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A few years ago, I was given a very cheap dual-suspension 18 speed disc-braked mountain bike. Neither the giver nor I were very knowlegeable about bikes. I use it primarily for riding on the road, and occasionally across short stretches of mowed grass.

It always seemed quite hard to pedal in comparison to the single speed street bike I had as a teenager, however, when this MTB had a flat front tire a couple of weeks ago, I replaced the pneumatic tubes on both wheels with 26 x 1.95 Stop-A-Flat solid tubes (packed to fit with the old deflated tubes), and since then, it has seemed even harder to pedal, to the point where I feel that I can't ride the bike in top gear any more, and have to back off the gears to the next smallest front gear.

Since this bike has heavily treaded 26x1.95 off-road tires, I was wondering if I could substitute road tires to reduce the rolling resistance.

Tire size

What sort of tires and tubes should I be looking for... preferably something puncture-resistant, and not too expensive. I know that I'll need 26" tires and tubes, but I don't quite understand about the width... Do the tires I fit have to be 1.95" wide, or can I go wider or narrower, and if so, how much? I've looked online, and in the tires I've looked at, the closest I have seen is 26x1.75 and 26x2.0.

What tires and tubes would be recommended for this use?

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    I’d go for Schwalbe Marathon in size 47-559 (26 x 1.75) and a compatible tube e.g. Schwalbe AV13 (Schrader (automotive) valve, 40 to 62mm tyre width). If you need a lot of puncture resistance you could go for the Marathon Plus.
    – Michael
    Oct 15 at 7:20
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    Oh and make sure you (regularly) inflate to a high enough pressure. Cheap and/or puncture resistant tyres often have a lot of rolling resistance at low pressure.
    – Michael
    Oct 15 at 7:31
  • I’d also like to point out that cheap suspension eats a lot of power and usually can’t be locked.
    – Michael
    Oct 15 at 7:59
  • There are very few "race-style" 26 inch tyres. - the only one I've found was a Continental Grand Prix (not a GP and there are no numbers) These were low on puncture protection too, but they were way faster than knobblies.
    – Criggie
    Oct 15 at 9:34
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  1. It doesn't make much sense to spend a lot of money on tires for what you say is a cheap bike, but you can find slick tires with a width of about 1.5" that are great for urban riding. As long as they have a bead-seat diameter of 559 mm, they will fit.
  2. Solid innertubes have notoriously high rolling resistance. I would only choose them for a bike where punctures were just not an option.
  3. There's always a tradeoff between puncture resistance (thick, sturdy tire casings) and rolling resistance (thin, pliant tire casings). You need to decide where on the spectrum this bike belongs.
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  • If the inner tubes are not degraded because of their age, I'd just put slick or slightly profiled tyres on the rims.
    – Carel
    Oct 16 at 9:23
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There is no need to have the same dimensions. To make it short, the width of a bike tire is mostly dependent on your rim inside width (that you can measure when the tire & tube are removed) and frame clearance. Given you'd like something smaller, it's only the rim inside width that is relevant. This point has been covered extensively in that question: What is the maximum or minimum tire width I can fit on my bicycle

The tube might be an issue: they are usually rated for a min and max width (often written on them). Going thinner is probably less problematic tough. If you were to replace them, the point to pay attention to is the valve. There are two kinds: Presta (pure bike, very thin) and Schrader (like cars), that require different holes diameters in the rim. You can fit a Presta valve in a 'Schrader' rim (but I wouldn't do that, as you'll loose the convenience to fill up the tires in gas stations), but not the opposite. Better to keep the one you have now, though.

You won't be able to install true road tires on your bike, as 26" was never a size for road bikes. But you'll find city/tour/trekking tires that are available with different threading patterns, from road to very light offroad.

For tires recommendation, If you stick to known brands (Schwalbe, Continental, Kenda... I'm not aware of the brands available in AU), you're very unlikely to have bad surprises. This range of tires are usually on the cheap side, you may have to pay an extra for puncture protection.

The Schwalbe Marathon product range is a reference in term of puncture protection (a bit expensive though — compared to typical trekking tires, but very effective).

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