How can I replace a '50s or early '60s 20" solid rubber bicycle tire?

I have been looking everywhere.

The wheel measures 17" by 1 1/2". New ones are too small to fit.

Any information would be appreciated.

  • Possible duplicate of How are tire sizes measured? – Criggie Nov 13 '16 at 8:57
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    Please read off the numbers on the sidewall of the tyre. Surprisingly measuring with a tape is unlikely to give an accurate measurement. – Criggie Nov 13 '16 at 8:58
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    Is the rim drilled for a valve at all? – Criggie Nov 13 '16 at 8:58
  • Can you clarify if you want a new solid tyre, or you simply want a new modern tyre/tube combo? If the latter, I'm worried that the rim won't hold a modern tyre properly. – Criggie Nov 13 '16 at 9:04
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    You probably need to get an entirely new wheel. This sort of tire was not designed to be replaced. And, alas, finding a new wheel is apt to be a challenge, unless you have connections in China. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 13 '16 at 13:04

Measuring the wheel diameter will not give you the correct tire size. I suspect it is a 16 x 1 3/4 tire. I think they are still available. These tires are replaceable. You cut off the old one with a hacksaw. Mount the new tire by first soaking it in hot water for about 20 minutes. The heat will make it larger in diameter and more pliable. Work it on the wheel with your hands and if needed careful use of a screwdriver. I rubber mallet will help seat it.

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    Welcome to SE - that's useful and relevant info - a good first answer. – Criggie Nov 17 '16 at 3:44
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    Soaking in hot water will hardly change the diameter at all, so it must be the increased pliability that's helping. Steel railway wheel tyres are fitted by putting them in a ring of gas burners to heat them well above the boiling point of water; that only increases the diameter by maybe a centimetre or so on a 2m-diameter steam locomotive wheel. Steel expands much more than rubber so heating a ~40cm rubber tyre by a couple of tens of degrees isn't going to change its diameter by any noticeable amount. – David Richerby Nov 17 '16 at 10:02
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    According to engineeringtoolbox.com/linear-expansion-coefficients-d_95.html, rubber and various plastics have far larger thermal expansion coefficient than steel. Also, you don't need to expand the tire that much, because you're sliding only one point at time over the rim edge the circumference counts, diameter. – ojs Nov 17 '16 at 20:46

My guess is that this is either for a child's toy bicycle or for a bike trailer, since those are really the only products that would use a solid tire (ouch ouch ouch) in that size.

As you've found, it's going to be very hard to find a new, replacement solid tire. Remember that you need to match the diameter, width, and rim shape. Even if you did find the right size and shape, you're going to struggle to put it onto the wheel. Many solid tires were molded onto the wheel or glued, so getting the old solid tire off and putting it on will be a challenge.

My own suggestion would be to go to Goodwill, junkyard, bike coop, or somewhere that has a large assortment of old children's bicycles. Find one with a wheel in the right size -- that takes modern pneumatic tires. Use that wheel - and get a new tube and tire if necessary.

If you're restoring a vintage bicycle and need the original product, I think you're out of luck unless you can find someone with the same bike who is willing to part with a wheel/tire.


You might consider an antique toy restoration company. My company has mounted 100s of solid tricycle tires of all sizes. Our exclusive process insures that the tire will not tear during mounting, and guarantees a tight, snug fit. www.hoosierboyrestorations.com

Hoosierboy Restorations is a full-service antique and toy restoration company dedicated to the art of restoring and preserving items from the early to mid-20th century. We specialize in metal and wooden items primarily made in the U.S.A. We treat every artifact with the utmost care, and respect it deserves to insure its original authenticity. At Hoosierboy Restorations, we combine traditional "old-time” craftsmanship with the latest restoration techniques of today. This is all to provide the highest-quality, finished product that you will be proud to share, and will enjoy for many years to come.

  • Edited to make it less spammy. – RoboKaren Oct 19 '17 at 18:19
  • +1 for being up-front and disclosing your association with this company. – Criggie Oct 19 '17 at 20:53

It would help if you mentioned what unsuccessful searches you've done so that others don't have to repeat those steps.

I didn't find much for 17 inch solid tires. Google shows results for 16 inch solid tires and 18 inch solid tires.

If those don't help, then one solution is to make your own. I have not done this, but there are resources out there that may get you started

Let us know how you go.

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    Those mostly appear to be wheels for lawnmowers and the like. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 13 '16 at 13:04
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    @Daniel Yep. Hence the idea, assuming the OP is correct about the wheel size, to fabricate his own. – andy256 Nov 13 '16 at 15:57

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