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Bicycle 101: Tyres

Mar 26, 2019


The tyre (or tire for those in America!) fits on the rim of the bicycle wheel and is in contact with the road or trail surface. The tyre provides a little bit of suspension and, importantly, generates the forces necessary to balance, turn and brake.

You may have heard some of this lingo before, but there are a few different techniques for attaching the tyre to the rim. Two of the most common types of tyres are "clinchers" and "tubulars", each of which go with specific rims.

Clincher Tyres

The easiest way to envisage clinchers is to picture them as 'U-shaped' when cut in half. The outer edge of the tyre hooks over the edge of the rim and is held in place by the air pressure in the tyre itself.

Clincher tyres have 3 main components:

  1. The bead: this is the name for the edge of the tyre that hooks onto the rim. Mostly, the bead is made from a hoop of strong cable.
  2. The fabric: you may not know this but there is fabric stitched between each bead! The fabric makes sure the tyre is strong enough to maintain air pressure yet flexible enough to conform to the ground surface.
  3. The rubber: this is the part of the tyre you can see. Tread is simply the part of the tyre that contacts the ground.

Tubular Tyres

Tubulars are (shock horror!) tubes when cut in half! They don't have 'beads' like clinchers - instead, the tyre is sewn together around the inner tube. Tubulars are glued into special rims and can't be used on clincher rims.

Tubeless Tyres

Woah nelly this is a huge topic that we will cover separately.

Tyres Quick Facts

  • Most bicycle tyres are clinchers
  • Tubular tyres attach to special rims with adhesive
  • Every tyre has an optimum range of inflation pressures which depends on the type of riding you're doing
  • Not all tyres hold inner tubes with air in them. Just like in your car, some bicycle tyres have air pumped directly into them
  • Bicycle tyres come in all sorts of sizes, depending on the type of bicycle it is. For instance, mountain bikes can be 26", 27.5" or 29" whereas BMX bikes are generally 16" or 20"