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This isn't your usual wire bead vs folding question, I realise whenever anyone asks folding always comes out better.

I've just renewed the rear tyre on my Specialized Tarmac from the factory S Works 700x24C for Gatorskin 700x25C (wire bead as it's all the shop had) and it's like putting Nike Air shoes on my bike.

I live in Cornwall, UK it's quite rural and the roads can be bad, and the good roads the council likes putting stone chippings down which destroys the surface, changing to the Gatorskin as make the road so much smoother.

I now want to replace the front as well which isn't so urgent, if I invest in a folding will the ride be more/less smooth or the same?

Many thanks and stay safe.

4 Answers 4

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Folding bead alone will not affect your ride in a notable manner.

Here are some things which will affect the ride a lot more than whether it's folding or wire bead:

  • Tyre width (bigger = smoother)
  • Tyre pressure (lower = smoother)
  • Rim width (wider = smoother)

The difference between folding and wire beads are not really about comfort.

You could argue that the sides of a folding bead tyre are a bit softer than one with a wire bead, so if the tyres are the same or similar price, go for folding. Personally, I have not noticed the difference between my folding and wire Gatorskins.

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    That's awesome thank you so much Jul 2, 2020 at 10:37
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Wire beads stay on rims with medium hooks better than folding. I had some Araya Red Labels years ago that Conti folding would pop off but wired stayed on. If you are getting into vintage racing bikes you should pay attention to this as an issue.

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  • Concur - depending on how old the rims were, the tolerances on hooks in the rims drifted a bit over time. Plus pressures have gone up, and old rims can have acquired more damage and wear over time.
    – Criggie
    Dec 3, 2021 at 7:58
  • It depends on the tire batch too. The only loose tires that I have had were wire beaded Schwalbe Marathons.
    – ojs
    Dec 3, 2021 at 8:20
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The main differences between folding bead and wire bead are

  1. Wire bead has a metal loop in each side where the folding bead has a kevlar belt
  2. The wire bead tyre weighs a little more than the folding tyre, compare the specs for exact numbers
  3. The folding tyre takes less room so you could pack a spare tyre with you in less space than a fullsize tyre.
    3b. Also, the folding tyre costs less to freight as well because of the smaller package, but costs slightly more for the tyre.

Effectively to you the rider, there is no noticeable difference. The weight difference is not noticeable.

Personally I go folding tyres on any bike I want to ride a lot, or up a lot of hills. For shopping bikes I'd use the cheaper wire tyre.

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This isn't your usual wire bead vs folding question, I realise whenever anyone asks folding always comes out better.

Not necessarily: there are two main features where wire bead wins:

  • Wire bead is somewhat easier to install, especially if the tires are a tight fit on the rim, because it stays round during installation, but with loose rims or rims with a deep center channel, it isn't hard to install folding bead either
  • Wire bead is far cheaper

About the only benefit of folding bead is that you have the ability to easily carry a folding bead spare tire on long tours. In other situations than long tours, carrying a spare tire doesn't make sense.

changing to the Gatorskin as make the road so much smoother.

I used to have Gatorskins. I changed to Grand Prix 5000. This change made the ride far smoother. I suspect the cause is that Gatorskins have some sort of sidewall protection that doesn't really work (as evidenced by me having a sidewall failure on Gatorskins), but interferes with the ride quality. The Grand Prix 5000 was folding because that's the only available for sale, and the Gatorskins were wire bead as that's the only available that was for sale back when I bought them.

I now want to replace the front as well which isn't so urgent, if I invest in a folding will the ride be more/less smooth or the same?

I suspect it does not make any difference, although my Grand Prix 5000 folding has better ride quality than Gatorskin wire bead, but that's probably due to the presence or absence of sidewall "protection" (that doesn't really work). Also I have had less punctures through the tread on GP 5000, but I suspect it's due to me being more wary of situations that cause punctures nowadays rather than the tires magically preventing punctures through some sort of "protection".

If you want good ride quality, ditch the Gatorskins and go for GP 5000, preferably as wide as possible (i.e. 32mm). Gatorskins not only have less than optimal ride quality, but they also have less than optimal rolling resistance, so you lose a lot of time riding slower than necessary.

Your 25mm does not make any sense to use, unless you have a ridiculous "road" bike that doesn't allow any wider tires than 25mm. Wider tires offer smoother ride, and also have less rolling resistance. Furthermore, you get less pinch flats on wide tires.

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  • OP did write that they have exactly that sort of road bike, fwiw
    – Bicifriend
    Dec 5, 2021 at 20:07

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