Overnight blizzard? Zip on your studs. Going from suburbs to singletrack? Zip on your trail treads. The reTyre presents one of the craziest bike tire designs we’ve seen in a while.
Casual cyclists tend to have one bike suited for mild terrain. Meanwhile, “serious” cyclists often have multiple bikes to tackle specific riding — urban commuting, mountain biking, winter riding, and more.
But Norwegian startup reTyre wants to take a serious cyclist’s versatility and combine it with the simplicity of a casual cyclist’s single-bike quiver. And believe it or not, it aims to accomplish that with zip-on tire treads.
The concept is both as wild and as basic as it sounds. A tiny zipper along the sidewall allows users to zip on studs or tread over a smooth road tire. And it claims to work on standard rims and just about any size.
reTyre Zip-On Bike Tire Treads
If you’re like us, you’re probably highly skeptical. And that makes sense: A bike’s tires endure the most abuse and are its primary safety feature.
But reTyre said the zip-on system is the product of two years of rigorous testing. The brand claims it perfected the design after riding and evaluating over 4,500 “alpha” tires that “passed with flying colors.”
Here’s how it works. The system starts with a basic road tire, called the reTyre ONE. According to reTyre, this tire offers “excellent grip, low rolling resistance, and high puncture resistance.” This mounts on standard rims and is available in 26-, 27.5-, 28-, and 29-inch sizes. This serves as the base that all other treads attach to.
The brand offers three “skins” to accommodate changing conditions. An urban winter tire sports 156 carbide studs. An all-terrain skin works for gravel and other soft, uneven surfaces with a light tread pattern. And the Trail X skin handles aggressive downhill mountain riding.
Swapping the tires, the brand advertises, is as easy as “zipping up your jacket.” Along the sidewalls, the brand used a self-locking zipper it claims you can secure in under 60 seconds.
Zip-On Tire Safety
Obviously, this design raises a few flags. First off, without the skins, it looks like you’d be riding on a tire that has half a zipper hanging out. Aside from looking weird, you might also wonder, “Won’t that zipper get all gunked up?” After all, we did.
reTyre addressed this, saying the “centrifugal forces create a self-cleaning effect.” That’s great if it’s true. But we’ve ridden enough to know that all tires gather debris, rocks, and other minor road hazards despite the cleaning wonders of centrifugal force.
We also wonder about the seam where the skin comes together. The brand seems to have addressed this as well, designing a tongue that the tread overlaps — presumably to prevent pointy, sharp objects from poking through the tiny gap.
Finally, there’s the issue of zippers in general. They break. What happens if the zipper sticks and you can’t get your studs off? What if you get one of those tiny, infuriating zipper gaps? Most alarmingly, what if it comes unzipped while you’re riding?
These are all concerns we need to lay to rest before we join the zip-on tire craze. And we’d love to take ’em for a spin — the brand already met its funding goal in the first few hours, so these will come to market. But if they really work as advertised, it could help a lot of fair-weather riders get a little more gnarly now and again.
These zip-on tires are available now on Kickstarter, starting at $79 for a set of reTyre ONE tires up to $299 for the whole system. At full retail, the two base tires and a pair of each of the treads will run $633.
While that’s a fairly shocking number, note it represents the equivalent of eight bike tires. If these are actually good (and we’re indeed skeptical), it’s about par for the market. If you would need to switch tires regularly, it’s a new option that raises eyebrows.