The choice of tires for electric bikes can make a huge difference in your overall performance. Your top speeds, battery range, suspension, and ease of control are dictated by subtle differences between each type of tire. This is a definitive guide to E-Bike Tires.
A good ebike tire can also help you avoid a flat tire – which is easier said than done on a hub motor ebike with traditional tires.
So does your electric bike need specially designed tires or does a standard cycle tire do just fine?
long and short: you don’t need electric bike tires but they are great to have. Ebikes are generally heavier than regular cycles and exert a lot of power at the rear wheel (depending on the motor). That’s a ton of unsprung weight on a standard tire – plus, each time you ride over a stone or hop over a pothole, the tires will take quite a beating.
Electric bikes travel at much higher average speeds than regular commuter bikes, averaging at 25mph with peaks of 40mph (the standard speed limit in most areas). Plus, depending on where you’re cycling, you may have to stop at signs and traffic lights.
Between all those brakes and rapid bursts of accelerations, your electric bike tire is going to get whacked out of order.
It is worth pointing out that these differences probably may not seem too important for a part-time hobbyist. But if you spend a considerable time commuting with your ebike, then it’s worth discussing the main difference between ebike tires and standard bike tires in the USA.
What is the Difference Between Ebike Tires and Standard Bike Tires?
Ebike tires are specially developed to operate at higher operating pressures and often come with a beefier casing for added protection. In Europe, they are required to comply with ECE-R75 standards in order to get a certification. So if your electric bike was made in Europe, then it most definitely will have different tires.
In North America, companies can use the same tires as found on any traditional bikes. This is because there aren’t any regulations governing this practice – at least not at the time this article was written. In general, specially designed electric bike tires have the following features:
1. Higher Threads per Inch (TPI)
TPI is defined as the number of threads in 1” of the tire casing. A higher TPI means the more lightweight the tire becomes and the more supple the ride. On some higher-end tires, the threads are mixed with Kevlar or other kinds of fabric for added durability. This increases their resiliency.
Lower end tires tend to have a lower thread count, which makes them heavier and provides a rougher ride. Some people believe that a higher TPI is usually a trade-off between durability and ride comfort, but that isn’t true. You can follow the best practices mentioned here to prevent flat tires.
In general, tires with low TPI are used in training. However, for better performance on the road, tires with higher TPI are used for racing.
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2. Specialized Puncture Protection
A high-quality electric bike tire comes fully integrated with a protection belt. In certain cases, they make also make use of puncture protection liquid.
Standard electric bikes do not have such kinds of protection, which means they are prone to wear and tear at a much faster rate. Most ebike manufacturers like to bank on the durability of their tires and use it as a sales pitch.
3. Speed Rating
Did you know that tires have a specific ‘tire speed rating’? This rating is indicated by letters A through Y. Every ebike manufacturer has their own recommendations for tire ratings, often found in the instruction manual.
For more on that, refer to this chart here. If you want to reach higher top speeds, say, 15 mph and 30 mph, you’ll want to invest in specialized tires for your ebike.
4. Lower Weight
Do not underestimate the weight of your tires. Each pair on its own can add a significant bit of weight to your electric bike (at least 2 kg). The weight of tires has a noticeable difference on the handling since the tires are part of the wheels’ rotating mass, which definitely makes acceleration a tad bit more difficult.
Although tires have a damping effect that reacts to bumps a lot quicker than the fork can, they also form part of the unsprung mass of the electric bike, and thus have a massive impact on suspension.
With that said, a heavier tire set can also positively influence your handling. When the terrain gets tougher, a pair of heavy tires can help you travel with ease.
5. Powerful Casing
The casing serves as the backbone of your ebike tires. It provides the tire with shape and structure, and can significantly influence cornering stability, weight, and puncture protection.
First and foremost, you should never choose the casing based only on its weight, but rather on your own weight, riding preferences, and terrain conditions.
As a rule, sturdier casings allow for lower tire pressures without the high risk of getting a flat tire on every rock object. For the casing, the sturdier it is, the better.
6. Unique Tread Profile
The tread patterns are the most distinguishing feature of electric bike tires vs. standard bike tires in the USA. It also has a big difference in handling. The tread is composed of three sections: the center knobs, which influence braking traction and rolling resistance, the shoulder knobs, which improve cornering traction, and transition knobs which sit between the shoulder knobs and the center.
Transition knobs create a smooth segue from the center and shoulder knobs while providing more traction to your electric bike. There are virtually unlimited tread variations in terms of size, shape, and spacing of the knobs. Choosing the right treading makes all the difference on your trails.
In softer, more moist soils, you should opt for an open pattern with bigger gaps and larger knobs. This prevents the tread from getting filled up with mud as the knobs dig deeper into the softer ground.
If you want a tire that rolls faster on traditional surfaces without churning through your ebike’s battery, opt for a more closed pattern.
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7. The Importance of Tire Size and Width
Another factor to consider when choosing ebike tires is the size. A standard 26 x 1.95 is roughly 26 inches in diameter with a width of around 1.95”. In general, a tire with more width provides more cushion and acts like more suspension for your ebike. So something like 26 x 2.5 will feel more comfortable than a 26 x 1.95.
The only disadvantage of wider tires is that they can negatively impact your speed and range. This is why road tires are narrower. It is widely understood that narrower tires are faster and allow the motor to make more efficient use of the available charge from the battery.
One common workaround is to increase tire pressure. This can reduce the contact patch and increase your efficiency. Careful though, too much pressure can actually erode your performance and cause the ride to feel bumpier.
This is why certain ebikes bikes (fat bikes) use balloon tires for improved traction and ride, but it does reduce the range quite a bit. At the end of the day, it’s all one big trade-off.
With these 7 key differences outlined, let’s deep dive into the potential benefits of electric bike tires.
What are the Benefits of Ebike Tiers?
- Thick grooves for improved traction on the road at higher speeds.
- A more powerful casing that can withstand higher temperatures, pressures, and speeds.
- Ability to accommodate higher pressures due to the added weight and torque (from the motor) that can cause extra strain on the tire (depending on the trail and terrain)
- Thicker treading for improved puncture protection, whether you’re cycling at higher speeds, hopping objects, or avoiding a pothole disaster. Puncture-proofing your tires is very important because punctures tires take longer to change on ebikes than a regular cycle, so you’ll want to prevent that at all times.
- The rubber on ebike tires are optimized for high wear and tear, this allows for easier acceleration and braking.
- A combination of desirable features (such as PSI range, groove pattern, and tread thickness) improve comfort levels and increase motor lifespan (even if it is located in the rear hub).
The Potential Disadvantages of Electric Bike Tires
The only disadvantage of electric bike tires is that they are a bit expensive and some of the added features may not be useful for everyday use. For example, if an upgrade specifically designed for off-roading will be of little value on the tarmac. However, a race-oriented model will provide high durability and safety at higher speeds for normal usage.
In other words, some electric bike tires are loaded with so many features that it is ‘overkill’ for normal scenarios.
The Correlation of Terrain and Tire Pressure
Road cycling (normal use scenarios) requires the highest tire pressure. If you’re trekking and off-roading, or doing something similar, then you’ll need a lower tire pressure.
Mountain bikes have even less tire pressure. This is because a rougher terrain can increase the chances of causing a puncture, especially at higher pressures. Off-roading requires specialized tires that can handle the loose sand or loam, and often come with low pressure. If the tire pressure is too low, it can cause punctures in rougher terrain, so don’t go too low!
Getting the Correct Tire Pressure
So how can you tell what tire pressure is needed for your electric bike? The exact number depends on your scenario, but here’s a rough guide:
Most tires have a maximum and minimum pressure indicated on the side. This should be used as a guideline, but do not under any case exceed the maximum. If the maximum number is not indicated on your tire, visit the manufacturer’s website for answers. The maximum pressure ultimately depends on your weight. You can make adjustments depending on your specific scenario.
It is recommended to use a pressure gauge when inflating your tires.
Take your ebike out for a ride. Also, bring along your pump and pressure gauge. If you are noticing lots of vibrations on the road, take off 5 psi of pressure and try again.
Similarly, if you are off-roading and notice your tires are bouncing off the terrain too much, you should take off 5 psi.
On the other hand, if the rim hits too many objects as you cycle over them, you have very little pressure in your tires and should add 5 psi.
Don’t be afraid to try different pressures. Use a GPS tracker to see how different tire pressures affect performance. Try riding a short section of the road several times. Start off with low pressure and increase it by 5 psi until the tire starts to bounce against objects.
Where did the tire feel best? What pressures gave you the best traction when cornering? Does this performance change in response to different terrains?
Popular Ebike Tires for Beginners
There are many brands and types of electric bike tires that you can use. However, the sheer variety of choices can be overwhelming for a beginner. This is why we have narrowed down our pick of the best electric bike tires. The most popular brands are usually Maxxis and Schwalbe. The latter is considered to be more popular, but both brands are doing fairly well with ebike users.
In general, Maxxis tires are about 20-30 percent cheaper than Schwalbe tires.
Let’s get down to brass tacks.
i) Maxxis Hookworm
The Hookworm by Maxxis is a good all-rounder when it comes to terrains and can be used on both flat terrain and off-roading. It comes with flat treading and rubbers that grip to the surface. They are rated for 110 PSI, allowing you to pump them really high for improved range and speed. All these features don’t sound too bad for under $40.
Click here to check prices on Amazon.
ii) Maxxis Holy Roller
Designed for off-road use, this unusual looking tire features unconventional tread patterns that work really well both on the tarmac and for off-road riding. It’s inverted knob design makes it perfect for professionals who want to win races. You can buy it in both 26 by 2.2 and 26 by 2.4 variants, depending on your preferences.
Do keep in mind that the Holy Roller has its limitations and might not be aggressive enough for usage on the dirt and mud all day. However, if you do some off-roading every once in a while, the tires can handle rougher conditions and also perform nicely on the tarmac.
This is a good enough tradeoff for most riders. Plus it is really affordable for under $40 and won’t break the bank.
Click here to check prices.
iii) Maxxis High Roller
If your electric bike is dedicated for off-road usage, then you’ll need something with a bit more oomph to it. The High Roller by Maxxis definitely lets you do this. It features aggressive treading that can grip just about everything. From street racing to off-roading and everything in between, the High Rollers are designed for rough terrain.
However, they are slightly more expensive, making them suitable for off-road enthusiasts. You can buy them for under $50 a piece on Amazon, depending on the vendor.
Click here to check prices on Amazon.
iv) Schwalbe Big Apple
Schwalbe makes high-end tires for all kinds of terrains. One popular entry that is gaining steam among the enthusiast community is the Big Apple by Schwalbe. These tires are massive and allow for great speeds.
The rubber on the tires is very versatile and can last you a long time, which is perfect for electric bikes since they easily rack a lot more miles than conventional bikes.
The unique tread design on the Big Apple affords them efficiency and high speeds while the dual nylon protection provides resistance against puncture. All in all, this tire ticks all the right markers. It is worth pointing out that they are very affordable as far as these tires are considered.
Click here to check prices on Amazon.
v) Schwalbe Marathon Plus
These tires are faster, more efficient, and boast the kind of quality that you won’t find elsewhere. They are slightly narrower at 26 by 1.75, which reduces the levels of comfort, but the increase in range and speed is worth the tradeoff.
Depending on your current electric bike setup, you could again another 1 to 2 mph just by making a switch to these tires.
The tires also feature a powerful protective strip that runs along the center of the tire, which is where you’re most likely to get punctures. If you are willing to throw down the big bucks for these tires, then you won’t regret your decision.
Click here to check prices on Amazon.
You may like the following e-bike articles:
- Best Storage Tips for Electric Bikes: Where to Store Your Electric Bike?
- Top 6 Reasons Why Electric Bikes are so Expensive
- All You Need to Know About Electric Bike Batteries
- Best Electric Trikes for Seniors
- Best 3-Wheel Electric Bikes
- Electric Bike VS Electric Scooter – Which Is Better?
- How to Change the Tire on an Electric Bike
- How to charge electric bikes in remote areas
- Everything You Need to Know About Fat Tire Electric Bike Kits
- How Much Cargo Can an eBike Carry
So what is the main difference between ebike tires and standard bike tires? It all comes down to performance. Ebike tires are designed for rougher use, can support more weight, and allow for top speeds in excess of 50 mph and even more. A standard bike tire can do much of the same – but it will eventually go bust after enough use. Let us know your thoughts on whether it is better to choose specially developed ebike tires or if a standard bike tire will do just fine.
I am Michael, an avid rider and bike expert. I am here to provide, biking tips and expert advice on in-depth bike reviews covering features, capabilities, price range, and much more. Specially on electric bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, etc. I will provide honest product reviews, along with expert advice on purchasing, training, and maintenance. Check out my complete profile.