Do you ever wish you could bring a spare bike tire or two with you on your rides? This way, if yours popped, you wouldn’t be stranded. This seems but a dream, sadly. After all, you can’t lug around a bike tire everywhere you go, right? You could with a folding bike tire, and you wouldn’t have to lug it, either. Wait, what exactly is a folding bike tire?
A folding bike tire can compact and fold down, making it ideal for transporting. Their intended purpose was to assist touring cyclists on long journeys who couldn’t risk being derailed from a popped tire. Today, casual bikers, mountain bikers, and others use these tires all the time.
If you’re intrigued by the concept of the folding bike tire, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll talk about this tire in-depth, discussing the materials used, tire price, and how they compare to wire bead road bike tires. We’ll even share links to some of our favorite folding tires, so you don’t want to miss it!
What Is a Folding Bike Tire?
As we touched on in the intro, a folding bike tire can, well, fold down into a compact, relatively flat shape. To do this, these tires don’t have wire bundles. Instead, they include Kevlar strands bundled up for greater flexibility.
Carrying a folding tire makes your life convenient. You can stash one in your backpack, a purse, and many other bags without them taking up much room. If you commute or ride your bike daily, having a folding tire on your person gives you peace of mind. You know that if your tire ever popped, you could just put a folding one on.
The malleable rubber compound used for these tires may include a dual-compound tread depending on the manufacturer. That’s because, although they have great traction, the rubber compound doesn’t last as long as traditional, non-folding tires.
Folding tires weigh less than other tires. They often shed 50 to 90 grams of weight with their construction and folding capabilities. Besides their lower weight, folding tires also have a good thread per inch count, aka TPI. The higher the thread density, the better the tires feel when you ride on them.
We love the Continental Gatorskin – see further down this article under ‘The best folding bike tires’ for our thoughts;
Are Folding Tires Easier to Fit on Your Bike Than Other Tires?
We love the Continental Gatorskin – see below for our thoughts;
You’re quite interested in folding tires, but what about installing them on your bike? How easily do they fit, if at all?
Honestly? Not very easily. This is one of their biggest disadvantages, admittedly.
One factor that may determine how easy of a time you have is the packaging your folding tire comes in. If the manufacturer packages the tire(s) with care, then unfolding it won’t cause a headache. Lazy packaging means the tire comes to you all tangled and disorganized. You’d probably have to flatten your tire before you could even think about installing it on your bike.
Once you’re done with that, you want to use your favorite bike inflation device to put some air into the tire. Now, folding tires have a lower pressure than standard bike tires, so don’t fill too much or they could pop.
When your tire has some shape and fullness, wrap it around your bike tube and rim. It should sit near the valve of the tube, slightly over it. Grab the tire and give it a tug to move it into place as you wrap. Once you’ve got the tire mostly on the bike, you should reach for your tire lever to finish the job. You don’t want to push the tire too much through the rim or the tire wall as you do this.
Now, still with the lever, move the tire’s sidewalls into place one at a time. Sometimes this requires you to release some air so the tire is more pliable. Don’t let too much air go, though!
Great, you did it. Now repeat the process again for the other tire.
Are Folding Tires More Expensive Than Other Tires?
If you’re still tempted by folding tires, you’re undoubtedly curious about their price. Do they cost more compared to traditional bike tires? Yes, they do. You may pay as little as $6 more for folding tires, which isn’t bad. Some manufacturers will ramp up the cost to $30 more than an average bike tire price.
Of course, when you review the above information, the price jump does make sense. Folding tires don’t use the same types of materials as traditional bike tires. They’re also a more uncommon tire type, thus inching up their cost even more.
To see the costs of folding bike tires in action, we recommend you keep reading to the last section in this article. There, we’ll cover some of the top folding tires on the market, including the Continental Gatorskin tire which we highly recommend. You can compare the costs to how much you spend on your current tires to decide if folding tires fit your budget and lifestyle.
Folding vs. Wire Bead Road Bike Tires
Speaking of traditional bike tires, have you ever considered what they’re made of? Most of the time, it’s wire bead. The bead includes a steel wire that goes between your bike’s rim and the tire itself.
Now, a bead isn’t like what you’d see on a necklace or bracelet, at least in biking. Instead, it’s a type of cord that’s often housed in fabric. It wraps around the tire’s inner circumference and keeps the rim attached to the tire.
Steel, as we’re sure you know, doesn’t really move all that much. It’s certainly nowhere near as flexible as a folding tire. That’s one key difference between the two tire types: flexibility. You can compress folding tires as necessary, but with wire bead road tires, not so much. Even though these tires have Kevlar, a type of synthetic fiber, in their construction, they don’t win in the flexibility department. Not by a longshot.
We talked before about the rubber compound used for folding tires. This too has lots of flexibility and softness. It also offers great traction, as mentioned, but it doesn’t last as long as traditional road tires with a standard tread. That’s because these tires use harder rubber that can handle the wear and tear better than soft rubber tires can.
What about the higher TPI that folding tires have? Standard road bike tires can’t compare in a battle of TPI counts. These tires also weigh more than folding bike tires almost every time, so you can’t exactly carry them with you.
It’s not that folding tires are necessarily better than traditional road bike tires or vice-versa. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
The Best Folding Bike Tires
In fact, if you’re curious enough about folding tires, then we recommend you try some. You might find that you like them better than traditional tires. With so many options out there, we’ve rounded up some of the top folding bike tires, all of which you can get on Amazon.
Let’s talk about the specs and details of these tires now.
Maxxis EXO Dual Compound Minion DHF Tubeless Folding Tire
The EXO Minion tire from Maxxis comes in four sizes: 26 by 2.3 inches, 27.5 by 2.6 inches, 29 by 2.3 inches, and 29 by 2.5 inches. The price varies depending on the size you get.
Each tubeless folding tire includes Maxxis’ DC Dual Compound technology. With Protective Sidewall technology, you can reduce resistance and abrasion damage. The ramped knob and directional design of these tires promote awesome traction and grip.
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme HS 469 Hybrid Folding Bicycle Tire
A beloved product from the Schwalbe brand, the Marathon Supreme weighs just 110 grams. The OneStar Compound included with this tire, a Schwalbe standard is part of the Advanced Triple Compounds from the manufacturer. With this, you get better grip and endurance.
As a name like the Marathon Supreme tells you, these folding tires can achieve impressive speed with the HD Speed Guard. You can choose from sizes like 26 by 1.60 inches, 27.5 by 1.60 inches, or 28 by 1.60 inches. The tires cost anywhere from $50 up to $80.
Continental Gatorskin Folding Tire
Gatorskin tires have a great reputation for their durability and puncture-proof properties with PolyX Breaker technology. Here at Bicycle Universe, we absolutely love these tires as they really do reduce flats.
This legendary model by Continental has an instant appeal thanks to the DuraSkin sidewalls in a trendy brown hue. Not only do these tires look amazing then, but their polyamide fabric safeguards your tires as you ride. Whether you go on bike tours or just cycle around the neighborhood, your tires take you further with Gatorskin.
They’re some of the more affordable folding bike tires around, depending on the size.
Folding bike tires can compress and fold up, hence their name. To achieve this, these tires are made from lighter, more flexible materials. They have a higher TPI, lower weight, and better traction than traditional road tires. They also offer great portability. That said, folding tires tend to cost more than most other tire types. Installing them is also a major pain.
If you’re considering using folding tires, the suggestions we made in this article should provide a great starting point for you. Good luck!
We have a recommended gear section on our site that talks about tires we like. You can find it here