Best Folding Bike Tires

Updated May 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

57 Models Considered
12 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
139 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best folding bike tires

A standard bike tire has a stiff wire bead around the edge so that it doesn’t distort when inflated and stays on the wheel rim. The drawback is that the stiffness makes it awkward to store: it takes up a lot of space. It also makes it impractical to carry on your bike and a pain to find space for in your car or RV. The solution is a folding bike tire.

Folding bike tires use Kevlar strands instead of wire, which are very supple as well as strong. The tires come in a compact package that’s easy to store in a drawer, backpack, or under-seat bag on your bike. However, their construction is more complex, so the price of folding bike tires can be twice that of equivalent standard tires. Also, if you don’t pick the right one, you might find there are drawbacks in terms of handling and ride.

To bring you the answers you need, BestReviews has been investigating all the latest developments. Our recommendations offer solutions at various price points, and in the following buying guide we look at the performance aspects in more detail.

folding bike tires1
Just to avoid any confusion, this review is about bike tires that fold, not tires for folding bikes. Folding bikes don’t need special tires. Their wheels are just like any other bike’s, so you can choose from standard ranges, including folding tires.

Key considerations

Construction

Standard tires: A standard tire is composed of a bead, a carcass or casing of nylon or cotton, and a rubber tread. Some have a shield layer to help prevent punctures, but the rubber is generally the same compound throughout.

Folding tires: These need to be much less stiff, so they use softer materials for the carcass and softer rubber. The problem is that while soft rubber gives excellent traction, it can wear out quickly. The solution many manufacturers use is either dual compound (DC) or triple compound (TC) tread. This involves using a hard compound for the base layer to maximize durability, a medium compound for the main tread area, and (on TC models) a soft compound on the shoulders to increase traction at high lean angles and during fast direction changes.

Materials

Rubber is the key component, but if we’re being technically accurate, it probably makes up no more than 60% of the tire (vulcanizing agents, fillers, softeners, lubricants, and anti-aging chemicals are also present).

Folding tires may also have polyester strands added to increase carcass thread density. That in turn gives better protection against punctures. Another approach is to add a thin extra polyester layer over the entire carcass, effectively doing the same job.

Additional fabrics, particularly polyamides — synthetic woven polymers — might be used to toughen up the sidewalls without compromising flexibility.

Tubeless folding tires may be less prone to punctures than tubed, but they can still happen. A spare inner tube, small CO2 cartridge for inflation, and valve adapter can fit in a compact seat-mounted bag and will get you home.

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Features

If you mostly ride on pavement and maybe a few trails on the weekend, getting the right size at the best price is probably all you need to worry about. Our recommendations offer some great options for you. If you ride competitively, whether that’s just with friends or on a more serious level, there are a couple of other things you might want to add to your decision-making process: threads per inch (TPI) and rolling resistance.

TPI

Threads per inch relates to each layer (ply) of the tire carcass. A low TPI of around 60 means the threads are thick. It makes for a heavier tire, but the puncture protection is better. A high TPI of around 120, for example, uses thin threads, thus giving you the kind of lightweight tire often used for racing. However, these tires are comparatively delicate.

Rolling resistance

Rolling resistance (properly called the coefficient of rolling resistance) is the effect on your progress of friction from the surface you’re riding on. High rolling resistance means the tire grabs, slowing you down so you need to use more energy to pedal. Generally, if you’re racing, you want low rolling resistance.

Every part of the tire’s construction, from the weight of the carcass to the type of tread, impacts rolling resistance — even tire pressure plays a part — but, in general, heavier tires offer the most resistance and lighter tires the least. If you’re maximizing this aspect, latex inner tubes are better than butyl (though they cost more), though tubeless tires are the top performers here.

Size

On smaller bikes, wheel sizes are pretty straightforward: you get the diameter in inches. For a 20-inch wheel, you need a 20-inch tire. Simple. But a couple of the larger sizes can be confusing. Generally, adult bikes have wheels that are 26, 27.5, or 29 inches, but you might see the terms 650b (27.5 inches) and 700c (29 inches) used to describe them (which are of European origin).

folding bike tires2
DID YOU KNOW?
The rubber used in folding tires is often softer than standard tires, so they could wear out more quickly. However, many manufacturers use multiple compounds to maximize grip and mileage.
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Folding bike tire prices

Inexpensive: You can often save a few bucks by buying folding tires in pairs, but even so, the cheapest folding bike tire works out to between $20 and $25. Nevertheless, these are quality items, great for those who use their bike for a daily commute.

Mid-range: If you want something more focused on a particular type of riding, you’ll likely pay between $35 and $70, depending on whether they are tubed or tubeless ready. Folding tires with increased puncture resistance fall into this bracket.

Expensive: Full tubeless folding tires start at about $70, but we’ve seen them as high as $115. Remember that ultralight or fast competition folding tires don’t have the same puncture resistance as mid-range models.

Descriptions can be a little confusing. Tubeless compatible (tubeless ready) tires are not the same as full tubeless. The former can be used on both tubed and tubeless rims, whereas tubeless tires can never be used on tubed rims.

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Tips

If you’ve fitted bike tires before, a folding one won’t give you any problems, but a couple of tips can make the job easier.

  • Uncrease the tire. Unwrap the folding bike tire and leave it flat for a few minutes to smooth out the creases.
  • Install a tubeless ready tire. Squeeze the bead onto the rim. Go all around one side and then the other. Leave a gap of a few inches so you can add sealant, then finish fitting (levers might help), and roll the wheel around some to spread the sealant throughout the interior before inflating.
  • Install a tubed tire. These need a bit more care. It’s easier to fit because the bead is softer, but it’s also easier to trap the tube and cause a puncture (pinch flat) if you’re not careful. Put the tube inside the tire and inflate it enough to hold the tire’s shape. Now fit the bead around one side of the wheel rim with the tube still outside the wheel. Once you’re all the way around, ease the tube onto the wheel, then push over the other bead. Watch out for the tube. You might need a tire lever for the last couple of inches. Finish inflating the tire to the recommended pressure.
folding bike tires3
Kevlar is used in the beads of folding tires, but it may also be used in the tread. Doing so increases puncture resistance, but it may result in increased rolling resistance. It’s probably okay for everyday use, but not for racing.

FAQ

Q. What’s the difference between a clincher tire and a folding bike tire?

A. A clincher tire is the standard type with tough wire strands in the bead. Folding tires, as mentioned above, use Kevlar instead. However, both fit the rim in the same way, so strictly speaking both are clincher tires. Tubeless tires have an additional rubber strip that seals tight against the wheel rim.

Q. If a folding bike tire says “tubeless ready,” can I run it on standard bike wheels?

A. Yes. tubeless ready (or tubeless compatible) means they’re suitable for those kinds of rims, but not all folding bike tires are. However, if your rim usually carries a standard tube-and-tire combo, then it’s fine to use folding tires for that too. In fact, some riders who run tubeless carry an inner tube anyway in case of a flat.

Q. Can I get folding tires for all kinds of bikes?

A. Yes. There’s an enormous range of sizes available, with different treads for road, touring, mountain, gravel bikes, and so on. You should be able to find them for just about all kids’ and youth bikes too, though as with adult models, they can be expensive.

 

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