Going mountain biking is one of the most exhilarating, and challenging, outdoor sports for bike enthusiasts. In addition to finding the right bike for the job, you also need to ensure that you are using the best mountain bike tires you can find. The tires take a huge beating on the rough trails, and the type of tire you choose can have a big impact on the way you experience the ride. Some of the key features of the best mountain bike tires are:
- How easy they are to install
- How responsive they are to braking
- Resistance to rolling
- Pedal traction
- Wheel size
- Threads per inch, or TPI
And that’s just the beginning. Here’s a quick primer on how to choose the best mountain bike tires before we dive into our review of the top 10 options on the market today.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Search for a Quality Mountain Bike Tire
- 2 Best Mountain Biking Tires of 2018 Reviewed
- 3 Taking a Closer Look at the Best Mountain Bike Tires
- 4 Maxxis Ardent TR EXO Tire
- 5 Schwalbe Hans Dampf Tire
- 6 Maxxis Minion DHRII 3C Exo Tubeless Ready Folding Tire
- 7 Continental Trail King Fold ProTection Bike Tire
- 8 Kenda K850 Aggressive MTB Wire Bead Bicycle Tire
- 9 Maxxis Ignitor Mountain Bike Tire
- 10 Continental Vertical 26×2.30 Black Tire
- 11 Panaracer Fire XC Wire MTB Tire
- 12 Kenda John Tomac Signature Series Nevegal Mountain Bike Tire
- 13 WTB VelociRaptor Mountain Tire
- 14 Things to Consider Before You Buy Mountain Bike Tires
- 15 A Quick Note on Mountain Bike Tire Tubes
- 16 Front and Rear Tires
- 17 Time to Replace Your Mountain Bike Tires?
How to Search for a Quality Mountain Bike Tire
The first thing you’ll want to ensure is that the tire offers a high TPI. This is what gives you the traction and rolling resistance that you need to stay safe on the trails. For most mountain biking trails, you will need a tire that offers at least 60 TPI, and it’s better to aim for something closer to 110 TPI.
The next thing to consider is the durability of the materials. One of the most important components of a mountain bike tire is the bead, which keeps the tire mounted to the bike’s rim. Look for a Kevlar bead, which offers the most durability, but be aware that tires with Kevlar beads tend to need replacing faster.
Finally, look at the design and shape of the tread. The way your tire impacts the comfort of your ride usually comes down to the tread design. For example, if you are riding in loose soil on an overall hard surface, it’s better to look for small knobs. If you are riding in mud, look for long knobs with more space between each knob. Additionally, be aware of how the knob shape can impact bike function. A ramped knob can make the bike more prone to rolling, but it also provides much better braking response.
Best Mountain Biking Tires of 2018 Reviewed
|Name||Avg Star Rating||Price Range||Notable Feature|
|Maxxis Ardent TR EXO Tire||4.5||$10-150||Fast|
|Schwalbe Hans Dampf Tire||4||$10-100||Versatility|
|Maxxis Minion DHRII 3C Exo Tubeless Ready Folding Tire||4.5||$50-150||Trick riding|
|Continental Trail King Fold ProTection Bike Tire||4||$10-150||Best for rocky trails|
|Kenda K850 Aggressive MTB Wire Bead Bicycle Tire||4.5||$10-50||Best for beginner|
|Maxxis Ignitor Mountain Bike Tire||4.5||$10-100||Great all-around option|
|Continental Vertical Tire 26 x 2.3" Black Tire||4.5||$10-50||Front and rear use|
|Panaracer Fire XC Wire MTB Tire||4.5||$10-50||Speed|
|Kenda John Tomac Signature Series Nevegal Mountain Bike Tire||4||$10-150||Versatile, fast, and durable|
|WTB VelociRaptor Mountain Tire||4.5||$10-50||Climbing|
Taking a Closer Look at the Best Mountain Bike Tires
Based on the features that the best mountain bike tires should have, we’ve narrowed down the options on the market to these 10 tires, which we’ve rated as the best for just about any type of rider. Here’s what you need to know about each of these tires.
Maxxis Ardent TR EXO Tire
If you love high-speed trail riding, the Maxxis Ardent is a fantastic option for you. These are aggressive tires with 60 TPI so that you get great traction without sacrificing speed. They can be adjusted so that they are tubeless, and they weigh only 760 grams. The tread design has three different layers. The center tread is built for responsive braking, while the outer treads are made for fast cornering. So whether you want to tackle a tough trail that will need all your attention, or just go cruising around your favorite smooth track, this tire can do it all. It has a folding bead, which means it’s not quite as durable, but for the price, that is to be expected. This is the ideal starter tire for cross-country riding when you’re on a budget, especially when you aren’t quite sure if you want a meatier tire for rocky terrain, or a proper racing tire. This tire is perfect as a year-round back tire, and can be used as a front tire in drier weather, especially in the summer.
Schwalbe Hans Dampf Tire
If you are an all-around rider that likes to be able to tackle all terrain, but isn’t necessarily worried about top speeds, the Schwalbe Hans Dampf is an excellent choice. This tire has superb grip thanks to the larger tread, and when filled to a lower pressure, can even grip tightly on roots, wet ground, and deep mud. Fill it up to a higher pressure, and it will hold its own on rockier, harder terrain as well. This tire is not the most durable option we’ve reviewed, but it is one of the safest choices overall. It does have a sidewall to help protect the tire from tears, but that can also slow the tire down a bit. This is a tubeless tire as well, so it’s easy to install and fill. This is a 27.5-inch tire, and comes in several different aesthetic styles (such as matte black, or with a snakeskin pattern) to suit your tastes.
Maxxis Minion DHRII 3C Exo Tubeless Ready Folding Tire
Are you a rider that likes extremely tricky trails that challenge your technical riding skills? The Minion may not be the cheapest model we reviewed, but it is well worth the price tag for performance. This is a 26-inch tire that is specifically made to handle any corner you can throw at it. It is slip-resistant, durable, and speedy. It can plow through muddy or snowy conditions, or race over hard, dry trails with ease. This is a great option for a rear tire because of its excellent rolling resistance, but if you do have to get through some light snow or shallow mud, it is also a good option for a front tire. This is a ramped knob, so keep in mind that braking may be affected, but for the most part, this tire scores high marks for safety.
Continental Trail King Fold ProTection Bike Tire
If you primarily tackle rocky trails, the Trail King is your best friend. While the tire could technically handle many other types of terrain, it really shines on rough, rocky paths where loam and hardpack could cause other tires to slip around. The tire is made with a soft design that conforms to the ground, which is what gives it that great traction in rocky areas. However, that does mean this tire is not meant for the mud, so keep that in mind if your favorite trail features a mixture of both. This is a wide 29-inch tire with lots of surface volume, another part of why it’s so great at giving good grip. It corners and brakes well, and is tubeless-ready. Because of the special softer design, this tire has also been shown to last up to 5% longer than similar tires on rocky terrain, so you’re also investing in a durable tire that will be with you for a while. Despite being so large, this is a lightweight tire that won’t slow you down.
Kenda K850 Aggressive MTB Wire Bead Bicycle Tire
If you are a beginner and need an affordable tire that will get the job done, the Kenda K850 is designed for you. While experienced riders may find these tires lacking in durability and minute performance, these are a well-rounded option for beginners or those on a tight budget. They have very aggressive treads that can work on a variety of trail types, and they come in a variety of sizes so you can use them on many bikes. These are primarily recommended for back tire use, and they seem to perform the best when filled between 45 and 65 pounds of tire pressure. These are considered a hybrid tire, but overall they don’t perform as well on rocky terrain. Save these for the mud and hard-but-smooth trails.
Maxxis Ignitor Mountain Bike Tire
If you’re looking for a great all-around tire that can do it all with minimal cons in any specific area, the Maxxis Ignitor is the most underrated tire out there. It offers its most optimal performance in drier conditions, but only just. In mud and snow, it can hold its own, and one of the best things about this tire is that it performs very predictably every time you ride. It has a fast-rolling compound, a lightweight construction, and pentagon-shaped knobs that have excellent grip without slowing you down around corners. Really, the only downside to this tire is that it seems to struggle a bit in very thick clay simply because they aren’t as wide as tires made specifically for that type of riding. Otherwise, it’s a fast tire that performs well in a variety of conditions. It’s also fairly affordable, and works great as a rear tire for riders that want speed.
Continental Vertical 26×2.30 Black Tire
We’ve mentioned many tires so far that are suited for rear tire use most of the year, but what about a tire that works as both a front and rear tire all year long? The Continental Vertical is your answer. This is a low-weight tire that has excellent traction around corners, and handles very well on both hard and loose surfaces. That makes it ideal for use as both a front and a rear tire, but it’s the unique knob set up that makes this tire truly right for front tire use. Rather than having a pattern of knobs along the center of the tire, the Continental Vertical has a random array of polygon-shaped knobs all over the entire tire, including the sides. They stick out from every angle, which gives you the ultimate grip as you corner. That means you can handle rocky terrain, wet terrain, loose dirt, hard soil, and more. These tires especially impress during the winter, a season when many trail tires just don’t hold up. It’s not the fastest tire that exists on the market, but it does offer the most versatility overall.
Panaracer Fire XC Wire MTB Tire
Another affordable option on our list, the Panaracer Fire is all speed, all the time. Aesthetically, the red bead makes this tire live up to the Fire moniker, but it’s the extremely fast performance that attracts so many buyers. This is an aggressive tire that has soft treads to help you gain a lot of momentum. The softer treads do wear out faster, but the flip side of that is that there is much less rolling resistance. Despite being made for speed, these tires do offer excellent traction, so you can hit turns harder even in loose soil. These do take a little bit of extra time to install thanks to the wire bead, but the great performance is worth it. They offer great cushioning as well, so your ride is a bit smoother, and they are rated for everything from cross country exploring to downhill racing.
Kenda John Tomac Signature Series Nevegal Mountain Bike Tire
If what you want is a tire that will last, and stand up to some rugged trails, try the Kenda Nevegal. This is a popular mountain bike tire that is perfect for riders of every budget. It is consistently rated as one of the best tires on the market, and it’s easy to see why. They are durable, with big knobs for deep traction that can be crucial on loose terrain. They also have shoulder knobs for safer turns, and knobs between the shoulder and center of the tire to help you grip at any angle. The sidewalls are made with a very strong material so that you can use these tires with lower air pressure for rockier ground without worrying about the tire. They may not be quite aggressive enough for very deep mud or snow, but they’ll hold up just fine on wet ground.
WTB VelociRaptor Mountain Tire
If you ride a mountain bike to climb, the WTB VelociRaptor is the tire for you. The treads on this tire are directional, meaning they work to propel the tire (and thus, the bike) upwards and forwards as you go. Think of the knobs as being a little extra leg up as you are climbing. These tires are rated for all dirt conditions, and they are perfect as rear tires. They have excellent brake response, and when used as front tires, they also offer excellent control. These tires are also surprisingly fast, and have reinforced material to prevent punctures as you climb.
Things to Consider Before You Buy Mountain Bike Tires
Now that you’ve seen some of the best mountain bike tires on the market, how can you choose the best tire for your needs? All of these tires have high TPI, great durability, and the features you need to stay safe and ride on many types of terrain. So the best way to choose the right tire for you is to consider what type of riding you are doing.
If you like to race or go on long cross-country trail rides, you need a tire that is very lightweight. This gives you more speed, and won’t tire your legs out on the long haul. Racing tires should also have a low rolling resistance, and if you can find a narrower tire, you’ll have an easier time getting the speed you want. If you are riding cross-country, be aware that the terrain is likely going to shift often, from rocky to loose soil to mud, and more, on any given ride. So choose a tire that is going to be able to handle multiple types of surfaces.
If you like to mountain bike in the winter, you need a wide bike tire. Also called fat bike tires in the market, these are the best for handling snow and icy conditions. The more surface area the bike tire has, the more it can grip and plow through a lot of imminent weather. This keeps you safer and helps prevent your legs from doing all the work. These tires are usually run with lower air pressure. Keep in mind that these types of tires are often very pricey.
Enjoy riding downhill? This is a type of mountain bike racing that has become a popular hobby as well. You’ll be going down steep hills that could be rocky, sandy, or anything in between. You definitely need a lot of slip resistance to stay safe, but you also need durable tires that can handle sharp rock points. Choose wider tires with no tubes for this style of riding.
A Quick Note on Mountain Bike Tire Tubes
What does the tube have to do with anything? You’ll notice in the reviews above that some of the tires we mentioned are tubeless, while others are “tubeless ready”. What does that mean, and why does it matter?
Tubeless tires are the most popular option for mountain bike tires today because they tend to be more durable, and they often experience fewer performance issues. They are built with no tube inside the tire casing; instead, the tire’s air is held by the casing itself. They tend to offer a faster ride, and it’s a bit easier to customize the tire pressure for the type of riding you are doing. Finally, it’s nice to not have to worry about the tube getting punctured when you are trail riding.
However, there are some definite pros to using a tire with a tube. These are built with a thin rubber tube inside the tire casing that holds the tire’s air. The biggest reason to get one of these tires is that they are much easier to change on the go if you get a flat. You can simply change out the tube, reinstall the tire, and be on your way. Carrying an extra tube takes up no space and weighs next to nothing. A tubeless tire change means you’ll need to have an entire extra tire with you.
Finally, a “tubeless ready” tire is one that comes with a tube, but can be used without the tube if you prefer. These are the most versatile option, and are becoming very popular on the market. For the most part, though, you’ll still see more tube tires than anything else simply because tubeless tires are a newer option.
Front and Rear Tires
Another thing we mentioned in our reviews was whether or not a tire was suited for both the front and the rear tire of your bike. Usually, no rider will use the same type of tire for the front and rear of the bike, because you want these two tires to do different things. The tread pattern in the front should usually be more aggressive to help plow through difficult terrain, while the tread pattern on the back should be slightly less aggressive to help you get more speed and offer more slip resistance. Look for the label DH-F (front) and DH-R (rear) when deciding if a tire is best for either position.
Time to Replace Your Mountain Bike Tires?
Generally, mountain bike tires need to be replaced anywhere between 2,000 to 5,000 miles. Unless you are buying very high-end tires, you’ll need to start looking for a quality replacement near 2,000 miles. Once you see the treads starting to wear smooth, or you see cracks along the side of the tire, it’s time to replace the tires regardless of the mileage. This will keep you safe and prevent you from being stranded on a remote trail with a flat or blown out tire. Use this article to help you determine the best mountain bike tires for you, and how the top 10 tires on the market could meet your needs as a rider on any terrain.
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