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Skinwall or Gumwall Tires

WTB Riddler bike wheels in front of a orange wall

Cycling is an epic sport and comes with various disciplines, and with that comes a lot of different types of equipment. There’s a lot to understand, and even professional cyclists don’t understand everything. We are often asked about tires, and a question that regularly comes up is, what is the difference between Skinwall and Gumwall tires?

 This is a slightly more complicated answer than you might think. In this article, we’re going to discuss this in detail, so next time someone speaks to you about gumwall and skinwall tires, then you will understand exactly what you’re speaking about.

Understanding a Tire

The first thing you need to understand before we speak about these tire types is how a tire is made. There’s a lot more that goes into a tire than you might think like how to tell if your bike tire is really flat and how to deflate one. There are a lot of layers to create a good rolling surface. A tire is made up of 4 main parts;

Different parts of a bike tire

Bead

The bead is where the tire connects to the rim. It helps the tire grip the rim and ensures it doesn’t fall off.

Tread

The tread is the knobbly part on the outside of the tire. This is what is used to grip the floor and is great on loose terrain.

Casing

The casing goes from bead to bead and sits internally under all the rubber. It is made up of threads that let the rubber move around and change shape.

Sidewall

The sidewall sits next to the tire’s tread and is what you see from the side. It is designed to move around so the tire can have flexibility.

What is a Skinwall Tire?

Black and silver bicycle wheel beside a box
Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

A skinwall tire is an older concept and isn’t seen often when it comes to cycling in modern days, but there are many different versions that come from the concept of the skinwall tire. Essentially a skinwall tire is identified because of its color. You will typically have black tire tread and casing, but the sidewall will come in a brown strip.

A proper skinwall tire will have exposed casing on the sidewall with very little rubber compound. The sidewall will typically be more consistent with threads. This gives the tires many advantages when being ridden but also some big disadvantages too.

Advantages of Skinwall Tires

Lighter

With less casing on the side, the tire is generally a lot lighter, and when in a racing situation, removing weight off the wheels goes a long way to improving your speed.

Flexibility

Little rubber on the side casing gives the tire much more flexibility to move, especially when cornering. This can improve handling by giving the tire extra grip.

Can improve the ride

Flexible sides can make the bike tire feel a little softer and improve the quality of the ride. Some cyclists say it reduces wheel wobble, and they can feel the difference, but others say there’s nothing in it.

What Are the Disadvantages of Skinwall Tires?

Less protection on the side

Unfortunately, with skin wall tires, you get a lot less protection on the side. If the side gets pierced by a tree root or sharp rock, it can rip very easily, and this can be a quick end to your ride.

Don’t last as long

With the threads exposed, the tires typically don’t last as long. The wear and tear gets into the tire quicker and can shorten its life. Many cyclists say the tires become weaker over the years, even when not used, as they wither in the UV.

Price

Typically Skinwall tires cost more than regular tires. It is because more goes into the construction of these tires, and they are performance tires.

What is a Gumwall Tire?

Black and gray mountain bike beside brown brick wall
Photo by Tom Austin on Unsplash

A gumwall tire, or as some cyclists refer to them tanwall tires, is designed to look like a skinwall tire but are a regular tire with a brown strip. These are popular because they give the bike a classic retro skinwall look which has recently come back into fashion without having the expense or disadvantages of skinwall tires.

Skinwall or Gumwall Tires?

Black bike by a rusty wall
Photo by Matt Saling on Unsplash

The real question we are asking is skinwall tires or normal tires. Realistically, skinwall tires are not as good as they used to be. Modern technology has given tires much bigger advantages compared to skinwall tires. Gumwall has been made, so you get the look of retro skinwall tires, but the advantages of modern tires are performance and protection.

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Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri is a cyclist living in Norfolk in the UK. From breaking World Records to competing in some of the hardest Bikepacking races in the world he is not shy of riding the miles. He has been lucky enough to work at some amazing shops and with some big cycling brands. Alongside this he even had input in designing bikes and has also been a tester for unreleased products. He absolutely loves cycling and believes everyone should have a bike.