Ever heard of a folding bike tire? Sounds pretty nifty, right? Usually, if you want to bring a spare tire on a mountain biking trip, you’re stuck carrying it by hand – not exactly convenient since these tires aren’t exactly pocket-sized.
But imagine this: a tire that you can fold up and tuck into your backpack. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but guess what? Some clever folks in the bike tire biz made it a reality.
We’re diving into:
- The lowdown on folding bike tires
- How they stack up against regular tires
- The pros and cons of using them
- Tips on installing these bad boys
- Who’s gonna love folding bike tires
A folding bike tire is like your regular tire, but with a twist – you can squish it down into something that won’t take up your whole backpack. Thanks to Kevlar strands (yep, the stuff in bulletproof vests), these tires are more flexible and softer than your average tire. Plus, they have a higher TPI (that’s threads per inch), giving you better grip on the road.
Folding Bike Tires 101
Ever been out tearing it up on the trails and then – bam – flat tire? If only you had a spare that didn’t take up a ton of space. Well, that’s where folding bike tires come into play.
Thanks to some smart engineering, these tires fold up so you can easily bring a spare without it being a total pain.
A folding bike tire is exactly what it sounds like – a tire you can fold down, so it is compact enough to carry around in a bag. This type of tire is ideal if your mountain biking discipline requires long travels and high-quality gear. For instance, if you are into cross-country mountain biking, having a folding bike tire is ideal so you can quickly get back on track if one of your tires pops.
Folding bike tires feature a high thread per square inch (TPI). For this reason, it makes rides smooth and comfortable. These tires do not weigh much and take up a lot of space, making them convenient to carry around.
In addition, foldable bike tires are an excellent option if you want to stock up on an extra tire or two but need more storage space. You can simply fold the tire twice and roll it into a ball. This way, it will fit into the pockets of your bag or in the drawers if you are storing it at home. (source)
Learning about Mountain Bike Tires could take years. Let me help you just a bit quicker with some articles.
- Can a tire be great for both street and trail? – Find out in this article: Best MTB Tire for Street and Trail
- Are 26 inch Tires Dead? Heck no…Read – Who is a 26 inch MTB For
- Love playing in MUD – Read What tire is recommended – Mountain Bike Tires for Muddy Conditions
- Rocks can destroy a mountain bike tire – Find the Best MTB Tire for Rocky Conditions (PRO RECOMMENDED)
- Thinking about getting a 26 inch MTB let me help – Should I Get a 26 Inch Mountain Bike?
- Does sand slow you down? It might be you’ve got the wrong tires. Read – The Best MTB Tires for the Sand
You can fold and flatten a foldable tire because it does not have the wire bundles commonly found in regular tires. Instead of wires, they use Kevlar strands bundles, making them highly flexible and durable.
Kevlar strands are durable organic fibers developed by combining phenylenediamine and terephthaloyl. They commonly find use in protective clothing, such as bulletproof vests. Although flexible, Kevlar strands are more robust than steel, so even aircraft have parts made of organic fibers.
Moreover, Kevlar strands are ideal for bike tires due to their resistance to:
- high temperatures
- acids and bases
- stretching (source)
Differences Between Regular And Foldable Tires
Choosing and installing the wrong bike tires can ruin the quality of your ride. While a high-quality tire can make your ride smooth and comfortable, a tire that does not fit your riding style’s demands can make your adventures less enjoyable. So, before switching your regular tire to the foldable variety, it is crucial first to understand their differences.
As mentioned, the bundles of steel wire called beads are present in regular bike tires but not in foldable ones. These fabric-covered wire bundles run throughout the circumference of a standard tire. They are responsible for locking the tire onto the rim and making it strong since rubber only has little strength.
On the other hand, a folding bike tire has Kevlar strands instead of beads. While a foldable tire is just as durable as the regular one, the Kevlar strands give it more advantages, such as the flexibility needed to fold it down.
Regular bike tires have a low thread per square inch or TPI count. TPI refers to the density of rubber or nylon for every inch of the tire.
Since regular bike tires have low TPI, their threads are large, making them sluggish and heavy. However, these large threads are also beneficial as they make standard tires highly durable, causing them to have a long lifespan.
A regular tire with low TPI is ideal for cyclists who want high mileage.
Meanwhile, folding bike tires feature a much higher TPI count than regular bike tires. Apart from the Kevlar strands, the high TPI counts make foldable bike tires flexible. It also helps the tire conform to the trail surface, especially when passing through corners.
Folding bike tires have high TPI, making them ideal for cyclists who want their bike tires to have more traction against the ground.
Moreover, the higher the TPI of folding bike tires make them lighter than regular tires. The reason is that higher TPI uses tiny threads, which are significantly lighter than the large threads used in tires with low TPI.
As mentioned, the Kevlar strands used in folding bike tires improve their flexibility. These organic fibers also make the tires foldable and easy to pack.
Extreme flexibility is a characteristic that regular bike tires do not have. Since this type of tire consists of steel wire bundles, it is impossible to fold and roll it down into a compact. So, switching to foldable bike tires is ideal if you are into long-distance cycling and want to bring a spare tire during your trip.
Regular bike tires feature a durable, rigid rubber material that does not quickly wear out. This rubber compound accounts for the tires’ durability and high mileage.
On the other hand, the rubber compound that makes up foldable bike tires is softer. Apart from the Kevlar strands, this soft rubber compound also makes folding tires flexible. It also improves the tire’s traction when passing through corners.
However, the soft rubber makes foldable bike tires wear out faster than regular tires.
Fortunately, bike tire engineers were able to come up with a way to make folding bike tires wear out slower. They utilized a dual–compound tread, which reduces the tires’ rolling resistance, thus preventing it from wearing out fast.
If you need your bike tires to last long, go for regular tires. If you want better traction and convenience, folding bike tires are ideal. (source)
While a folding bike tire’s soft and flexible body causes it to wear out faster, it still boasts advantages that you cannot find on regular tires.
The steel wire bundles present in regular bike tires not only make them unfoldable but also make the tires heavy. On the other hand, Kevlar strands are lightweight, making folding bike tires lighter than regular tires. This benefit allows you to bring an extra tire during the ride.
The lightness of foldable tires makes them ideal for long-distance cyclists and those who want to reduce the overall weight of their bikes.
Kevlar strands are abrasion-resistant. For this reason, the sharp objects, like rocks scattered throughout the trail, will not penetrate folding bike tires easily. This factor reduces the chances of your bike tire blowing out as you pedal.
Apart from abrasion resistance, extreme heat does not affect Kevlar strands. So, you can go on an adventure on a hot sunny day without worrying that the heat may damage your folding bike tires.
Since foldable tires make your bike lighter, they also improve your riding experience. Bike tires need to be as light as possible so that cyclists only need to exert minimal pedaling power. The lighter your tires are, the less tiring it will be to keep them moving.
Use folding bike tires if you want your adventures to be smoother, more comfortable, and more enjoyable.
It is undeniable that folding bike tires are advantageous. But just like any other bike equipment, they also have some disadvantages that you should consider.
Folding bike tires are more expensive than regular tires. The reason is that this type of tire consists of premium materials and construction. These factors contribute to their benefits. So, if the high price does not bother you, getting a folding bike tire is a worthy investment.
As mentioned, folding bike tires’ soft and flexible composition contributes to their short lifespan. Folding bike tires are more prone to wearing than regular tires, primarily when used on trails with many obstacles. Standard bike tires last longer than foldable ones, consisting of steel wire bundles and rigid rubber material.
But if you aim to have a better riding experience, sacrificing the lifespan of your bike tire for one that provides a smoother ride is ideal. (source)
Whether or not a folding bike tire is easy to install depends on your capabilities as a cyclist and mechanic. To help you make the process seamless, below is a step-by-step guide to installing a folding bike tire:
Your folding bike tire must have the same size as the old tire you want to replace. You can find the tire size written on its side wall.
Remove the folding bike tire’s tie and wait for it to take its shape. The creases from folding the tire should be gone after you unfold it.
When flattening your new tire, lay it down on a clean surface. This way, you can ensure that sand, dirt, stones, and any sharp object will not get inside it and damage the tube during installation.
Now that your tire is ready, take your rim off the bike and remove the popped tire and tube. It is also ideal that you check the rim to ensure that it does not have any significant damage.
Next, place one side of the folding tire to one side of the rim and press it down to install it. Do this step throughout the circumference of the bike rim until the entire tire covers it.
Please get a new bike tube and do a quick inspection to ensure that it does not have any damage. Inflate the tube so it will be easier to hold. Inflating the tube will also give it a bit of shape, making it easier to insert into the tire. You do not need to inflate the tube to its maximum pressure. Just give it a bit of air so it will not be flat.
After inflating the tube, carefully insert it between the rim and folding bike tire, ensuring that it does not crease during the process.
Now that you have installed the bike tube, the next thing you need to do is to insert the edges of the folding bike tire into the rim’s flange. You can do this by hand or using a tire lever. Regardless of how you want to fix the tire into the rim, ensure you are not pinching the bike tube, as it can cause holes.
Finally, inflate the tire to the recommended pressure and install it back onto your bike. (source)
Who Can Use Folding Bike Tires
Close-up of 4 folding road bike-style of tires. Road bike folding tires are more common than MTB due to the tread type and ease of folding.
There is no denying that a folding bike tire can prevent a popped tire from stopping your trail adventure. For this reason, you may be thinking of getting a folding bike tire and bringing it as a spare one.
But apart from knowing the advantages of this bike tire variety and its proper installation process, it is also crucial to learn what bikes a folding tire can accommodate.
Originally, tire engineers developed folding bike tires for cross-country cyclists. This mountain biking discipline involves traveling long distances, so cyclists must bring spare tires. But because foldable tires are beneficial, other mountain bikers adapted it.
Anyone can use folding bike tires, regardless of bike type. Since this type of tire makes bikes lighter, mountain bikers who seek to improve their riding experience ditch regular bike tires and use folding ones instead.
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What is a folding bike tire? This bike tire variety is as it sounds: a tire you can fold. Some cyclists assume this tire type is terrible due to its softness and flexibility. However, that is not the case.
Folding bike tires feature Kevlar strands instead of beads, making them resistant to abrasions, extreme temperatures, and harsh chemicals. For this reason, they are a durable choice for cyclists who want to bring a spare tire during their ride.
Do you have questions, comments, and suggestions? Our comment box is open so ask away!
Folding bike tires have a higher TPI count than regular tires, making them lighter and more grippy.
MTB Tools I Love and Recommend
I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.
- Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand. Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential. I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it. This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur. Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
- A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit. Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained. The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider. Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
- Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure. A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not. Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use. An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
- Carry a multitool with you on every ride. I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool. I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works. Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19
- Charles Haine. The Urban Biking Handbook: The DIY Guide to Building, Rebuilding, Tinkering with, and Repairing Your Bicycle for City Living. Quarry Books, 2011. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=-KQLxULdd_UC&pg=PA127&dq=kevlar+bike+tires&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiqsOWRwf37AhXKDt4KHUeDAq8Q6AF6BAgIEAI#v=onepage&q=kevlar%20bike%20tires&f=false. Accessed December 13, 2022.
- Engr. Reashad Bin Kabir, Engr. Nasrin Ferdous, “Kevlar-The Super Tough Fiber”, International Journal of Textile Science, Vol. 1 No. 6, 2012, pp. 78-83. doi: 10.5923/j.textile.20120106.04. Accessed December 13, 2022.
- Sheldon Brown. “Tubular Tires.” Bicycle Tires and Tubes (blog). https://www.sheldonbrown.com/tires.html. Accessed December 13, 2022.
- Guy Andrews. Road Bike Maintenance. Hong Kong: A&C Black, 2008. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=SKN7u2NEk20C&pg=PA77&dq=kevlar+bike+tires+benefits+and+disadvantages&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjprOTIw_37AhW4mFYBHX3BD_0Q6AF6BAgDEAI#v=onepage&q=kevlar%20bike%20tires%20benefits%20and%20disadvantages&f=false. Accessed December 13, 2022.
- Continental Bicycle Tires, “Continental – Road bike Mounting beaded-edge or folding tires,” YouTube Video, 0:23. Posted by “Continental Bike Tires,” July 24, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9N3U2iQ598&embeds_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fsearch%3Frlz%3D1C1SQJL_enPH1022PH1022%26sxsrf%3DALiCzsaVH4POTXQqYESR98ixxipnYzTbYQ%3A1671067406950%26q%3DHow%2Bto%2Binstall&source_ve_path=MjM4NTE&feature=emb_title. Accessed December 13, 2022.