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Hybrid bikes are versatile, by design. They accommodate a wide variety of riding styles from inner city commuting and leisurely cruises to weekend adventures through the woods. They are easily adaptable for any combination of riding styles you might want to pursue.
Naturally, hybrid bike tires ought to provide the same flexibility. In fact, your bike’s tires are among the most important factors that determine what kind of riding you can effectively do.
Some hybrid tires are made to better handle gravel and mountain trails, while others are better for roads. But the best hybrid bicycle tires are those that are flexible enough for you to do a full range of riding without having to constantly swap them out.
So which hybrid tire is best overall? After careful consideration, I’d say the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme is the best option.
Why? I’ll get to that, but first let’s cover the main things to consider when searching for new bike tires— hybrid or otherwise. Then we’ll get into the categories of hybrid tires, followed by my top 10 list and some tips on when to change your tires.
Bike tire variations
Not all tires are made alike. Seemingly small details can make a world of difference when handling various terrains and weather conditions. The following elements will help you understand the variations and determine the best hybrid tire to suit your needs.
Folding tire vs. rigid tire
The most clear visual distinction for new tires is that some tires come folded and others are manufactured and sold in their conventional round shape. The first kind is sometimes referred to as having a folding bead, while the second kind has a wire bead.
Beads are located along the bottom inner part of the tire and are a little bit like the hem on a garment. They circle the whole tire along both edges. Their purpose is to maintain secure contact with the rim and keep your tire in place when it’s inflated.
Folding bead tires have kevlar strands for beads so they are very flexible. Rigid tires have steel wire for beads.
Tires are further broken down into clincher tires, tubeless clincher tires and tubular tires.
Clincher, tubular and tubeless tires
Clincher tires are the most popular, getting their name from the way the wire bead hooks onto the inner rim of your wheel. They require an inner tube, which will need replacing if it goes flat.
Tubular tires consist of a joint tire and inner tube that are sewn together and glued to the rim. If a tubular tire goes flat, you need to replace the entire setup.
Tubeless tries have been gaining popularity in recent years. This type of tire has no inner tube, but once they are “seated” properly within the rim they form an airtight seal with the rim, much like the tire of a motor vehicle.
The advantages of a tubeless setup are that the tires rarely go flat and you can ride at lower pressures without having to worry about pinching.
Bike tire terminology
Treads are the part of the tire that make contact with the ground. The ideal tread pattern offers excellent grip and braking responsiveness in all weather conditions while still providing a smooth and speed-oriented ride.
Most hybrid tires are designed with water dispersion grooves that help your tires maintain road grip even when it’s raining.
Lugs are the mounds of rubber that jut out of a tire. You’ll almost always find them on heavy duty mountain bike tires. They can be found all around the tire or primarily on the sides to provide gripping power while making sharp turns on uneven gravel or mountain roads.
The further apart the lug pattern is, the better the tire is at shedding mud and dirt and maintaining your wheels’ grip on the ground.
Rolling resistance is a way to measure the friction a tire experiences while rolling on the ground. Low rolling resistance means you need less effort per pedal stroke to propel the bike forward. The more friction there is, the higher a tire’s rolling resistance.
Road bike tires, smooth and narrow, have very little rolling resistance.
Lugs, by design, don’t conform to a traditional smooth tire shape. They provide you with stability on uneven terrain, but on smooth surfaces they slow you down by increasing rolling resistance, and force you to exert more effort to maintain higher speeds. A smoother tire surface makes for easier pedaling.
Most cyclists don’t think much about sidewall structure. That’s the material that composes the side of your tire. Sidewall structure impacts the speed of your bike, cornering capacity and grip. When it comes to hybrid tires, you’ll be looking for the most puncture-resistant sidewalls. Rubber is most often recommended.
Most tires are designed with a continuous centerline, meaning the tire has a smooth, nearly undetectable middle line that makes constant contact with the road. But you can also find hybrids with semi-continuous or non-continuous centerlines. These tires that have visible gaps in the middle where the rubber connects. It’s important to look out for this, because non-continuous centerlines can increase rolling resistance on paved surfaces. They are designed primarily for mountain riding.
Hybrid tire categories
Most hybrid tires have certain things in common that make them easy to change in and out, particularly their measurements. In most cases, you’ll find hybrid tires at 700c, ranging from 35-45 mm. (That can be confusing because 700c is the same size as 29 inches, which is a more common measurement for mountain bike tires.) Occasionally—and on the following list—you’ll see hybrid tires that measure 26 inches in height. Be sure to triple-check tire size before making any purchases.
Since hybrid bikes cover a variety of riding styles their tires should also be able to handle a wide range of conditions. The most effective hybrid tires combine the best features for various riding activities and offer a combination of efficiency, exploration and comfort.
Mountain tires and road tires are on the far sides of the spectrum at every level. When it comes to hybrid tires, you’ll want to choose tires best suited for the riding you do most. Categories vary depending who you speak with, but I’ve limited my classification to two categories.
Commuter and touring tires
Commuter bike tires and touring tires are for smoother, paved roads with minimal riding on loose surfaces. This is the most common type of hybrid tire. Generally, they are made with steel wire and an inner tube to help hold the bead inside the rubber. These tires are also referred to as clinchers because of how the tube clinches inside the tire.
Gravel and off-road tires
Gravel and off-road tires can be identified by their non-continuous and semi-continuous centerlines. They are meant for rough uneven paths so they tend to be heavier and are designed with more cushioning to absorb impact. The best ones are built with lugs to maintain contact and gripping power on inconsistent terrain.
Best hybrid bike tires
Schwalbe has long been a trusted name in the cycling industry. The Marathons have been a key feature of their lineup for well over a decade.
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires are at the top of my list because their puncture protection is second to none. This is thanks to their “SmartGuard” system. This innovative 5 mm rubber belt is designed to force sharp objects out.
However, this protection adds a little extra weight and slightly increases rolling resistance. But for me, having a reliable, smooth and long-lasting tire that can handle rough surfaces, gravel paths and take corners without having to worry about a knick ruining my ride is exactly what I’m looking for.
This all-terrain tire is built with a unique directional tread pattern that jives with the road and does well when you shimmy off-road if you are so inclined. With five sizes ranging from 700x25mm to 700x35mm you’re sure to find an option to fit your wheel.
The Marathon Supreme is made from high-quality rubber and is wire-beaded, with a continuous centerline to minimize rolling resistance and maximize speed.
2. Kenda K838
Kenda is another well known and trusted name in the bike tire game. The K838s measure up at 26 x 1.95 inches. At this width they start to fall into the comfort category. But don’t let that deter you—the wider tire helps prevent punctures.
The smooth tread boasts effective water dispersion grooves that still allow for fast rolling speeds on flat surfaces and grip the road in wet conditions. They’re modelled after motorcycle tires with a lower recommended tire pressure than you might think at 40-65 PSI.
The rugged Continental Contact Plus is designed for optimal performance if you want to take your hybrid bike off road. Equipped with both a rubber breaker and rubber-reinforced sidewalls, they give you a high level of protection against puncture and sidewall abrasion.
This high-quality tire with an all-terrain tread opts for a non-continuous centreline. It comes with reflective sidewalls for safe city riding and is e-bike rated for city and trekking use at speeds up to 30 miles per hour or 50 kilometres an hour. They’ll offer you peace of mind for high-speed riding in various weather conditions.
The Serfas Drifter is another great choice when it comes to venturing off paved roads with little worry about rough terrain giving you a flat. Serfas Drifter tires are wire-beaded for sturdy structural support throughout the tire. The puncture-resistant system on these tires is a little different, composed of a woven ballistic nylon layer that keeps them protected. This puncture protection is reinforced by Serfas’ specific Dual Density technology that combines hard and soft rubber, increasing performance and durability.
Serfas tires also carry an inverted tread pattern that helps reduce rolling resistance and they weigh a mere 630 grams. All this and a continuous centerline makes them great for on-road performance.
Can’t decide whether you want to keep your inner tube or go tubeless? With the Serfas Drifter you don’t have to choose. The tire is compatible with both.
The second offering from Kenda on this list is slightly narrower at 26 x 1.5 inches and falls into the commuter category, verging on road. They are lightweight with a PSI range from 50-85, which keeps the rolling resistance low and helps you easily pick up speed on flat surfaces.
Kenda K-193 Kwest are known for smooth, rounded treads and, like the K838’s, incorporate large grooves for water dispersion which makes them ideal for commuting in wet weather. The wire bead and puncture-resistant rubber also help increase traction in wet conditions.
Another contender on the gravel/mountain bike side of the spectrum are the Fincci Pair. They’re available in a range of sizes so you should be able to find a pair that fits your fork and frame.
With hard casing and grooves on the edges, these tires are great at maintaining grip on wet roads and through puddles, keeping you confident and stable on the trails.
They fall a little lower on my list because they tend to be on the thinner side. This allows for better performance on rougher terrain but doesn’t provide as much puncture protection.
Panaracer is another well known and trusted brand in the cycling world. This Japanese company has been making reliable tires with some of the highest safety standards for more than 50 years.
If you are in the market for a low-cost touring tire, the Panaracer Tour is the tire for you. Built with all-season tread and reflective sidewalls, they will ensure a safe, comfortable ride in any weather conditions you may face while touring.
They don’t skimp on puncture protection either. The bead-to-bead nylon system with 5 mm rubber casing keeps you on the road with little to be concerned about. Make sure you get the right size for your bike.
Another good option at an affordable price is the Vittoria Zaffiro Pro. With this option you get the Zaffiro’s unique pebble texture and cross-hatch tread pattern keeping you grounded on wet roads.
The casing material is composed of 26 threads per inch (TPI), maintaining a good level of puncture resistance but you they’ll add a bit of weight. These tires are heavier with a higher amount of rolling resistance, and it takes some muscle to get them on and off your wheel.
Schwinn tires have the cushy cruiser rider in mind, with an inflated size to add comfort. But they also come with shallow knots that help increase traction on light dirt roads.
With steel wire beads providing side structure support and a kevlar puncture guard, these tires are made with durability in mind. The wide traction surface provides a smooth ride. This is a great, widely available option as a replacement for a hybrid tire.
If it’s simply speed you’re looking for, look no further than the Sunlite Touring Kwest Tires. With a maximum PSI of 100, these are quite close to a high-pressure road tire, with a few additional benefits. The flat grooves and dispersion systems help keep your grip on the road, even when traveling at higher speeds.
As the name suggests, they’ve got the right vibe for a touring bike but are less durable than most other options on this list. They weight one pound so they aren’t the lightest, either.
When should you change your bike tires?
Now that you know what to look for when shopping for a new hybrid tire and you’re aware of some of the best options out there, how do you tell when a tire needs replacing?
In general, you’ll want to replace hybrid bike tires every 2,000-3,000 miles of riding. You may need to change them sooner if you’re experiencing a lot of flat tires, if there are deep tread cuts, or the tires show clear signs of wear on the tread or sidewalls. Additional signs of wear and tear are when the rubber starts to crack or flake, and especially if you notice the handling has gotten worse.
The tires I have on my own hybrid bike are Kenda Kwests, very similar to the Kwest 193 I’ve listed here. Overall I’m pretty happy with their performance, especially when I’m on the road for hours. They pick up speed quickly and I often pass people on the downhill without having to pedal. They provide a decent amount of grip on unpaved paths, but when I ride on more uneven gravel roads they do not grip as well as I’d like. I often find myself having to slow down on turns to avoid slipping, which is annoying.
So although I’ve never gotten a flat or had to deal with a puncture, their limited versatility is why they’ve landed halfway through my list.
When it comes time for you to decide which hybrid tire best suits your needs, it comes down to price, performance and terrain versatility. It can be challenging to find one model that checks every box. So far my Kwests have served me well, but I’m looking forward to an upgrade to a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Supremes.