Tires are a complex mixture of many components and layers. A single tire could have 12-15 different rubber compounds and multiple layers. The most obvious are the treads and the sidewalls but underneath is a complex web of materials that make each tire perform differently. Understanding tire basics will help guide you in making sure the tire you buy will give you the performance you need for each situation.
Tread patterns, composed of different rubber blocks, grooves, voids and sipes, give the tire its road gripping power. Different materials and amount of reinforcement layers of belts and plies make the tire stronger and able to carry different loads. The bead, a combination of steel and a different rubber material than the tread, grabs and holds the wheel tight. Sidewalls and shoulders, yet again another rubber compound, give the tire flexibility for loads as well as puncture resistance and ozone protection.