A common question is what is the difference? It depends on the specific tire and company.
Some companies, like Conti (Bontrager, Michelin,…), use a lower spec for their wire bead tires. Others (some Panaracer, Nokian,…) make wire and folding bead versions of the same tire with no difference other than the bead.
Others the tires look the same but are XC and DH versions (Kenda Blue Groove/Nevegal).
You have to check the specs.
I keep hearing people claim wire bead tires are harder to mount and others claiming folding bead tires are harder.
It is not the type of bead that makes the difference. It is the specific tire and/or tire/rim combo.
Every tire company (and sometimes tire model) has a slightly different bead shape and bead diameter while still being within the accepted tolerance range. Same for rims. If you have a tire that is on the small side of the range and a rim on the large side it can be nearly impossible to mount the tire, regardless of the bead material.
Some of the hardest tires to mount are Ritchey folding bead models (but not all of them). Their wire bead versions are easier. A folding bead Ritchey is a huge PITA to mount on a Rhyno Lite (and many other rims) while a Wire bead Kenda slips onto most rims without a second thought.
Casing construction can affect mounting ease, too.
The other variables include tire width. Narrower tires can be more difficult. If you are comparing the folding and wire bead Nevegals, they have different casings. The stiffer, thicker casings of the wire bead version also make it harder to mount.
It use to be claimed that folding bead road tires were harder to mount than wire bead.
(adapted from a mtbr.com post) Originally posted May 1, 2006
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