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My road bike has now done 500 miles, but unlike cars, I've no idea how often the tyres should be changed. It's used on normal road conditions. The brow of the tyre is now smooth.

How do I know if my tyres need to be changed, and how long should I expect tyres to last?

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See also: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/437/… –  amcnabb Aug 21 '12 at 19:02
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7 Answers

How long a tire lasts depends on a number of factors, including what type of tires you ride, how much you weigh, the conditions you ride in, front vs rear tire, etc. In general, a good set of tires will last a couple thousand miles.

When the tire is totally worn out, you can usually see threads beneath the rubber in places. Alternatively, the tire may start to bulge in spots. In practice, road tires rarely get to this point. Much more commonly, they start accumulating a lot of cuts from glass and other debris in the road. When you start getting disproportionately many flats, it's a good idea to replace the tire (you can use the tire longer, but you'll probably waste more than a new tire's cost in tubes).

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My only addition to this answer would be to say that it doesn't matter (for road bikes) if a tyre has no tread. Sometimes people get concerned that they will no longer have grip, but tread is not necessary on sealed surfaces. –  Mac Mar 29 '12 at 23:24
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Mostly, I agree, but a tire is worn out long before you start seeing the casing through the rubber. Safe traction requires enough rubber to actually mold to the ground surface, smooth "tread" or not. –  zenbike Mar 30 '12 at 18:08
    
I would certainly agree that by the time a tire gets to that point, it should have already been replaced. –  prototoast Mar 30 '12 at 18:37
    
This answer is absolutely inline to my recent (new to road bikes) experience with old tires, until I replaced with new tires. +1 –  heltonbiker Mar 30 '12 at 20:29
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Rubber can get too old and loose grip. This can happen to bikes unused for long periods of time, specially if stored exposed to the sun, ozone or other chemicals. This "too old" rubber losses its flexibility and is prone to break and peel off. causing sudden loss of control. –  Jahaziel May 16 '12 at 15:46
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Schwalbe give the following figures for their tyres:

As a general guide, you can expect a tire mileage of 2000 to 5000 km from Schwalbe standard tires.

The tires of the Marathon family usually last between 6000 and 12000 km. With the light Marathon Racer and Marathon Supreme, the performance is a little lower (approx. 5000 to 9000 km). The Marathon Plus is outstanding with its extremely high mileage of approx. 8000 to 15000 km.

No useful mileage data is possible for MTB tires because the influence of riding style is too dominant.

Our racing bike tires Durano and Ultremo last from 3000 to 7000 km.

That page also has some pictures showing tyre wear

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Change them when they're worn out -- either cracking on the sidewalls (due to age, sun, and underinflation, possibly exacerbated by poor tire quality) or the rubber in the center is getting paper-thin and you start getting a lot more punctures. Simple lack of tread is no problem.

(And it should be noted that in the OP states his tires are "bald" in 500 miles -- a very short distance. Unless he'd been like a kid laying rubber with the brakes, the tires in question likely have a center strip that is essentially tread-free to start with. This is a common design to minimize rolling resistance.)

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Always wipe off and inspect the tires after every ride. Look at the sidewalls as well as the tread.

I get about 2,500 miles from Continental Grand Prix 4000S, a high-end road tire. The rear tire always goes first. Then I rotate the front tire to the rear, and put a new tire on the front. I've never had to replace a front tire due to tread wear.

Some Continental tires also have wear indicators -- two little dots in the tire -- to let you know when the tread is gone. That's where I get the 2,500-mile figure from; it takes me about that long to get to the point where the wear indicators are shot.

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What's the point of rotating front<->rear? It doesn't increase your total mileage between new tire purchases. –  Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Apr 5 '12 at 17:24
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The conventional wisdom I've heard (though am not sure about the accuracy) is that you want to have your least-worn tire on the front. This gives you the best traction and control where you need it--the front tire. –  James Schek Apr 10 '12 at 23:45
    
@JamesSchek Not sure I understand the traction part. You aren't applying power in the front, and both wheels have brakes... –  Michael Jun 10 '13 at 22:08
    
@Michael braking traction and lateral traction when cornering. –  James Schek Jul 11 '13 at 20:06
    
@TadeuszA.Kadłubowski He was talking about throwing out the worn rear tire and putting a new one up front. As Sheldon Brown says in his tire article. You want the newer/better tire up front. As the tire ages, its chance of failure increases. A possible failure could be catastrophic. Should the front tire have such a failure, then a serious crash is likely. More than likely the failure would be a puncture, which would make control difficult. Of course, the new tire could have a defect as well. –  BPugh yesterday
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Sheldon talks about replacing tyres (or "tires" for Americans)

Many cyclists waste money replacing perfectly functional tyres simply because they're old, or may have discolored sidewalls. If you just want new tyres because the old ones look grotty, it's your money, but if you are mainly concerned with safety/function, there are only two reasons for replacing old tyres:

  1. When the tread is worn so thin that you start getting a lot of flats from small pieces of glass and the like, or the fabric shows through the rubber.
  2. When the tyre's fabric has been damaged, so that the tyre has a lumpy, irregular appearance somewhere, or the tube bulges through the tyre.

Cracks in the tread are harmless. Small punctures in the tyre such as are typically caused by nails, tacks, thorns or glass slivers are also harmless to the tyre, since the tyre doesn't need to be air-tight.

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I usually get 4000 miles from a Continental 4000S. Years ago I got 5000 miles from a Performance brand tire. However, having neglected to keep an eye on it, the casing completely disintegrated in the middle of a cold, December ride. So keep looking for wear.

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I commute about 200 km a week. My last set of tyres - Specialized armadillos - lasted exactly one year. There is still at least 6 months rubber left but the tread rubber has started to delaminate from the canvas. So they have lasted me 10,000 kms which the bike shop reckons I should be happy with. I have managed more than twice that time (and distance) on a set of Michelin World tours. Cheaper tyres (1/3 of the cost) normally only last me 2 months before they are completely worn out. They are a false economy.

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