When it comes to tires, besides quality manufacturing, I look for ease of mounting: that means using hands only.
Yesterday I put two new tires on identical rims and found that one went on easily — Bontrager — and one was a bear to force on by hand — Nashbar. I’m not surprised.
I find myself pinching tubes when I use a tire iron, so I look for tires that go on easily, which they should. Air pressure keeps a tire on the rim, not how tightly it fits.
Now there is a certain skill to making a tire just the right diameter and you can be sure the people who really care about this make sure they get it right. Bontrager gets it.
Everybody screws up, including Continental, an otherwise great tire maker. I’ll never forget a cheap Continental I bought about five years ago, made in Thailand. It was the hardest tire to put on I’ve ever come across. I cursed that tire up and down every time I flatted!
The Nashbar is an economy model. I don’t need something fancy. I just wish tire companies would take the time to test-mount tires before selling them.
Before I get off my saddle sore, there’s one other item about tires that bears inspection. The bike industry would be doing consumers a big favor by making tires at actual widths, not nominal widths. If a tire sidewall says 700 x 28, make sure it has a 28-mm cross-section, not 25 mm.
Follow up: I have been told, and can now confirm through personal experience, that the rim plays a role in tire fit. The Nashbar tire fits easily onto a Mavic Open Pro 700c rim. I suspect this is because the rim is deeper than the Mavic MA2. I still contend that tire/rim combinations should be tested and rated for fit so the consumer can know what fits best. It’s not an impossible task.