As you come tearing around the scariest corner on your favorite bike trail, you feel that dreaded twitch as the last remaining tread on your tire desperately searches the ground for grip. Arriving home, you realize it’s time for a new tire, or you risk having fewer teeth than your tire. You don’t need two, so must you buy a pair?
Are Bike Tires Sold In Pairs? Bicycle tires are usually not sold in pairs. Firstly, the two tires on your bike do not wear out at the same rate, and you will likely need to replace the rear tire first. Secondly, many mountain bikes have different types of tires on the front and rear.
So you shouldn’t be worried about being forced to buy a pair of tires to replace the one. However, before you spend all your money, firstly, make sure you actually need to replace your tire and, secondly, make sure you understand which tire you need.
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Why Are Bicycle Tires Sold Separately?
I have yet to see car tires sold in sets of four. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, only that it is extremely rare if it does. Imagine cutting the sidewall of your 4×4 truck tire and then needing to buy four new ones.
It would be almost more painful with bikes, depending on how much and where you ride. Punchers, “snake bites,” and cut-up sidewalls are just some of the things that abruptly end a mountain bike tire long before its maturity.
Just the thought of having to buy a new pair each time gives my wallet a cramp. I probably wouldn’t even ride my bike anymore for fear of hurting a tire.
For roadie riders like my brother, sidewall cuts aren’t as significant a concern. However, the difference in tire wear between the front and rear is a very real experience for him as well. Perhaps even more so on the tarmac than for me on the dirt.
Generally, your rear tire will wear out a lot quicker than your front. You may even find yourself needing two back tire replacements for each front one. As a result, you quickly learn to appreciate that you can buy them one at a time.
The last reason tires are sold separately is that, at least in the mountain bike world, tires are mixed and matched between the front and rear to give the rider the best performance to match their riding style and terrain. In fact, most manufacturers make a few front- or rear-specific tires. The Maxxis Agressor is a famous example of a tire made specifically for the rear wheel.
Do You Need To Replace Your Tires?
I recently had to replace my tires. I didn’t want to, mind you, but after I changed out the sealant in my tires and watched the new sealant seep through the entire surface of the tire tread, I decided it was time. So here are a few sure signs that you may also need new tires.
1. The Tire Tread Is Worn
Your tire’s grip comes from two primary contributors. Firstly, the rubber compound used to manufacture the tire will play a role in how “sticky” or grippy your tire is. However, the most important contributor is the tread. The rubber compound can only aid your tread to grip better, but if you don’t have tread left, it will not help much at all.
Worn tread usually is pretty easy to spot as tread lugs will be less prominent, and the tire will appear smoother. The tread pattern is harder to spot on a road tire clearly, but when worn down, the tire will start looking (more) slick.
Worn tread is a bad idea for road and mountain bikes and can even lead to a nasty fall. If your tread is worn down, it’s best to replace the tire.
2. Flat Spotting And Exposed Casing
OK, so this tip is mainly for the roadies. Although it may be challenging to spot worn tread on a road tire, flat spots and exposed casing are not.
Unlike the name suggests, a flat spot is actually a flat line in the middle of the tire, around its circumference. It happens when you spend a lot of time riding long straight roads or many hours on an indoor trainer. The result is that the middle of the tire wears flat.
Flat spots can lead to very unpredictable cornering, especially at higher speeds, and, if ignored, will eventually lead to exposed cases. At some point, the outer layer of the tire will wear away completely, leaving you with the inner casing visible. If this exposed casing is what you see on your tire, it’s finished. Really. Please replace it.
3. The Tire Is Cracked And Always Flat
You may need to change your tire even if there is still some life on the tread, especially if you constantly get flats. These flat tires may be a result of failed or failing tire integrity.
Upon closer inspection, you may very well see that your tire is cracking. On mountain bike tires, you can check for cracks at the base of the tread lugs. However, for both road and mountain tires, the first point of cracking is usually the sidewall.
As your tire becomes old and worn, it is easier to get flats from punctures and cuts. You will also get more ‘burps’ as your tire flexes off the rim, releasing all the air. Constant flats are excellent indicators of worn tires on a road bike.
4. The Tire Is Weird And Warped
The tire I had to replace wasn’t just leaking sealant through its cracked pores. It was also trying to become a belly dancer.
There was such a weird warp on my tire that I took my wheel to a mechanic to try it. He returned my wheel untouched, telling me it was perfectly true, but my tire was not.
If your tire has formed strange bubbles and warps, it is defiantly time to replace it.
5. The Tire Is Wrong For You
Another reason to potentially swop out your tire is that it just isn’t working for you. Sometimes it happens that you struggle to ride with a specific model of tire, even if it is in perfect condition. It just means that you should consider a different style of tire.
If you ride aggressive downhill tracks on loose gravel, a cross-country tire isn’t going to give you a lot of joy or confidence. Likewise, for road riders, if you ride primarily in dry conditions, a wet weather tire will probably hold you back
I would suggest that you ask for advice, and do some research. Get the tire that works for you and it will improve your ride immensely.
Can You Mix And Match Tires?
After consulting my roadie brother, I was informed that mixing-and-matching road tires is uncommon, especially for amateur hobby riders.
However, for us in the mountain bike world, it is pretty much standard practice at this point, and it’s another benefit of being able to buy tires in singles. Recent iterations of this trend have gone so far as to mix and match wheel sizes.
Although you can use just about any combination of tires, there are some tried and tested combinations that seem to dominate. There is basically one golden role to mixing tires: the more aggressive tire goes in front.
You want your rear tire to roll better, to make peddling easier and more efficient, and you want your front to grip and bite down into those crazy corners. To achieve this, you put a smoother or less aggressive tire in the rear and a heavy-duty tire up in front.
Here is a comprehensive video on tire combinations:
What Do New Tires Cost?
Bike tires can be expensive, but because it is your only contact with mother earth as you ride, it is best, not cheap out on them. Instead, get the best tire that you can afford and do extensive research before making a purchase decision.
For mountain bike tires, you can expect to pay between $30 – $99. That’s correct; you can expect to pay the same price as a small car tire for your bike. It’s a good thing they aren’t sold in pairs, hey.
It can vary a bit more for road tires, but a budget of $50 to $60 will get you equipped with a good tire.
Can You Buy Tires In Pairs?
On many occasions, I have seen in-store specials on pairs of bike tires on the websites of some of the larger bike shops. I have even seen some pretty good specials on popular tire combinations.
My point is, although it is not the standard practice of selling tires in pairs, you should still keep an eye out online or at your local shop because you may find a good combo deal that saves you a dollar or two—provided that you need to buy two, of course.
Are Bike Tires Sold In Pairs Conclusion
Bike tires are not sold in pairs as a standard practice. However, because tires wear at different rates, it makes sense to sell them one at a time. Many mountain bike riders also prefer to mix and match tires for the front and rear of their bikes.
There are, however, certain times when your local bike shop may have a special on a pair or combination pair of tires. If you do need to replace both of your tires or are busy building a new bike, this could be an excellent option to save a bit of money. Happy riding!