How to choose the best mountain bike tyres for you

If you are at the point in your mountain biking career, where you want to start tweaking your bike, a good place to start is with your tyres. Here is my guide on how to find the best mountain bike tyres for you.

Why Change your tyres?

Different tyres have different characteristics that can change how your bike handles. Your tyre choice can have an impact on grip, rolling resistance, the amount of punctures and weight.

Having more traction will give you more confidence. Ultimately if you have more grip, you can have more fun and progress faster. Your punctures can be reduced by, choosing thicker tyres, or even better tubeless ones.

Tyre Size

best mountain bike tyres

Currently there are three main wheel sizes for adults:

  • 26″
  • 27.5″ also known as 650b
  • 29″

I am going to assume by this point you know what wheel size your bike has, so now you need to decide on the tyre width.

The width of your tyre will obviously be determined by the width of your wheel. But, your wheels will be able to accommodate a range of sizes. Whichever wheel you have, the wider size tyres will give you much more traction, especially on soft ground. If you decide to use wider tyres (or wheels), make sure that your bike frame has the clearance to accommodate them.

  • XC bikes will have a tyre width range of between 1.9″ and 2.25″
  • Trail and Enduro bikes have a range of 2.25″ and 2.5″
  • Downhill bikes have tyres up to 2.5″, to take the punishment they go through
  • Fat bikes have big squishy tyres from 3.7″ and up

Click on the links below to buy tyres from the best online mountain bike shops

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Tyre Valves

There are two different types of valve available for mountain bike tyres, Presta and Schrader.

Presta valves are the pointy ones, with an integrated valve cap. You need to unscrew this to pump up your tyres.

Schrader valves are the wide valves, that look like the ones you would find on a car tyre.

You need to make sure you have the right valve for your wheel as the Schrader is too big to fit in a Presta hole. However, if you use a Presta valve in a Shrader hole, you will find it is too big. This means your valve can sheer off.

What type of riding do you do?

There are different tyres specifically made for each discipline of riding. Tyres have certain characteristics that give them the performance needed for the type of riding you do. Cross country tyres are usually lightweight and not particularly grippy. However, they do make climbing easier. Trail bike tyres need to have a good balance of grip, speed and toughness. Enduro tyres need to tackle tricky climbs, but need to be particularly tough to cope with the technical descents too. Downhill tyres need to take punishment from jumps, rocks and unforgiving terrain, while giving you good grip in fast corners.

What tread do you need?

best mountain bike tyres

There are lots of different treads available, making it tricky to choose the best mountain bike tyres for you. As mountain bikers, we need our tyres to have a heavy deep tread. This tread works when the blocks of rubber cut in to the mud, giving us grip.

Knob size – I’m referring to the knobbly bits on your tyre, so stop sniggering. Tyres with lower profile smaller knobs work well on hard pack surfaces and will roll easily. However, your breaking will not be as effective. They will be fast rolling though, which makes them good for cross-country riding. Tyres with bigger knobs will be the opposite, as they will give good grip on soft surfaces and good braking efficiency.

Knob spacing – Tyres with knobs tightly packed together, give good grip on hard pack surfaces. Therefore, widely spaced knobs are for soft mud. This is because the mud won’t stay stuck in the tread, and should clear fairly quickly.

Width – Thin tyres cut through mud easily, while wide tyres are better for aggressive riding and dry conditions.

Tread patterns – The knobs around the edge of the tyre give you grip in the corners, when you lean the bike over. You will see that cross-country tyres have less pronounced side knobs than a Trail, Enduro or DH tyre. This means they will not have as much grip in the corners.

The centre knobs are directional (meaning you need to put your tyre on the right way round). The leading edges of the centre knobs on a DH tyre are ramped. This is to help it roll, while the back side of the knobs have a steep angle, giving lots of breaking power. Cross country tyres have smaller more uniformed centre knobs to help them roll fast. However, they will not give you much breaking power.

Click here to learn about choosing winter mountain bike tyres

Tubes or Tubeless

best mountain bike tyres

If you follow any mountain bike Facebook groups, you will no doubt see lots of arguments for and against running tubeless tyres. Well, this is where I want to put this to bed, by saying tubeless is better. I have written a blog about the advantages and disadvantages of both (see below). However, in summary, you get less/no punctures, more grip and less weight. Yes, they can be a faff to set up sometimes, but the inconvenience in your garage is a lot better than inconvenience on the trails.

=>Click here for the advantages and disadvantages of tubless tyres<=

Where to go from here

Don’t go out and buy tyres for every eventuality. First of all you should just stick with one set of tyres that suits the terrain you ride.

When it comes to changing your tyres, look in to mixing them. You can experiment with putting a different type of tyre on each wheel. Maybe go for something more grippy on the front and something that rolls a bit easier on the back. Doing this can make riding really fun (especially if you like skids).

So to summarise on the best mountain bike tyres for you:

Cross country Bikes– You will want fast rolling, lightweight tyres. However, they are quite prone to punctures and less effective on steep muddy trails

Downhill Bikes – These bikes need heavier tyres with more grip. But, they have more rolling resistance and need to be stronger to cope with the terrain

Enduro and Trail Bikes– The best mountain bike tyres for Enduro are light and fast rolling, as they need to be ridden for long distances. They need to be good for all conditions, therefore you will never have the perfect tyre due to the varied conditions you ride.

That is how to choose the best mountain bike tyres

I hope this helps you in your choice for the best mountain bike tyres for you. If you have any questions, or think I have left anything out, let me know in the comments section below.

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