When To Replace Bike Tires: The Definitive Guide

Whether you ride a bike for exercise, commuting or as a serious sport, your bike will need regular maintenance and inspections of its condition to maintain peak performance. This includes changing your tires. With time and plenty of miles, the rubber and tread patterns on your bicycle tires will wear out.

Repair guy removing bicycle tire after determining when to replace bike tires

When To Replace Bike Tires

There are a few signs that can tell you when to replace bike tires, the most obvious being when you have a puncture that leads to a flat or deflated tire. It’s also important to replace your tires after they wear out due to long distance to prevent damage and injury.

Here are some signs that will alert you to when your tires or wheels need attention, as well as why regularly changing your tires is important:

Look at the Tire Treads

The tread on your tires helps your bike grip the road and move along safely. The more time you spend on your bike and the more miles you cover, the more the tread wears down. This makes your bike more prone to slipping and could lead to accidents when you least expect it.

Mountain bike tires and a general-purpose tire have a discernible tread pattern that is easy to inspect. If you notice this pattern has worn down or is nearly erased, then it’s time to change your tires. Some tire brands even include special tread wear indicators, where if a certain pattern disappears, that means it’s time to replace the rubber. Read the manufacturer instructions or look for ‘TWI’ (Tread Wear Indicator) along your tire to find one of those symbols.

It’s a little harder to tell when tires on a road bike are worn down because those bikes don’t have raised treads that are as distinctive as the ones on a mountain bike. But if you notice that the tire has developed a flat spot along the center, that’s a common sign that the tire is wearing out. This flat spot makes it harder to navigate because the tire is not as round and could also lead to a fall.

If you do not replace a smooth tire in time, the rubber could wear through to the casing. You can tell that this happened if you see white holes or fibers poking through the tire. If you notice the casing on your wheel, replace the tires immediately. Riding your bike in this condition is dangerous and you could injure yourself.

Examine the Rubber

If there are many holes or punctures in the rubber of your tire, then it’s a no-brainer that it’s time to replace it. Many beginner cyclists, however, are not aware of other forms of rubber damage that can affect your performance and safety.

One common problem with bikes that have spent a lot of time in storage is cracked rubber. When rubber is not used for an extended period, it becomes brittle and breakable. These cracks will start off fine at first, usually along the sidewalls, but as they grow, they will cause you serious problems.

Another form of rubber damage you may not be aware of is bubbles. Bubbles can form in the rubber when it is hot, or when the material is under any other stress. With just a little bit of pressure, those bubbles burst and can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire. Check for any deformities of the rubber when examining your bike. Be sure to check the sidewall as well because bulges often form along the side.

A gaping puncture is an obvious reason to change your tire, but sometimes small nicks and cuts build up without you noticing as your bicycle tires pick up road debris. One way to check if you have damage to your tire surface is to inflate the tube and examine the surface for any damage. Pay particular attention to the sidewall and around the tire’s bead.

After noticing a puncture, many cyclists choose to patch up the hole and continue riding on the same bicycle tires. But with every subsequent damage, the integrity of the rubber weakens.

Flat bicycle tire as a sign for when to replace bike tires

If you’re getting frequent flats or constant flats, it’s time to give up on this set of tires and get new ones.

Don’t Just Look at the Inner Tube

Bike tires have several parts, not just the inner tube.

Damage to the sidewalls and bead can also cause an accident. You can usually check if those parts are damaged once you inflate the tires and the bead blows off.

Damaged bicycle tire as a sign for when to replace bike tires
Prevent sidewall damage by not storing your bike on its side for extended periods of time.

Check After an Accident

Even if you changed your tires recently, a large impact could cause damage that requires you to replace them again. After an accident or an impact, such as going over a large pothole or a bump, pull over and double-check your tires for damage. Pay special attention to the casing, as sometimes damage there is less noticeable than a puncture to the inner tube.

Your tire may be fine even after going through a pothole the size of a small child, but it is better to be safe than sorry. You should also check the wheel for any damage, as sometimes an accident leaves the tires intact but dents the rim or spokes.

Think About the Last Time You Changed the Tires

Even when there is nothing noticeably wrong with your tires, if you haven’t changed them in a while, it’s better to replace them to be safe. Most tires are designed to withstand a certain mileage. The average road bike tires can last up to 3,000 miles, while touring tires can withstand up to 4,000 miles of wear and tear.

After a certain mileage, the treads on your tires will wear down and you’ll be more likely to get a puncture or cut. Even if you haven’t ridden your bike for thousands of miles, if it has been some time since you changed your tires, change them anyway. Extended periods in storage can damage the rubber and lead to injury.

Regularly changing your tires is a small price to pay for the improvement in safety and performance.

Why Is Changing Your Tires So Important Anyway?

Now that you’re aware of the warning signs to look for to know when to replace bike tires, you may be wondering why you need to pay so much attention to a strip of rubber. Can’t the bike tire just hold on until you get a serious puncture?

There are a few reasons why regular inspection of all of your parts is important, particularly the tires. The tires are the part of the bike that grips the road, and any damage to their performance will affect your ride.

Staying Safe

You don’t want to sail over your handlebars on some backroad and injure yourself miles away from the nearest emergency room. Bald, damaged tires are more likely to slip on the road surface or get punctured, leading to accidents. It’s better to play it safe and replace your tires before the rubber wears out completely than to have an accident.

Improving Performance

Even if your worn-out tires don’t cause an accident, they could still lead to a very frustrating ride. The tread on your tires exists to grip the road, and once it wears out, you will lose some control over your bike. To prevent a maddening ride full of swerving and fighting your handlebars, make sure your tires are in good condition.

In fact, loss of control and worse bike performance are tell-tale signs that it is time to replace your worn-out tires.

Tips for Replacing Tires

Person removing bicycle tire after learning when to replace bike tires

When getting new tires, be sure to get the correct size. Usually the size of the tire is written along the side. Be sure to get the right diameter for your wheel. You can go up or down a width if you think it might improve your performance.

Some advice blogs recommend rotating your tires to save money, since the rear tire wears out much faster than the front one. You never want to add a worn tire to the front of your bike as that will cause an accident. You can move a slightly worn front tire to the back and just get one new tire, but never do the switch the other way around.

Finally, before you change your tires, make sure you know how to deflate a bike tire.

The Final Word on Replacing Bike Tires

Regularly replacing your bike tires is key to staying safe on the road, preventing accidents, and having a smooth, enjoyable ride. There are a few signs that it is time to change your tire. The most obvious is a puncture, but if you notice any deformities, cracks, or worn-out treads, change your tires immediately. Tires are built to withstand a certain mileage, and after that period passes, their reliability and durability decreases.

Replacing your tires is usually easy and affordable. Regularly inspecting and changing your tires as necessary is an easy way to improve your safety and maintain excellent performance while on your bike.