Miles to Ride Before I Re-tire

This Nashbar tire is starting to bulge, a sure sign of impending failure. Check your tires regularly.


As I last reported, my rear tire failed on a fast descent. It had about 2,500 miles, 3 percent of those miles on dirt. The brand is Bontrager, All Weather Hard Case 700×28, wire bead, rated at 100 psi and retailing for about $44.

I have ridden the Bontrager Select 700×28 and like it better than the All Weather, which doesn’t seem to have anything going for it in terms of riding in different weather or flat protection, other than the name.

I was hoping for 3,000 miles, but from what I’ve been reading, 2,500 miles is about right for tire life. I have read numerous accounts or riders claiming 5,000 miles, but I’ve never had a tire last that long in my 30-plus years of riding. I’ve had plenty of tires make it to 3,000+ miles.

This leads to a word of advice. Always check your tires for bulges (something I failed to do), especially at the bead. There’s nothing worse than a front blowout. Jobst Brandt, author of The Bicycle Wheel, had one of those around 2007 descending the back side of Mt. Hamilton at 40 mph.

The crash left him with a bloody head, scrapes and bruises. He did not finish the ride. The tire was a Continental Ultra 2000, one of the less expensive models minus the reinforced protective sheath around the wire bead.

I checked my Nashbar Prima 2 front tire, which had the same number of miles, and sure enough it had a bulge. It’s 700×25, rated at 100 psi and retails for about $15.

So this begs the question: Is a $44 tire better than a $16 tire? I ran the economy tire on the front, so it’s hard to say how long it would last on the rear. Remember, a $60 tire cuts just as easily on a shard of glass as a $15 tire.

My big issue with tires is the lack of models in 700×28. Note that 28 mm is a nominal diameter. The Bontrager measured 27 mm. The Nashbar tire was a true 25 mm.

New Tires to Test
My new tires are the pricey Continental Grandprix 4 season 700×28, rear, and the Michelin Optimum Pro 700×25 in the front. Oddly enough, both tires measure 26 mm actual diameter.

I’ve never tried Michelin tires but I’ve used Continental ever since Avocet shut down. I liked the Avocet tires for their traction, low rolling resistance and durability. They were made by IRC, which still makes bike tires. However, their 700×28 is a low-end model.

The late Sheldon Brown has excellent information about tires on his website.

I’ll let you know how my new tires hold up.

7 Responses to “Miles to Ride Before I Re-tire”

  1. Murali Says:

    And please make sure to report how easy/hard they are to mount. There is no way to get this information from tire specs. The last thing I want is a tire that makes me feel like my thumbs will break off getting them on the rim.

  2. Robert Borchert Says:

    I agree with your rule-of-thumb, 2500 mi (4000 km) is a decent service life for a bicycle tire. Ironically, I’ve seen an inversion in price vs wear life, a $90 Vittoria Pro CX is done in a fraction of that distance.

    Speaking of Bontrager, I was surprised by their T2 tire, running one on the rear for a good 6500 km. The Schwalbe Lugano is my favorite tire in terms of price / grip / service life. I would never have thought a $15 tire would perform for as long as they do. The front has over 9000 km, and will have to be replaced not for tread wear but glass cuts!

  3. Jeff J. Says:

    You guys must be light in weight. For me, at 185 lbs., I am lucky to ever get 2k on the rear-if that. Conti has a fairly new tire called the Hardshell-available in all sizes. It’s like the Gatorskin-with added rubber and flat protection. i’m getting good feedback on that, so far. Bontrager Hardcase has done well for me, anyway. Everyone has their favorite and who can argue with success?

  4. Roger Marquis Says:

    One thing you have to account for when using larger tires, whether Bontrager, Challenge or Continential, is that the max rated pressure is often well over the tire’s capacity.

    I do not know why this is but it has been my experience that you don’t want to go over 95psi on any of these 27/28mm tires (or the Challenge Parigi Roubaix’ tubulars that I ride daily). Ripped casings exactly like the one shown in this photo are a likely (though not certain) indicator of too many atmospheres.

  5. Ray Hosler Says:

    Roger – I noticed the pricier tires are rated at 109 or thereabouts, not 100. I’ve always inflated to about 100 although with time that number drops, fairly quickly in the summer. Riding on dirt roads doesn’t help either.

  6. jay Says:

    Ray,

    Might be time for an update on this. I was aware that tire widths as stated by manufacturers tend to be overstated from actual caliper measurements. This matters to me as the clearance of my rear mounted 28m Gatorskin (installed on a HED C2 rim) is very, very tight on my Cervelo RS–so tight that I have carefully checked the frame to make sure there is no rubbing during maintenance. I think Cervelo designed the bike for 25m and a “true” 28m might just result in frame contact.

    An aside, I’m 205 lbs. and the Gatorskin has over 2,200 miles on it and it’s wearing beautifully–no cuts, gouging or bulges and I expect to get a minimum of 3,000 miles on it, which is very good for me.

    IMO however tires are like wines, there can be a lot of variances for the same named tire from year to year. I guess this may be due to subtle differences in the materials or how the tire was cured which might affect its wear and longevity–so I can’t assume that the I’ll same luck with the next Gatorskin.

    Fully agree with Roger that with wider tires (and rims such as the HED C2 [which is 22 m]) that it’s important not to over inflate; I discovered during an inspection that I had a couple of tensionless spokes on the drive side of my wheel after about 1,800 miles of 100 psi riding. I did some research and found out the overinflation was almost certainly responsible for this situation. I’ve since dialed it back to 85 psi and I’m certainly no slower and the ride is possibly better than before. It’s just hard to get used to because really high tire pressure was almost always equated in rider’s minds with high performance–it just turned out to be something that wasn’t true.

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