What Affects Tire Wear?

By : Mr Mamil
Updated :

Ask any cyclists how much mileage they get from their last pair of tires and you’ll end up with different answers. For some, their tires wear out as little as 1,500 miles, while others can extend the mileage up to 7,000 miles.

So what makes the tire wear out at different rates?

In this article, I’ll cover the five main factors that affect tire wear.

Tire compound

Bicycle tires these days are made of different materials mixed together to make a compound. Many tire manufacturers keep their compound a secret and often use it as their competitive advantage and for marketing purposes.

For example, the Vittoria Graphene 2.0, Schwalbe Addix, Continental BlackChilli, and Pirelli SmartEVO compound.

Although bicycle tire compounds are not as complicated as those used in Formula 1, the bicycle tire compounds can generally be categorized into :

  • Softer compound tires provide better grip, and suppleness but at the expense of durability and a higher wear rate. Race and top-of-the-line tires are made of softer compounds and cost as much as 50% more than endurance tires.
  • Harder compound tires wear out slower, are cheaper, and more durable, However, they’re harsher, heavier, and less grippy.

Total weight

The higher the total weight bearing on the tires, the higher the wear rate is. Therefore, a heavier cyclist will wear out his tires faster with all else being equal.

Unlike wheelsets, tires generally don’t have maximum rider weight specifications.

Front vs rear

The rear tire will wear out at a faster rate than the front. In some cases, it’s nearly a 2:1 ratio. Some cyclists swap their front and rear tires to maximize the mileage before needing a new pair of tires.

If you’re planning to swap the tires, make sure to swap them before the rear tire starts to show signs of wear. Otherwise, you risk running a worn-out tire on the front and this could impact the grip, especially on the descents.

Tire pressure

Tire pressure is often associated with the tire type (clincher, tubeless or tubular), tire width, and grip. All bicycle tires have a maximum tire pressure printed on the sidewalls and most cyclists often don’t go anywhere near the maximum.

Depending on the total weight (cyclist + bike), there is an ideal tire pressure range for each type of tire set up. Generally, wider tires can run on lower pressure and vice versa. This is also one of the reasons why the tubeless setup is gaining popularity it allows for lower pressure and improved grip and minimal impact on rolling resistance.

However, a lower than ideal tire pressure will accelerate the tire wear. The rear tire pressure is usually 5 to 10 psi higher than the front, taking into consideration that almost 60 to 70% of the weight is on the rear.

There are various online tire pressure calculators available today and one of my favorites is from SRAM.

Road conditions

Smooth road conditions with minimal debris and potholes will be gentler on the tires, slow down the wear and minimize punctures. If you ride often on roads with bad conditions, be sure to check and clean your tires after a couple of rides to ensure it’s clean of debris.