Electric bike tires are possibly the single most important thing for your build.
Sure there are the motor and battery considerations. The style considerations, lights and all that.
But in terms of how the bike performs and rides. Well, the tires are important.
The single point of contact between you and the ground you’re riding on.
They actually put the power from the motor to the ground, and propel you forwards.
Without tires, you’re sitting on a very powerful paperweight!
Admittedly you could ride with no tires, but I wouldn’t recommend it!!!
So really, what we need to find out is what tires should you get for your ebike?
This depends on a bunch of different factors.
So let’s rip into it!
Asking The Big Questions
Here we need to find out what kind of riding you want to do.
So ask yourself a few questions.
Are you going to be riding on the road, trails or both?
What do your current bike wheels fit?
Will you be riding in wet weather conditions?
Do you range and higher top speeds?
Lastly, what is your budget?
After asking yourself all these questions, we can really begin to formulate the best kind of tire for you and your ebike situation!
Keep in mind that you can always go extreme and get a pair of tires for each situation you may find yourself in, and swap when necessary!
How Are Tires Measured?
Tires are usually measured by their diameter and the width.
These are measured from the outside of the tire through the center of the wheel to the outside of the other edge. The width is measured from the edge of each side of the tire.
Measurements are either in inches or millimeters.
The most common wheel size for mountain bikes are 26″ x 1.95″. This means the tires are 26 inches in diameter and 1.95 inches wide.
Road bike tires are most commonly 700c tires (622mm diameter measured from inside the tire).
You can read more about the ISO tire sizes at this Wikipedia link.
On my custom built BBSHD ebike, I have standard 26 x 1.95 mountain bike tires.
1.95 – 2.5 inches is the standard width for bike tires.
Fatbikes use 3.8 – 5-inch width tires.
Plus tires are kind of in between at 2.8 – 3 inches wide.
Choosing A Width
Which tire width to use depends on the terrain you want to ride on.
Sand or snow demand fat tires as they can grip well and provide ample floatation.
Backpacking or exploring really needs a fat or plus-sized tire. Where you don’t know what kind of terrain you’ll encounter, it’s best to have enough tire to handle it. Where there won’t be much sand or snow, a plus-sized tire will be your best bet to provide enough grip without too much weight.
Cross-country or downhill riding is generally best with standard tires so as to provide lightweight, but sturdiness for fast cornering. Along with uphill climbs, fast and light is ideal.
Road riding will often require a standard or very narrow sized bike tire depending on your riding situation. We’ll look at that soon.
Anything dirty will require something with good tread and ideally knobbly tires. We’ll get into that next.
Tire Treads And Types
Tire treads come in many different types.
Just like cars can come with slick tires for drag racing or sports tires for hard and fast cornering, bikes also need specific tire treads for the types of terrain they’re on.
There are essentially two types of tire treads.
Road and trail tire treads. But it gets a little more complex than that.
Schwalbe and Maxxis are the two best brands you can get for really good tires for your ebike. Schwalbe is a little higher priced than Maxxis but should be well worth it whichever you get.
For road tires, you can get slick tires with no grooves for water displacement, or you can get grooves to help traction in the wet.
Trail tires have big knobbly bits to help dig into soft dirt and trails. This helps to provide traction when what you’re riding on is loose on the surface.
Taking your slick road tires onto loose dirt is just asking for trouble! Make sure you bring your first aid kit – for both you and the bike!
You can also get tires that combine the best of both worlds – a tire with a semi-slick middle and knobbly edges. This allows you to roll faster and easier on the straight roads, but also grip well on trail surfaces when turning.
These types of tires are my pick so I can have the freedom to essentially bike anywhere in my city, without worrying about slipping while riding in the forests.
Schwalbe Cyclocross tires offer this happy medium between road and trail tire.
Alternatively, a Maxxis Holy Roller will do the job just as well, but with a little more knobbly goodness. It should perform well enough in light trail applications and urban use also.
If you want to only ride on the road or hard surfaces, you’re better off getting a slick or slick grooved tire to reduce rolling resistance. This will not only increase the efficiency of your ride but also enable you to ride faster!
I would recommend getting some grooved tires, even if you plan on only ever riding in good weather because you never know what might happen. Slick tires in the wet are no fun and a great way to damage yourself and your precious ebike.
Something like these Schwalbe Big Apple Tires are perfect for road use.
If you want something a little higher end, the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tires will give you superior flat tire resistance! Or the Schwalbe Marathon is also great for slightly more budget conscious of you.
If you’re riding mostly trails, knobbly treads are best. These give you superior grip in the loose surface for a much better experience. For really fast and hard riding, you’ll want to get some large knobbly tread on the edges to ensure proper grip in corners.
A Schwalbe Winter Studded tire could be a great fit for your trail needs.
If you want something really meaty from Maxxis, the Maxxis High Roller has you covered.
Keep in mind that your tire width has to match what your wheel can handle!
How Tire Pressure Affects Your Ride
Your electric bike tires will often have the maximum rated pressure written on the sidewall.
Do not exceed this or you’re going to have a bad time!
Sometimes you may have a range of acceptable pressure, and it’s great to be within that.
If you want to, you can always run a lower pressure than is rated.
The pressure in your tires affects how they ride.
If you run a high pressure like a road bike (~100psi) then you will be decreasing rolling resistance as the contact surface area decreases.
This comes at a tradeoff though, as higher pressures mean that you will feel more of the bumps in the road. Potholes can be very jarring at high pressure when riding over them.
Lower pressures like those in a mountain bike (~50psi) will increase rolling resistance as the surface area that contacts the road is increased.
This, however, means that you will be cushioned more from bumps in the road or surface you’re on.
If you’re commuting on the road, you may want road tires that run a high PSI so that you can decrease rolling resistance to attain higher top speeds and better range from your battery due to increased efficiency.
Just be sure to avoid all of the potholes in your commute!
Electric Bike Tires: Now You Know They’re Important, Right?
As you can see there are lots of different factors that play into which electric bike tire you should get.
What kind of terrain helps determine the most, what type of tire width and tread pattern you need.
The weather conditions you plan to ride in also help you decide what to buy.
If you want all-around performance for both trails and road, you need to make some compromises in the way the tire performs on each type of terrain.
You can always get a couple of pairs of tires to swap out if you have drastically different needs. Like you’re commuting every day but want to hit the slopes (bike style) on the weekends!
Let me know your favourite tires in the comments below!
I hope you’ve gotten to grips with tires now. Excuse the pun.
Ride safe and lay some rubber down!