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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
    
+1 Much better title. –  David HAust Jan 24 '11 at 22:56
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2 Answers

up vote 7 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 at 4:09
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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
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