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When choosing your bike tires, the type of tire makes a significant difference because it affects your speed and traction.
If you plan to travel on multiple terrain types (i.e., streets and dirt roads) the best bike tire is a touring tire.
This article will outline what touring tires are and how to choose the right one for your needs. We’ve also compiled a list of the top models available.
What Is the Best Bicycle Touring Tire?
The Schwalbe Marathon Plus HS 440 gets our vote for the best bicycle touring tire, mainly due to its excellent durability and versatility.
What Is a Touring Tire?
A bicycle touring tire is a sort of cross between a road tire and a mountain bike tire.
Touring bikes are designed to work on many types of ground, so they have better traction than a road tire, but they work better on a paved road than a mountain bike.
Bike touring tires are also built to travel long distances, such as hundreds or thousands of miles, before needing a replacement.
Finally, due to their versatility, touring bicycle tires have greater puncture resistance to avoid blowouts and flats while on the trail.
The Best Bicycle Touring Tires in Detail
When it comes to the best bicycle touring tires, Schwalbe is one of the top brands in the industry. We really like the Marathon Plus HS 440 because it’s built for serious tour riders who want to cross continents on the same set of tires. Usually, Schwalbe tires are rated to last several thousand miles, thanks to their anti-aging and flat-less technology.
The secret to the tire’s longevity is the interior SmartGuard layer. At only 5 mm thick, it doesn’t add any weight, but it helps prevent punctures and flats for thousands of miles. The tire’s durability also makes it an ideal choice for e-bikes that can ride up to 50 kilometers per hour.
The Marathon Plus 440 is built for road biking, but you can switch to the 404 model if you plan to go off-roading more. Both tires come with the SmartGuard system.
- Ideal for road biking
- Excellent protection with reinforced sidewalls
- 5 mm SmartGuard layer reduces rolling resistance
- Uses partially recycled materials
- Long-lasting, anti-aging tire
- Works well for e-bikes
- Not ideal for off-road biking
- In rare cases, the SmartGuard layer may shift inside the tire
Although Schwalbe is generally considered the best touring bicycle tire brand, several other companies give Schwalbe a run for its money. One such brand is Continental, which offers similar puncture protection and low rolling resistance.
We like the Contact Plus tire because its tread is pretty much universal. As a result, you can tackle any terrain with ease without sacrificing performance or rolling resistance. This tire allows you to go just as fast on the street as on the mountain trail. While the rubber inlay is not as puncture-resistant as Schwalbe’s SmartGuard system, it does an excellent job of preventing pops, rips, tears and punctures.
- Universal tread works on all terrain
- Natural rubber inlay to increase puncture resistance
- Low rolling resistance
- Less road noise when on pavement
- Heavier than other similar models
- Not omnidirectional
When you go bike touring, you might encounter a variety of surfaces and weather conditions, including ice, snow, and other wet weather conditions. The Marathon Winter Plus HS 396 from Schwalbe helps you stay steady even when the road is slippery.
These tires have built-in studs to grip the ice. When riding in winter conditions, you want to keep the tires at minimum pressure so that they maintain excellent grip. Then if you’re on dry or non-icy roads, you can increase the tire pressure, and you should be ready to go.
We appreciate the all-weather capabilities of this tire, but some users have reported losing studs when using the tires in dry weather. And even though these tires are built for winter, they don’t do as well on snow. Instead, you’ll need snow tires to maintain speed. Otherwise you’ll work a lot harder to go a much shorter distance.
- Perfect for cold and icy conditions
- Interior SmartGuard flat-less layer
- Built-in studs grip the ice
- Change to maximum pressure to ride on dry roads
- Don’t work as well on snow
- You can lose quite a few studs while riding on non-icy roads and trails
Here we have another touring tire that works best for city riding. The durability of the Panaracer Tour Tire stems from the wire-reinforced rubber that holds up to pretty much all abuse. This material also does pretty well on gravel and dirt roads, although it’s not as puncture-resistant as some of the higher-end brands we’ve seen.
Another highlight of this awesome tire is the reflective tape on the sidewalls. When biking in the city, you need to be visible at all times, especially at night. This tape helps you stand out and stay safe for early morning or late-night commutes.
- Reflective sidewalls for better visibility
- Wire-reinforced rubber for puncture resistance
- Excellent grip for paved roads and city riding
- Not as good at off-roading
- Not as puncture-resistant as high-end models
How To Choose a Bicycle Touring Tire
Now that we’ve seen the top touring bicycle tires, let’s dive into the various features and elements you should pay attention to when comparing different models.
As we’ve mentioned, touring bike tires are built to accommodate a wide variety of terrains. That said, you’ll likely favor one road type, such as paved surfaces or mountain trails or another type of terrain. So you should pick a tire tread that ensures you can maintain excellent traction during your journey.
Some patterns work best for specific road conditions, while others are ideal for multiple surfaces. If you know what you’ll be traveling on the most, you can choose a pattern designed for that road type. Otherwise a multi-function model is your best bet.
Size and Weight
The size of your touring tire is pretty easy to figure out as it will match the size of your bike wheels. Typical tire size options range between 26 and 29 inches, with 26-inch tires being the norm. However, more bikers are choosing wider tires, since wider tires offer more efficient movement. You can essentially travel farther with each full spin when the tire is larger.
The weight of your tire also matters because it will affect the overall weight of the bike itself. As a rule, touring tires are built to accommodate lots of gear, so they can hold up to heavier loads. But if you need to carry the bike regularly, you might want a lighter model.
If you plan to bike for over 1,000 miles on a single tour, you need to work as efficiently as possible. Rolling resistance makes a massive difference in how far you can travel before you get too tired. The pattern you choose affects the tire’s rolling resistance, with higher-resistance tires forcing you to pedal harder.
Typically, tires with a thicker tread have higher rolling resistance but better traction on dirt roads and trails. So if you’ll be riding on streets and pavement for most of your bike trip, you want a tire with a thinner tread.
One of the main selling points of bike touring tires is that they can resist punctures a lot better than standard bicycle tires. When you’re out in the middle of nowhere, flat tires can spell certain doom (or at least slow you down considerably).
To ensure that each tire is as puncture-resistant as possible, many companies (such as Schwalbe) offer Kevlar interiors and reinforced inner tubes. This way, even if something does pierce the outer rubber layer, it likely won’t cause a flat.
Check out our article on what to do if your bike tire keeps going flat.
Final Verdict on Tires for Bike Touring
If you want high performance and impeccable puncture resistance for your bicycle trip, you can’t do much better than the Schwalbe Marathon Plus HS 440. We like this quality tire because of its excellent durability and versatility.
A close second is the Continental Contact Plus, which is our top pick for an all-around touring tire.
Once you have your tire situation figured out, check out our article on finding the best fenders for your touring bike.