Tire choice makes a big impact on how your electric bicycle handles and rides. Speed, range, suspension and maneuverability are all highly effected by different types of bicycle tires.
Choosing the right tire is even more important on an electric bicycle because ebikes spend a lot more time riding at higher speeds than a standard bicycle.
Match your terrain
When choosing the right tire for your electric bicycle, the first thing you’ll want to consider is the type of terrain you’ll be riding on, specifically if it’s on-road or off-road.
Most people ride their ebikes on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete. This type of riding requires a smoother tread meant for those hard, flat surfaces. Commuter style tires are best for this type of riding.
Commuter tires have flat, smooth tread patterns with just enough all-weather tread to allow for safe riding in wet conditions. As opposed to commuter tires, super skinny road tires can often be entirely slick and aren’t great for wet conditions due to their higher potential for slipping. Instead, look for a nice commuter tire with a balance between slick tread and grooves for water dispersion.
On the other hand, anyone who does the majority of their riding off-road on surfaces like dirt, sand and grass will want a knobby tire with an aggressive tread for grabbing the earth and achieving maximum traction in less forgiving environments.
BMX tires generally have a light tread pattern which can be good for packed dirt. However, if you do serious trail riding you’ll want something closer to a downhill tire for extreme grip.
The next consideration is tire size. Your tires are measured in two ways. A standard 26 x 1.95 tire is approximately 26″ in diameter and has a width of approximately 1.95″. Generally speaking, a wider tire will give you more cushion and act like additional suspension for your bike. A 26 x 2.5 tire will feel a lot nicer than the 26 x 1.95 tire when you hit bumps or pot holes.
The downside to wider tires is that they can reduce your speed and range. That’s why road tires are so narrow. The narrower the tire and smaller the contact patch, the faster and more efficient the tire will be.
Even with wide tires though you can still increase your range by keeping your tire pressure higher. This reduces the contact patch and increases your efficiency. If your pressure is too high though it can actually have a detrimental effect on your ride, causing bumps to feel more jarring.
On my personal ebikes I usually like to go with as wide a tire as possible, usually up to about 2.5 inches, and keep the pressure pretty high. Any wider than 2.5 inches and you are officially in the balloon tire realm. “Fat bikes” often use balloon tires which give better traction and ride, but cut down on efficiency. Everything is a trade-off!
Popular electric bicycle tires
I’ve tried a number of brands and types of tires over the years and have narrowed down my choices to a few of my favorites. At this point I really only buy tires for my electric bicycles from two brands, Schwalbe and Maxxis. Of the two, Schwalbe tires are considered to be higher quality, but I’ve been very pleased with all my Maxxis tires and they are usually 20-30% cheaper than most Schwalbe tires as well.
My favorite all around tire is the Maxxis Hookworm. It’s a nice big 26 x 2.5 tire (or the smaller 20 x 1.95 which is still great). These tires are perfect for street use with their flat tread and grippy rubber. They’re also rated up to 110 PSI so you can really pump them up high for improved speed and range. Not bad for an under $40 tire.
If you want to stick with Maxxis but need a tire more suited for off-roading, check out the Holy Roller. This is a funny looking tread that actually works great as both a street tire and an off road tire. You can get it in both a 26 x 2.2 and 26 x 2.4 depending on just how big you want to go.
If your electric bike is a dedicated, offroad-only ebike then the Holly Roller might not be aggressive enough for you to dig into the dirt and mud all day. If you only do occasional off-roading though, this tire can handle some decently tough conditions while still performing well on the street, making it a great compromise. And for just $35 a tire it won’t break the bank either compared to dedicated off road tires.
If you want some dedicated off-road capable tires, the Maxxis High Roller will deliver. These tires feature a very aggressive tread that will grip anything you throw at it. From mud to gravel to sand, these High Rollers can power you up, over and through nearly any terrain.
They’ll work on the street too, but your ride experience will suffer almost as much as your range. Keep these tires on the dirt where they belong. You can pick them up on Amazon for $47 a piece.
Schwalbe also has some excellent offerings that make perfect electric bicycle tires. A very popular tire among ebike riders is the Schwalbe Big Apple. What I love about this tire is that it’s both big and fast. The rubber lasts a seriously long time which makes it perfect for ebike use since ebikes are often putting on a lot more miles than standard bikes.
The tread design on the Big Apple’s give them super speed and efficiency while the double nylon protection layer construction provides excellent puncture resistance. This is just an all around great tire. They’re also very affordable as far as Schwalbe tires go, coming in at around $42 on Amazon.
And now I’ve saved the best for last: Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. These are one of the fastest, most efficient and best quality tires you could put on your ebike. You’ll sacrifice a little bit of comfort due to the narrower 26 x 1.75 size, but the increase in speed and range will be well worth it.
Depending on your current ebike setup, you could gain another 1-2 mph just by switching to these tires. A buddy of mine swapped his knobby tires for these Marathon Plus tires and he gained over 4 mph to his top speed!
These tires also have an extra thick protective strip running down the center of the tire where you’re mostly likely to pick up punctures from road debris. If you can swing the $48 per tire for these bad boys, do it. You won’t regret it.
You can also pick up the next model down from the Marathon Plus, which is just the Schwalbe Marathon (no plus) and save about $10 per tire that way. The normal Marathons are also great tires, and I recommend them as well.
Electric bicycle tires: a personal choice
Choosing a tire is all about what you need most for your ebike. You’ll need to look at your own ebike needs and ask yourself a number of questions.
Are you looking to pick up speed and increase your range?
Do you want to tear it up on the dirt?
Are you looking for an economical tire, or are you willing to spend a couple extra bucks for higher quality tires that will last longer and better protect against flat tires?
The answers to these questions will lead you to the right tire for you. In the end though, the best tire is the one that gets you out on the road!