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Bicycle Tires

Choosing the correct tires for your bike is extremely important. Tires are the only part of the bicycle that make contact with the surface in which you are rolling on, whether it be pavement or a dirt trail. Therefore, you must choose a tire that best caters to the terrain you ride. Jenson USA offers tires by many different manufactures in a variety of sizes. Browse through our wide selection of tires from Continental, Kenda, Maxxis, Michelin, WTB, Schwalbe, and many more. Whether you are a serious road cyclist looking for a long lasting tire that is puncture resistant or a thrill-seeking mountain biker looking for a grippy fast rolling tire, we have you covered.

How to choose the right tire

Bicycle tires serve as a vital source of suspension, balance and cornering, and generate the longitudinal forces necessary for momentum and stopping. Today bicycle tires can be categorized by three main criteria:

  • 1. Tread: slick or knobby
  • 2. Type: clincher, tubeless, or tubular
  • 3. Size

Tread

When choosing the correct tire, the best place to start is knowing what kind of bike you ride, and what sorts of terrain you intend to ride on. The first questions to ask yourself are: “What kind of bike do I ride?” Do I ride on pavement? Do I ride on dirt trails? Etc. Knowing what you ride, where you ride, and how you ride, is key to determining the type of tread.

Tread is the contoured surface of a tire which is essential to tire traction. Off-road tires feature knobs or bumps of assorted shapes and sizes (as seen in Fig. 1), designed to dig into soft surfaces for enhanced traction. Knobs further improve traction by being able to latch onto protrusions of firm, uneven surfaces, to prevent the tires from slipping. Tires designed for riding on pavement have little to no tread (as seen in Fig. 2). The reason for this is due to the fact that road tires are so flexible, that they deform as they touch the pavement, acquiring the shape of the surface texture, which provides sufficient traction.

Types: Clincher, Tubeless, and Tubular

Once you know the type of tread you are in need of, the next step is knowing whether or not you are seeking a tire with a bead, and if your rims require an inner tube in order to hold air. These days it’s common for tires to be broken down into 3 categories: clincher, tubeless, and tubular.

Clincher tires make up the majority of all bicycle tires and serve as the standard. This is due to their simple installation process and the fact that clincher tire require minimal regular maintenance. Clincher tires consist of two hoops called “beads”, usually made of steel or Kevlar cable, that are laced together by nylon. The whole assembly is then dipped in rubber, with thicker rubber applied to the tread area. A separate inner tube (much like a donut shaped rubber balloon) is placed inside the tire. Fig. 3 shows a folded up inner tube, which is how they usually come packaged when purchased. The tire is then mounted on the rim by lifting the beads over the edge of the rim. Clincher tires are found in all disciplines of cycling, from road to mountain, to cyclocross to fat bikes.

On the contrary to clincher tires, Tubeless tires do not use an inner tube, but feature continuous ribs formed integrally into the bead of the tire, so that they are forced by the air pressure to seal with flanges of the metal rim of the wheel. The valve stem is attached to the rim, allowing air to be pumped directly into the tire. Liquid tire sealant such as Stan’s No Tubes Tire Sealant, are often added to prevent deflation in the occurrence of a small puncture. Many tires come UST (Universal System Tubeless) Certified, meaning they are compatible with UST rims (rims with hooked edges designed to seal with UST compatible tires). Brands such as Michelin, Hutchinson and WTB, offer UST compatible tires. In order for a rim to be attuned with a tubeless tire, it must have the ability to be sealed at the valve stem, spoke holes and tire bead seat. Tubeless tire systems are a fairly new concept, in which is mainly used in mountain biking. While road tubeless exists, it’s still an uncommon concept that’s trying to break out of its cage.

Tubular tires are different from both clincher and tubeless tires, by the fact that they don’t have beads, but instead the two edges of the carcass are sewn together with an inner tube inside. The sewn tire is then glued to a unique rim, designed for tubular tires only. While tubular tires are used on both road and mountain bikes, they are primarily used for road racing. The absence of beads and rim walls allow tubular tire systems to be lighter than conventional clincher or tubeless set ups, making tubular systems popular among hard core road racers. Check out our Tubular offerings from names like Mavic and Schwalbe.

Tire Sizes

Figuring out your tire size can cause the same kind of headache that only complicated algebraic equations cause. As various countries began to manufacture bicycle parts, different systems of number markings were being implemented among these countries. This created situations where the same size tire could be labeled with two different numbers depending on the country, and different size tires were being marked with the same numbers. To eradicate this problem, the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) developed a universal tire sizing system to clear up the confusion. The ISO uses the width of the tire (in millimeters), and the diameter of the bead seat (B.S.D.) of the rim (in millimeters). The chart below is based on Sheldon Brown’s “Tire Sizing Systems” shows the I.S.O. conversion of today’s common tire sizes.

ISO Tire Size Conversions

SIZE CHART
ISO Fraction Decimal French Usage
622 mm 29" 29" 700C Road Bikes, hybrids, 29er Mountain Bikes
584 mm 27.5" 27.5" 650B Popular wheel size among newer mountain bikes. This size is also making a resurgence among touring bikes.
630 mm 27" x anything N/A N/A Old Road Bikes
571 mm 26 x 1, 1 1/8 N/A 650C Triathlon, time trial, high performance road wheels for small riders
559 mm N/A 26 x 1.00 - 2.3 N/A Most mountain bikes up until the last 5 years. This size is quickly being replaced by 29" and 27.5" wheels. Fat Bike tires currently use this diameter with a 3+" width
590 mm 26 x 1 3/8 (E.A.3) N/A 650A English 3-sPEEDS. Department-store or youth 10 speeds
507 mm N/A 24 x 1.5-24 x 2.125 N/A Youth mountain bikes
40 6mm N/A 20 x 1.5-20 x 2.125 N/A Most BMX, trailers, recumbents
203 mm 12 1/2 x anything N/A N/A Childrens bikes and scooters

When it comes to tire width, technically any tire/rim combo that has the same bead seat diameter can be used. However, this is not recommended, as using a narrow tire on a wide rim can result in pinch flats and rim damage, and a wide tire on a narrow rim can also result in rim malfunction and poor handling. When shopping for tires, take your interior rim width into consideration and check manufactures tire width/rim width combination recommendations.

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