What kind of mileage should we get out of our tires? What should we expect? What is typical? What factors affect the mileage we get out of our tires? When should we replace our tires? Is it safe to ride on a worn out tire? I will attempt to address these questions and more in this article.
The short definitive answer is … “IT ALL DEPENDS”. I just knew you were not going to like that answer, but in all truthfulness it is the only answer one can give. Let’s look at some of the different things that it depends upon. I won’t go into great detail here, but I do want to touch on the majority of factors that come to mind. Here are factors that can and do affect tire wear:
* the tire itself and how it is constructed and the material (rubber compound) used. In short, not all tires are created equal.
* inflation pressure (especially too high or too low. It is important to maintain proper pressure in tires. Too low of pressure is most likely to occur and does the most damage in premature wear and failure.)
* type of surface being ridden on (smooth vs. rough, sharp stones, etc.)
* weight being carried on the tires (rider’s weight as well as any kind of cargo)
* whether or not the rider is aggressive (hard fast cornering for instance)
* wheel alignment (most especially toe in)(really severe tire scrubbing can occur and destroy a tire very quickly)
* temperature (especially surface temperature where the tire is running on)
* debris ran over which damages tire (glass cuts can greatly shorten the life of a tire)
* hitting harsh bumps or holes
* running into damaging things (especially with the sidewall of the tire)
I am sure there are other factors I have not thought of. I myself have gotten as little as 200 or so miles out of a brand new tire and as much as over 14,000 miles out of a tire. Obviously only getting a couple of hundred miles out of a tire is a bummer. And just as obvious, getting over 14,000 miles out of a tire is fabulous. The 200 or so miles was the result of sidewall damage when I hit something. The tire was a Schwalbe Tryker tire which has very weak sidewalls which damage very easily. If I were to have done the very same thing with the tires I use now I don’t think they would have been phased as they are amazingly tough. Like I said, not all tires are created equal.
Trikes, unlike bikes, don’t lean when turning. (Not unless you have a lean steering trike … which few of us do.) Because of this rubber is “scrubbed off” of the tires, especially the front tires, when riding. And this can be rather significant if the rider is a “hotdogger” (aggressive rider in fast cornering). Front tires on a tadpole trike will wear out faster than the rear tire.
Other damage can happen to a tire which shortens its life. Hitting a hard bump or hole can destroy the tire and cause a bulge or deformity to occur. Depending upon how badly the tire is damaged you might be able to ride on it for awhile longer, but I would definitely suggest keeping a close eye on it. Sometimes a tire can be “booted” to extend its life some. However, it is always best to replace a tire which had such damage. BTW, if you hit a bad hole or bump you should also check the rim and spokes for any sign of damage or loosening.
Cracking in the sidewalls of tires can occur either from riding with underinflation or aging or both. Cracking can also be caused by overinflation. With Schwalbe tires cracking of the sidewalls doesn’t seem to be nearly as common as tires of yesteryear most of us grew up with. I can’t speak for other brands as I don’t use any other brands and therefore have no experience or first hand knowledge concerning them.
As to answering the questions about when a tire should be replaced and if it is safe to ride on a worn out tire to some degree I would have to respond once again by saying “it all depends”. I do not advocate riding on a worn out tire. If you use tires that don’t have a protective liner built in I definitely would advise against riding on such a tire when it is worn out and the “insides” are starting to show thru. It could even be the inner tube starting to show thru and even if it is not yet it could quickly do so if a person continues to ride on such a tire. It is very dangerous as the tire could suddenly and catastrophically fail. That could result in a very serious accident at worse. At the least it could leave you stranded unless you happen to carry a spare tire and inner tube with you. Most of us don’t carry spare tires along when we ride (although many of us do carry one around our middle of our bodies).
In the picture at the start of this article you can see a worn out tire with the blue protective liner showing thru. Some tires have green liners. Some have reddish liners. Some have no protective liners at all.
If you use tires which have protective liners built into them then you are not in nearly as much danger when the tire shows wear and the liner is showing thru. Truthfully you could probably ride quite a few more miles on such a tire and be perfectly safe. Most definitely my advice is to replace the tire as soon as possible and by all means keep your eye on it if you continue to ride on it in such a condition. I myself have ridden a couple of hundred more miles or so on a tire which has started showing the protective liner … more than once. There was no problem at all in doing so, but I don’t advise doing so. If, however, the black rubber of the outside of the tire continues to quickly disappear and more and more of the protective liner shows thru it can eventually reach the point that it would be more and more of a concern to continue riding on it. The protective liner is not intended to be what contacts the riding surface.
Tires are constructed in various layers and are integrated together giving them their strength. With high psi air pressure inside of them trying to force its way out once a tire is worn like this it could conceivably fail. So don’t take advantage of the fact that the tires are well constructed. Replace them in a timely manner when you spot this sort of wear. There isn’t much left which is holding the tire together when it gets like this. It is dangerous to continue to ride on a tire that is worn this badly like pictured below.
Depending upon the tire the mileage obtainable out of it even in the best of circumstances will vary some as tires are made different from one another. Some have a soft rubber compound that just doesn’t wear as good as a tire with a harder compound. Of course, a softer compound will provide a smoother softer ride. There are trade offs in all of this. I could be wrong about this, but I think that a low pressure tire is not likely to provide as many miles as a high pressure tire all things being equal otherwise.
Schwalbe Tire Co. has a webpage with information of tire wear. In general Schwalbe states that their non Marathon tires should get 1242 to 3106 miles (2000 to 5000 km) while their Marathon family tires should get 3728 to 7456 (6000 to 12000 km). They state that the Marathon Plus tire should get “much more” than 6213 miles (10000 km).
The lowest I have ever got with Marathon Plus tires is around 7500 miles and as I have already been saying the best is 14,144 miles. That was on the rear. On the front the best I have got is 12,278 miles. I think I would have to attribute the phenomenal mileage to the fact that I have slowed up considerably the last 2 or 3 years due to my knee joints getting worse. In slowing up I am not experiencing as much tire scrubbing in hard fast cornering.
I have written several other articles about tires previously. Click HERE to read them.
I want to insert here that the prices for tires seem to be constantly changing. It pays to research and check prices as you can save a bundle of money. I always buy from the same source as I have never found any other source which offers anywhere near as good of prices. I recently bought 4 new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires from my German source and paid only $29.45 each which included the shipping charge. I think that is the best price I have bought them for yet. Of course, I buy 3 or 4 at a time in order for the price to be that good as I am paying the same shipping charge whether I buy one tire or 4 tires. So the more I can buy without going over the weight limit the lower the per tire cost is. (They list for about $53 each without shipping.) Again, I only use the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires so I have never ordered any other tires for this German source. I can’t say anything about what else they sell and how much they cost. I have always received excellent service from this German company. They usually have the order here in the U.S. within 2 to 3 days. Once it arrives here it is another story as it can get held up in customs and then once released the US Post office takes over the remainder of the delivery. That is far longer than it took the German company to get the shipment to the U.S. (They use DHL to get it here to the U.S.)
Please note … since I first wrote this I have switched to buying my tires from the United Kingdom as I found a lower price yet. (https://www.merlincycles.com/schwalbe-marathon-plus-smartguard-tyre-20-100854.html)
When one stops to think about it tires have come a long ways from those many of us grew up with. They are better engineered and made nowadays. Going from 2000 miles of maximum mileage to over 14,000 is quite a testimony. All those miles and flat free riding … can’t beat that. Thanks Schwalbe for manufacturing the very best tire money can buy and helping me to …
KEEP ON TRIKIN’
A FREE GIFT awaits you!