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What is better a Higher TPI or a lower TPI for mountain bike Tires

Higher TPI and lower TPI have been a long ongoing debate, but there are complications in the topic that most people tend to ignore or don’t know of all the ins and outs of all this debate, the point I am trying to get on is.

A Higher TPI doesn’t necessarily mean a higher suppleness or better comfort and low rolling resistance and a lower TPI doesn’t necessarily mean that the tire would be more rigid and will have less rolling resistance, the thing is it goes both ways and it would be a little complicated to understand in a few lines, but here it goes

A higher TPI tire for example(120 TPI tire) won’t be supple if it was constructed as a (60×2 or if 60 TPI were added on top of another 60 TPI making a total of 120 TPI) it would be more rigid, but a tire constructed as a (120 TPI) distributed across the whole tire would be more supple and better.

I hope you kind of get the point of where I am going with this but nonetheless, it doesn’t always mean that a higher TPI tire would be better or vice versa, there are so many factors that come into play as well for example your trail selection, the longest season in the area you live in your riding style what you are trying to accomplish with your tires and so on and so forth.

I am not starting this article with the straight answer because for some people it will be too diffuclt to understand anything if you are here just find out the result you can see them mid way.

Relation Between TPI and casing of a Tire :

The casing is simply the rubber wall or the out cove of the tire which covers all the components inside a tire.

While TPI is the lower layer under the Casing that is spread out across the tire.

The casing is responsible to give the tire its rigidity and potential security from the thorns, sudden bumps on the tire, shape retention, and holding the components of the tire all together, while the TPI of a tire is responsible for its flexibility on different kind of surfaces so that it may not explode under pressure and provide an overall better experience to the rider as well.

Now the TIP (thread per inch) is spread across the tire at different distances and if the number of TPI is higher the lesser the space will be between them and there will be more rubber filling in those blank spaces like this.

This picture shows TPI structure in a tire


As you can see in the Picture TPI these lines inside the tire are held together by the rubber.

TPI (thread per inch) are made from textile fiber or nylon 6.6 to be specific.

Now moving on now that you have the basic idea of what a TPI is and what it does, it will now get much easier to know what’s the difference between higher and lower TPI.

Basic misconceptions around higher and Lower TPI Tires :

This is where it can get a little more complicated but I will try my best that you understand what I am trying to say here.

A higher TPI tire has typically 2 main selling points.

  1. Its more supple meaning it will move over obstacles(rocks and roots) in a more flexible way kind of like a tire having its own suspension (added comfort)
  2. It’s lighter than a lower TPI tire meaning it has more threads (threads are relatively lighter than rubber) and lesser rubber.

and the cons are as

  1. It is more prone to pinches and flats (side walls of the tire to be exact)

but here’s what happens in some cases like in giant mountain bike tires the tire will say it 120 TPI which is relatively higher than a 60 TPI tire and you would say that it should be more comfortable and lighter than a 60 TPI giant tire would be, but it’s not in most cases a giant tire will have 2 TPI layers (60+ 60) built over each other same can be said for all the other types of mountain bike tires, to understand it better here is an example.

picture shows how a higher (120 TPI) could be the same as 2 layers of 60 TPI's mounted on eachother

So this is what I am trying to convey if you consider 2 matches on top of each other and both are 60 TPI each it would make a tire 120 TPI in numbers term but it will still act as a 60 TPI tire

So any tire could be a higher TPI but essentially it’s just a double-layered tire and not a higher TPI tire in essence.

so that brings us to the next question what exactly is a higher TPI tire.

What is a Higher TPI tire :

A higher TPI tire essentially has TPI spread all across the tire and not lower TPI’s added up together so if a tire is 120 TPI it would be 120 TPI if only the TPI or (thread per inch) are all spread across the tire and not two layers of lower TPI like (60/60) TPI layers topped on to each other.

That kind of tire would be called a tire with a higher TPI and it would be more elastic swift and supple on the trails rather than the other scenario I talked about the 60/60 TPI layered tire and I think this is where most people make mistakes when they are buying tires or they are looking into buying a tire and they read on the internet that a higher TPI tire will perform better without even understanding what a higher TPI tire is.

and further down I will go over the lower TPI tires and it’s where it gets a little bit more interesting.

What is a lower TPI tire :

If we compare two tires (continuing with the 60 and 120 TPI tires example) 60 TPI tire would be considered a lower TPI tire but it’s a little more than that.

A 60 TPI tire will perform better or the same if the other tire assuming a 120 TPI tire built with 2 layers of a 60 TPI tire it will be bulkier and more rigid than that 60 Tpi tire and it will not perform nearly as well as a 60 TPI tire but just to stay clear it wouldn’t make that 120 TPI tire useless either and I will get into that later on in the article.

So a lower TPI tire will perform the same as a higher tip tire if you consider the scenario that I just mentioned.

and this is why I didn’t give you the answer straight away because it’s a little complicated and you wouldn’t get what I was trying to say and you would just spend your money and time on something that is essentially the same.

and that brings us to the results there are things that I will discuss but if you were here for the research only then here’s the result.

What’s better higher TPI tire or a lower TPI tire :

While there is no straight answer because I have no way of knowing what kind of trails you ride on daily basses, tires vulnerability, your bike, riding style, your weight, and all that stuff but I will try to summarize it as much as possible.

A Higher TPI (120 threads spread across the whole tire and not 2 layered 60 TPI tire which is in number a 120 TPI tire as well) tire is better than a lower TPI tire but it depends highly on the rider and trails that you ride which makes it difficult to say which one is better for you.

How to decide what’s better for you a higher TPI tire or a lower TPI tire :

Considering everything above at this point I will generalize things and go with the previous information provided.

Generally, most mountain bike tires come with a 60TPI tire or over a lower TPI tire.

Crossy country tires are usually 1.9 inches to 2.25 inches and a lower TPI tire(60 TPI) would be better if you are going for the speed and not necessarily for the comfort.

trail and all-mountain bike tires are usually 2.25 inches to 2.4 inches wide again if you are going for the speed and less rolling resistance a lower TPI tire would be better if you are more into comfort riding then a higher TPI tire would be better as for beginners I would say go with a lower TPI tire first.

for DH riders a lower TPI tire would be the best option.

Fat tires would typically be 3.7 inches to 5 inches wide and they would be higher TPI tires 330 TPI (220+110 TPI) layered.

I think it will again get confusing.

For heavy riders always go for a lower double layered(if 120 then 60+60tpi layered tires and if 240 TPI then 120+120 TPI layered tires) tires they would be a much better match than a single-layer higher TPI tire.

as the numbers increase the more the tire will become more comfortable of course the added weight drawback is there but a single-layered tire would become a pain because under any pressure the tire simply wouldn’t perform as well as you had wanted it to since the rolling resistance would be much higher.

And if you are having a hard time understanding all of this I would suggest simply contacting the tire manufacturer or your bike manufacturer and asking them for proper instructions or just tell them how you want your tires (less rolling resistance, sturdy, or pairing you with comfortable tires to your taste or riding style).

I wrote another article on the 60 TPI vs 120 TPI tire as well if you had like to read more about the characteristics of a lower 60 TPI tire and a higher 120 TPI tire you can also check that out as well.

Conclusion :

I think all of this information would be very harder to digest for most people (especially beginners) and if I keep going it would just become more confusing altogether.

But despite everything I wanted to write on this topic since you wouldn’t find a resource that explains it properly or would just avoid the topic altogether since it becomes more and more confusing the more you try to unwind and explain it.

What you can take away from this is an understanding of the basics of TPI of the tires and how everything works hopefully you will gain a bit better understanding from this resource and if you don’t, don’t worry if in the future you are looking to excel in some area by changing your tires you can ask your manufacturer to pair you up with the right match.