Directional Tires? Which way do they go?
Over my many years in the sport, I've gone through countless tires on the road, trails, and 'cross courses. You may have noticed that some tires are "directional", meaning there's a suggested way to mount them so they're facing "forward." Some tires have one direction for the front and the reverse for the rear. I've found that directional tires are more common with mountain bike, 'cross, and gravel tires. Basically tires with more of a knobby tread.
Now, you're probably thinking, "duh, just find the directional arrow", shown in the green oval above. Absolutely, and you should probably always confirm. However, finding that word and arrow on the tire is not always easy, and if you're in a hurry or your tire is super dirty, it can be tricky, I've also spotted it, then laid the tire down, and lost it again. It can be a bit of a pain.
What I noticed was a real easy way to visually figure out which way the tires go.
Tires will often have different printing on each side of the sidewalls. On one side you get the model, etc. (red) and the brand (red). See pic below.
Then on the other side, there is only the brand (blue). See pic above.
I noticed that the correct direction to mount the tire is with the side with the model AND the brand on the drive side of your bike.
And, if the model of tire you're running is mounted one direction for the front and the opposite direction for the rear, it's always the front that will have the model and brand on the drive side, and then the rear will have the model and brand on the non-drive side.
I know, genius, right? Not quite but can be handy.
Side note: I was taught at an early age to always mount my tire with the model label centered on the valve stem. This is very useful if you're running tubes and want to find the associated place on your tire where a puncture occurred (in case there's debris in your tire casing). This also makes it very fast to local the valve stem if you need to quickly add or remove air during a race. Hopefully you get all dialed before the event begins and don't have any issues, but sometimes it happens.
One exception is the tire that prints the brand and model on both sides. Then you need to look for that arrow.
Sometimes you may choose to run a tire an opposite direction on the rear for "more traction." I've certainly done this, and I believe it does work for some tread patterns. But I've also stopped to think about the fact that these tire engineers are looking to make the best tire possible, so the company would probably suggest that if it were the case? I'm not sure, but don't be afraid to experiment. Just don't experiment for your big event or race.
I have yet to find a tire to prove this theory (single printing) wrong, but I'd love to hear about one if you've found it. Or any other tire tips you have. Leave a comment below.
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.