Explaining The Natural Stretch Of Bike Tires Over Time

Dense Info Nugget

The casing of a tire will stretch/expand after mounting the tire on a rim and inflating it.

Most of the stretching occurs within the first 24 hours. The greater the tire pressure, the greater the stretch. The stretch usually amounts to 1-2mm.

The structure of the tire influences the process too. Thicker tires stretch less than thinner ones.

Factors That Influence Tire Stretch

1. Structure

A tire’s strength and capacity are expressed via the so-called tire ply rating. The higher the tire ply rating, the more stress the tire can face.

Bike tires come in two versions – 1-ply and 2-ply. In this case, 1 and 2 indicate the number of layers used for the tire’s casing (the main body of the tire).

The density of a tire’s plies is expressed in TPI (thread per inch). Higher TPI results in a thinner, lighter casing that’s also more compliant. Lower TPI has the opposite properties but also higher resistance to punctures.

For that reason, a tire with a high TPI (e.g., 120) can stretch more than a tire with a lower TPI (e.g., an MTB tire with 60tpi).


A tire’s sides are known as a sidewall. The sidewall is not in contact with the ground during regular pedaling, but it often meets obstacles when riding off-road.

For that reason, some MTB tires have heavy sidewall reinforcement. The thicker and the more reinforced the sidewall is, the less the tire can stretch out.

2. Tire Condition

If the tire tread is heavily worn, the tire loses its thickness and thus becomes easier to stretch. In different, new tires are more difficult to expand and put on a rim because the materials are still in good condition, and the tire’s architecture is intact.

3. Air Pressure

More air in the tire increases the pressure and stretches the tire to a greater degree. That being said, if the tire is made for the rim in question and inflated to the recommended settings, the tire will remain on the rim as intended. If your tire is popping during inflation, consider reading this post.

4. Tire and Rim Combination

The tire and rim combination directly influence how hard it is to mount the tire. It’s possible for a tire to be extremely difficult to install on one set of rims and easier on others. The harder it is to put a tire on a rim, the more the rim will stretch that tire during the first 24 hours.

That being said, if the rim and tire sizes are compatible, the rim will not damage the tire even if the installation is notoriously difficult and requires special weapons and tactics.

5. Temperature

The kinetic energy of atoms increases when an object is heated. As a result, the object expands and occupies more space.

If a bike is left in the sun for long, the tire will have no choice but to expand for two reasons.

First, the tire itself is expanding due to the higher temperature. Second, the air inside the tube expands too and raises the tire’s air pressure.

In most cases, however, the expenditure will not create real problems. A quality tire will not lose its properties in the sun and will offer the expected performance.

FAQ: Why does a tire stretch the most during the first 24 hours?

During the first 24 hours, the tire is adapting to the rim. After that, the tire has no reason to stretch anymore since the rim’s diameter is always the same.

If hypothetically speaking, a tire is installed on a rim that increases in diameter by a minuscule amount (e.g., 0.1mm ) every day, the tire will continue to stretch until its maximum elasticity is reached and a rupture occurs. Of course, if the rim itself can’t handle the contraction force of the tire, it will give first.

But since that scenario is not present, the tire stops stretching after meeting its new “home”.

FAQ: Is it possible for a tire to stretch over time and fall off the rim?

A tire may fall off a rim only if it’s improperly mounted or damaged due to external stress or age. For example, if the side wall of a tire is cut significantly, the tire could technically split and disintegrate.

A tire’s age and the way it’s been stored are important too. For example, a tire can be practically new, but if it was kept in direct sunlight for years, its body can quickly develop multiple cracks once in use.

When the tire is inflated to high PSI, the cracks will get bigger, and eventually, the tire will not be safe to ride. The tire will experience multiple punctures from sharp objects getting between the cracks too.

The protocol below will help you avoid the problems mentioned above:

  • Make sure that tire is not too wide or too thin for your rims.

The table below shows tire and inner rim width compatibility. The numbers are on the conservative side and some deviations are allowed.

  • Make sure that the tire is fairly new and stored properly. (Avoid buying second-hand tires that you can’t inspect in person.)
  • Do not overinflate the tire. (The maximum PSI of the tire is labeled on it.)

FAQ: What about tubular tires?

Tubular tires are much different than standard (clincher) models.

Tubular tires encompass an inner tube and are then stitched closed around it. The tire is then glued to a special rim. The process is labor-intensive.

Also, puncture repair is low and tedious. The tire has to be removed from the rim, opened up to repair the puncture, sewed back together, and then re-glued to the rim.

Unlike clincher tires, tubular tires include a process known as pre-stretch.

Before the tire is installed permanently, it is first mounted on the rim (without glue), inflated to very high air pressure (e.g., 150 PSI), and left in that state overnight. The goal of this procedure is to pre-stretch the tire to the diameter needed for proper installation. Only then the tire is glued to the rim.

The entire process is presented in the video below:

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