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I bought a Bell Road tire from Walmart. Since I haven't exactly had great luck with Walmart bicycle products, I looked up the reviews... not so great.

In their defense, they are 1.375, not 1.25, but still, the things couldn't stay on my bike... in a sharp, low-speed turn with minimal leaning from me, the bead just popped off!

Then there is the Continental Gatorskin tire with a much better set of review on amazon. But, does it matter?

I know I'm being a little specific, but what I want to know is how do I minimize my chances of my tires trying to kill me?

I realize this may look like a shopping question, but I have to purchase tires that I use!

I'd appreciate any advice from guys who actually have enough experience to really comment on tires.

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That Walmart tire is apparently a "folding" tire. Folding tires (which places like Walmart love because they fit in small boxes) are very difficult to get mounted properly the first time. (Though once they are mounted and "take a set" it's not so bad.) I'm guessing the tire was not properly mounted (and was possibly not inflated as much as it should be as well). –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 9 at 2:03
    
It is difficult I agree. I suspect most of us just end up finding a brand that we trust, and stick with it - nothing more sinister than that. Sure, you can gen up on tyres and work out what features are important to you, but its likely that you'll still find several which fit your requirements. In the absence of having any up-front preferences, Amazon reviews are probably as good as anything else, when it comes to benchmarking tyres. Or, go to an online bike shop and read the reviews there. –  PeteH Jul 9 at 7:35
    
Do you really trust internet product reviews? Labor rates in the 3rd world make rorting them too easy. –  mattnz Jul 9 at 8:10
    
How old are your wheel rims? There's a slim chance they don't have a bead hook. Old, wire-bead tyres tend to stay on non-hooked rims a bit better than kevlar-bead folding tyres. You may have been running your tyres at too high a pressure, but the problem only now manifested itself with the new tyre (more flexible bead = easier to blow off the rim). –  headeronly Jul 9 at 9:36
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@PeteH - Sorry - I overstated it a bit:) I was trying to say some may not be all they seem to be, and care is required. Verify those reviews with information from sites like this and forums. Also look for reviews on small, specialist web sites and compare them to likes of Amazon. Look for consistency across the information. Cycling is particularly vulnerable, as has had a huge jump in popularity, giving lots of novices to be ripped off and targeting the cashed up middle-aged its highly profitable. –  mattnz Jul 9 at 20:49

2 Answers 2

One of the reviews has something interesting to say

These 27" and 26" tires are made to fit older 10 speed/english racer type bikes. You should remember that the 26"x1-3/8" size predates the MTB era by at least three decades, they came first. If you have an old Raleigh three speed or a 1970s Peugeot then these are the tires you need in the appropriate rim size. In general, if you have a Mountain bike or your bike is less then 20 years old, these are probably the wrong tires for you

According to Sheldon, mountain bikes use "decimal" sizes, such as 26x1.75 and some older road bikes from the 70s use "fractional" sizes like 26x1-3/4.

Although it appears you bought 1.375 which is a decimal size, so it should fit modern bikes. However 1.375 = 1-3/8 which is the size the review is talking about. According to Sheldon, 26x1-3/8 would have a BSD of 597mm or 590mm while newer 26 inch bikes have a BSD of 559mm, making the old sized tired too big for modern rims.

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This. Walmart seems like the sort of place I'd expect to stock old-style fractional-sized tyres (for Schwinn bikes etc.), and it's definitely the sort of place to label them incorrectly. –  headeronly Jul 10 at 14:40

It sounds as though your problem was a somewhat loose tyre not properly seated. It may have been loose enough that it couldn't be properly seated, but in that case I'd expect it to pop off and the tube explode while you were pumping it up for the first time. You may also be running the tyres at too low a pressure, with a skinny tyre like that I'd expect them to need 70psi or more.

So, seating a new tyre:

  1. fit the uninflated tyre and tube as you normally do
  2. pump it up to 10-15psi - just enough that there's air in there but it's still very spongy
  3. ideally spin the wheel, but just looking around it also works. Look for bulges or dips in the tyre sidewall relative to the rim, ideally using a line around the tyre (a moulding line or the reflective strip).
  4. when you see a dip down into the rim, grab the tyre firmly on both sides and rock your hand to pull that bulge up into the correct position.
  5. when you see a bulge upward you need to pull the rest of the tyre down. Start 1 few inches past the bulge and rock the tyre up (as above), then repeat this around the tyre until you're back at the bulge (which should be gone by now)
  6. repeat on the other side of the tyre.

Steps 4 and 5 are easy to skip, and the reason why you want very little air in that tyre. The "explode on first inflation" thing happens occasionally in bike shops, and it's a chance for everyone else to laugh at whoever did it. After getting over the shock of the loud noise!

Normally this is just a quick eyeball check of both sides of the tyre, and I'll often skip it with tyres that are tight on the rim. If it's hard to get on, it'll usually seat firmly as soon as air goes in. But loose tyres I'm very careful of (see "loud noise" above).


(edit to add)

Picking Tyres

My impression is that many (most?) cyclists I know go to a local bike shop and talk to people, see what's available, and buy something they can actually touch. At least once, anyway, before going "I can get these much cheaper online". Having decided on a brand or brands, and a preference for fat/slick/kevlar-studded and so on, they then grind through a few options over the next few thousand kilometres of riding before developing either very strong preferences (like the bike geeks here), or a complete lack of interest. Working in a bike shop I really did get people who brought bikes in and said "tyre. flat. replace. bye" then walked out, leaving me holding a bike going "can I at least get your phone number?"

Availability is also important. If you're going to try some tyres with a view to picking one you like, pick a manufacturer that's been around for a while and doesn't change their darn tyres every year. Otherwise every time you buy a tyre you have to work out which one best matches the one you bought last year. If you're buying online, try to pick a store that keeps stuff in stock. It's annoying buying something only to wait a month while it gets shipped from a warehouse in China when you chose a "local" online store.

So, my preference is for puncture resistant to very, very puncture resistant slicks, with more puncture resistance on my commuter and less on my touring bike (where rolling resistance is more important). On my velomobile I went for extreme puncture resistance because going much faster also meant that the time taken to stop and fix a puncture stood out a lot more. Spending 10 minutes fixing a puncture on a 20km ride that should have taken under 30 minutes is more annoying than I expected, so after it happened once I went for serious puncture resistance. I also prefer a brand (Schwalbe) and apart from a few older Maxxis tyres that haven't worn out yet, all... 6... bikes in our shed have Scwalbe tyres. Marathon Plus through to Marathons, with Duranos on my 700c "lazy bike" (takes less effort to go faster than by other bikes, therefore "lazy")

Somewhere there's a photo of a 3" nail sticking through a marathon plus on my bike. Not, I emphasise, puncturing the marathon plus, just "zombie tyre" poking through it, with one side of the nail head ground flat where it had hit the ground every time the wheel went round. That's freakishly unusual, but it's one reason why I like the marathon plus tyres.

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Yep, with a folding tire the above instructions must be followed much more closely. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 9 at 2:07
    
those links didn't load for me, but yes, if that's a folding tyre then even more care is needed. –  Mσᶎ Jul 9 at 2:21

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