So it’s become time to choose what type of tires you’re going to put on your nice new mountain bike.
One glance at the shelf of the store, or one quick search and you’ve realized:
There are hundreds of different brands and types of mountain bike tires.
What next? Do I buy Michelin? Maxxis? Schwalbe? Continental? Specialized? WTB? Cross country? All-mountain? Trail? What is the best mountain bike tire? Is your head spinning yet? Mine sure was. The options number in the hundreds, between different brands, sizes, tread pattern, rubber compound, and more. Well, I’m here to help you. I’ve been where you are. I’ll introduce to you and discuss some of the different types of tires available and in what conditions and circumstances each one might be the most appropriate.
All mountain bike tires are categorized into essentially five categories: All-Mountain, Downhill/Freeride, Recreational, Trail, and Cross Country (XC). Each category is representative of a different type or style of riding. All-Mountain is a mixture of cross country and downhill. Downhill/Freeride involves steep, rocky, technical downhill drops. Recreational is for those who enjoy a trip around the block and occasional trips into the dirt. Trail falls between All-Mountain and XC, with less downhill involvement. Cross country involves lots of climbing uphill, with fewer drops and downhill.
That being said, there is a lot of fluidity in these categories, and many times the same tire can be a candidate for more than one category of riding. Some trail tires can also be excellent cross-country tires, for example.
What kind of trails do you ride?
The type of trails you ride, or your riding conditions, along with your style of riding will determine what type of tire you should be riding. Trail conditions can range from hard-packed dirt, loose dirt and gravel over hard-pack, loose soil, to mud. Also, the trail can contain rocks, roots, ledges, and more. These factors will all determine which type of tire is most appropriate.
What type of tires do I need?
Hard pack trails are typically cross country trails, so a lighter-weight tire with smaller treads or knobs would be ideal. Such tires include the WTB Nanoraptor, the Kenda Small Block 8, and the Specialized Ground Control. The small, low, and sometimes tight-packed knobs reduce the rolling resistance of the tire, and give a quicker feel. Also, the lighter weight makes them easier to pedal uphill, which you will appreciate.
Loose over hard pack will typically need a tire with somewhat deeper and larger knobs or tread to reach through the loose soil and grip the hard soil beneath, but still retaining a quick feel. This type of trail can be either cross-country or an All-Mountain type of trail. This type of tire would include the Specialized Purgatory, Kenda Nevegal, and the Maxxis Ikon.
Loose soil, roots, or extremely rocky trails will require even larger knobs or deeper tread. Such would include the Maxxis Ignitor, Continental Mountain King, and WTB Vigilante.
Wet, muddy trails benefit from even more aggressive tires, with large, widely spaced knobs. Examples included the WTB Warden, Maxxis Medusa, and Specialized Hillbilly.
Now you should have a basic understanding to the types of mountain bike tires and all the factors to consider when choosing the right tire for.
But this is just the beginning!
Soon we will go into the construction of mountain bike tires, what features to look for, and more specifics. Get ready for the Bicycle Boot Camp.
Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or any questions.