I was exchanging emails with a friend the other day, when he told me, “My Armadillo came in today. I love the fact that it is already shaped and much easier to install.”
Already shaped? Oh, he means he bought a wire bead tire, instead of a folding bead.
What’s the difference?
Well, folding bead tires can be folded. Wire beads, not so much. The bead is where the tire contacts the rim. Wire beads — formed by a thin steel wire — are old school. They’ve been in use for decades. The folding beads are usually made of Kevlar. Wire bead tires are usually heavier, but they’re also usually cheaper than folding beads.
A lot of people think wire bead tires are lower quality than folding, but from what I’ve seen, that’s not necessarily the case. Some tire companies make their wire beads to a lower spec than the folding ones, but some make exactly the same tire with two different types of bead.
There is also a common feeling that wire bead tires are harder to mount than folding beads. Again, it depends on the tire. Plenty of cyclists tell of headaches trying to mount folding bead tires.
So, which is better?
There’s no one right answer. Wire bead tires are a little heavier, so you’re adding rolling weight to your bike. Folding bead tires can be carried in a saddle bag or handlebar bag, in case you need to replace an entire tire on the road. But except for hard core distance cyclists, I’m not aware of anyone who goes out for a ride with a whole spare tire. Just a tube.
I look at the bike store’s collection of wire bead tires with envy — not because I aspire to own one, but because of their lower prices. But I will continue to buy folders. I get them via mail order since they’re cheaper than paying retail at a bike shop, and they ship more easily. Otherwise, I don’t see a lot of difference.
By the way, you can fold wire bead tires, as is demonstrated here.
Loving the Bike says
I should have read a post like this a couple days ago. I just bought folded tires at the bike shop when I was in for a tune up on Monday. I guess next time I’ll buy them online and save a little money.
Hey Bike Noob, my bike is all tuned up and ready to ride. Hope to catch up with you soon.
I actually like wire bead better. I have used both and think wire bead is easier to put on. I guess it depends more on the person than the tire. I would definitly get folders if I was touring though. Yes you can fold a wire bead but you can cut pack weight and space with a true folder.
I’ve tended to buy wire bead tires, even online. I’ve never had them show up damaged…. although sometimes I’ve had them overpackaged.
And, yes, us hardcore folks do carry a whole spare tire. Actually, if you are mountain biking without disc brakes, it’s also a good idea to carry a folding spare, simply because if you overheat the rims and cause a blowout, it’s allegedly likely that the tire will be ruined…. which I’ve never actually tested the veracity of…
Yes, that happened to me once, and I had to sag out of an organized ride.
Dmitriy Zasyatkin says
Nice write up, except I think its important to support your local bike shops, even if you’re paying a little more there. Bike shops really need your business and so does your local economy.
The Wulf says
Charitably supporting local bike shops is not good for the economy, local or otherwise; it’s good for local bike shops and only local bike shops. Money saved is money not wasted; so long as that saved money is not stuffed in a mattress, it finds its way back into the economy. I use the local bike shop when it is economical to do so; but to suggest that ordering online is harmful or unkind is absurd and contradictory: Are not the bike shops who have chosen to deal online ran by real people? Are not the postal carriers real people? Are not the customers who work for their money real people?
Amen. Extremely well put
but if you are buying at a local shop you are helping the local economy, some not very many of the online stores ship from a central location in the U.S. , yes there are the post office people etc that are in the chain that have jobs etc, but if the local job is not there….. you, I or your neighbor might not have a job, just something to think about. I’m for paying a little extra as long as I am not gouged (I’m not rich either), besides I get a lot of good info from my local dealer and they end up earning that extra money in the time it takes to answer my questions and give me different option (not all local dealers are like the shady Car Dealers you meet now and then)
That’s the beauty of a free market. You can pay more to support someone nearby who can’t do their job as efficiently, or you can pay less and support someone who has figured out a better way to run their business. It’s all your choice. I will support whoever allows me to support more people.
I’ll go with Newly and support my local bike shop. I have an old Peugeot and the brake calipers failed (poorly designed to begin with). My local shop owner spent an hour or two researching which new brakes would fit my bike.
With a local owner you get experience and some hand holding
i have used both types of tires and find the fold type quality is much
better – used them in india & now it is due for a change – the reason for my search.
okay heres comments and questions 1 guarantee bike shop dont buy local 2 i dont know thr differance between folders or non but what id like to find out which or more reliable for the best bead contact im into custom bikes and its one subject i still lack knowledge in any suggestions would be helpful
D Mac says
Good info deciding on new MTB tires. If riding very rocky terrain its good to carry not only tune and patches, but a tire. Buddy and i were riding a powerline trail amd a rock sliced his sidewall. Went thru both his tubes and mine trying to get home. Epic ride turned hike-a-bike. At least one rider should carry a tire for each rim diameter riding.
Thanks for the good info. It appears either bead will work on the same rim which was my actual main concern. After making many calls to local shops for 26” mountain bike tires, I found they are rare and lower quality. I guess the manufacturers went to 27”. Online is really my only option.