the development of new rubber compounds. This can take a long time for companies to earn this money back and so they increase their prices to help offset this.
Value for money
The other factor that impacts bike tire cost is their value for money. If you consider how many hours you spend riding your bike, the average cost of a bike tire over time is a lot less than most people expect.
For example, if you spend $100 on a tire that lasts you 5000 miles. That means that the tire will cost you 2¢ per mile. If you cycle at 15 miles per hour, that comes out at 30 cents per hour.
Tire manufacturers are aware of how much longer their better quality tires will last, and so know that they need to get more of their upfront costs back from you when you buy the tire as you will be buying them very infrequently.
How much does it cost to get bike tires replaced?
So you’ve bought a new tire, but how much will it cost to actually get the tire onto the bike?
The do-it-yourself method
Putting a tire on a bike is a simple process, in fact, removing and then replacing the tire is part of the process of replacing an inner tube (which many of you will already know how to do).
In order to change the tire, you are going to need some basic gear that you will likely already own for bike maintenance. As a small aid, I have totalled their rough costs below and included an amazon link so that beginner cyclists will have an idea of which items to get and how much they should be paying for them.
While this might seem expensive, you likely have all, if not most of these items at home already. On top of this, even if you do not, these are necessary items for bike maintenance that you will have to buy sooner or later.
Finally, you have to consider that these are one-off costs, this is in contrast to taking your bike to a bike shop.
If you plan to do the tire replacement yourself, take a look at this video from GCN where they go into the process in more detail.
Getting someone to do it for you
If you do not feel confident to replace your own tires, you can take your bike to your local bike shop and ask them to do it for you. They should be able to replace the tire quickly and for a minimal fee (around $10 dollars).
If you have a good local bike store, they will often let you sit with them as they change the tire, showing you how to do it so you can do it yourself next time!
How often should bike tires be replaced?
In general, some riders will suggest that you replace your tires every 2000 to 3000 miles, however in reality there are no set guidelines for how often you should change them. This is because the actual answer will depend on how much you are riding as well as the type of riding you are doing. Also, who actually monitors how many miles each of their tires has been riding for?
On top of this, some tires are designed with durability in mind whereas others prioritise speed and performance. The type of tire you have will greatly impact how long it lasts. For example, a Schwalbe brand trail tire made for off roads mountain or bikepacking will be able to withstand wear and tear a lot better than a thin Continental racing tire.
In reality, you should be deciding when to replace your tires by regularly inspecting them for signs of wear. This can be done with the steps below:
Inspect tire tread
The first thing to look at is the tire tread. As the tire rubber wears down, the tread on the tire will be worn away. By inspecting the tread on the tire you can estimate how worn down the tire is as a whole and this can help you decide if it is time to replace it.
Some tires even come with tread markers (like on a car) that will tell you when the tread is too worn out and the tire needs replacing. These will be small dots on the tire itself, sometimes with the letter TWI on them. Once you can no longer see these, you should be looking to replace the tire.
Monitor the air pressure in the tires
If you notice you are getting frequent flat tires, or if the air pressure in your tires is not lasting a long time, it may be due to the tires themselves. Once you have checked the inner tubes for any damage, it may be worth reviewing the tires to see if it is time to replace them.
A change in the shape of the tire
Any significant change in the shape of the tire is another sign that it is getting to the end of its life. Look for cupping of the wheel that will result in a more square shape to the tire. This “squared-off” look is a good sign that the tire needs to be replaced.
Cuts or cracks in the tire
Obviously, if you have any cuts or cracks in the tire itself it will need to be replaced. These can either be in the form of deep cuts in the tread or any cut on the sidewall of the tire.
To get the best look for any of these, let the air out of the tire and then pinch it together. This will help to reveal any cracks that might not have been visible while it was inflated.
You can also look for exposed threads on your tires, as these will indicate areas of damage and multiple exposed threads may suggest it is time to replace the tire.
Can I just replace one bike tire?
So you’ve gone through the steps above and realized that one of your tires needs to be replaced. But does that mean you have to replace both?
The answer is simple, you can replace one tire at a time if only one tire needs replacing.
In reality, it is very common for one tire to be worn down more than another. Normally this is the rear tire as it has to carry more of your overall weight (up to 3 times that of the front tire) and due to the fact that people are more likely to skid as they brake on a rear tire. These together mean that the tire takes more wear over the same amount of riding.
Many cyclists will suggest to you that when you replace a tire, you should always have the newest tire on the front. This is because if a tire becomes damaged on the front, is almost certainly going to lead to a crash, probably throwing you over the handlebars in the process. On the other hand, if a tire breaks on the back, you may be able to save yourself from a crash.
This would mean that if you need to replace your back tire, you move your front tire to the back of the bike, and buy a new tire to be put on your now empty front wheel. This way, the newest tire is on the front and you haven’t wasted the lifespan of either of your tires.
As you can see, the amount you spend on a new pair of tires can range from $20 to over $100. However, the exact cost of the tires you buy should depend on your specific circumstances, as well as the bike you have and the terrain you are cycling on.