The Best Mountain Bike Tires For Top Performance
The mountain bike tires are the elements of the bike with the greatest impact on its behavior on the trail. In fact, the function of the tires is the contact with the ground, but there are many features that can determine the appropriateness of a tire over the other. If you want to jump directly to our top mountain bike tires selection, click on the links in the table below.
In the choice of the best mountain bike tires, there are many elements to consider, from subjective factors such as your riding attitude to objective factors such as the type of terrain you usually ride on and even the type of the bike.
If it is impossible to determine which is the best mountain bike tire based on the subjective factor, things are slightly different when it comes to the objective ones.
Nevertheless, things are still complicated, because one can only determine what is the best tire for a certain type of terrain, or for certain weather conditions, or for a certain biker or specific bike. In all this mess, we can try to determine which are the best mountain bike tires from the few certainties we have.
Grip & Ease Of Movement
When choosing an MTB tire, probably the departure point should be the grip and ease of movement of the tire you’re interested in. The grip is the ability of a tire to adhere to the ground, but the deformation of the tire during this process usually causes a loss of energy and hence a slowdown of the bike for which the biker must compensate pedaling with more force.
The ease of movement is the exact opposite of the grip and determines the ability of a tire to roll on the ground dissipating as little energy as possible. Therefore, one of the main things to consider when choosing your mountain bike tires is the size of the contact area between the tire and the ground.
The contact area is influenced by several factors, such as:
- The pressure of the tire: a lower pressure determines a greater footprint.
- The weight of the wheels: the greater the weight, the greater the footprint.
- Type of the wheel: larger wheels usually have larger contact areas, for example, a wheel with a diameter of 29 inches will have a greater footprint than a wheel of 26 inches.
- The width of the tire: as it is easy to imagine, the greater the width, the greater the footprint.
- The rigidity of the tire: the less rigid tires usually have a larger footprint.
- The texture of the terrain.
To understand how important the footprint is, think that a tire with an internal pressure of 1,5 bar develops a contact surface with about 10% larger compared to the same tire swollen to a pressure of 1,8 bar. In the first case, the rider needs to consume more energy to push the bike ahead.
When riding, it is very difficult if not impossible to distribute our weight evenly in the two wheels and the load distribution varies depending on the type of the trail and position of the rider.
When riding uphill, the weight moves towards the rear wheel, increasing the footprint of the rear tire. In this way, the rear wheel increases the grip but it also increases the rolling resistance, demanding more power to roll. But when riding uphill the grip is not crucial, therefore investing in a more rigid tire that can maintain a smaller footprint will help the cyclist consume less energy on a similar trail.
On the contrary, when riding downhill, the weight moves towards the front wheel, pressing and increasing the footprint on the front tire. The front wheel increases the grip and the rolling resistance, but the good grip is extremely important when rolling downhill. The cyclist will use little to no energy to ride downhill, as the gravitational force will make the process easier, but without good grip, the rider could easily lose control of his bike.
By now, you have probably realized that the needs of the front and rear tires are different and therefore, the front and rear tire should have different characteristics even when installed on the same bike.
The tread compound, together with the footprint, determines the adherence. Tires are made of various blends of rubber, additives and various polymers that vary widely between the various models of tires. A softer mixture can adapt to the roughness of a soil with more ease, but it will be more adherent and will provide a greater grip, therefore it is not recommended in all situations.
On the other hand, a tougher compound will flow on the most various types of trails, but it will not be a trustworthy companion when riding downhill.
The measurement unit for the toughness of the compound is the shore, and in the case of the MTB bikes, the tires start at about 40 shores and go up to 60. The shores are indicated on the tire as the actual shore measurement followed by a number, for instance, 48a.
A thing to keep in mind is that the compound degrades over time and it tends to harden quickly.
Other Factors To Consider
Apart from the elements listed above, there are other important factors to consider when choosing the best mountain bike tires.
- Tire pattern: MTB tires have a specific, rugged pattern, designed to avoid penetrating into the soft soil and evacuate the mud in a quick and efficient manner. To achieve this, manufacturers make thick, dense and radial patterns into the tread that provide excellent stability and balance on rugged terrains but that are totally unsuitable for use on asphalt.
- The weight of the tire: it is impossible to establish the best weight since for uphill rides are recommended light tires and heavier ones for the downhill. When it comes to weight, you should choose based on the types of trails you usually ride on.
- Section of the tire: by section, we understand the width of the tires. Usually expressed in inches, the width is a fundamental value to know because it impacts on the footprint. The problem with the width is that there are no official standards and manufacturers can determine the width based on their specific set of rules. To make sure that you buy a tire with the desired width, measure it yourself.
With this consideration in mind, we made a selection of the best MTB tires on the market that have decent performances both uphill and downhill. Read our reviews and choose the best for you.
Best Mountain Bike Tires
Kenda K850 Aggressive MTB Wire Bead Bicycle Tire
Kenda is one of the most famous manufacturers of bicycle tires, their products being renowned for the quality of the rubber and reliability of the patterns. And as you could expect, K850 model is not an exception.
K850 is an all-round tire designed to be used on all types of terrains. To do this, the tire boasts an exceptional stability and resistance regardless of the characteristics of the trail or of the time you spent on riding.
To achieve these performances with success, the K850 boasts an aggressive tread pattern that works at its best on the off-road trails and countryside areas. Nonetheless, you will still be able to enjoy decent performances on asphalted roads too.
The K850 also has an impressive grip even on slippery surfaces, passing with ease the test of mud and dirt.
Things We Liked
- Exceptional performances on slopes: K850 boasts wide sidewalls and perform exceptionally well on slopes regardless of the way of riding, uphill or downhill.
- Long-lasting: Kenda used a high-quality compound to manufacture the K850, the tires lasting up to 5 years if they are properly cared for.
- Easy to clean: thanks to the special pattern, the K850 are really easy to clean with the help of a hose.
- Average size: K850 has a 26-inch diameter, this model of tires being compatible with a wide range of bicycles. The section of the tire is 2,10 inches.
Things We Didn't Like
- Although advertised as a 2,10 inches tire, the K850 seems to be a little bit thinner. Nevertheless, as already mentioned, there is no standard in measuring the width.
Panaracer Fire XC Pro Wire Bead Mountain Bicycle Tire
Panaracer is a devoted tire manufacturer and Panaracer tires are considered by many the finest in the world. The company produces a wide selection of tires for all types of bikes, their range of MTB tires being absolutely impressive.
From the multiple choices offered by the company, a tire that stands out is the Fire XP Wire Bead, a tire able to deliver top level performances on multiple types of trails, including sidewalks, off-road trails and sometimes even on asphalt.
Regarding the off-road characteristics, the Fire XC Pro Wire Bead offers excellent traction ensured by the impressive grip. Nonetheless, the manufacturer managed to combine both uphill and downhill characteristics in this collection of tires, the Fire XC Pro Wire Bead being suitable for both front and rear use.
Things We Liked
- Average diameter and width: compatible with a wide range of bikes, the tire measures 26 inches in diameter and 2,10 inches in width.
- All round: adaptable to all types of terrains, the Fire XC Pro Wire Bead is an all-round type of tire.
- ASB Chafer: the anti-snake-bite chafer will certainly protect you against pinch punctures.
- Great weight: the tire weighs 770 grams.
Things We Didn't Like
- The Fire XC Pro Wire Bead seems to have limited braking traction, a major downside especially when riding downhill.
Goodyear Folding Bead Mountain Bike Tire
Goodyear is famous for its exceptional tires, the American manufacturer being more famous for its racing and vehicle tires than for the bicycle tires.
Nevertheless, from such a renowned manufacturer one can only expect superior quality, perfect adherence, an optimal grip-ease of movement balance and durability.
In fact, these are the terms that define the Folding Bead MTB tire, a tire made of a long-lasting and durable compound built specifically to provide unmatched performances when used either on the front or on the rear wheel.
Things We Liked
- High-quality compound: the Goodyear Folding Bead boasts an impressive lifespan thanks to the high-quality compound the manufacturer used.
- Excellent performances: the tire has a great grip even if it doesn’t limit the ease of movement.
- Fits multiple sizes of rims: this tire has a width of 2,10 inches yet it fits rims of various sizes, between 2 and 2,125 inches wide.
- Ideal MTB size: the tire has a 26-inch diameter and it is compatible with the vast majority of the MTB models.
- Great price: although of extremely high quality, this tire comes at an excellent price, characteristic that transform it into one of the most popular choices among amateur and expert MTB cyclists.
Things We Didn't Like
- For some reason, Folding Bead tires are quite difficult to put on the rim.
Schwinn All Terrain Bicycle Tire
Among the bike experts, Schwinn is more famous for its BMX bikes than for the mountain bikes. Nevertheless, the manufacturer proposes an interesting range of mountain bikes and mountain bikes accessories, among which bike tires developed for off-road and not only.
One of the most popular types of tires manufactured by the company is the All Terrain, a tire built, as the name suggests, for use on multiple types of terrains.
Indeed, this tire delivers unmatched performances on roads and sidewalks, countryside roads and forest trails, being versatile yet durable.
Things We Liked
- Fits most bikes: thanks to the 26 inches diameter, the All Terrain tire fits perfectly almost all 26 inches bikes. Being built for multiple types of terrain, the tire is suitable for multiple types of bikes, not only for mountain bikes.
- Durable bead: the tire’s bead is made of durable steel, its design being specific for the MTB bikes used for trail riding.
- Impressive traction: the combination of the excellent compound with the steel bead provide a great traction.
- Heavy-duty: thanks to the rugged pattern, high-quality materials and impressive balance between grip and ease of movement, this tire can certainly be considered a heavy-duty option.
Things We Didn't Like
- Because these tires are manufactured to perform on all types of terrains they don’t have an aggressive pattern as one might expect for a mountain bike tire.
Bell Mountain Tire
Famous for its bicycle, racing, and motorcycle helmets, Bell Sports also manufactures other bike accessories, among which a line of mountain bike tires designed to meet the needs of any cyclist.
The Bell Mountain Tire doesn’t provide only excellent characteristics in terms of grip-ease of movement balance, it also features a Kevlar layer that provides extra puncture and superior resistance to the compound.
Kevlar is a para-aramid synthetic fiber developed by DuPont in 1965. The main characteristic of this fiber is its impressive strength, that is considered to be about 5 times stronger than steel.
The Bell Mountain Tire with Kevlar are suitable for bikes of many sizes, they come in various widths and are extremely resistant and reliable.
Things We Liked
- Carbon steel bead: for easier storage even in the tightest spaces, the manufacturer equipped this product with a carbon steel bead that can be folded.
- Multiple sizes: Bell Mountain Tire is suitable for bikes between 18 and 29 inches, the most popular sizes being 24 inches diameter with 1,75 to 2,125 inches wide and the 26 inches diameter with 1,75 to 2,25 inches wide.
- Impressive traction: tall, knobby tire is built to provide superior traction even on the most challenging tracks.
- Kevlar layer: as we already mentioned, thanks to this layer the tire is extremely durable and resistant.
Things We Didn't Like
- The tire is difficult to put on the rim. In addition to this, some users complained about the pattern not being similar to the one advertised.
Conclusion And Final Pick
Choosing the best mountain bike tire is far from being easy. Cyclists have different needs that vary widely and depend on such a wide array of factors that determine whether a tire will be the best for you or not can only be determined by trying the tire yourself.
Nevertheless, there is a tire that meets the needs of most users, that is versatile enough to be used on all types of terrains but that is still specifically built for trail riding. Therefore, the best mountain bike tires according to us are those manufactured by Kenda.
Specifically, in our opinion, the best MTB tire on the market is Kenda K850 Aggressive MTB Wire Bead Bicycle Tire. We like everything about this tire, beginning with its functional pattern, the resistance of the compound, adaptability to the trail, as well as the excellent balance between grip and ease of movement.
Furthermore, the dimension is ideal for most bikes and the width is perfect, even if some consider it too thin. But as already mentioned, we don’t know if this is the right mountain bike tire for you. You’ll have to try and find out!