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The idea behind a commuter bike is to mix the best aspects of road bikes with those of hybrid and mountain bikes, so you end up with something comfortable, fast, and capable of performing on both road and path.
To properly deliver on all three of these attributes, a commuter bike must have the right tires.
Tires for commuters
Commuter bike tires look very similar to road tires in that they are designed to fit on a 700c wheel rim, so they are quite narrow—at least in comparison to mountain bike tires. But they are usually not as narrow as road bike tires, nor is the tread as smooth. Road bike tires typically feature a smooth, minimalist tread because they are designed for speed. Good traction, though, requires friction, and friction is the enemy of speed.
Commuter bikes generally won’t feature tubeless tires, either, because of how heavy they can be. Instead, commuter bike tires prioritize puncture resistance to prevent flats and pinches.
Commuter bikes must be able to withstand rough roads and other uneven surfaces (and sometimes no pavement at all). They therefore typically include better treading, which means greater width and thickness. The thicker size, of course, adds a little weight compared to road bike tires.
What makes a good commuter bike tire?
You should prioritize four qualities in particular when choosing a commuter bike tire: grip, durability, comfort and reflective sidewalls.
The tread of your tire is the biggest contributor to grip, although tire width has some influence as well.
You need to know what kind of terrain you are most likely to be commuting on, and that will help you determine which tread to choose. Tires that do well on smooth roads don’t necessarily perform well on bumpy roads, cobblestones or light gravel.
You can get aggressive mountain-bike style treads, or you can get something pretty close to a road bike tread if you’re traveling on paved roads and need some speed. Consider your weather conditions. If you expect rain, make sure to get some grooves at least. And be aware that slick tires are likely to perform quite poorly—even dangerously—if you go off road at all.
Durability is another reason you might want to choose a meaty tread for your tire, as those knobs and grooves do contribute to puncture-proofing.
Wide tires provide more comfort, up to a point. Aim for tires that are at least 28mm wide, and they’ll do a good job of absorbing bumps and cracks in the road. A 32mm tire is great if your bike will allow it. It will smooth out potholes and railroad crossings while still offering relatively little rolling resistance. Wide tires greater than 35mm are likely to feel heavy and sluggish.
Reflective sidewalls really add to your visibility at night and help you cycle defensively. They can be the difference between an accident and a safe ride home, particularly when traffic approaches you from the side where your head and tail lights and much less visible.
Now that you have a more robust understanding of what we look for in a commuter bicycle tire, let’s tell you what we found when we went looking for the best commuter bike tires on the market today.
Best commuter bike tires
GatorSkin tires have long made the top of most best-of bike tire lists thanks to their superior, well-earned reputation for puncture-resistant tires. This company was, in fact, a sort of bike tire pioneer in the way they developed technologies to combat the flat tire. This product is no exception and is, in fact, one of the best products they have in their lineup.
The Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Clincher Bike Tire features advanced PolyX Breaker technology with Duraskin sidewall protection. These two advanced facets combine to create a tire that prevents cuts in the sidewall and offers enhanced puncture resistance, so that the tires withstand even sharp bits of road debris.
Best of all, this combo of sidewall protection and tire protection doesn’t come at the cost of a heavy weight or bulky size. The Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Clincher Bike Tire offers plenty of grip without excessive tread or weight. The result is a commuter bike tire that allows you to enjoy a fast, smooth commute with the confidence that your tires will shrug off many of the minor debris and sharp things that would take out a weaker tire.
This is another forward-thinking bike tire brand that has really stepped up its game in terms of city commuting tires. The Panaracer RibMo tire features a nice balance of comfort, grip, and puncture protection thanks to its unique rubber makeup.
These branded tires incorporate a unique Mile Cruncher rubber compound that uses Protex technology. This compound gives the tires a superior grip on the road and increases their overall durability, including their ability to withstand minor pictures and bumps. In fact, this tire and its design is rated at providing 300-per-cent better protection against pinch flats and general road debris penetration over any other standard tire.
But again, protection against flats is only one part of what goes into a quality commuter bicycle tire. The Panaracer RibMo Folding City Tire also earns a place on this list thanks to its unique contact tread shape that really optimizes overall performance. This unique tread pattern keeps rolling resistance down while still maximizing cornering contact. This means you will feel more stable when riding in slick and hilly terrain, as well as when you make sharp turns.
If you ride on dirt paths and gravel paths as well as pavement, then this is the best commuter bike tire for you.
The Continental Contact Plus bike tire features rubber-reinforced sidewalls that offer fantastic protection against punctures as well as sidewall abrasion. The sidewalls on these tires also feature a reflective ring to enhance visibility during the dawn and dusk hours, when cars find it most difficult to see cyclists.
The Continental Contact Plus comes in a range of sizes, including sizes to fit e-bikes. However, these tires are a very tight fit on most bicycle wheel brands because of how strong and durable the sidewalls and wire bead are. As such, installation is best done at a bike shop or with a full set of tools at home, rather than out on the road.
This Serfas Drifter bike tire is a great choice for both wet and dry conditions, as well as for both paved and non-paved surfaces. In fact, this is a great all-around choice if you’re not sure exactly what type of bike commuting you’ll be doing, or if you are buying your very first bicycle.
The Serfas Drifter features a smart inverted tread which results in a low rolling resistance and that delivers a significantly smoother ride while offering good grip on the road. The rubber used to manufacture this tire features multiple compound layers, and within those rubber compounds there is a woven ballistic nylon. This ballistic nylon creates a fantastic shield between the tire’s inner tube and the road. The extra layers make this tire very puncture-resistant, so that even sharp objects won’t leave you stranded on the side of the road.
We also like that the Serfas Drifter tire has reflective sidewalls, and comes in a wide range of sizes to accommodate those who want the slimmest width for maximum pavement biking, or thicker tires that perform better on dirt roads.
The choice is yours
Any of the tires we’ve highlighted would be a fantastic choice if you’re looking to buy durable commuter bike tires.
You’ve got reflective sidewalls to stand out when the light is dim, puncture-resistant rubber compounds that will keep sharp objects from giving you flats at inopportune times, and good combinations of grip and minimal rolling resistance to make cycling longer distances a breeze.
That last part is important, because many people think mountain bike tires with their complex treads will be good and comfortable for commuting, but it only takes a few days on the road to realize how much slower these tires are—even if they do offer good flat protection as a whole.
A word about cost
The tires we’ve featured here will be more expensive than your standard bike tires or off-brand bike tires. But remember, you get what you pay for. These tires cost more because they contain more high-quality rubber compounds and other advanced features. You may spend more for them up front, but in the long run they’ll save you money on replacement tires and tubes.
Quality tires are durable and will hold up to all of the rigors of regular commuting. Plus, resistance to punctures means fewer tube replacements (which get expensive) and fewer late arrivals to work because you got a flat and had to walk!
Commuter bike tire FAQ
What does 700c mean in a bike tire?
The “700c” measurement that you hear in reference to bike tires is actually a measure of the wheel rim’s radius, rather than the tire itself. You can find several widths of tire that will fit just fine on a 700c rim. But 700c is a popular choice because it covers most road, hybrid, gravel and touring bikes, as well as commuter bikes. It provides a nice combination of speed, handling and comfort.
How wide should my tires be?
Wider tires are increasingly popular, even on road bikes. You used to hardly ever see tires on road bikes wider than 23mm, but now 25mm and 28mm are not at all uncommon. A wider tire provides more comfort without sacrificing much speed. For commuter bikes we like to start at 28mm and go up to 35mm. The sweet spot may be somewhere around 32mm.
What tire pressure should I use on 700c commuter tires?
The correct pressure will depend on the width of the tire and how much weight is on the bike— meaning rider, cargo and accessories. Most tires print a minimum and a maximum tire pressure somewhere on the sidewall. Lean toward the maximum if you’re carrying a lot of weight, and the minimum if you’re a lighter rider.
How long do commuter bike tires last?
Bicycle tires will typically last anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 miles, with more expensive tires coming in at the top end of that range. Tires made specifically for bike touring—which are certainly suitable for a commuter bike—can last even longer.
Do heavier tires prevent punctures?
A tire that offers better puncture protection will usually be heavier, because of additional layers of rubber and other protective materials that the manufacturer has added. While we all like puncture protection, think about the surfaces you ride on and whether that extra weight is really necessary.
Can commuter bike tires ride through water?
Most commuter bike tires will perform just fine when riding on wet roads and through puddles, provided the puddles aren’t ankle-deep. Just make sure you have a tire with some grooves, which are designed to channel water away from the center of the tire. Slick tires are for dry roads only, or very careful riding if you’re caught out in the rain.