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Folding tyres are easier to mount and store. They are also a gram lighter.

Why are non-folding tyres still manufactured?

Why folding and non-folding tyres of the same model differ in price more than a few cents, which I think the price difference between 2 meters of kevlar cord and 2 meters of steel wire would be?

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    This is a good question that I suspect will need a literal tire manufacturer to answer properly. I suspect there's a significant difference in the labor/jigging hassle involved - steel wires formed into a bead and joined naturally want to be a perfect circle, but kevlar line wants to be anything but. – Nathan Knutson Feb 22 at 19:39
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    Citation needed for "easier to mount". – Vladimir F Feb 22 at 20:06
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    Folding tires are harder to mount. And you can't practically make folding tire with deep tread. IMO, folders are only good as spares on the road. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 22 at 20:48
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    @DanielRHicks Fof folding tire with deep tread, see schwalbe.com/en/mtb-reader/dirty-dan and most other higher-end tyres of any manufacturer. – Konstantin Shemyak Feb 22 at 20:56
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    It's probably not the correct answer so I'm leaving it as comment: price differentiation. If the production costs of folding tire were only a few cents more (which I doubt) but they sell for $10 more, it's good business to make folding tires for those who want to pay the extra and non-folding ones for those who don't. – ojs Feb 23 at 7:38
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The reason non-folding tires are manufactured is that people still buy non-folding tires. Companies will make what sells.

In the original post there is a comparison between two tires of the same model, one is folding and one is not. According to the post:

folding and non-folding tyres of the same model differ in price more than a few cents.

The question asked in the original post is really:
Why would someone choose a non-folding tire over a folding tire if the two tires are the same model and virtually the same price?

Someone would choose a non-folding tire over a folding tire of the same model and price is if they didn't need the ability to fold the tire and they felt that a non-folding tire is easier to install.

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    You read a lot that is not in the question. An equally plausible reading of the question would be "If making a folding tire costs only a few cents more and it can be sold for ten dollars' extra markup, why would anyone manufacture less profitable non-folding tires". – ojs Feb 23 at 7:43
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    @ojs if most manufacturers stopped making non-folding tires, and only a handful remained, the remainders would completely dominate the market for the cheaper tires. You can't simply stop making what customers want to buy just like you can't hike the price of your product for absurd profit: even if it works at first, it is an inherently unstable setup as you give too much opportunity to the competition. – lvella Feb 23 at 13:12
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    @Ivella the whole premise of this answer is that they would sell for the same price too. – ojs Feb 23 at 14:06
  • This reads like the sole reason is market economics. Are there no functional differences at all then? ('feel like' being easier to install sounds like there is no difference, which is not my experience) – stijn Feb 25 at 10:12
  • @ojs and the premise of your comment is that folding tires have a higher profit margin, thus it is a good idea for manufacturers to stop making the less profitable kind. Well, it isn't. – lvella Feb 25 at 14:18
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Another factor is that tires of the same model name often come in many variations. For most manufacturers, the model name simply refers to the tread pattern or even just the general style of the tire (e.g. Panaracer’s Gravel King lineup). Model names are therefore almost always followed by an indecipherable combination of letters, numbers, and Egyptian hieroglyphs that denote the specifics of the tire’s construction, and by extension the “tier” of that specific tire. Here's an example of a product page for the Schwalbe Nobby Nic:

enter image description here

As you can see, there are three different tiers and several variations in casing, rubber compound, and size within each. This is all for one model name!

My point is that the wire bead versions of a tire often come with a cheaper casing and cheaper rubber too, which explains their lower price. The high-end rubber and casing options aren't available for wire bead tires at all. As you can see from the image, the wire bead Nobby Nics are $28, while the mid-range is around $55, and the top-of-the-line $89. (To be fair, most of Schwalbe's products are notoriously well-performing but also unusually expensive.)

Also, manufacturers often associate fancy marketing with the "holy moly this tire FOLDS!!!" aspect, which further increases the price delta.

Lastly, steel is really, really cheap. Kevlar is less so.

Tangent: This is also why you have to be careful when buying tires, especially used ones. When you are buying a “Nobby Nic” for example, are you getting the $89 model or the $55 one? You can easily be paying too much/little because of the specifics, even without factoring in the bead material.

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    I really wanted to post a comment in Egyptian hieroglyphs, but Stack Exchange's font doesn't support those code points. – Michael Feb 23 at 14:54
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Cost The cheapest wire-bead BSO tyre I can buy is $14 NZ, and is a MTB format in all the common diameters. example

The cheapest folding tyre would have to come from a bike shop, and starts at around $50 NZ. For a direct comparison, their cheapest wire bead MTB tyre is $21-$29.

At the low end, wire bead tyres are cheaper.

Sturdiness From browsing, it seems there are a lot of mid-range MTB tyres from brand names, that are wire bead. For example, Maxxis detonator, ardent, crossmark etc. These appear to be knobby variations where weight is not the main issue.

Tubeless I can't really speak personally on this, but wire beads are supposed to be more resistant to popping off the rim, or burping under low pressure, because there's a physical wire holding the bead in a line instead of just air pressure.

Personally I prefer a folding tyre, unless its a really cheap bike that I don't want to sink money into.

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  • The main problem I have with folders is that they take about 4 tries to get them properly seated on the rim, the first time they are mounted. Especially for a novice it would be very easy to get the seating wrong and end up with a blowout from the bead slipping off the rim. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 22 at 21:06
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    I am not aware of any wired tubeless tyre, all are normally kevlar-ones because it is necessary that the bead does not stretch at all. – Vladimir F Feb 23 at 8:59
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    @DanielRHicks I haven't found that, even fitting in the pouring rain at the side of the road. Maybe my rims are more forgiving (or maybe the rain lubricated everything - I often wet things when fitting tyres at home too) – Chris H Feb 23 at 10:26
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    @ChrisH - When you first open up the folding tire it is all wrinkled. If you try to lay it out in a circle it will be a wrinkled circle. Getting it to "seat" is a chore. Of course, once the tire has been used for a dozen miles or so it takes a "set" and isn't so ornery. If I'm using a folding tire in the shop I find it best to open it up and lay it out for a few hours. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 23 at 12:49
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    @DanielRHicks maybe that's why. At home I may unpack in advance. On the road it's been partially unfolded, either to let me pack the saddlebag better, or, when touring with bikepacking luggage, to strap to the rear mudguard, into which I've drilled slots. That last case was how I carried it before the roadside change, when I inexplicably blew the sidewall out of a Marathon Supreme on a smooth road, 130km from home, moderately laden and a little under the stated max pressure. – Chris H Feb 23 at 12:56
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Some quick numbers:

  • Steel wire rod seems to run around $500-$800/tonne, or $0.50-$0.80/kg:

https://www.alibaba.com/showroom/wire-rod.html

A cheap road tyre is 365g in steel, 280g in aramid bead

https://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_tires/racing_tires/lugano-2

MTB tyres seem to have a similar weight difference, though there are rubber differences also there.

https://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_tires/off-road_tires/racing_ray_489

I estimate therefore around 100g of steel reinforcement in the bike tyre, costing 5-8 cents. The aramid weighs around 1/6, of this so maybe 15g. At $25/kilo this comes to around 38 cents.

So the price difference should be 30 cents. I guess when you markup the price for sale you'd expect to multiply that by about 5, so maybe $1.50

If you consider the kind of garbage fitted to a cheap bike, then 'cheapest everything' and 30 cents off the price is 100% something they want. So we can immediately rule out ending steel wired tyre, because they are cheaper to make, they work fine, and many bikes are built on hundreds of such penny-pinching distinctions.

Well then why do they sell them at retail?

Because they want to get as much money out of you as they can. If someone is willing to pay $1000 (and they are) for a set of handlebars, why sell it for $100.

It's price discrimination, and it's there to get you too spend more. They make very little profit on the cheapest tyre, and more on each tyre as the price increases.

When Shimano sell the same brake lever with a screw blanked out as 'SLX' as Deore XT, that's not because it's cheaper to make, it's because if you want the nicer product then they will make you pay for it.

Given that getting a name as a bike tyre manufacturer is expensive in terms of large amounts of marketing, distribution, etc., there's literally no reason for them to sell 'nice' folding tyres for less money. I live in Indonesia, there's a local brand called Swallow, and there's also Schwalbe. Does it make sense for Swallow to add to their cost basis by using aramid? No. Because anyone who wants a nice tyre is buying Schwalbe or Continental. Is there any reason for Schwalbe or Continental to sell you a folding tyre for the price of a wired one? No, because people are willing to pay $50+ for a bicycle tyre, so they have no reason to engage in destructive business practices and eat into their profits.

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  • A popular hack I’ve seen is to remove the SLX blanking screw and replace it with a normal M4. Works great apparently. – MaplePanda Feb 24 at 16:36

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