When to Change Mountain Bike Tires

What are the three best reasons for changing a mountain bike tire? Experts at Bicycle Warehouse cite 1) Safety, 2) Control, and 3) Peace of mind. Surprised? Think about it. A worn tire is more than an inconvenience. It undermines pleasurable rides and puts you at risk, so when you notice that a tire has seen better days, don’t wait to change it!

But when should one change mountain bike tires? This is what I found:

If your knobs have rounded edges and lost 50-percent depth, consider a replacement. Additionally, if you spot fabric damage, visible treads, and/or signs of irregular appearance, these are also warning signs.

How often should you change your MTB tires?

According to MountainBikeExperience.com, the mileage range you can expect from your MTB tires is vast. On the low end, you should be able to travel 3,200 miles before you start worrying about wear. In some cases, high-quality, expensive products could deliver a lifespan of up to 8,000 miles. You probably already know why there’s such a dramatic difference, but if you’re a newbie, sharp mountain rocks can determine the life of an MTB tire.

Since wear and tear means different things to different bikers, the aforementioned three signs are just the tip of the iceberg. Other signs that you could be in trouble include excessive tread cracks that are so expansive, the tread may already be pulling away from the tire. If your MTB tires won’t hold pressure, that’s another sign that trouble is brewing. Another giveaway are tire bulges.

Related: How Long Can You Ride on a Flat Tire

Finally, if you notice subtle changes you haven’t felt before — traction or handling issues — consider these additional reasons to consider tire replacement.

How terrain and riding style impact tire life

When mountain biker Stephanie Pearson was asked to describe how dangerous a bad mountain bike tire can be for the Outside website, she took a page from what could have been a real-life disaster by describing flying over her handlebars because her tire pressure was too high. That’s not diminishing the impact a variety of terrains can have on your tires, and some of these may surprise you.

Related: How Can You Prevent Injury While Cycling

The words rough trails are somewhat subjective. The trail elements that tend to add the most excitement to your ride – roots, and rocks – are also the factors that can have the heaviest consequences. While a crash is likely to do the most tire damage, bent crank hangars are culprits because it takes so little to seriously damage them, reason enough to carry a spare hangar just in case.

Additionally, downtube protection can’t be underestimated. Small rocks tossed in the air by front tires up your bike’s potential for scratches and frame cracks. In terms of your preferred riding style, there are factors about how you ride to impact your tires, especially if you love to take risks. Further, if you are heavy, we strongly suggest higher tire pressure to compensate for your weight. Weight definitely can impact tire wear and longevity.

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

What’s your mountain bike preference?

Once upon a time, there was only one mountain bike style, but as cyclists became enamored with variations, new designs — requiring new tires — began to appear on the bicycle market. Categories that require a specific tire include:

Related: Types of Bikes – The Ultimate Guide

  • Downhill and park style: Beloved by young daredevils, these full-suspension rides feature big, knobby tires.
  • All-mountain Euro-style: This bike performs best going uphill; thus, beefier, wider tires are recommended.
  • Trail style: Lightweight, full-suspension, and unique geometry prioritizing comfort over performance, trail bikes fitted with lightweight tires are optimal.
  • Cross-country style: Made for “epic rides,” this bike’s tires must be capable of mastering technical terrains.
  • Fat biking style: This category newcomer is all about huge (up to 5-inches) tires offering maximum grip. Fat bikes are super trendy right now.

Related: What Makes Full Suspension MTBs So Expensive

5 steps to replacing a mountain bike tire

1. Invest in a work/repair bike stand that allows you to turn the bike upside down and secure it so it won’t fall over while you work on it. Adjust the stand’s height so you don’t have to bend over to do the job. Spin both tires to make sure they’re not obstructed.

2. Locate the 2 nuts (one on either side of the tire) that secure the tire to the axle. Loosen and remove them. If your MTB bike has a quick-release lever on the side, undo it. Before you remove the tire from between brake pads, disengage the brake cable.

3. Extricate the first tube from the wheel rim. Pick a spot on the non-valve stem side and employ a tire iron (beveled end) to slowly separate the tire from the rim. Experts recommend latching the tire iron to a spoke. Repeat this step using a second tire iron, making sure you’ve left room enough to accomplish this tire’s removal from inside.

4. Inspect the old tires. You’re searching for anything capable of ruining your new tires by causing punctures or tears. Be especially vigilant about removing embedded pieces of metal, glass, and thorny vegetation.

5. Mount your new tires. Repeat the aforementioned actions in reverse order by reconnecting the brake cables and screwing the bolts back into the axles. Pump both tires up and take a test drive to be certain everything works correctly. Double check to make certain your tires are properly centered and that your brakes are working as they did before the old tires came off.

Read more: How To Bunny Hop On A Mountain Bike

What’s the average price of an MTB tire?

Because nothing about mountain bike ownership and maintenance is easy these days, there are multiple factors that determine tire pricing in this niche. The quality of rubber, tread patterns, and materials required to fabricate these products all contribute to the retail price. Even size matters – as does style, whether you opt for tubeless or tubes, plus size and thickness, both of which may require the use of more rubber, thus adding to cost.

Read more: Best Fat Bikes Under $1000

Given these variables, tires in this category can run anywhere between $15 and $140 each, say experts writing for VitalMTB.com. If you pay between $15 to $60, you’re likely to wind up with “wire bead, hard compound models designed for longevity.” These come in multiple sizes but don’t expect cheaper tires to be lightweight, nor should you anticipate high-performance gripping. Spend $60+ and expect “lightweight, foldable beads, sticky rubber compounds and tubeless compatibility,” plus longer life.

MTB tire trivia

  • While these tires feature rubber exteriors, it’s what’s beneath (the bead) that keeps the tire in place.
  • You can ask for 100-percent Kevlar tires when you shop if you’re into extreme riding.
  • Don’t pick tread patterns for their “looks”! These are designed specifically for terrain and riding style types.
  • One of the best ways to save on bicycle weight is to switch to lighter tires that can make a bike feel faster.
  • You can get more tire for less money if you patronize websites known for selling quality name brands at discounted prices.

Recommended Reads on Mountain Biking:

Trek Marlin 5 ( 2022 ) Review – Read our full review of this model if you’re looking for a great mountain bike for the trails.

Schwinn Mesa 2 Review – Check out our pros/cons article about this trendy Schwinn model.

Cannondale Trail 8 ( 2021 ) Review – This is one of our favorite mountain bikes for beginners. Please read our full review.

Giant Talon 3 Review – Another excellent mountain bike for novice riders. Please read our full review, including a verdict.