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My used bike came with different front and rear tires. It appears to have some kind of Kenda commuter tire in the front, and Continental Country Ride in the rear. They are both the same size (700x28).

Is this perfectly acceptable or should a bike always have matching models (and/or size)?

My main concerns from mismatching tires:

  • Grip thresholds may be inconsistent
  • Ride comfort?
  • Wear rates (but rears seem to wear faster anyway)
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It's perfectly okay to run different sizes, brands, and types of tires on the front and rear. As you note, rears will wear faster due to carrying more of the load. The grip threshold is largely irrelevant, since the front and rear will be exposed to different forces and grip requirements.

The main concern is keeping within the range of a single tube size if possible, since otherwise you'd need to have twice the spares on hand.

At the extreme end, there are 69er and 96er mountain bikes that mix and match 29" (622) and 26" (559) wheels on the same bike as well as Terry women's bikes with 24" (520) front wheels and 700c (622) rear. By necessity those run very different tires front and rear.

  • I was about to post an answer, but this sounds good to me. – user313 Jun 29 '11 at 20:05
  • Personally, I wouldn't run a slick on one and a knobby on the other...and so, I do try to keep the treads in the same ballpark. Otherwise, I don't think that it's a big deal. – user313 Jun 29 '11 at 20:17
  • 1
    Running a knobby up front and a less-knobby in the rear when mountain biking isn't uncommon; you can get away with sliding the rear wheel in many situations but sliding the front is much more likely to produce a crash. Similarly, if you're hard up you can get away with a single studded tire on the front, though Peter White points out that it's not ideal. – lantius Jun 29 '11 at 20:25
  • @lantius - I'm fine with that. It just seemed to me that the OP is mostly concerned with commuting based on the info provided. – user313 Jun 29 '11 at 20:39
  • Small detail on why rear tyre wear quickly - it is not just because of the extra weight. I know that what-I-think-of-as-why-is-wrong so I best open up another question... – ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Jun 29 '11 at 22:55
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Yep, basically no problem mixing tire types, widths, and even diameters. The rear tire will carry more weight and generally wear faster, so that may be a consideration in picking different tires.

The front and rear are exposed to vastly different forces and there may be good reasons for having different tires as a result. On the front a narrow tire with light tread will permit turning with less effort, but on the back this isn't as much of a concern. OTOH, the front tire provides about 3/4ths of your braking ability, so that's an argument for giving it a more substantial (or at least not worn out) tread. In terms of sideways skids on slick/loose surfaces, a front tire skid is likely to result in a more out-of-control situation (ie, more road rash) than a rear tire skid, but it's harder to get the front skidding in the first place, so hard to say how tire style would affect this.

And (probably due mostly to the weight difference), punctures occur in rear tires 2-4 times more often than in front tires.

Of course, on a used bike the tires are apt to be different simply because they were not replaced in pairs. I'd generally say this is of no concern so long as they are roughly equivalent. If the front tire is much "heavier" than the back, though, my inclination would be to swap them.

  • The puncture frequency difference is likely also caused by the fact that the front tire roles over stuff that's perfectly at rest, while the rear tire roles over stuff that's been disturbed by the front tire already. Imagine some shards lying flat on the ground. No problem for the front tire, it just rolls over the flat shards. But it briefly puts pressure on them, and can cause some shards to turn into the vertical. And if the rear tire roles over such a vertical shard, you have a puncture. – cmaster May 7 at 7:20
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As noted you do the braking on the front wheel, particularly if really braking when your centre of gravity moves forward over the front wheel. Therefore, if you are going to have odd tyres, put the wider one up front. This will give you better braking and cornering.

Tread matters little on-road for grip, even in the wet as bicycle tyres do not aquaplane. The main point of tread on a road tyre is to indicate wear. Too worn and the 'canvas' wears through and you get punctures.

Odd tyres are to be expected, the back wears out quicker for mysterious reasons for which the physics has as yet to be disclosed on B-SE, therefore you should end up with odd tyres - if you don't then you are not riding hard enough.

  • Bicycle tires aquaplane just fine if you ride them at 200km/h ;-) Point is, car tires are pressed to the road with about 2.5bar and it takes them about 120km/h to aquaplane, while slim bike tires have more than twice that force, a much thinner profile making it easier to push the water to the sides, and are usually not ridden faster than, say, 80km/h. We just don't ride bicycle tires fast enough to make aquaplaning a concern. – cmaster May 7 at 7:13

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