Bicycle tires are one of the easiest upgrades eBike riders can make. By correctly matching the tire to the bike, the rider, and the terrain, you can enjoy improved traction and handling, lower rolling resistance, and reduced chance of a puncture (flat tire.) On an eBike, you might even enjoy increased range - the distance you can ride on a single charge.
Let's examine some of the choices available in the tire market when it comes to tires designed specifically for eBikes.
Aftermarket vs. stock tires
If you've just purchased an eBike, don't run out to replace the tires just yet - the tires that came with your bike are fine for getting started.
However, as you begin to put some miles on your new bike, you'll understand more about its features and handling characteristics on various terrain. When the original tires on your eBike do wear out, you'll have a better idea about what you might choose in a replacement.
The shape and style of a tire should match the intended use - for example, tractor-style knobs on a mountain bike ridden in loose dirt, while mostly slick designs roll faster on paved surfaces.
The Continental Gran Prix tire shown in the header image accompanying this article, for example, is a narrow, high-pressure tire for road bikes ridden fast on pavement, and it's perfectly suited for that purpose. It's wrong for riding on dirt or gravel, though, because it lacks any knobs for grip. Similarly, you don't want a tire with big, heavy knobs for riding on pavement, because it will have a lot of rolling resistance and drag, slowing you down.
Your eBike likely came with a general-conditions tire intended to work for many riders on a variety of terrain. If you're "average", they might work great! But if your riding style and terrain isn't "average", you'll likely benefit by choosing a tire with a tread shape that's a better match for you.
Choose a replacement tire of the same, or similar size
When you replace a bicycle tire, you must consider both the diameter (26", 27.5", 29") as well as the tire width. The diameter must match exactly. Tires that don't match the rim diameter on your eBike will not interchange.
With tire width, however, the rider does have a little bit of leeway. For example, if your eBike uses a 27.5" x 2.2" tire (Kenda's Kwick Seven.5, for example, is found as the stock tire on many very popular eBike makes and models) you could typically substitute a 2.1" wide tire if desired. But you can't push it too far. If in doubt, check the rim and tire manufacturer for their recommendations about which widths work together.
You can't always go wider, though, because the side or top of the tire can contact the fork blades, or the chainstay or seatstay on your bicycle frame. Never ride a rim/tire combo that doesn't provide enough clearance for the tire to rotate without interference. Depending on the make/model of your eBike, you may find it has extra room for a wider tire - or not. If you don't ride in the wet, you can sometimes gain a bit more space by removing the fenders, if applicable.
eBike rated tires
There are some special considerations when choosing replacement tires for eBikes. If you're riding an eBike capable of 28 MPH speed (called "Class III" in the United States and "speed pedelec" in Europe) make sure to choose eBike-rated tires when it comes time to shop.
Tires rated for high speed eBikes feature a heavy-duty construction, specifically designed for riding and braking at higher speeds. Because tires for eBike overlap quite a bit with those for "analog" or "acoustic" bikes (i.e., non-eBikes) you'll find many tires that have the same diameter and width, but lack the eBike rating. Don't overlook this important criteria.
If you're riding a Class I or II eBike with a top speed of just 20 MPH, you might still elect to choose a 28 MPH eBike-rated tire as a replacement for an additional measure of safety and durability.
Puncture-resistant tires for eBikes
Some riders will never have a flat tire, while others can struggle with repeated punctures. If you frequently ride in an area with glass or thorns, you'll benefit from selecting a puncture-resistant tire.
Puncture resistant eBike tires use a belt or strip in the casing, hidden beneath the tread. This creates a physical barrier that can stop debris from puncturing your inner tube.
The downside of puncture-resistant tires is that the extra material adds a little bit of rotating weight to your eBike. For many riders, the extra protection is worth it - make your decision based on how common glass, thorns, and other debris are where you ride.
Reflective sidewall tires
If you ride in dim or dark conditions, reflective sidewall tires are an inexpensive upgrade. These tires feature a strip that lights up when hit with a light source - like a car headlight. While you should always use the reflectors that came with your eBike, and add powered lights if riding at night, reflective sidewall tires are an easy way to add an additional measure of safety.
Choosing a compatible tire is critical for performance and safety. If you're in doubt, get in touch with Bike.com or your local bike shop for help with a compatible replacement.