It goes without saying that the tires of a bike are very—very!—important. And it’s not just because a bike without tires is not a bike at all. While that statement is true, we’re not arguing for something so trivial. What we mean to say is that the right tire will make the difference between getting to where you’re going on time and getting to where you’re going with a flat tire and a headache. The right tire will also improve your bike’s handling and keep you safe. So don’t pinch pennies when it comes to getting the right tire for your bike.
But first, let’s discuss the features that are important for any tire:
Naturally, the more puncture resistant a tire is, the less you’ll have to worry about, well, puncturing it. And puncture resistance is especially important when riding over rough, gravelly tarmac, which is the kind of surface one will necessarily be encountering in and around the city. The downside to some tires that have been infused with extra material to resist against punctures, however, is the weight. More padded material, after all, means more tire weight, which means your bike will require more effort to pedal.
Tire traction is another thing to consider when choosing a tire. The more grip your tire has, the safer you’ll be when riding over uneven and slippery surfaces. But, again, there is a downside, and it is that the more traction a tire has, the more rolling resistance will result from that traction. So, basically, you want a tire that has a good balance of traction and speed; because too much traction and your bike will be slow, and too little traction will make you unsafe when going over slippery and uneven surfaces.
Tire Width, just like tire traction, plays a big role in your bike’s performance. The greater the tire width, the more distributed the bike’s weight will be. The more distributed a bike’s weight is, the better it will perform going over bumps on the road. Wide tires, however, are necessarily heavier than less wide ones, which means that wide tires will not only generate more rolling resistance, they’ll also require more effort to pedal.
With the above features in mind, below is a selection of tires that we think offer the best balance between them as far as riding in city conditions is concerned.
This is a very popular line of tires among avid cyclists. They are very durable and have a tightly woven PolyX Breaker polyester fiber sitting underneath the outer layer to provide a good amount of puncture resistance.
Indeed, this particular feature means that it will take more than the typical puncture to penetrate the tube. So ordinary potholes, road bumps, and gravel won’t puncture your tire, and you can rest assured that you’ll be protected against punctures in practically every city-riding condition.
It also has a DuraSkin wall that’s supposed to protect the sides of the tire from damage as well.
One reservation we have with this tire is that it has less traction than the others on this list, but depending on the specific conditions you ride under, this might not be much of a problem. That being said, we really like this tire, and it is, in fact, the one we most prefer, and would most recommend, among everything listed here.
This tire is only available in a 26-inch diameter, so it’s not really for some bikes, but it is fantastically affordable for the features it offers. In fact, we would say this will be a great all-around bike tire, whether for your hybrid, mountain bike or city bike. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that it’s quite heavy (because it is). This is primarily because of the steel wire bead inside that provides added durability to the tire’s overall structure. So while it’s a very durable tire, others might prefer something with a little less heft.
The feel of the tire is quite… nice. And the grooves are designed to shed water quickly and retain its grip on the road. Alas, it’s got one downside: it isn’t reinforced, which means even a slight puncture has an increased chance of hitting the inner tube.
One thing notable about this tire is its weight—it’s got very little of it. Like the Kenda above, the grooves on the WTB Slick Comp Bicycle Tire work well to shed water and retain traction after going over wet surfaces. It also has a good casing design that allows the tire to take a lot of abuse.
As far as downsides are concerned, well, this tire does have one. At 2.2 inches wide, it’s pretty wide. And what did we say about wide tires? Yes, they’ll have more rolling resistance. We’re not sure if the rolling resistance will be offset by its weight, though—it could very well be! But there’s another downside, and it is that this tire doesn’t come in the 700cc wheel diameter, which is commonly found on popular road bikes. If your bike doesn’t use that diameter, however, then no problem.
This tire is another great performer. It comes in 23mm and 28mm widths, too, so you can happily choose which width best works for your specific riding conditions.
It also has a PlusBreaker technology layer underneath the outer layer to help protect against punctures. Just like the Continental GatorSkin above, the usual punctures won’t easily penetrate the tube and leave you with a flat. There’s also sidewall protection in the form of a thicker, side layer, which should further protect the sides of the tire from damage.
The downside (you knew this was coming) is that the tire is rated for tube pressures up to 110 PSI, which makes it more likely to get flat when riding over a bumpy road.