Folding Vs Wire Bead

If you are a BMX biker, choosing the bike tire appropriate for your daily needs can be tricky. But in this article, we will make the decision easy for you by providing ample information about folding bead tires and wire bead tires, comparing them based on different factors and techniques of installing a wire bead tire. All of your bike tire bead-related questions will be answered here.

What is a folding bead tire?

Folding bead tires are a type of clincher tires. They have Kevlar strand wires in the inner tube of the tire. These tires are foldable, have more flexibility compared to wire bead tires, and are more durable. Folding bead tires have more TPI (Thread per inch) and are lightweight compared to wire bead tires. Softer rubber compounds are used in these tires, making them great for use as softer rubbers tend to be grippier and have more surface friction and, hence, more control.

What is a wire bead tire?

A wire bead tire has a pair of steel bead wires installed in the inner part of the tire tube.  The function of these wires is to hold the tires in position on the rim and prevent the tire from falling off. Wire bead tires are significantly cheaper than folding bead tires. These are comparatively heavier (about 200 gm heavier than folding bead tires) and are a lot stiffer. That means you can’t bend them as per your wish or fold them into taking less volume. They also tend to have less TPI count even though that necessarily doesn’t have to be the case always. Harder rubber compounds are used in wire bead tires. So, they last longer than tires where softer rubber compounds are used.

Folding vs wire bead: Comparison Table

Attribute Folding Bead Tire Wire Bead Tire
Material KEVLAR synthetic fiber bead Stainless steel wire bead
TPI High Low or unspecified
Flexibility Highly flexible Rigid
Longevity Short lifespan Long lifespan
Rubber Softer rubber compound Harder rubber compound
Price Expensive Low cost
Availability Less available Widely available

Comparison Between Folding Bead and Wire Bead Tires

Materials:

The most significant difference between folding bead tires and wire bead tires is made from the different materials used in the tires. Inside the beads, Wire bead tires use a pair of stainless-steel wires that maintain the shape of the tire and give it a rigid mechanical structure. Folding bead wires have KEVLAR fibers that are a lot more flexible than steel wires, so they have completely different properties, which have been discussed in later points.

Flexibility:

The key feature of folding bead tires is that they are extremely flexible. They can achieve this by using the famous KEVLAR fibers instead of steel wires in the tires. KEVLAR is a form of synthetic polymer discovered in the 60s, known for its strength and flexibility. These fibers are also used in bulletproof vests and for other similar purposes. These fibers are extremely flexible and enable the user to fold the tires into any shape they want.

Weight

Folding bead tires are marginally more lightweight than wire bead tires. On average, given almost every other feature of a folding bead tire and a wire bead tire are roughly equal, the folding bead tire is expected to be 200 gm lighter than a wire bead tire. This isn’t that big of a difference when it comes to the weight of tires. Unless you are fighting for the top position in a competitive cycling race or are going to use the tires for long-distance travel, you can not practically tell any difference between the two types of tire by weight.

TPI Count

Bike tires are made of nylon thread that is woven tightly against each other. The number of threads used per inch is the TPI count of a tire. Even though folding tires don’t have to have a higher TPI, as they are marketed as premium tires, they generally do have more TPI compared to wire bead wire. This gives a marginal advantage in maintaining control of the bike.

Price

Folding bead tires are significantly more expensive than wire bead tires. A folding bead tire can cost from six to thirty dollars more than a wire bead tire.

Rubber Compound

Softer rubber compounds are used in folding bead tires, so they are easier to control and have more grip on the road with more friction. However, this also makes them last less long. Wire bead tires have harder rubber compounds, which increases their lifespan to some extent.

Tire Diameter

The difference in outer diameters in bike tires is not seen because of bead type. Rather it happens because of the difference in manufactures, size and design of the bike, and purpose of the tire. The type of bead doesn’t play any major role in tire diameters. You can find tire diameters of all sizes for both types of beads on the market.

Ply type

Folding bead tires and wire bead tires both tend to have cross-ply or bias-ply in them. There is not much difference between them in this case.

Tube type

Both folding beads and wire bead tires come in both clincher and tubeless forms. Even though it is generally thought that folding bead tubeless tires are more comfortable to mount than wire bead tubeless tires, there isn’t any strong theory to explain the idea. The majority of folding and wire bead tires are actually clincher, however. There are very few tubeless and tubular wire bead tires.  In general, bead types do not make a great difference throughout different tube types.

Wire bead vs Folding bead Pros and Cons:

Pros of Wire bead

  • These are produced with steel wire beads which are less expensive than KEVLAR fibers, so the production cost is less, and the price is less high compared to folding beads.
  • Wire bead tires have harder rubber materials that don’t wear off easily, so more durable and lasts longer in the long term.
  • More companies produce wire bead tires with different features, so you will have more options to choose from with a wider price range.
  • Wire bead tires are more easily available and have been more popular for a longer time. The installation process is more popular, and customer service is more accessible.

Cons of Wire bead

  • Rigid so can’t be bent according to need, so these are difficult to carry in long-distance travels or store in small space.
  • Heavier than folding beads, so for long-distance use or racing use, they might slow the bike down a bit.
  • It produces less friction than folding beads, so there is less grip on the road and less control on the bike.

Pros of Folding bead

  • These are lightweight, so they don’t slow the bike down and less load on the biker.
  • A softer rubber compound can produce more friction meaning more grip on the road and more control on the bike.
  • It can be easily bent so convenient to carry anywhere you want to go, can be stored with less hassle in a small bag. You can store a large number of spare tires in a comparatively small amount of space.
  • It usually comes with more TPI count, so bike tire quality is significantly better than wire bead tires when that is the case.

Cons of Folding bead

  • It uses more expensive KEVLAR fibers and more TPIs than normal wire bead tires, more expensive than wire bead tires.
  • It doesn’t last as long as wire bead tires because the softer rubber compounds present in folding bead tires tend to wear out easily because of friction.
  • The installation process is less known to many people as very few companies produce such types of tires, and customer care support is not widely accessible in all regions.

Which is a better folding bead or wire bead?

The answer depends on the purpose and usage. If you are a professional bicycle racer or use bicycles for long-distance tours, the folding bead will help you carry more spare tires in less space very conveniently. They are also slightly lightweight. They also have a better grip. However, they are a lot more expensive than wire bead tires and last less than wire bead tires. Wire bead tires are also said to have fewer accidents by punctures even though there is no data to support the claim. So depending on your need, you have to decide which type meets your demand the best.

Wire tires – any reason to buy over folding?

If you are using your BMX bike for day-to-day use for short-range travel and looking for a cheap, economical tire, then wire bead tires are the best for you. Even though some companies intentionally make their wire bead tires low specs compared to the foldable bead model, plenty of companies make the same quality tires just in different bead types. Folding tires are only better for long-distance travel, so if you are not into that, you can peacefully choose a wire bead tire because long distance or short, they are definitely more durable than folding bead tires.

Wire bead vs. folding tubeless

Wire bead clinchers are tires with a pair of steel beads inside the inner tube, while the wire bead tubeless tires do not have any inner tube inside them. They are directly mounted on the rim and then floated. Folding clinchers also have an inner tube with KEVLAR fiber beads, and folding tubeless tires do not have the inner tube to put on inside.

Wire bead vs. folding gatorskin

Continental gatorskin is a famous series by cycle parts manufacturers Continentals. They have both wire bead and folding bead tires in the series, and both types are in line with the general features of continental gatorskins that make them popular. It is good to mention that folding gatorskins are especially popular among all the folding bead models because of their quality.

Techniques of installing wire bead bike tire

Inflate the tube slightly and fit it in the tire. Put the valve in the valve node. Install one bead at a time. Put beads over the rim with thumbs. Work the tube over the rim side and rim cavity. Install the second bead. After that, inflate the tube partially. Check for bead seating, small molding lines, inner tube. If not inconsistencies are found, then fully inflate the tube.

FAQ

What is the difference between a folding and wire bead?

The main difference between a folding bead tire and a wire bead tire is that in a folding bead tire, KEVLAR fiber is used inside beads, while in wire bead tires, a pair of steel wire beads are used to keep the tire in shape on the rim.

Are folding tires better than wired?

For long-distance professional use, folding beads can be more helpful than wire beads. For regular use, they provide almost the same service. Folding tires are, however, less durable than wire beads and more expensive.

What is a folding bead?

A folding bead is a type of bicycle tire where the tire can be folded into any shape you want without damaging or deforming the tire. Usually, they contain KEVLAR fibers in beads of the tire, which gives them this ability.

What is the difference between folding and non-folding tires?

Folding tires can be bent into any shape and minimal volume, while non-folding tires are rigid, inflexible tires that may get deformed if you force them into bending. The most common non-folding tire bead type is wire bead tires.

Can wire bead tires be tubeless?

Yes, they technically can be tubeless, even though there are very few of them. The tubeless compatible wire bead tires have tubeless or UST written from them by which you can know that they can be used without a tube. If these are not written, then it’s probably not designed to be used without a tube.

What does a folding TYRE mean?

A folding tire means no rigid, non-flexible component is present in the tire bead, making them eligible to be bent into any shape you want.  Folding bead tires usually have KEVLAR fibers instead of steel wire beads.

How do you install folding bead tires?

Push a little air in the tube to make a circular shape roughly the exact size of the tire. Place the valve near an identifiable marker on the tire. Feed the tire with a valve around the label. Push the valve into the valve hole and fit a bead in the rim. Get a section of the bead on the well of the rim- bottom of the rim near the center of the wheel to produce slack to get the rest of it over the rim well. The tire is half on. Put the wheel with the valve on the bottom and face open side of the wheel away from your legs. Place your hand on top of the tire.

Push the top section of the bead over the rim. Lock one hand and work the other one away once the hand halfway to the floor. Lock that hand and work the first hand to the same position. Once the tire stays on the rim by itself, deflate the tube. Go back to the first position, squeeze the bead together on the rim well. Slide your hand to three to nine o’clock position by continuing to pressure the bead into the rim. Then lean on the tire. Push the beads over the rim with your thumbs. Flate the tire with 25 PSI.

How do you fold a folding tire?

First, hold the tire like a steering wheel. Then push it from the side, then loop it upward from the bottom. Let the sides cross, and then turn the base over the top. Turn it into a circle, and you are done.

Conclusion

Both folding bead and wire bead tires have their benefits and downsides; however, both of them have the potential to be your favorite useful bike tire, depending on your needs. So ask yourself what you really are looking for in a bike tire, and then with the help of the pieces of information learned from this article, hopefully, you will be able to choose the best tire for yourself.

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