A mid-priced folding bike tire that can tackle most road conditions when riding at reasonable speeds.
Earns praise for how well it handles rough terrain as well as paved roads. Resists punctures. Not too challenging to put on a rim.
Not the most robust tire for speedy rides.
Two folding tires by a top brand. Suitable for on- and off-road use and the budget-conscious biking enthusiast.
Impressive performance, excellent durability, and decent grip in most conditions. Also a great bargain, as you get two tires for the price.
Can be difficult to put on rims. Rare reports of tires with manufacturing defects.
If you need a folding bike tire that is designed for street use, this affordable option is one to consider.
Built to handle most paved road conditions. Rated for all-season use. Comes at a decent price.
If you ride off-road, you may not be impressed with its performance under such conditions.
A popular model that’s competitively priced and excels on hard-packed terrain and gravel.
Dual compound tire for tubed or tubeless use. Lightweight casing. Tread design minimizes rolling resistance in a straight line but grips hard when cornering.
Occasional quality issues can result in leaks when used as tubeless.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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