Replacing your bicycle tyres for a smoother ride

Old compared to a new tyre

In the overhauling an old bike series we come up to our latest upgrade. The bicycle tyres – a fairly economic upgrade at £25 per tyre.

When do I change my bicycle tyres?

If your tyre looks a little like my old tyre in the picture above then it’s probably time to upgrade. As you can see in the picture the treads in the tyre are significantly worn. Whilst there are a lot of chips in the tyre this shouldn’t necessarily be a problem unless you are noticing many more punctures. Another tell-tale sign of replacement is if the tire appears irregular.

I’ll try and avoid quoting any mileage figures because these tend to be a very rough guide. You’ll probably find you’ll need to replace the rear tyre before the front.

What tyres do I buy?

I’ve previous listed some excellent puncture proof tyres and I suggest that is a good place to start. Whilst it’s possible to buy tyres at half the cost of the Schwalbe Marathon Plus I strongly recommend them for puncture resistance without compromising on rolling resistance.

I’ve found Chain Reaction Cycles offer the best prices on bicycle tyres.

If you want to dive into more depth about the different type of bicycle tyres then an article on is very thorough.

(See also: Continental City Contact Tyre i.e. Whooosh!)

What size tyres do I need?

The general answer to this question is to check the tyre on your bike and then buy the same size again. The tyre will be marked with something along the lines of 700 x 32. The first number is the diameter of the wheel in millimetres and the second is the width of the bicycle tyre.

You may choose to experiment a little with a different tyre size. What you’ll generally find is larger tyres will provide better handling and comfort where as the smaller ones will make you a little zippier.

Having said that, your wheels won’t fit all tyre sizes and therefore you are restricted in your choice.

I thoroughly recommend an article on Tyre sizing by Sheldon Brown. Here you’ll discover what size tyres your wheels can take.

Personally, I opted for one size down from the wide tyre I was running before.

How do I replace my bicycle tyres?

  1. Take the wheel off the frame.
  2. Deflate the inner tube by pressing down on the valve.
  3. Use tyre levers to get the tyre off your bike.
  4. Remove the old tyre and the inner tube off your wheel.
  5. If your new tyre has a tread pattern then make sure it is facing forwards. This allows the rain water to run off the bike. Many bicycle tyres will often have a forward arrow to indicate direction.
  6. Line up the label on the tyre with your valve on your inner tube.
  7. Partially inflate the inner tube.
  8. Ease the tyre with the inner tube inside back onto the wheel.
  9. Start from the valve side and work your way around. This can be fiddly at times.
  10. You should work your way around again once the tyre is on to be 100% sure that the inner tube isn’t caught against the tyre and the rim.
  11. Fully inflate the inner tube to the indicated pressure on the tyre.
  12. Put the wheel back on the bike and securely fasten it in place.

Also in this bike overhaul series:

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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21 Responses to Replacing your bicycle tyres for a smoother ride

  1. Robert Adlington 24/02/2011 at 11:38 am #

    I purcahsed my Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres from the following dealer, their prices are excellent and they even provide a video (on their home webpage) showing how to fit the tyres.

  2. Grant 24/02/2011 at 12:12 pm #

    I always put the new tyre on the front and move the (normally not that worn) front tyre to the rear wheel. As you say it’s the rear that gets by far the most wear, and it’s a good idea to have the grippyest (newest) tyre at the front. Sheldon agrees!

    • Andreas 24/02/2011 at 12:53 pm #

      Good reference to Sheldon Brown there and a good tip – just be careful not to place the worn rear tyre at the front and the front tyre at the rear as the front tyre is far more critical for safety!

  3. Tim 24/02/2011 at 1:19 pm #

    I have the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres and agree they are excellent. However, they were a real pain to get onto the wheels when I first got them – lots of advice on the web on how to tackle the fitting.

  4. Alex 24/02/2011 at 4:18 pm #

    I fitted Marathon Plus on my girlfriends bike and the tyre wall burst on the front after about 6 months. Probably just a dud tyre but disappointing all the same.

    I currently ride on Specialized Nimbus tyres which are coming to the end of their life. I have never had a puncture with them and have done 3000 miles give or take through London and beyond. My local bike shop has recommended Continental GatorSkins for better performance.

    Anyone got an opinion on GatorSkins?

    • Andreas 24/02/2011 at 5:58 pm #

      Couple of people left comments previously saying they are good – no punctures

    • Paul 25/02/2011 at 1:14 pm #

      I have been using Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres (26″ x 1.75″) for more than 4000 miles of London commuting without puncture or failure, so + 1 recommendation.

    • Nicole 28/02/2011 at 8:18 pm #

      I’ve got a pair of gatorskins on my road bike and I find them really good. They’re a hard ride and a little sluggish compared to my summer slicks but great tyres.

  5. Klaus 24/02/2011 at 4:20 pm #

    I have recently replaced my rear tyre (26 * 1.75) with a Continental Touride, which I got for about £13 from chainreaction. I don’t commute so my miles are low (100 to 150 per month) so can’t really comment or review. But seems good value, supposed to have extra Kevlar for punture resistance.

    • Andreas 24/02/2011 at 5:57 pm #

      That’s a good price Klaus and I agree not everyone has to splash 25 on tyres.

  6. John 24/02/2011 at 6:51 pm #


    Probably the most used reason people don’t cycle is because their bike is in the garage with a flat.
    A puncture resistant tyre like a marathon means that the bike will be ready to jump on when the mood takes to have a ride and that is a big thing in getting more people involved in cycling.
    For a commuter like myself where the bike is my car, nothing is worse than going to get the bike to go to work or come home and you have a flat. For that reason I started using marathon plus and now use marathon plus tour for the winter for the extra grip if you take a short cut or have to put up with the ever increasing potholes on your commute.
    In the last 10 years or so I have had probably now more than 3 punctures, all of them extreme – dlass bottle broke under the bike in the ground, thorn through the side wall etc.
    Each to their own but money well spent for me.


  7. Peter 24/02/2011 at 8:19 pm #

    I don’t have the space for the Marathon but swear by the Specialised Armadillo or Continental Gator, they are bullet proof even on Londons potholes and glass paved streets. Only time I ever get a flat is when they need replacing.

    I used to rotate tyres but the London roads are so harsh on the rear tyre that I go through 3 rear tyres before having to replace the front one.

    Best tip I could ever give is to keep your tyres properly inflated.

  8. Alex 24/02/2011 at 10:07 pm #

    Thanks guys, will give the Gatorskins a go.

  9. PKR 25/02/2011 at 10:54 am #

    I’m a massive fan of continental gator hardshells. Like continental gator skins but with even better puncture protection. For puncture resistant tyres they roll really well, better than marathons that I have previously had, and have proved more resilient.

    You do have to make sure though that you keep your tyres inflated to the correct pressure. Doing this will reduce rate at which they wear, will make them handle better and will give you better puncture protection.

    Also, if you are at the point where your tyres need replacing, you should use the opportunity to give the rest of the consumables on your bike a once over. Once you have the wheels off it is a great opportunity to check for brake pad wear

  10. Iain 27/02/2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Marathons are great – had to replace one after it got a serious cut in it, not punctured, but enough to cause handling concerns…

    Sadly haven’t got them on my new bike yet… Cracking ride into Lonon this morning on a potential commute recce (25 miles in 2 hours with a few stops to check the A-Z, red light count barely into double figures!) Decided to do a bit of touristing around the city, so pootling along Tooley St, just past on your bike and pft, pft pft from the back tyre… Small bit of glass did the damage, spare Slime tube fitted (glad it was early as I was outside the Dungeon…) and off I went. 2 miles later around Old St and there’s a sea of glass on the road… Nice choice; swerve and risk death/injury in collision or risk the glass… Newly fitted Slime tube dead… It was nice to see a council chap sweeping a few bits of paper up in a sidestreet, told him about the glass and he replied, it’s always like that. Boris you’re goig to get a bill! 23 mile walk home in 5.5 hours (and the last 90 mins of that in heavy rain…) Old bike has a marathon (with 5500 miles on it) and a new own brand equivalent so they’ll be getting swapped over tomorrow. Puncture resistant tyres are money well spent, best I’ve done on normal tyres is approx 500 miles between puncture (technically new bike did 857, but the average has plummeted) With marathons it’s 5000 (and at times they’ve met branches, holes, glass) So 10 x tubes at £8 or £50 for two tyres.

  11. nopy 06/03/2011 at 7:10 pm #

    Just replaced a Michelin City on the rear wheel with a Shwalbe Marathon. I hope the Schwalbe lives up to its reputation.

    Never had a puncture on the Michelin city but it was bulging after only 6 months (1k miles).

    • Andreas 08/03/2011 at 10:46 am #

      If the Shwalbe tyres are good enough for the clunky Boris Bikes then I think you will be impressed!

    • Groucho 01/12/2015 at 6:11 am #

      My experience exactly. One thousand miles, then this horrible wobbly feel! I had faith in Michelin, as well.

  12. Chris 05/07/2013 at 8:10 am #

    I’ve never heard of step 6 in the tyre changing instructions ( line the tyre sticker up with the valve hole) before.

    Is there a practical reason for this?

    • Liz 05/07/2013 at 11:36 am #

      Lining the sticker up with the valve just makes it that little bit quicker to work out where the valve is when you go to pump up your tyres. And it looks smarter!

  13. Stephenwj 09/04/2014 at 5:56 pm #

    Lining the valve with the sticker gives a refereence point when looking for damage after a flat tyre. The valve and sticker together means the tyre or the hole in the tube can be located easily.

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