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Whether you’re a bike riding rookie or a seasoned veteran, one thing will remain the same- you need the best mountain bike tires available for your budget, if you want to make the most of your bike. Mountain bike tires (or MTB tires as they’re commonly referred to) can make your riding easier, more stable and, overall, more fun.
So, it’s clear to see why investing in a good set of bike tires is a good idea but, now you know what you want, how do you know how to find the best? Glad you asked, because we’re here to help with that. Below, you’ll find out tops picks for mountain bike tires, along with a buying guide to help you discover what tires best suit your needs. On top of that, we’ve even taken the time to answer your frequently asked questions, so you can buy with confidence, armed with the full force of knowledge.
The Best Mountain Bike Tires
Maxxis mountain bike tires are a paradigm of modern MTB tire technology. The aggressive tread available on the High Roller II allows for greater soil penetration, so they respond much better to direction when out on the mountains. Great for soft surfaces, the square profile of this Maxxis tire also provide a solid, consistent feel that is much needed when taking on steep declines and muddy surfaces.
The Maxxis High Roller II is a tubeless tire that is surprisingly easy to fit and inflate but don’t compromise on the agility, with reinforced sidewalls that allow for reduced risk of punctures while still being lightweight and high quality.
Dual compound rubber
EXO lightweight sidewall technology
- Weight2 pounds
Continental are one of the biggest names in the tire game business and these continental bike tires are no different to the usual quality and style that is synonymous with the name. Featuring their revolutionary Black Chili compound, the Trail King tires to prevent rolling distance by up to 26%, while improving the grip by a massive 30% when compared to standard tires.
These surprisingly light and agile mountain bike tires from Continental also have an impressive 5% improvement on their longevity, while the protection apex operates on a 3:2 overlap, allowing for greater resistance to the trials and bumps you’re likely to come across while riding.
Black Chili compound tire
Light and agile
- ModelTrail King
- Weight3 pounds
This Schwalbe Hans Dampf tire is a great option for those who like both their tubeless and tubed tires, since it’s designed to work with both offerings synergistically. With or without your inner tube, however, this is a great MTB tire for those who love to have a little extra grip on their rides. All this and still, the Hans Dampf from Schwalbe still offers one of the lightest tires on the market.
Designed for intensive use and using the highest quality compound, this is a tire that emphasis your ability to control your mountain bike. Meanwhile the snakeskin sidewalls allow for greater resistance to punctures, meaning you can really have some fun with the Hans Dampf, no matter how steep the decline is!
Low rolling resistance
- ModelHans Dampf
- Weight1.5 pounds
The folding bead on this Goodyear bike allows for some flexibility when it comes to fitting the width of your tire, which also means that there is a greater choice of air pressure required when cycling. For those who prefer a little easier climb with their mountain bike, these may be the best choice for you, since that added flexibility means you’ll have a better time finding your grip, if you’re still a little unsure of yourself.
A great little all-rounder, the Goodyear Folding Bead stands as one of the most popular options on the Amazon marketplace thanks to its ability to suit almost every need and every bike. The deep tread allows for added traction without slowing the rider down too much or requiring any excessive effort, and many customers mention that these tires are a great option for those who like to do a bit of everything with their bike.
Perfect for new riders
- Weight1.6 pounds
The latest addition to the Michelin Wild Range, this MTB tire is designed for those who spend a lot of time on hard-packed terrain. A broad distribution of knobs on the tread, allow for easy riding and smooth rolling, with an excellent resistance to pinch punctures with a 60TPI carcass. Available in four widths, the WildRACE’R has been designed with the both the casual rider and regular user in mind, allowing for the buyer to decide on what riding style they prefer.
This is a great lightweight option that still maintains easy handling, ideal for those who ride on multiple surface types throughout the day. Customers are big fans of the level of grip these tires provide, with many mentioning the great handling the added benefit of being tubeless-ready.
Great with or without the inner tubing
Great for hard-packed terrain
Perfect handling and cornering
- Brand Michelin
- Weight1.7 pounds
Another firm favorite with regular cyclists, the Racing Ralph from Schwalbe also comes tubeless-ready and keeps the distinct snakeskin design to minimize punctures. Schwalbe themselves recommend these tires to riders looking to take part in cyclocross competitions, thanks to its lightweight design and easy compatibility with almost any surface.
Unfortunately, some customers have mentioned that the tread on these tires have a tendency to wear down a little too easily for regular use- but, if you’re looking for a great competition tire for your bike, this should definitely be your go-to option.
- ModelRacing Ralph
- Weight1.7 pounds
Another option from Maxxis mountain bike tires, the Ardent comes with an aggressive tread pattern designed to give greater speed, greater traction and faster braking power. The ramped knobs help minimize rolling resistance and the high-volume casing helps keep punctures at bay. This, combined with the dual-compound rubber allows for added security and better cornering when you need it most.
As another EXO-equipped model, the Ardent features reinforced sidewalls to prevent abrasion, punctures and pinch-punctures, giving you greater peace of mind when riding downhill or over loose debris. These Maxxis MTB tires also come tubeless ready- so you can ride with your preferred option in mind- just be sure to pick up a pack of sealant if you’re looking to go tubeless.
EXO reinforced walls
- Weight1 pound
Our final choice from our firm favorites at Schwalbe is the Big Ben. With a colossal 67 TPI, this is a super-tough option from Schwalbe with a smooth, steady tread. This is a bike tire designed for comfort and endurance over speed, so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t find yourself racing around with this tire.
With the rather novelty option of being able to choose your color, the Big Ben is a city tire that works well on flat, hard-packed and paved surfaces. This is tire designed for the city, with a smooth ride and great design that keeps your travels quiet and mind meditative. That said, customers have commented on just how well these tires provide less rolling resistance and surprisingly good grip for road trips.
Ideal for urban travel
Great for hard-packed surfaces
Created with, possibly, one of the deepest treads you’re likely to see on the market, the Kendra K850 is, not too surprisingly, great for trail riding and steep mountain biking. Created for grip and grip alone, these are tough to get going but great once you get started. If you’re going to spending your day going downhill, then these should absolutely be top of your pile.
Loved by customers, with a near-five-star rating on Amazon, reviewers mention a surprisingly easy ride, despite the heavily-aggressive tread. They also mention that handling is easy, despite a little shakiness on bends, due to the center-focused treads of these tires.
Low rolling resistance
Perfect for mountain trails
- Weight1.6 pounds
A great final option for our list, with the Panaracer Fire. This is an affordable option designed to meet the needs of the beginner or standard mountain bike user. If you’re looking for something with a bit of pizzazz, or packed with extra features, this is not the tire you should be opting for. For those who are more casual riders, however, this is a great option that comes with a gentle but aggressive tread, allowing for easy riding, no matter where your destination lies.
As an all-rounder, these tires fit almost any mountain bike and provide adequate traction for those who like to use their bike both on the road and in more rural areas. Customer reviews are filled with praise for the longevity of these bike tires and many recommend the Panaracer Fire based on their great price and simple, but effective, use.
Ideal for beginners
- Weight1.57 pounds
Best Mountain Bike Tires Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Consider When Buying Mountain Bike Tires
- Experience and preference
You’ll notice throughout the options below that there’s a huge range of combinations you can choose from when picking out new mountain bike tires. Suffice to say that those who are new to mountain biking may find that they will need to opt for safer and more secure wheel types over those who offer speed etc. We’ve given you a rough guide as to how these different aspects will affect your ride. However, as with most things, it will eventually come down to your riding experience and your own, personal preferences.
- Wheel size
First and foremost, you’ll need to know your wheel size before investing in your MTB tires, since bicycle tires tend to come in three main sizes, to match those wheels of yours. Those three, main diameters are 26”, 27.5” and 29”- although there has been a growing trend of “+” tire sizes, which allow for high air volume types.
Also, if you’re looking for mountain bike tires for your kids- or you fancy getting yourself fresh tires for your dirt or jump bikes- you’ll probably need to look at the smaller 24” wheel size. If you’re not sure which tire size you need, there should be a labelling of sorts via the embossed or printed wording along the size of the wheel currently on your bike.
Wheel sizes that are smaller tend to be more stable, which is great for those who need short-distance bikes such as those named above. You can also go for a smaller size if you like to focus on agility over speed and security. However, bigger wheels go further with your effort and roll better. Their bigger footprint also helps them grip the surface and therefore feel a little firmer when riding.
- Tire width
You may be pleased to know that tire width- unlike tire size- is not dependent on the size of your bike frame, so you can play around a little here until you find a width that suits your needs and riding style. Bear in mind that not all MTB tire widths will fit on all mountain bikes, the biggest factor here being the distance between your tire and your fork- you’ll need a width that allows for reasonable use, especially when considering your suspension. If you’re a little nervous about your parameters, check out your manufacturers guide for some guidance.
There’s a lot more choice out there when it comes to tire width, especially with the introduction of + sizes, which allow for high air volumes, alongside fat tires. If you have the ability, it’s always worth taking your bike in to a store or measuring up for precise areas, when looking to buy new bike tires.
In terms of the difference made when riding, narrow tires are suited to tough surfaces, that are much smoother- so if you enjoy longer bike rides that requires a lot of road travel, before you make your way down, it’s best to go for a narrow tire width. They’ll also generally be a little faster than wider tires but have less grip and require a higher air pressure than thicker counterparts.
Meanwhile, wider tires are better suited to ragged areas. If you spend the majority of your time biking downhill in rural areas, these should be your preferred choice. Their ability to hold greater traction and brake easier makes for a much safer, steadier ride. They can also handle lower tire pressure a lot better.
As mentioned above, the surface you intend to ride on makes all the difference as to what tire preferences you have. True mountain biking requires a lot of traction, so you’ll need to look for tread (discussed below) and wider fits, whereas trips that require a lot of road biking can generally get away with a very different tread and slimmer tire.
The tread of your tire is pretty much crucial to how your riding will play out, since this is the area that will be in constant contact with the ground. So, first of all, you’ll need to know the main parts of the tire, which consist of the center, transition and cornering zones.
The center zone is, rather obviously, the center of the tire tread, and where you’ll be spending most of your time while riding- particularly if you’re on straight, smooth surfaces. This area is designed to handle rolling resistance and your main form of traction. If you’re looking for a lower rolling resistance, go for tires with shorter, closely-spaced knobs based in the center of the tire. You’ll therefore notice that those center-based knobs that are more widely-spaced knobs will give more traction, but also more resistance. This leads back to consideration of surface you’ll be riding on.
Just outside of the center zone is the transition area. The wider the area is between the knobs in these areas, the more likely you are to skid as you shift your weight in anticipation of turning corners or look to angle yourself- and vice versa. If you’re fairly new to bike riding, you may want to go for a tighter tread in this area, which will allow for more grip and tighter turning- just be careful not to oversteer as you ride.
The final zone is all about cornering. As the name suggests, this is where the majority of your weight will rest on the wheels as you turn corners. Larger, deeper knobs will create more traction and allow for a tighter turn, as well as helping you slow slightly as you move to change direction. Of course, if you’re on a hard-packed trail, you might notice some “squirming” from these. A lower profile tread in this area may work better in hard conditions- but you’ll likely notice a lot of skidding on loose surfaces.
The profile of the tread is important too. If you’re after a more forgiving ride, it may be best to opt for the more rounded styles, while squarer styles work better on loose surfaces, as they provide more grip.
Since there’s a lot of competition when it comes to high-quality bike tires, you might notice that each manufacturer tries to outdo each other by adding on more features. Of course, there’s only so much that can affect a MTB tires abilities before it becomes more of a hindrance. Therefore, the main features that you might want to look for are as follows:
Rubber compounds: Brands devote a lot of time and energy into creating the perfect compound that balances grip, longevity and rolling resistance. You might notice, for example, that racing tires are lighter- but they’ll usually wear out a lot sooner too. As such, you’ll likely spot a few MTB tires out there that offer dual-compound rubber tires in non-racing bikes. These tend to last longer and roll better.
Puncture resistance: A fairly obvious one but there’s only so much puncture resistance that can be added before you’re basically adding a big, meaty tire to your bike (which inevitably slows you down). The best options offer a 2-ply tire, or are made with added protection, such as Kevlar. You might also notice those that place protection in specific areas, such as the cornering zones and side walls, which are usually designed to be thinner than the center zone.
Don’t forget that you can always mix and match your tires to suit different riding styles and preferences. You might feel that you require more traction on your front tire than the back, or vice versa- or you may prefer an even spread of agility and traction. Any combination is fine, as long as you keep yourself safe while riding and allow yourself to get used to the different feel of each ride.
Different Types of MTB Tires
- Front Tires
Front tires are usually where the majority of your control of your speed and direction will come from. This is why many riders prefer to have a thicker tire at the front of their bike, since this will increase grip and stability- allowing for a safer ride. They also absorb the majority of tough hits, so should be made with a tougher material and generally be of a higher volume.
- Rear Tires
Rear tires provide the power required to push your bike forward. In order to get the most for your effort, it’s usually advised to get yourself a tire with greater traction- one that gives enough to push you ahead with ease but doesn’t create so much friction that you have to work harder, when cycling. This tends to be why narrower tires are chosen for the rear of your bike, since they are lighter and require less effort to move.
Tubes vs Tubeless
Tubeless mountain bike tires are exactly what they say on the tin- they have no inner tubing. Instead, the tire, rim and valves are designed to stay completely sealed in order to maintain pressure. You may also notice that some bike mechanics add a liquid sealant to help prevent air from escaping and improving the longevity of each refill.
The pros of having a tubeless MTB tire are that you’re much less likely to get a flat- assuming you have set up your tires correctly. This is because the sealant that’s placed inside is likely to patch up any smaller holes as you go, and the likelihood of issues occurring in the inner tube, such as a pinch flat, will drop down to zero.
Tubeless tires also cut down on the weight of your bike, since there’s one less accessory your tires need. They also allow for lower tire pressure, which means you can actually have an easier climb, as the surface area which contacts the ground increases, allowing for better movement during those tough trips.
Of course, there’s a few cons with tubeless MTB tires as well, since they require a lot more time to set up and need more maintenance than their tubed counterparts. They also cost more, as no item that improves overall quality comes cheap. Finally, you’ll still want to bring a spare tube with you on those days out. Unfortunately, big punctures can’t be helped no matter how much sealant you use and, if you can’t seal it, you’ll still want to be able to travel back to your base.
MTB Tires for Different Surfaces
- Studded Tires
Studded tires are great for icy roads and wintry weather. They can also be used during very loose runs but overall, they should only be used occasionally. They are designed with short spikes around the transitional and/or cornering zones. Their gripping ability greatly improves your capacity to lean into turn and corner well, but they also slow your bike down considerably.
- Super Fat Tires
Designed to have a greater surface area and therefore increase contact with the road (or mud!). They allow for greater traction- particularly through snowy areas, soft mud and loose debris as they are much less likely to sink into surface your bike is on.
Designed for roads and areas with require little effort for movement- in other words, for urban or flat areas which require little-to-no traction. They tend to have very little tread and are used by cyclists who take part in road-racing. Essentially, these are a road tires for a mountain bike.
Great for sandy surfaces and flat forest floors, these MTB tires tend to have knobs with a very low profile, allowing for better speed and less effort from the rider. They do, however, keep some grip, which allows riders to make for easier turning and shorter stopping distances.
Designed specifically for dirt jump bikes and “urban assault”, the tread here is deep, requires greater effort but also allows for agility, with tighter corners and better angling when moving.
Best Mountain Bike Tires FAQ:
Q: What does TPI stand for?
A: TPI stands for Threads Per Inch and refer to the carcass of the mountain bike tire. Since the carcass comprises of multiple threads stacked together to create a tight weave, it’s easy to understand that the higher the TPI is, the better the quality of the carcass.
Q: When do I need to replace my mountain bike tires?
A: Replacing your MTB tires depends mostly on the style and state they were when you first bought them. As an example, slick tires have less tread, but they also tend to need replacing more regularly as they deal with more direct friction. It also depends on what surface you tend to ride on and how often you ride.
As a guide, it’s best to replace your tires when you notice your tread has worn down considerably, or when you feel that your bike is sliding/skidding more frequently than you would like. If you notice your bike handles differently, you should seek to get new tires on your mountain bike. Finally, if you have any cracks, tears or egg-shaped lumps in the sidewall of your tires, it’s time to get a new set.
Q: What tire pressure should I run in my MTB?
A: Every bike and tire will have a different pressure, which relates to the weight they carry, the design of the wheel tread and thickness and your own, personal preference. Typical pressures range from 22PSI to 35PSI, with more air generally being held in the rear tire as this is where most of the weight tends to be gathered.
If you spend most of your time on the forest floor or on the road, you’ll likely want a slightly higher PSI, since this will improve your speed and help you move forward with less effort on your part. If you’re looking to go uphill, a slightly lower pressure will ensure that you will have an easier time, since the lower the pressure, the higher the contact between the surfaces of your tire and the floor.
Generally speaking, a tire pressure under 20PSI will be much too low and could cause damage to your wheel rims and create pinch punctures. Meanwhile, a PSI that’s too high will create less grip and therefore create an unstable bike. If you still aren’t sure about the best range for your bike, you should be able to see the recommended PSI either on the sidewall of the tire, or in the manufacturer’s handbook.
Q: What is the proper way to store MTB tires to prevent cracking?
A: There are a few main environmental contributors to cracking tires- exposure to sunlight, exposure to pollution, moisture levels and temperature. While it’s harder to avoid the exposure to pollution- especially if you live in an area that is densely populated and therefore has a higher rate of pollution, you can do you best to minimize the risks given here.
Firstly, you should try to store your tires in a cool area, as sunlight can wreak havoc with the rubber used in tires, drying out the surface and making cracks more likely. It will also sun-bleach your tires and take out the flexibility that they require. This should also satisfy the temperature aspect, since hot environments will have the same effect. Moisture levels should be kept dry but not uncomfortably so, since both high and low temperatures increase the risk of cracking.
You should also make sure that your tires are always kept above ground and with a good amount of air in the tires. If they remain on the ground for an extended length of time, it’s likely that your tire will create a flat spot in the area they are resting on. Similarly, keeping your tires at a suitable PSI will ensure there are less deformities present when you refit your MTB tire.
Our Top Pick
Thanks to the quality and sheer hardiness of their tire, the Maxxis High Roller II Dual Compound EXO Folding Tire came up trumps as our top pick for mountain bike tires. The extended width allows for greater fun while riding downhill, safe in the knowledge that you and your bike feel secure during rides.
Combined with the ability to practically float on muddy and loose surfaces, you’ll find that riding your mountain bike has never been so fun thanks to square profile of the treads. And, as one of the most popular brands in the MTB industry, you can be sure that the quality, customer service and overall security of this bike tire will leave you grinning from ear to ear.
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