Folding vs. Wire Bead Tires

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Last Updated on June 29, 2021

The kind of tires you have on your bike will affect its performance, comfort level, and safety. As they are among the most crucial components of your bike that have the potential to make or break your ride. The tires should fit the bike well, be durable, offer stability, and provide efficient performance on all terrains. 

The market is awash with various bike tires, and choosing them can be a very demanding task. They all come in different sizes, have varying tire treads, and the tube and valve sizes are also in a wide range. The popular tire types include tubeless clincher tires, clincher tires, and tubular tires. 

Most bikes feature clincher tires, which have a horse-shoe profile. When inflated, the tires clinch on the rims and are held in place by the bead inside the tire's hooked profile.

The air pressure within the tire helps the bead remain firmly attached. The bead used on the tires can either be folding or rigid, and this guide tells you all you need to know about the two types. Below is Folding Versus Wire Bead Bike Tires Detailed Comparison.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Folding Bead Tires 

foldable beads bike tires

Folding bead tires are made from Kevlar strands, while their rigid counterparts are made using a wire. The folding bead tire type has a special treatment in the cycling industry among the clincher tires.

Instead of a bundle of wires within the tire, the tire comprises a bundle of Kevlar strands to make a folding bead. The size of the resulting bead depends on the size of the tires. Folding bead tires are more popular because they are lighter by 50-90 grams than wire bead tires. 

The primary feature that differentiates the folding bead tire from the wire bead tire is the material used. Instead of steel wire, the folding tires utilize synthetic fibers, which are durable and more flexible. It is this flexibility that allows you to fold the tires. 

Flexibility

The beauty of the folding bead tires is that you can easily carry them along with you. The manufactures had this issue in mind when designing the tires. This lets you have a spare tire with you when you set out for long rides. 

Weight 

The synthetic wires used in making folding tires are lighter than those in wire bead tires. This makes them easy to travel with, although there's only a small number of cyclists who engage in long-distance touring. Lighter tires mean better bike performance. 

Threads per Inch Count 

Folding tires save you a great deal of weight, hence classified as premium construction tires. Their high thread per inch count (above 60) is a premium feature that gives you more flexibility than tires with a low TPI count. 

Rubber Compound

The tread of foldable tires has a softer rubber compound. The soft treads are excellent for bike tires as they provide better traction on any terrain.

The tires have an increased surface area that the tire comes into contact with any surface. On the downside, this rubber softness makes the tires wear out quickly. The tires are hence equipped with dual-compound treads to reduce wear and tear. 

Who is Folding Bead Tire For?

If you are a long-distance cyclist, you may want to choose the folding bead tires over the wire bead tires.

Their folding capability makes them easy to carry, as all you need is to fold them and fit them in your backpack. They are also light and make cycling easy as they have better traction. 

Advantages of Folding Bead Tires 

  • Folding bead tires are lightweight 
  • Their flexibility makes them easy to fold and carry
  • Provide good traction on all surfaces
  • Have a high thread per inch count for flexible rides 

Disadvantages folding bead tire

  • They are not durable, hence enforced with dual-compound treads.

Verdict on Folding Bead Tires

As a long-distance cyclist, you will prefer to have the kind of tires you can easily carry as a spare tire.

The folding bead tire provides you with this convenience as it is light and flexible. However, be prepared to spend a little more on folding tires than wire bead tires. 

Here’s What You Need to Know About Wire Bead Tires 

wire bead bike tires

The rigid bead tire type is popularly known as the wire bead tire. The tire type falls in the old school category and is made from thin steel wire.

The wire compressed in the bead helps keep the tire in its position in the rim even under pressure. The main difference between this type and the folding bead tire is that you can’t fold the wire tire. 

The wire bead tires comprise bundles of steel wire in their bead. They’re useful in keeping the rim in place when the tire is inflated. Due to their nature, the steel wires are less flexible than the Kevlar strands. 

Flexibility

Wire bead tires are not as flexible as the folding ones, again due to the nature of the wires they contain. However, this is not to say that they don't make great choices as spare wheels.

Many cyclists still carry them along because they don't require the whole wheel but the tube. 

Besides, you can also fold wire bead tires. The problem lies in unfolding them to their original condition. It will require a little bit of extra effort to get them back in shape.  

Weight

Traveling long distances on wire bead tires may not be the best option. The steel wire adds to the weight of the wheel and may make navigation on some terrains difficult. 

Thread Per Inch Count

Wire bead tires have a lower thread density. Consequently, they also have a lower TPI, which implies less flexibility. Most riders prefer a TPI of 60 and above, yet a wire bead tire doesn't have a TPI count. 

Rubber Compound

Manufacturers of wire bead tires don’t use soft rubber in their making. This is probably because the wire used in the bead may not be compatible with soft rubber. This tells you that wire bead tires are built to last longer than the folding type. 

Who is Wire Bead For?

If you are looking for bike tires that last long, the wire bead type may be your best bet. They are also ideal for short commutes on terrains that don’t require so much effort in spinning the wheel. 

Advantages of wire bead tires

  • Built to last 

Disadvantages of wire bead bike tires

  • Heavier and hence require more effort to spin the wheel 

Verdict on wire bead bike tires

Wire bead tires add some rolling weight to your bike. If this is not a problem for you, buying this type may be more budget-friendly for you.

They also last longer and will cut down your tire replacement budget in the long run. 

Final Thoughts: Choosing Between Folding and Wire Bead 

From all these descriptions and differentiation, you might think that wire bead tires are inferior in quality. However, this is not necessarily the case as both types of tires perform the same way. The main differentiating factor is that while one is foldable, the other type is not.

Other schools of thought have it that the wire bead tires are harder to mount. This depends on the type of tire in question. Many cyclists have told of their challenging experiences in mounting folding bead tires. 

Overall, choosing between the folding and wire bead tires is mainly a factor of personal preference.

If you're looking for a tire you can easily carry on long distances, the folding type is an excellent choice. In terms of cost, the folding tires come at a higher price than the wire bead tires. 



Harold Whitford

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About the Author

My name is Harold Whitford, a husband, father, and avid cyclist with a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Delaware. Having been in the industry for more than 15 years, I have a number of the road race and national time trial championships in my bag.

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