Are electric bike tires different from other bike tires?
Not really; there aren’t exactly tires that are only usable by electric bikes, since you have the same basic design as a manual bike. However, there are some tires that are better than others for ebike use.
We’re going to take a look at the best electric bike tires, why certain treads can actually impact your battery life, and everything in between. By the end of this, you’ll be a pro at picking out the right tires, and knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each type.
Do eBikes Use Specialized Tires?
They don’t require specialized tires, but manufacturers are taking note of the growing trend of electric bikes being sold across the globe.
There are specialized tires, they’re just not as necessary as you might think at first. If you obsess over the fine details (like we do), there are some benefits to specialized tires you may be interested in.
However, it’s important to note right now before we get into those details, that standard bike tires will work for ebikes that fall within federal manufacturing guidelines (not going over a certain speed) without worrying about punctures or excessive wear and tear.
Reasons for Dedicated eBike Tires
Specialized, dedicated ebike tires exist, and they’re actually pretty useful. If you’re serious about a fully optimized electric bike, these will be useful to you, but for the average rider your standard bike tires will suffice.
This is what you need to know about specialized ebike tires.
Threads Per Inch (TPI): You’ll see this term thrown around a lot when you’re shopping for ebike tires. This term specifically relates to the sidewalls of your ebike tires, meaning you’re not going to see much of a difference in any other area. High TPI tires are designed to have rougher sidewalls to account for the increased stress on a bicycle with the hub motor attached, and may extend the total life of your tires before needing to replace them, or enduring a blown tire. These tires are not necessary, but the high TPI design does act like an insurance policy against wear and tear.
Puncture Resistance: Some ebike tires may have a combination of high TPI sidewalls and increased puncture resistance throughout the remaining areas of the tire. This comes with positives and negatives. This may mean that it’s harder to manually operate your bicycle, so for pedal assist electric bikes, this could be a little harder to operate compared to your current tires. However, their benefits could be paramount to your tire’s longevity if you commonly travel in suburban areas with sharp curbs and road debris to worry about.
Speed Certified: There is a hefty shroud of gimmick behind this one, because speed ratings and having tires “certified” for high speed don’t really mean much. Tires need to be optimized and lightweight help with higher speeds, but some manufacturers go to such great lengths to make their ebike tires sound like they’re the missing component to your electric bike, and you’ll be zooming faster than ever before. The right tires are all part of a formula for sure, just don’t let the marketing material sweep you off your feet.
The idea behind ebike tires is increased resistance to match the increased power of the motor, and being designed for high speeds depending on the terrain they’re designed for. If you can aim for lightweight and durable at the same time, you’re sitting pretty.
All Tire Tread Types (And Why They’re Important)
There are six main tire types, which will be most notably different based on their treads, that you should know about before you make a final decision on the ebike tires for your personal needs. They are as follows:
Commuter: Somewhere between standard bike tires and road tires, commuter tires are designed to handle the rough and rugged terrain of the concrete jungle. These tires are typically marketed to those who use manual bicycles to maneuver around a cityscape environment, but work wonderfully with electric bikes as well.
Road Tires: Road bike tires are pretty straightforward. They have minimal treads, so you’re not going to get a lot of traction, but the thinner material brings a lower weight threshold benefit, as well as a smoother ride. Because less treads are dragging across the ground, it moves with better momentum. This is only good on paved terrain, otherwise your tires may slip and not have enough traction on rougher surfaces, which would ironically reduce your efficiency.
Downhill: Downhill tires are used specifically for gaining better traction while increasing velocity downhill. These are fairly large and heavy tires with minimal air inside. They operate by a bit of input and a lot of gravity, so they may actually make it harder to go uphill unless you’re a hardcore mountain biker.
BMX: These tires aren’t bad for electric bikes, but they’re specifically designed to have tons of traction for BMX sports cycling. BMX bikes can perform tricks and have excellent grip on rails, curbs, and cement, so you’ll notice the treads tend to run on the sidewalls as well. Not bad for ebike cycling since they’re not too bulky; they’re a mix in between road tires and cyclocross tires.
Cyclocross: Cyclocross tires, often referred to simply as cross tires, have specific wheels that they go on. That is to say, you can’t just put them on a standard street bike and call it a day: they simply won’t fit the same. These are niche tires that we don’t expect to see on electric bikes in any capacity.
XC: These tire types are not designed for commuting or leisure, but rather for sport. XC tires can clear mud and help you climb steep areas without slipping, so you can imagine why they wouldn’t be ideal for battery efficiency. There are plenty of electric mountain bikes in use that help with steep climbs on rough terrain, however, these tires are very niche.
Consider where you’re going to be using your electric bike, whether it’s a commuter vehicle or a leisurely stroll kind of bike. If you’re heading to the mountains, you have a lot more to plan (such as having dual motors and perhaps going for those niche XC tires).
Plan accordingly, and understand there is no one-size-fits-all solution for your tires.
Can I Just Use Regular Tires?
Yes, you absolutely can; there’s nothing stopping you from using standard bike tires. In many instances, ebike users are buying cheap conversion kits for their manual powered bicycles, and making do with what they have.
The frame and tires may not be optimized, but it’s still better than being pedal power all the way!
Standard tires will most likely have BMX, road, or commuter style tires, so depending on the terrain you’re trying to match, you might not be too bad off right from the start. There’s nothing wrong with using regular tires or whatever you’re able to get your hands on, it just isn’t the way to make optimized, ideal circumstances for your ebike.
Also keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with not seeking the highest optimization level with your electric bike.
Some of us (our team included) obsess over the small details such as reducing frame weight, picking the best spoke size, and ideal tires to match our planned routes; it’s all optional, just as long as you’re getting from A to B with your electric bike, you’re doing it right.
Are Bigger Wheels Better?
For your battery retention, yes larger wheels are better. It may take a little more push to get them going, but once you do, their acceleration picks up and momentum lasts for longer. In the long run, larger wheels will help with battery life in electric bikes.
However, it also depends on what type of bike you have. Larger tires in mountain bikes mean it will be slightly harder to pull up steep inclines, but in commuter bikes it means higher speeds in bike lanes and appropriate roadways once you get it moving.
If you have the option, get a bike with larger wheels before you decide to use a conversion kit.
Ruling the Road With the Right Equipment
If you want to hit the maximum distance on a single battery charge, make manual operation easier, and just put less stress (and total carry weight) on your ebike, well, you’re on your way!
While there are tons of factors that are included in ebike speed and battery capacity, tires are essential in ensuring the conditions are right to get the most out of your electric components. It also helps with a smooth, enjoyable ride, and what could be better than efficiency and enjoyment?
If you’re looking for more information on electric bikes, check out our other guides on explaining electric bike frame, solar power, and more.
Noel Joseph has been in the world of motor vehicles for a long period. Currently, he is enthusiastic about Electric & Hybrid Motors and is an independent researcher. He advocates for a clean and sustainable future and envisions utilizing his years of experience in mechanical engineering. His new venture here at CompactPower.com is to organize and simplify knowledge on Electric vehicles. He wants to build a space where people can talk about EVs and associated technologies with freedom.