Why Do E-Bikes Have Different Tires? Are They a Gimmick?

If you’re shopping online for new ebike tires, you probably come across tires specifically made for electric bikes. You might be wondering if what’s different about these tires and if you actually need them on your ride.

Adding an electric motor to a bicycle adds a lot of weight, and it’s not unheard of for an eBike to weigh double that of a standard bike.  To help deal with this, some tires are designed specifically for eBikes. These claim to take into account all the unique elements of power-assisted bikes. But at the same time, many eBikes have the exact same tires you can find on the non-powered bike. 

So are eBike tires really any different from standard tires? Or is this an area where you could potentially make a clever saving? 

E-Bike vs Regular Tires

You will often hear riders discuss the fact that many eBike’s top speeds aren’t quite lightning fast. In fact, a lot of riders can match an electric bike’s top speed without the motor. However, what is often overlooked is that eBikes reach this speed while carrying extra weight. And this weight has a significant impact on tires.

Ebike specific tires are designed for extra load-bearing and need to be more durable to carry that extra weight. The extra pressure put on a bike can lead to an increase in treadwear and also make them more susceptible to those ever-annoying punctures. Check out our article on how well puncture resistance tires work.

Having a motor also encourages riders to maintain a higher speed. Even though the top speeds are often restricted by law, eBike riders will often ride faster for a longer period of time than they would on a standard bike. It’s also not uncommon for people to keep a higher speed around corners and hard turns which can increase the torque and damage the back tire in particular. 

To deal with this, eBike tires have different specifications. The casing of the tires will generally have a stronger make up. This is measured by the threads per inch (tpi) where a higher number of threads equates to a thicker and more durable weave. 

There are often additional sidewall inserts and enhanced puncture-prevention layers. The extra strong construction is needed as regular tires weren’t designed with the demands of an eBike in mind.  

There has been a focus on keeping bike tires as light as possible over recent years to give riders an edge in performance. This often comes at a cost, as tires with a lighter make up often lose some of their durability. 

With eBikes, the focus is the other way around. Because there is a motor, keeping weight down isn’t a top priority on eBikes. Instead, durability and longevity are the main focus of tires to help with the higher demands.

Are eBike Tires a Gimmick?

Regardless of whether it’s for road, touring, or mountain biking, ebike tires are going to be more expensive. The Maxxis eBike tires, for example, are amongst the top tires in their range as the extra durability comes at a cost. 

Whilst some tire brands have made new models for eBikes, some of the Continental range are enhanced versions of an existing design. In most cases, eBike tires are a little bit more expensive. You can see this with the Contact Plus for example, which is an eBike specific model compared to the standard Contact which isn’t. The price increase for eBike tires is noticeable but it’s usually not a very large amount. 

So is the premium worth paying? We would say overall – yes. It’s not to say you’re getting a better tire, but you are getting a tire that will offer more protection. This will come at the expense of weight. However, the added puncture protection and knowing the tire will last a reasonable amount of time make it worthwhile.  

Can You Use Regular Tires on an Electric Bike?

Regulations for eBikes are different throughout the world. This relates to the maximum speed allowed, the size of motors, and even tires. In Europe, eBike tires need to comply with the endurance standard ECE-R75. This is to ensure the tire can sustain long durations of high speed as well as being able to bear additional weight around turns. 

In the USA it’s a different story. There are currently no regulations for eBike tires. In fact, a lot of brands including Trek and Rad Power bikes, sell their eBikes with normal tires. 

Interestingly, Trek sells their US eBikes with a highly specified and hard-wearing tire that isn’t eBike specific. However, they sell their European bikes with the eBike specific Bontrager E6.

It’s important to note that eBikes in Europe have a higher speed limit and higher motor allowance than in the US, so it’s not surprising that there are fewer regulations and less emphasis on high-performance tires. It’s sometimes commented that eBikes are considered as light motor vehicles in Europe, as opposed to advanced bikes in the USA. 

E-Bike Tire Recommendations

As eBikes become more popular, lots of popular tire manufacturers have started making specific models. If you’re looking to purchase your first set of eBike tires, we would recommend looking at Schwalbe and Maxxis as a solid starting point. 

One of the most popular models with eBike riders is Schwalbe’s Marathon Plus. The Marathon has long been a popular tire and the Plus version adds additional durability. It has an excellent record for puncture resistance and is very hard-wearing. It also passes the European regulations for eBike tires, so you can be assured of good performance. 

If you’re looking for something a little larger, the Big Apple is specified for intensive use and has a more sporty profile. With all eBike tires, it’s recommended that they are inflated quite high to allow protection against the extra weight. 

Final Word

The construction and durability make using a specific eBike tire an easy decision. There is usually an increase in both cost and weight, but this shouldn’t put you off using tires that are specifically made for the type of vehicle you’re using them for. 

If you’re in the US there is a chance your eBike might have come with standard tires. If that’s the case it would be a good idea to run these into the ground before swapping. However long that takes, you will probably find your new eBike specific tires will outperform your old ones.