Tan-wall tyres — hot or not?

Cheesy throwback or bike fashion icon?

Tan-wall tyres are back in a big way. For a few years, black rubber ruled the road, but light-coloured sidewalls are now ubiquitous in every cycling discipline, from gravel to downhill. Tell me, how does that make you feel?

Also referred to as skin-walls (with inconsistent hyphenation and spacing), true tan-walls have little or no rubber on their sidewalls, meaning that the tyre’s casing is exposed.

This may make the tyre ever so slightly more supple (I’m sceptical) but more importantly, it provides a pleasing bit of contrast, which in my most humble opinion looks fantastic, particularly when combined with all-black (or all-grey) rims.

I recently put tan-wall Maxxis Minion DHFs on my Giant Trance long-termer and I think it looks fabulous
I recently put tan-wall Maxxis Minion DHFs on my Giant Trance long-termer and I think it looks fabulous

Don’t get me wrong, I happen to think that coloured tyre treads are an abomination.

With certain honourable exceptions (green Vittoria Pavés for Paris-Roubaix, green Michelin Muds for cyclocross…), I am of the sincere belief that the part of your tyre that grips the road or trail should always be black.

Green tyres and cobbles go together like chamois and taints
Green tyres and cobbles go together like chamois and taints

I don’t really have a good reason for this, I just think brightly coloured tyres look rubbish and attempts at colour-coordination — matching tyres to bar tape, for instance — invariably cheapen the overall look of a bike.

Talk to your friends about the dangers of excessive colour coordination
Talk to your friends about the dangers of excessive colour coordination

Tan sidewalls get a pass from me, however. They good on all sorts of bikes, and they make otherwise sombre machines pop.

The S-Works Tarmac looks divine wearing tan-walls
The S-Works Tarmac looks divine wearing tan-walls

So, are tan-walls the height of style or a cheesy throwback to a bygone era? Vote in our poll and share your best and worst photos in the comments...

Matthew Allen

Senior Technical Writer, UK
Former bike mechanic, builder of wheels, hub fetishist and lover of shiny things. Likes climbing a lot, but not as good at it as he looks.
  • Discipline: Road, with occasional MTB dalliances
  • Preferred Terrain: Long mountain climbs followed by high-speed descents (that he doesn't get to do nearly often enough), plus scaring himself off-road when he outruns his skill set.
  • Current Bikes: Scott Addict R3 2014, Focus Cayo Disc 2015, Niner RLT 9
  • Dream Bike: Something hideously expensive and custom with external cables and a threaded bottom bracket because screw you bike industry.
  • Beer of Choice: Cider, please. Thistly Cross from Scotland
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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