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When to Replace Your Mountain Bike Tires

new vs worn out mountain bike tires

Many mountain bikers replace tires that are still in good condition. Maybe they’re old, show some wear or don’t look fancy anymore, it’s still a waste of money.

So when should you replace your MTB tires?  If your knobs have rounded edges and lost 50% depth replace your tires. When the fabric has been damaged or shows signs of irregular appearance, or treads become visible, it’s time to get a new tire. Anything before that stage is fine, anything after needs replacement.

Failing to replace your tires can cause all kinds of problems. Having to walk home in one piece and cursing yourself for not inspecting your tire in the first place. I remember walking home in a thunderstorm and not feeling very safe, I wasn’t happy with myself not inspecting my tires before going for a ride.

It’s not the end of the world, tires aren’t the most expensive part of your bike but you really want to replace them before they fail you. This is a short guide on how to spot wear and tear, how to get the most out of your tires and how to fix them.  I did some digging because my tires are starting to wear and here’s what I learned.

Signs of Wear and Tear

Don’t replace your wheels because they don’t look as fancy as they used to unless you like to waste money. Here’s what to check for to make sure your tires are still in good condition.

  • If the tread is worn thin and you’re getting flat spots.
  • The fabric is showing through the rubber, ignoring this will result in a bang.
  • If your tire shows irregular, lumpy bumps on the side.
  • Check the treads and sidewalls for wear and tear.

Don’t worry about cracks in the tread, they are harmless. I also wouldn’t worry about small cracks caused by sharp rocks, glass or thorns. Your outer tire can deal with this and it doesn’t need to be airtight. Even if your riding tubeless the sealant will fill the small holes.

How to Make MTB Tires Last Longer

Don’t brake and skid on concrete, asphalt or anything that has a lot of friction. While sometimes you really don’t have a choice don’t do it when it isn’t absolutely necessary. Proper inflation is key here. Make sure the pressure is according to the standards that apply to your tire.

You can use apps like Strava to track your mileage and add your bike components to keep track of them. Though you can’t accurately plan when parts need to be replaced, at least you have an idea on the mileage and hours you actively used them.

Avoid heat, high temperatures will make your tires wear down faster. Don’t let your bike near any heaters and even ozone can damage your tires if exposed for too long. Don’t worry though, I’m talking about long exposure in the sun. Your tires won’t explode from just riding on a sunny day, they’re not vampires.

Swap your front and rear tires if they aren’t front and rear-specific. Keep in mind though that you need more traction on the front tire. It’s better to have a back tire that slides out than your front, though my dentist disagrees. This is a great way to get the most out of your wheels but some riders wear out the back tire sooner than their front.

Still, if you have to buy a new tire, place it at the front and move it to the rear later. If you really want to save money, make sure to swap the tires before the rear wears down too much.

Make sure to check your tires often when you deal with rocky and dry conditions, tires wear down faster in these harsh environments. If you come across cuts in your sidewall replace them rather sooner than later.

Terrain Impacts Wear and Tear

If you only ride in soft, fresh and clean dirt, your tires will last a long time. Your tires will keep traction and wear slowly. If your tires show signs of wear you shouldn’t worry about it too much. As long as you can maintain traction you’re good.

Rocky terrain is pretty bad and will wear will show a lot sooner compared to loamy and organic terrain. Dry and rocky environments demand a lot from your tires and you get way less mileage out of them compared to smooth pavements or tracks.

How Many Miles do MTB Tires Last?

How long your MTB tires last depends on where you ride and the quality of your tires. On average MTB tires should at least be able to last 3200 to 8000 miles. That’s quite a difference but if you ride sharp mountain rocks they might even go below.

The lifespan of your tires depends on where and how often you ride. If you only ride trails your tires will last longer then when you’re riding on roads. If your trail is covered with angular sharps gravel they might wear down sooner. If you’re really unlucky a sharp rock might hit the side of your tire and it can be all over.

While this doesn’t happen frequently it’s important to be prepared. Better to fix it quickly and get back than to have to walk.

I recently came across a tire that lives up to its promise, it’s affordable an probably the best bang for your buck. I’ll update this post later and drop a link later.

DIY Hacks to Quickly Fix Your MTB Tire

Check your tires occasionally, especially if your ride frequently and extensively. Use a bright ceiling light, spin your tire around slowly and check for cuts or embedded wires. Try superglue or Shoe Goo to fix anything out of the ordinary.

Make sure you carry a patch kit, it’s small and can save you a long frustrating walk. It’s important to have everything small and compact so it doesn’t get in the way. There are lots of repair kits around which you can easily take with you without becoming a nuisance.

Prevention is probably the best course of action, but accidents happen and it’s always a good thing to be prepared.

Replacing Your Tires

Ok, not the most fun job but it isn’t really hard to replace your tires. The front is a piece of cake but the back might give you some headache. If you’re the lazy type just go to your local bike shop and let them do it. The fastest way is to do it yourself, LBS often have a queue and it can take a few days before you can pick up your bike depending on the time of year.

Anyway, if you do it once, it’s going to be much easier next time. Check out this video and learn, the guy shows exactly how it’s done without boring you with fluff.

Related questions

How much does it cost to replace MTB tires? This really depends on what your local bike shop labor rates. These guys are experts and they’ll swap them before you can even blink. It doesn’t cost that much, you’ll need to pay for the new inner tube and tire of course. Tires range from $20 to $85, save some money and do it yourself.

How much it cost to straighten a wheel? This depends on the severity of the deformation, sometimes it takes only 5 minutes and sometimes it’s beyond repair. Ask your guy at your lbs to see what they can do for you.

What’s the optimal PSI for my MTB tires? It depends on the tire, your weight, and the specified range. Check the manual or look up the specification from the manufacturer. Some riders like to deflate their tires a little to get more traction on trails. When it comes to roads, you’re better of inflating them to reduce friction.