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How to Tell When Mountain Bike Tires Should be Replaced

Like any other gears, tires will soon wear out and will be needing replacement. This article discusses how to tell when mountain bike tires need replacement.

A man replacing a tire of a mountain bike.

It’s interesting, but according to Wifey, when a man reaches a certain age, he seemingly starts to think himself, what she calls, “Something of a ….” Something of a Stud, Something of a Casanova, Something of a Budget Master, Something of a DIY man…. around the house that is.  I understand I have reached a combination of the last two, apparently. Come to think about it, she could be right!

Take the other day, for example, there I was watching the Home Channel, when chubby Sonny came and stood in front of the screen-his way of saying give me your undivided attention now dad! -so I did.

“Dad?!” as if to confirm whether I really was his dad.

“Yes, son”

“I think my MTB’s (aka mountain bike’s) tires should be replaced!”

The DIY man (and Budget master) in me immediately sprang up.

“I could, of course, be wrong. How to tell when mountain bike tires should be replaced is so hard. Do you know?” continued Sonny, surprised by my sudden burst of energy.

“How to tell when mountain bike tires should be replaced?” I mused, before leading Sonny out to his MTB.

Once the MBT was before us, I examined whether Sonny was correct that its tires should be replaced by following the checklist below….

Simply Look for Extensive Wear and Tear

A mountain bike tire with mud and dried leaves.

It’s not rocket science, really. Simply looking at your mountain bike’s tires is the best and easiest way of telling whether they should be replaced.

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Often, if the exterior of your mountain bike’s tires are seriously worn,worse torn or threadbare (i.e. Showing a layer of the inside of the tire!) then you have no choice but to replace both your tires or the most worn and torn tire-as soon as possible.

Take Time To Consider How Much and Long Used

A yellow mountain bike on a white background.

Over the last few years, COVID-19 has arguably slowed our lives down. Consequently, those who had just bought new mountain bikes could not ride them as much due to continuous lockdowns. Partly because of this, the lifespan of some MBT tires is now estimated at 7,000 miles!

As such, before you purchase those mountain bike tires on sale, take time to consider when you bought it and how much and long you have actually ridden it. It might not yet be time to replace its tires. For all you know, they just might still be quite new!

However, if you ride your bike daily, then it is advised that you replace your mountain bike’s tires within 3 months. Riding your MBT every week will lower its tires’ life expectancy to anything ranging from about 1% to 8%.

Mileage Covered?

A person biking on the dessert and rocky mountains.

According to some MTB enthusiasts on record, that when it comes to mileage, MTB tires tend to last anywhere between 3200 and 8000 miles. Depending on how much and long you have ridden your bike since purchasing or replacing its tires, then try and estimate the distances you have covered on it.

Roughly, how much mileage you have covered on it.  It is even easier to track if your MTB is fitted with an odometer that keeps track of the mileage you are covering.

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MTB Tyre Type and Brand?

An illustration of different bicycle tire design.

My apologies if I do not name any MTB tyre types and brands just in case I am accused of giving them advertising and publicity, but MTB tyre type and brand matter. To some extent, they determine the quality of the tyre.

Depending on the MTB tyre type and brand you have, they should last for 1000 to 3000 miles if they are road bike tires. Conversely, high-end tires, used for regular use, can  last, give or take about 2,500 miles before they should be replaced.

Examine MBT’s Tyre Treads

A close-up view of a bicycle tires.

The tread of a tire is the part of the tire that “meets” the road. These elements of tire tread include tread blocks or tread lugs, tread grooves, tread voids, wear bar, and any extra features such as rain grooves and sipping. Examine your MBT’s tyre treads for depth, “fleshiness” and, above all, their presence.

Unlike humans, tyres start off with wrinkles and then become smoother as their treads wear out. Little to no treads is a definite sign that you should replace your MTB’s tires.

The Penny Head Test?

A man placing a penny on a tire.

Should you want an objective way of examining your MBT’s tread grooves, then try the Penny Head test that I have adapted from the original test to determine if a car’s tires need replacement. Dip a penny head into each of your MBT’s tread grooves across each of its tires.

 If you always see almost all of Lincoln’s head and shoulders, then your treads are shallow and worn. In that case, your tires need to be replaced as soon as possible. Always determine whether your MBT’s tires need replacing based on how much or little of Lincoln’s head and shoulders you can see-less is good, more not good.

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No Tire Traction!

A close up view of a mountain bike on action.

Traction has been professionally defined as “the friction between a drive wheel and the road surface. If you lose traction, you lose road grip. “Put in layman’s terms, traction is a tire’s grip on the road. As you ride your bike, you can often tell and feel when your tire’s traction on the road is poor.

At worst, this loss of traction will be confirmed when your mountain bike tires have lost traction and you are lying on the road.

Which brings me to the issue of surfaces.

Surfaces Tires Ridden on

Cyclists riding on a cloudy weather.

A mountain bike tire usually lasts for approximately 3,000 to 8,000 miles if primarily ridden on a surface road. This stat diminishes as you change the surfaces you ride your MBT. Riding your bike on off-road surfaces like dirt and mountain roads with sharp and rugged rocks- often called, non-high-performance areas- diminishes the average tread life of most tires to approximately 2,000 miles. Such road types are considered to have non-ideal conditions for your MTB’s tires.

Though apparently, if you mostly ride your MBT on, riding trails then your tires should last as long as those of a MBT ridden on road. Riding trails with mild elevation, such as cross-country ones, might easily give you and your MBT 3,000 miles out of its tires. Similarly, if you ride your MBT mainly on paved surfaces, then: “One would have to wait roughly two years before they could replace the current set of MTB tires.”

Getting too Many Punctures?

A man checking on a bike tire air pressure.

It’s time to replace your bike’s tyres if you are continuously getting punctures in both high-performance and non-high-performance areas like tarred roads as well as off-track roads.

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 The reason for too many punctures is often that the tire’s thickness has decreased so much that thorns and other sharp objects can now penetrate it.   

Weight and Tire Replacement

Illustration of bicycle race on a white background.

Should you be on the heavy side weight-wise, then its most likely your MTB is regularly hauling around heavy cargo. As with car tires, this can lead to faster tire wear.

The more weight your MBT carries, then the more force will be put on the MBT, especially its tires. In such cases, your MBT’s tires might not last as long as those of a less weighty rider.

Riding Style Attitude and Tire Replacement

A man biking on an icy mountain train.

In addition to your weight, also consider your riding style and attitude. Is it rough, aggressive and the devil may care most on non-performance surfaces or a lot more conservative, considerate on well-known MBT riding tracks? Riding style and attitude towards your MBT can affect its tires.  

Do Finances Permit?

Finances or buying power determine a lot of things. So, yes, it might be time to replace your MBT’s tires but, does your budget permit? If you can, please treat replacing your tires as a matter of life and death-in a way it is.

However, if your finances do not permit, then please don’t worry. Just don’t ride your MTB. Anyway, it is likely to get punctured or lose traction and cause you injury. Better still, park it for now until finances permit, which is what chubby Sonny had to do while he saved up 51% of the tires’ cost.

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