BIKING

Best Mountain Bike Tires: Choosing Tires for Your Next Off-Roading Adventure

biking tips
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Mountain biking is a beloved sport by many. Combining the nature and beauty of forest hikes with the fun of biking makes for quite the adventure. When starting in this field it is important that you get the best mountain bike with well-constructed tires specifically designed for the rugged mountain terrain. When mountain biking, you are sure to encounter lots of unpredictable and messy trail conditions that make it important that you get the best tire. Rocks and mud don’t provide the most traction so it is important that you get the best mountain bike tires to keep you on the trail.

There is quite a science behind the construction of these tires. Being built for so many different terrain and styles of riding, you will need a tire that can hold up even in the worst conditions. We have constructed a list of the most important things to look for in a tire.

Biking

Sizing

A mountain bike tire size will look different than a road racing tire. When looking at the size for off-road use it will have a number that is the outer size of the tire followed by the width. These numbers will be on the sidewall of your tire. For example if the tire diameter is 29.5 inches and the width is 2.5 inches it would read as 29.5 x 2.5. There are different size tires for each discipline of mountain biking.

  • Downhill bikes are going to be wider as they need to cushion the blow of sharp drops onto rough material. These tires will range up to 3 inches wide.
  • Bikes that are designed for mountain trails and all around off roading will usually stay within 2.20” and 2.4”. Tires like these will need to be able to roll over roots and rocks but not fall from high drops.
  • Cross country tires suffer the least abuse and do not need to be as thick as the others. These tires will typically be between 1.8” and 2.20” inches wide.

Downhill bikes

Tread

Mountain biking tires will have a tread rating for what you are using them for. Tread refers to the amount of ridges on the tire which create grip. More tread will increase the amount of grip a tire has which will also increase the amount of rolling resistance. Finding the right balance of grip is key to having speed while staying on the course.

Knobby tires are the most common tire tread. They have outward facing tread that gives you traction on any surface. There are specific layouts that will maximize traction for certain situations and terrain.

  • Mud tires have knobs that have large gaps in between them. This allows the mud to have somewhere to escape.
  • Loose trails require a taller knob that has some space in between which allows the material to not get caught or puncture the tube.
  • Look for a knob that has a wide base for hard packed material as it will take corners better than the other options.
  • A soft trail will call for knobs that are rectangle with rounded corners. This will provide a cushion between you and the material you’re rolling over.
  • If you are rolling over a smoother track, a small knob will work the best. Since you don’t have to worry about any large roots or rocks this style will boost your speed while giving you the grip you need.
  • If you plan on going through a forest that has a lot of roots or rocks look for a tire that has tall knobs. It will give you extra padding and traction to power through the uneven course.

Knobby tires

Inverted tread tires are available but have a limited off road capabilities. If your commute is on uneven pavement or has off road parts this tire will make your ride smoother. This type of tread provides enough grip to conquer anything you may encounter on your ride while having a low rolling resistance keeping your speed high.

When creating your perfect setup keep your eye out for front end tires and rear wheel tire tread. Since a bike converts all of it’s power through the rear tire, it should have more grip and be wider. The front tires job involves steering you it needs to have the right balance of tread and speed. Don’t forget that every tire you buy will have a small arrow which indicates the way they need to be mounted.

mountain-biking

Types of valves

No matter what kind of tread your tires has it will always have a valve. This is a stem that allows you to fill or remove air from your tires. There are two main types of valves found on mountain bike tires.

  • A Schrader valve is the most common style of valve and is the same one found on car tires. It has a thick stem with a threaded head which includes its air valve. This type of valve is easy to use and is more universally known. The threaded head allows any tire pump to fill your tire without the need of an adapter or much skill.
  • The Presta valve is smaller and more difficult to use. This type of valve is mainly found on racing bikes because it requires less pumps to inflate and is a more compact option. Since these are thinner and smaller they cause less resistance than the Schrader valve. It is not recommended to use a Presta valve with a Schrader rim as it can move around and cause a flat.

Type of tread tires

Different types of tires

There is more than one type of tires on the market. Choosing the right style tire will give you an edge over your competitor while racing down the mountain.

Foldable tires

Made of high end material such as Kevlar, foldable tires are compact and easy to store. This comes at a cost as they are vastly more expensive than a regular rimmed tire. These tires are strong enough to withstand the harshness of a rugged terrain while giving you the flexibility to easily bring them as spares throughout your ride. Additionally, these tires are said to be more flexible making them easier to change. We find these are an excellent safety mechanism for people riding in remote areas.

biking in nature

Tubeless tires

Tubeless tires are excellent in extreme riding conditions. They offer a lightweight design with unmatched control. You will no longer have to worry about pinch flats which happen when you roll over an object and your rim pinches your tube causing a flat tire. Since these tires do not have a tube it is impossible to get a flat tire. With that being said these tires do have drawbacks, such as being costly. It can run you upwards of $500 to replace both tires with this system. They also require a high powered inflator such as a CO2 system to inflate. This can make them difficult to repair while on the trail.

Studded tires

If you are a serious off road biker who likes to ride no matter what the weather or ground conditions, you will want to have a pair of studded tires in your arsenal. These are tires that have high traction studs built into their design. Depending on the manufacturer, the studs will be either a steel or aluminum with a carbide pin which enables riders to maintain their speed on snow and ice.

Puncture-resistant tires

Notice that you are getting a lot of flat tires? This type of rubber could be your answer. Even though they will be made of a heavier material these tires will ensure you don’t have to stop and change a flat in the middle of your day. Manufactures do this by adding a row of strong material, like Kevlar, to the rims and base of the tire which nearly eliminates the risk of a flat.

Now that you know what you should be looking for, here are some of the top rated products in the market.

Best products for today

Maxxis Minion DHFMaxxis Minion DHF

Tire size: 27.5 x 2.3

Tread style: Knobby

Special features: EXO sidewall protection, ramped knobs

Best use: Mixed terrain

Maxxis Minion DHF is built for performance. More than just your average downhill tire, the Maxxis Minion DHF is built with speed and precision in mind to give you an aggressive tread for all your mountain adventures. Ramped knobs are used to reduce rolling resistance which means you can climb those hills with ease. Great even in muddy conditions, this tire uses channel-cut knobs to allow more traction while shedding the sticky mud. You can focus on the ride with this tire as it has EXO sidewall protection which protects you from pinched sidewalls and resists any trauma to the tire. This tire is built to last taking you wherever you want to go.

Check the price on Amazon

Continental Trail King Fold ProTection Bike Tire

Tire size: 26 x 2.2 – 29 x 2.4Continental Trail King Fold ProTection Bike Tire

Tread style: Knobby

Special features: Continental Apex sidewall, low tire pressure ride

Best use: Mixed terrain

The name “king” truly describes this tire. An all-around mountain tire, this has an aggressive tread, allowing you to travel anywhere you want with confidence. With nearly endless features this tire excels in performance in just about any condition. A lightweight and agile tire providing minimal rolling resistance, it helps you get to where you need to go with ease. Plenty of large lugs allow you to expertly maneuver through rocky and difficult trails. With a Continental Apex sidewall you are allotted added stiffness which allows you to ride with lower tire pressure. This tire is strong and able to handle rocks, mud, and anything else you can throw at it with ease. The Continental Trail King bike tire is a great buy for your next adventure.

Check the price on Amazon

Schwalbe, Hans Dampf

Tire size: 27.5 x 2.35Schwalbe, Hans Dampf

Tread style: Knobby

Special features: tubeless ready design, SnakeSkin sidewalls

Best use: Mixed terrain

When on the mountain, there are three key features to look for in any mountain bike: lightweight design, durability and minimal rolling resistance. This Schwalbe, Hans Dampf tire excels in all three categories. Often called the Jack-of-all-trades, you can expect this tire to perform well in just about every setting. SnakeSkin sidewalls protects your tire from sharp terrain, such as rocks, increasing the tire’s durability. Converting your tire to a tubeless design is made easier with the high quality sidewalls. You are sure to get excellent traction on your next trail ride with the large, square tread blocks. This tire gives you full control providing lots of grip in its high quality design. This tire is great for all terrain.

Check the price on Amazon

Maxxis Aggressor EXO/TR Tire

Tire size: 29 x 2.3MAXXIS AGGRESSOR EXO/TR TIRE

Tread style: Knobby

Special features: Tubeless ready design, EXO/TR sidewall protection

Best use: Loose – mixed terrain

Impress your friends by handling trails better than ever before with the help of this Maxxis tire. With a strong grip you are sure to have the traction you need to help you focus on what’s important: the ride. Be able to handle your own even on loose unpredictable terrain with its reinforced knobby tread design. Maxxis Exo’s sidewall protection makes it so you don’t have to worry about a flat while you’re in the middle of a mountain run. Plus, if you feel like giving your bike an upgrade it boasts a tubeless ready design.

Check the price on Amazon

WTB Vigilante 2.3 TCS Tough/Fast Rolling Tire

Tire size: 26 x 2.3 – 29 x 2.3WTB Vigilante 2.3 TCS Tough Fast Rolling Tire

Tread style: Knobby

Special features: Excessive tread, open square knobs

Best use: Mixed terrain

If there was such thing as too much traction, this tire would be it. With an incredibly impressive grip you will have the confidence to tackle any type of terrain. Open square blocked knobs allow you to ride rough surfaces without even noticing. Somehow this design is made even better by not causing drag and performing with speed and agility in mind. WTB Vigilante Rolling Tire is a no brainer for those who love to ride in mud.

Check the price on Amazon

Schwalbe Rock Razor Tire

Tire size: 27.5 x 2.35Schwalbe Rock Razor Tire

Tread style: Knobby

Special features: Quadruple reinforced sidewalls, aggressive side lugs

Best use: Hard terrain

Feel the speed with this tires low-profile centre knobs that excel in performance on hard or semi-hard surfaces. Moving out to the sides of the tires you will find aggressive side lugs which help you to round corners with speed and precision. Schwalbe Rock Razor Tire boasts an impressive quadruple reinforced sidewall which will give you peace of mind during a mountain ride. This, combined with the double-layered material, provides even more protection. A heavy duty version of Schwalbe’s SnakeSkin sidewall protection, this tire has SuperB technology which takes it a step beyond the original.

Check the price on Amazon

Michelin Wild Grip’R2 Mountain Tire

Tire size: 26 x 1.9 – 29 x 2.25Michelin Wild Grip'R2 Mountain Tire

Tread style: Knobby

Special features: Tubeless ready, grip and speed balanced, self cleaning technology

Best use: Mixed terrain

Michelin Wild Grip’R2 Mountain Tire compromises well without giving up quality, and performs well in both loose and packed terrain. With excessive grip this tire has tread blocks built to perform. A tubeless ready design makes this tire ready to be upgraded whenever you’d like. Excellent performance combines with impressive grip in this tire giving you the ride of a lifetime.

Check the price on Amazon

Maxxis Ignitor Mountain Bike Tire

Tire size: 26 x 2.1 – 29 x 2.1Maxxis Ignitor Mountain Bike Tire

Tread style: Knobby

Special features: Folding tire design, specially designed tread, low rolling resistance

Best use: Medium – loose terrain

Maxxis Ignitor Mountain Bike Tire performs well in loose conditions but truly excels in medium terrain. A well-spaced tread pattern keeps you grounded nicely during straight line riding. Get ready to be impressed with its superior performance around corners with the ramped pentagonal knobs built in providing enough grip to keep you grounded. The Maxxis Ignitor tire is highly acclaimed among professional racers already being acclaimed to a few World Cup victories. Get ready to be the talk of your friends with this superior tire.

Check the price on Amazon

Goodyear Mountain Bike Folding Bead Tire

Tire size: 26 x 2.1Goodyear Mountain Bike Folding Bead Tire

Tread style: Knobby

Special features: Lightweight, folding design, high knobby tread

Best use: Mixed terrain

This Goodyear mountain bike tire offers excellent performance for a great value. The superior tread layout gives you all the traction you need with little rolling resistance. This tread layout allows you to easily maneuver through soft and hard terrain alike. Featuring a lightweight design this tire will fit perfectly on rims ranging from 2 inches to 2.125 wide and 26 inches in diameter. A folding bead system will almost eliminate the threat of a pinch flat by utilizing a Kevlar bead where the rim comes in contact with the tire. This is an all around excellent tire.

Check the price on Amazon

Final Thoughts

For anyone who has ever tried mountain biking, you know it is an easy sport to fall in love with. A great spin on a regular day in the woods this sport can be turned extreme as you navigate your way down muddy terrain. As any outdoor enthusiast knows a day in the mountains can be dangerous without the proper gear. Having the best mountain bike tires will ensure that you are better equipped to handle the ever changing terrain. This includes tires with adequate grip as well as a low rolling resistance which helps you get to where you are going with ease.

Love mountain biking? Have tires on our list? Let us know how you like it in the comment section below.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

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