Wire Bead Tire vs. Folding — Which is Best?

There’s always been a long-fought argument between bead tires and folding tires but what many forget to realize is they both serve different purposes and can be beneficial to different types of bike riders.

The primary distinction between wire bead and folding bead tires is the type of bead used. A steel wire bead on wire bead tires hooks into the wheel rim. A Kevlar or Aramid bead folds over the edge of the wheel rim in folding bead tires.

In this article, I will essentially be looking at the pros and cons of wire bead and folding tires and then highlight their comfort, durability, and multiple other factors. This way, you can choose the best one for your needs. 

What Are Wire Bead Tires? 

Wire bead tires, commonly known as clincher tires, are made of steel wire wrapped around the outside of a tire. A rubber casing is then wrapped around the wire bead. They are mostly used in every bike frame as opposed to folding tires. 

If you’re looking for a tire that will last you a long time, then you should definitely get wire bead tires. These tires are most commonly recognized by the horseshoe-shaped profile. 

When you inflate a tire, the beads of the tire grip or clinch (for lack of a better word) to the rim of the wheel. The head hooked lip— also known as the bead— is what keeps the tire secured in its place. 

What Are Folding Tires? 

The only difference between folding tires and wire bead tires is that the wire beads in the clincher tire are replaced by a bundle of kevlar strands. This major difference is what distinguishes a folding tire, allowing it to fold up easily and provide more storage space.

This feature, depending on the size of the bike, can also decrease tire weight by a significant amount. 

This is mainly what makes folding tires so popular and is the reason they arise as an opponent against classic wire bead tires. 

What’s the Difference Between Wire Bead and Folding Tires? 

Wire Bead Tire Folding Tire 
CheaperMore expensive 
Less compatibleTubeless compatible 
Less flexibleFlexible 
More durable Less durable
Hard rubber compoundSofter rubber compound 
Takes more spaceTakes less space 

This table shows the differences between wire beads and folding tires.

By now it is clear that both tires are outstanding in their own way. They may have contradicting features, but both tires perform their task with efficacy.

This is mainly why people have such a hard time choosing what tire they should go for. 

If you’re looking for flexibility and space efficiency then folding tires should be your pick. These can ensure you can use your storage sufficiently albeit paying a bit more. 

On the other hand, if you want sturdy and durable tires then you should definitely go for the wire bead tires. These usually last longer and are cost-effective so you can easily get them when your tires wear out. 

What Are the Pros of Wire Bead Tires? 

Price 

One of the biggest advantages of wire beads is their price. These tires are a lot cheaper in comparison to folding tires which makes them easily accessible and liked more than folding tires. 

These tires will be your best pick if you’re ever running tight on money but still need quality tires for your bike. 

Compound 

Wire beads are made out of strong and durable rubber. Although it does offer less grip, it lasts a whole lot longer. You don’t need to get it replaced frequently, so that is a big perk for your pockets. 

Not only this, but it also saves you from the constant worry that you might need a replacement tire soon and can give you enough leverage to save up for your next pair of tires. 

Rim Roll 

Some folding tires are known to roll on rims at lower pressure however, that is only a small percentage of folding tires. Wire beads, on the other hand, can roll on low rim pressure and also keep the stiffness of the side walls. 

This is what mainly keeps wire bead tires from rolling at lower rim pressure and in turn stay sturdy and secure. 

What Are the Cons of Wire Bead Tires? 

Low Strength 

A thing many people have noticed is that sometimes wire bead tires give out. This is to say the beads in them aren’t able to hold on for long if you’re doing heavy-duty biking, like biking on rough terrains and for longer hours. 

When compared to folding tires, they last for a short time, and while they are said to be durable, they only work for a long time if not used roughly.

No Flexibility 

Another disadvantage is that these tires are less flexible. While this may not be an issue for many, it does limit the amount of storage space you can use. You can’t fold your tires, so you must keep them as they are.

They take up a lot of space, and if you don’t have much space, it can be difficult to manage all of your other belongings while also safely storing tires.

Heavy Weight 

Finally, wire bead tires have the disadvantage of being heavier. Because folding tires are typically 2 ounces lighter, they are more efficient and faster.

Because wire bead tires are heavy, they not only slow you down with a lower acceleration rate, but they also reduce your enjoyment level because you will have to exert more effort for less result.

Heavyweight tires also result in less energy conservation because you have to do more work for half the result that lighter tires provide.

» This could also be something for you: Studded Bicycle Tires

What Are the Pros of Folded Tires? 

Flexibility

To begin with, the most noticeable benefit of folded tires is their flexibility. As the name implies, these bike tires are tenacious and can bend at a variety of angles.

These tires are made of folded kevlar, which is why they fold so easily. Because these tires bend easily, they are also easier to transport.

Unlike wire beads, which usually retain their shape and thus take up more space, folded tires do not.

These tires can be folded into a smaller size and thus do not require a lot of storage space to keep them safe.

The folding of these tires also means that you can make better use of your space and use the remaining space to keep other items safe.

Weight

Folding tires, on average, reduce mass by approximately 57 grams per tire. This combined effect can help to reduce overall weight and thus improve riding quality.

The bike performs better because it has less rotational mass, which makes it more nimble and allows it to accelerate more quickly. This means you can go faster with less added force, which is more enjoyable.

Less weight makes longer rides more enjoyable and saves energy when biking.

Rubber Compound

Unlike wire beads, folded tires are made of softer rubber compounds. Softer rubber compounds, as opposed to harder rubber compounds, aid in grip and keeping the tires in place.

Aside from that, softer compounds increase the surface area in contact with the trail. This extra grip is what can significantly improve ride quality while also increasing speed and grip.

It also increases your riding enjoyment.

Puncture Protection 

Finally, we have puncture protection. Because of the thick and durable kevlar used to make folded tires, they are less prone to punctures. This is why it is less likely to be punctured when compared to cheaper wire beads.

Not only that but when combined with a rim insert and a tubeless system, you can practically say goodbye to punctures. As a result, folded tires are more durable and last longer.

What are the Cons of Folded Tires? 

Softer Rubber Composition

I mentioned how softer rubber compounds make tires better for working on different terrains and increase traction, but the downside is that they wear out quickly.

Because it is not as strong as a tighter compound, softer rubber is more prone to wearing out or tearing. Because they wear out more quickly, you’ll have to replace them more frequently than wire bead tires.

This can be quite difficult and may not be feasible for many people, which is why many bikers continue to use wire bead tires rather than folding ones.

More Expensive 

Finally, I believe the most significant disadvantage of folding bikes is their high cost. They aren’t prohibitively expensive but are also not cheap.

Folding tires are typically $30-$60 more expensive than wire bead tires. While this may appear reasonable to some, it is out of reach for many people.

» Read more about this in my post: How Much is a New Bike Tire — (Cost of Replacing Tires)

Even though the benefits of these tires far outweigh those of wire beads, the fact that they are so expensive is irrelevant. Especially since they wear out faster.

Conclusion

Finally, there is no definitive way to determine which tires are better or worse. As a result, both tires, with their advantages and disadvantages, are placed on an equal footing.

It also comes down to your budget and how much you’re willing to pay for the extra features such as durability and fast speed.

Only after you’ve determined your priorities can you choose between the two of them. 

This article thoroughly summarizes all of the advantages, disadvantages, and differences between wire bead and folding tires so you can reach a more informed decision.

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