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I need to buy a new front tire for my new e-bike. Let me give you a few of the conditions I'll be riding in, and I'd like your advice.

First of all, this bike is primarily going to be used to commute to work. I live near an airport, and my work is on the other side of the airport. The consequence of that is that I have to ride 5 miles along a 55 mph road. It doesn't have a bike lane, but there is a large path of gravel right next to the road, which I will most likely use extensively.

I should also say that I would like an affordable tire, but I am willing to invest more in a tire that will last me for longer.

If you'd like to see my bike, see this question. It's pretty obvious that the front tire is quite flat, and in fact, it just needs to be replaced...

EDIT: Here's a few pictures of the current tires.

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Voting up for a well-asked question with good detail. – Jay Bazuzi Jan 22 '11 at 18:31
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That tire is most likely toast -- if it's been sitting like that for a long time, the sidewall may have weakened where the creases are. – darkcanuck Jan 22 '11 at 19:08
    
That's what I thought, but by posting the picture, I can remove all doubt;-) – PearsonArtPhoto Jan 22 '11 at 19:09
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You might want to edit the title of this question to be more specific. You're question is well written with lots of good detail/context so don't do it a disservice of having a bad title. Maybe something like 'Good tires for off-road e-bike commuter?'. Perhaps someone else can suggest an even better title. – David HAust Jan 24 '11 at 5:25
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Get puncture protection. That bit of the road /shoulder attracts sharp bits of metal and glass. – Chris H Dec 18 '15 at 7:37
up vote 11 down vote accepted

In general, the softer the ground, the bigger the tire should be. A fat tire will let you "float" over the surface instead of sinking in, like a snowshoe. If you're sinking, it takes tremendous effort to keep riding, and you can't really steer.

Gravels vary widely. Coarse-edged crushed rock locks together to create a firm, traffic-bearing surface. Round-edged "pea gravel" shifts under load, dispersing energy - this is good under playground equipment. There are different sizes, and some are mixed while others are consistently-sized. Which one you're on will have an effect on what kind of tire you need.

I like to choose the fattest tire that works well in my frame / under my fenders. I avoid knobbies because I think they have way higher rolling resistance and wear out faster. Since you're already hauling a battery, you can definitely afford the weight of the rubber.

Also, if you ever find yourself in ground that's too loose and you can't steer, shift your weight back. Unweighting the front wheel will let it steer without sinking.

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+1 nice gravel description. If the "path" of gravel is a walking/cycling path it should be nicely packed and you can get away with narrower tires. If it's just the shoulder of the road, however, be prepared for stretches of very loose gravel -- wider tires are a must in that case. – darkcanuck Jan 22 '11 at 19:06
    
+1 for the great answer. Thanks in particular for the gravel steering tip - I'll have to try that. – Tom Leys Mar 18 '14 at 4:09
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Personally, I would recommend a Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Mondial as they tend to be pretty good for this task, while a bit heavy. They have excellent puncture protection, a decent tread, and are built for durability over weight savings. Some models of the marathon series even specify working well for ebikes, built for higher weight / speed requirements. – Benzo Dec 18 '15 at 20:16

Has the tyre perished? Perhaps, it's just an inner tube that needs replacing.

Take the tyre to your local bike shop and I'm sure they'll be able to suggest a suitable alternative. I'd ask for a plain road tyre, something pretty standard should do, just as long as it's the correct size. You don't need nobbly or off-road tyres unless you're trying to get over obstacles such as rocks or travel through mud.

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Would you need an off-road tire for doing through dirt? – PearsonArtPhoto Jan 22 '11 at 14:48
    
I doubt it, but maybe something with a tread pattern would suit you. – Scott Langham Jan 22 '11 at 15:06
    
is right - your tire might be fine. Examine the rubber for cracks and wear. The bike shop can look at it, too. Online is cheaper than the local bike shop, but a good relationship with a local expert is worth more money. – Jay Bazuzi Jan 22 '11 at 18:32

I fitted hybrid tyres to my ebike and road speed improved, while track speed was unchanged. Sadly its gone now so I can't show a photo.

There was a slight knobbly pattern to the shoulders of the tread, but the bare face had a solid line of flat rubber all the way around. So when riding straight and vertical, it was a slick.

When the ground was a little irregular, or when cornering the small lugs had a chance to bite. Cornering on the road stayed mostly on the ring of rubber though, so it was not squirmy.

Downside, the pressures were 80 PSI , which took ages to get to on a 1.75" tyre. Plus it was a bumpy ride should the road be less than smooth. The weight of my batteries would have contributed too.

Edit: Do be aware that ebikes are heavy. So my 17 kg MTB had another 26 kg of batteries on it, plus me and my gear. When carrying my work toolbag of 20 kilos plus me, that's ~165 kilograms. Handling is definitely affected by the mass, so your tyres have to cope with the full load.

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Just a seconding for Jay's response that "gravels vary widely". A number of cyclocross style tyres have a file-type central pattern, with more pronounced knobs around the edges for when traction is important. Such a pattern might be good for your commuting requirements, if you are expecting a degree of loose gravel.

In my experience, ebike setups can place some additional wear on tires and can slip during acceleration (so need good grip). I had Marathon Plus tires on an ebike and these worked quite well and balanced grip with rolling resistance/low wear (front wheel drive, 20"). I note that some manufacturers are introducing ebike specific tires, though I'm not sure on the value of these variations (haven't had a chance to look into them further).

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Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. That's an excellent first answer, both relevant and answers the question. I look forward to your future contributions. – Criggie Dec 29 '15 at 8:11

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