Sure, power and range are important, but there’s more to consider when buying an electric bike than motors and batteries.
The e-bike’s tires, for instance, are also quite important and should also be taken into account before making any final decisions.
Well, that’s assuming you want an e-bike that’s safe to ride and easy to handle.
After all, it’s the tires that make physical contact with the ground you’re riding on, so it only makes sense that this integral component plays a key part in your overall ride experience.
But if you’re not an experienced cyclist, you might not even know where to start when it comes to e-bike tires and that’s ok – I got ya covered.
In this down and dirty intro guide, I’ll give ya a cheat sheet for all the tire-related considerations you should make before buying an e-bike.
After reading, you’ll know what tire specs to look for when comparing options.
What To Look For On Tires
Electric bike tires, like the bikes they’re attached to, come in various shapes and sizes.
As far as I know, they’re all round and made out of rubber of one sort or another, but their size, thickness, tread, and optimal air pressures can vary quite a bit.
As can the quality of the brands creating the tires to begin with.
With so many other specs and features to think about on an e-bike, it can be easy to kinda gloss over or ignore the tires all together when comparing options, but this isn’t a great idea.
Again, the tires are what separate you from the ground and, considering the speeds at which a lot of these e-bikes are traveling at, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what tires are being used.
But where should we start?
Well, I think it makes sense to start with the most important tire spec – size.
Tire size is likely the only tire-related spec most of us are looking for when comparing e-bikes, so I think it makes sense to start here.
And if you’ve been checking out e-bikes are any given time, you likely noticed that e-bikes come with tires of varying sizes.
And when it comes to size, I’m talking about both tire diameter and thickness.
The tire size an e-bike comes with largely depends on the type of e-bike it is, as different sized tires are designed to ride over different kinds of terrain.
This is especially true for tire thickness.
Generally speaking, the fatter a tire is, the better it is at handling rougher, unpaved routes.
That’s mostly because wider tires provide more surface contact with the ground, making them grippier and giving you more traction.
This comes in handy when riding over muddy, sandy, or uneven terrain, where narrower tires struggle.
However, this added grippyness (I don’t think that’s a real word) comes at a cost – wider tires don’t gain speed as fast and they’re harder to handle.
Which ultimately, makes them less efficient than narrower bike tires.
Narrower tires gain speed faster and offer better handling, making them well suited for pavement and other hard surfaces, but they don’t offer the same ability to handle rough terrain.
So, when it comes to tire thickness, it all depends on what kind of terrain you plan on riding on: if you’re looking to go off-road, thicker tires are the way to go; if you’re sticking to pavement, it likely makes more sense to go with thinner tires.
FYI, “thick” and “fat” means the same thing when it comes to bike tires.
Personally, I consider any tire that’s 3″ or wider to be considered “fat” and well-suited for off-roading.
Tires that are closer to 2″ wide are better suited for riding on paved routes.
Tire thickness is important, but so is tire diameter.
Most e-bikes come with tires ranging somewhere from 14″ – 29″ in diameter, giving you a big range of sizes to choose from.
Smaller diameter tires are often found on smaller, foldable e-bikes, and having a smaller tire makes them lighter and more agile.
But small diameter tires aren’t well suited for off-roading and it takes more work to get them moving at faster speeds.
Large diameter tires make it easier to maintain faster speeds and are better suited for traversing uneven terrain.
You also have to keep in mind, that having a larger diameter tire increases your stand-over height, so if you’re of shorter stature, going with a smaller diameter tire could be advantageous.
In summary, tire thickness and diameter both play a role in how well the e-bike will do when riding over different surfaces.
Fatter tires are better for unpaved routes, while thinner tires are better for paved surfaces.
Another characteristic you might want to look for is tire tread.
The tread refers to the configuration of the little bumps on the tires and believe it or not, tires come with a lot of different tread patterns for different uses.
If you’re simply looking for an e-bike for casual use and aren’t trying to optimize performance, this feature might not be of that much important to ya.
But if you’re looking to maximize performance, tire tread is worth looking into.
And again, it all boils down to what type of terrain you plan on riding on.
Basically, if you plan on riding on paved surfaces, you’ll want to go with a smoother tread pattern and if you plan on going off-road, you’ll want a rougher, knobbier tread pattern.
The more aggressive the tread pattern is, the better it is at gripping the ground – this is great for rocky, sandy, loose soil ground, but it’s not so efficient for going over paved roads.
Having really grippy tires means it takes more energy to push those tires over the road.
This means it’s harder to gain speed, but it also drains your battery faster.
This is why bikes designed for pavement come with smoother, less grippy tires.
Well, this is why.
Most all-terrain tires offer puncture resistance to some degree, meaning they’re less likely to get flat when riding over something sharp.
This is important when riding off-road and sharp rocks, sticks, and other stuff can be hard to avoid.
But it also comes in handy for when riding on paved roads (especially in urban settings) where broken glass and other small, sharp obstacles can be hard to see.
Puncture resistance usually means the tires have extra layers of rubber, thicker tread, or extra material between the thread and the tube where the air is held.
Puncture resistant tires are common on e-bikes and certainly helpful, but just know that they do tend to weigh a little more, making them more challenging to swap out.
Also keep in mind that puncture resistant doesn’t mean puncture proof – these tires can still pop a flat.
Regardless of what kind of e-bike or tire you end up with, it’s important to keep a close eye on your tires’ air pressure.
Each tire has its own optimal air pressure and maintaining it at this set level will ensure you get the best performance and longest life from said tire.
The bike/tire manufacturer is the best source for this information and this is where you should check to see what pressure your tires should be kept at.
In general though, road tires (designed for smooth pavement) tend to perform best with at higher air pressures (80 – 130 psi), while off-road tires (designed for rough terrain) perform better at lower pressures (25 – 40 psi).
Hybrid tires, or tires designed for all kinds of different terrains, tend to function best somewhere in the middle (40 – 70 psi).
Keeping your tires properly inflated will ensure optimal performance, but it’ll also keep you safer during your rides.
Thinking about bike tires isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but if you’re looking for safe and optimal performance, it’s a necessary consideration.
Keep in mind, tires are the only thing standing between your bike and the ground.
When thinking about the kind of tires your e-bike needs, the first thing you should consider is what kind of terrain you plan on riding on.
If you plan on doing some serious off-roading, you’ll want to go with a larger, fatter all-terrain tire.
On the other hand, if you’ll be spending most of your time commuting on paved routes, you’ll likely want to go with a bike with narrower tires for optimal efficiency.
Larger diameter tires are better at gaining speed and going over obstacles, but smaller diameter tires are lighter and more easily maneuvered.
Having an aggressive tread pattern is a good idea for riding on rough terrain, but smoother tread patterns offer better mileage on pavement.
And regardless of what kind of tire you go with, always make sure to keep a close eye on those air pressures.
Anyway, I think that about does it.
I hope you found this intro guide helpful and if you’re nervous about making any tire decisions, I wouldn’t worry – most e-bikes are paired with the appropriate tires for its style these days.
And worst case, you can always swap ’em out later on if you have to.