Riding a bike with worn-down tires can be problematic, potentially causing loss of traction, punctures and falls. To reduce the chance of these, here are some tips on how to check the wear on your tires.
Step 1: What's the general state of your tire?
Your tires are in direct contact with the ground. This makes them essential for safety, so you should check the state of your tires before each ride. A quick glance will give you a general idea of how they're doing.
Is your tire slightly worn? Or completely worn?
Just follow the golden rule: keep a very close eye on a tire that's starting to wear out, and don't hesitate to change it. This is particularly important for serious mountain biking, road cycling and gravel riding.
Next, take a closer look at two parts of the tire:
> the tread (the patterned part with all the knobs, which is in contact with the ground)
> the sidewall (the side of the tire, perpendicular to the ground).
Step 2: is the tread worn?
The tread is the part of the tire in direct contact with the ground. So it's only natural for it to get worn. To determine whether it's worn, look closely at the center of the tire.
1 - Can you see the sub tread (the puncture protection layer)?
In this case, we strongly recommend changing the tire. The sub tread is easy to spot because it's generally a different color (not black). This sub tread won't withstand punctures on its own at all. So if you can see it, your tire isn't safe
2 - Has the tire's pattern disappeared?
Then we recommend changing your bike's tire. The sub tread will soon become visible. It's best to change it straight away as you don't want to take any chances.
In the photo, you can see a mountain bike tire where the central pattern has disappeared, compared with a new tire. Often, the pattern on the back wheel gets worn out faster because we brake more with the rear brake (and therefore the rear tire).
3 - Can you still see the tread pattern?
This means your tire is "partially worn”. You should keep a close eye on both the front and back tires. Often, you'll know when to swap them because you'll notice changes on your rides. For example, you might be braking less efficiently or skidding more easily, especially when it's raining.
Our tip is to compare your back tire with your front tire to check the level of wear, as shown in the photo.
More about mountain bike tires
Mountain bike tires are equipped with central knobs (for good traction) and side knobs (for grip on technical and muddy corners). The center knobs wear out faster than the side knobs.
Like with a car, the more you ride, the thinner your center knobs will become because they're in contact with the ground more often. The rubber gets physically worn away.
Side knobs, on the other hand, are more likely to tear. Over time, the side knobs (or lugs) will wear out and you'll subconsciously end up adapting the way you ride. Pay attention to unexpected skids or loss of grip, which could mean one of your tires has reached the end of the road.
On top of that, side knobs are softer than central ones, especially for high-end tyres. Because the rubber is softer, the knobs will wear out or tear more easily, particularly on rocky trails.
More about road bike tires
If you can see the puncture protection layer (you'll notice a change in color in the tread), replace your road tire straight away.
Several different signs of wear will be visible depending on your tire's markings and the conditions you ride in.
> If you can see that the tread is starting to flatten out, it's time to replace your tire.
> If you notice any cracking, hairline fractures or a frayed or prematurely worn surface, your tyres need to be replaced.
Lastly, if you use a turbo trainer to keep yourself fit, kit out your wheels with a special back tyre… Otherwise you'll wear your tire out after just a few hours!
Step 3: Is the sidewall damaged?
The sidewalls don't wear out naturally. So if they're damaged, that means they've had a bit of an "accident". When checking your sidewalls, you're looking for anything unusual. You'll need to check them over thoroughly and regularly, keeping an eye out for cuts or misshapen parts. Here are some questions to help you.
1 - Is your tire torn or cracked?
Check for tears, cracks or even holes on the sides of your tyres. If you find any, this means that your tyre will be weakened and should be replaced without delay. Sometimes, you might even be able to see your inner tube. In this case, you're very likely to suffer a puncture.
For bikes with tubeless tires, a torn tire can be repaired using a repair kit. Just remember that this is a temporary measure!
2 - Is your tire misshapen or cracked?
If so, your tires should be changed. Riding with your tire under-inflated can wear it out faster. Deformed and cracked tires are very often caused by the tire pressure. Or rather, by the lack of tire pressure.
It's important to check your tire pressure at least once a month, and certainly before each ride.
3 - Is your tire dry? When a tire is stored outside and exposed to the elements, the sidewall can dry out and crack.
Rub the inside of the tire (probably beige) with your finger. If it crumbles at all, then your tire is worn. We recommend changing your tire and, if possible, storing it inside in the future.
2 tips to look after your tyres
Tires last different lengths of time depending on the tire manufacturer (Btwin, Rockrider, Michelin, Hutchinson, Vittoria, etc.) and the type of bike (mountain bike, city bike, road bike, etc.). Your tire's lifespan may vary from several hundred to ten thousand miles, which of course is affected by the type of riding you do, how intense your riding is, and the quality of your tire.
1. Don't ride with under-inflated tires
It's important to frequently pump your tires up to the right pressure. Lots of tires have their lives cut short because they're under-inflated. It's completely normal for your tires to lose pressure day by day. But when you ride with under-inflated tires, they can become deformed, wear out prematurely, and develop cracks in the sidewalls more quickly.
Our advice is to check your tire pressure at least once a month and to pump them up if necessary. You should also get into the habit of doing this quick, easy check before each ride.
2. Store your bike somewhere sheltered
Our second tip is to store your bike somewhere that's sheltered from the weather. Your tires - as well as the other parts of your bike - will last longer.
Tire rubber is particularly sensitive to temperature. It's not unusual for tires to get "dried out" when stored outdoors.