More on bike tire life

If you Google “bicycle tire life,” chances are you’ll see this old post of mine up near the top of the page. This is vaguely embarrassing, as the point of the post was that I went into it not really knowing how much life to expect out of my tires. Now I can speak with a little more authority, at least for a certain tire brand.

I’m on my second set of Continental Contact tires. The first set, which is what I put on right after that post in June of 2008, lasted 4000 miles—about 1500 during the remainder of 2008 and all 2500 miles of last year. I thought that was pretty good, so I bought a new set at REI at the beginning of this season. I went with REI because I could order the tires online and pick them up at a local store.

A few weeks ago I had a flat on the ride into work, and decided—since I was going to be removing a tire anyway to change out the tube—to rotate the tires. Friends who don’t ride much laugh when they hear that I rotate my bike tires, but I definitely get more wear on my rear tires than front, so it only makes since to switch the tires to even that out.

After about 1500 miles, here’s the tread on my rear tire,

and the tread on the front tire,

It’s pretty easy to see the difference in tread depth. There’s still decent tread left on the rear (which had already been switched to the front by the time I thought to take the photo), but it’s definitely more worn than the front. It looks like I’ll get the same life from this set of Continental Contacts as from the last.

I’m sure the life you get out of your tires depends to a large extent on the type of riding you do and the surfaces you ride on. I’m mostly a commuter rider, so I probably do more braking and cornering than a long-distance road racer does. I also ride on a variety of surfaces. My commute is about half on asphalt, a third on crushed limestone, and the remainder1 on concrete (not cement) sidewalks. Weekend pleasure rides aren’t too much different.

I don’t know this for sure, but I’ve always assumed that it’s the crushed limestone that does the most damage. I’m glad I found a brand of tire that holds up to it.


  1. Quick, what’s [1 - \frac{1}{2} - \frac{1}{3}]? Hint: the common denominator is 6.