Pulling It All Together: Scenarios and Recommendations
Well you’ve made it this far, but maybe you’re still looking for some pointed direction as to what tire to buy. If that’s the case, then here are nine different scenarios with specific tire recommendations attached to them. And just to be clear, there are quite a few other options out there that could also work for you, and plenty of this comes down to personal preference. So consider these examples a starting point, but don’t take them as the gospel truth.
(1) You’re pretty new to the sport and don’t really have any idea where to start.
Finding the best tire really requires knowing your local trails and where you’ll be riding. If you’re unsure, your local shop can be a great resource. But if you’re dead set on taking my advice, look for a moderately knobby tire with transitional knobs, a medium-hard rubber compound, and some minimal reinforcements in the sidewalls.
WTB Trail Boss w/ TCS Light casing and Dual DNA rubber compound
Schwalbe Nobby Nic w/ Snakeskin casing and Speedgrip rubber compound
Maxxis Ardent w/ Exo casing and Dual rubber compound
(2) You want something that works well all-around, but you spend a lot of time on pavement and bike paths getting to and from the trails.
Look for a tire with relatively tightly spaced center knobs and a harder rubber compound – it’ll roll faster on pavement and other well-packed surfaces. If the dirt on your trails tends to be softer, look for something with larger, blockier side knobs. If the dirt on your trails tends to be smoother and more hardpacked, look for something with slightly smaller side knobs.
Maxxis Ikon w/ Single Ply or Exo casing, Dual or 3C MaxxSpeed rubber compound
Kenda Slant 6, Single Ply casing, DTC rubber compound
Specialized Fast Trak, 2Bliss casing
(3) You just want a good all around tire, and you mostly ride smoother, faster trails that are generally dry.
Look for something with somewhat lower, more tightly spaced knobs. Tall side knobs will likely feel squirmy in corners. A harder rubber compound will roll noticeably faster. You can probably get away with a lighter, single ply casing.
Kenda Slant 6, Single Ply casing, DTC rubber compound
Schwalbe Rocket Ron or Nobby Nic, Snakeskin casing, Speed or SpeedGrip rubber compound
(4) You just want a good all around tire, and your trails tend to be littered with sharp rocks.
A higher volume tire (i.e. wider) can make things a bit more comfortable. A blocky tread pattern and sidewall reinforcements are a good idea to increase durability. A softer rubber compound will grip irregular surfaces better, but it’ll roll a bit slower.
WTB Vigilante, TCS Tough casing, Gravity DNA rubber compound
Maxxis Highroller II, Exo or DoubleDown casing, 3C MaxxTerra or MaxxGrip rubber compound
Vittoria Goma, TNT casing, 4C rubber compound
(5) You ride lots of soft dirt (or sand) that tends to be dry.
Look for tall-ish side knobs that will dig in on corners. If you do lots of steep climbs or you feel you need more braking traction, look for something with chunky center knobs that are a bit more spaced out. A middle of the road rubber compound will balance traction and longevity.
Maxxis DHF, Exo casing, 3C MaxxTerra rubber compound, paired with Maxxis Aggressor rear, same casing / compound.
Schwalbe Rock Razor (for the rear), Snakeskin casing, Addix Soft rubber compound
Specialized Butcher, Grid casing
(6) You ride lots of soft dirt and it’s frequently wet.
Look for a tire with spaced out knobs, which will shed mud better. Tall side knobs will help with digging in on soft corners. A softer rubber compound will help increase traction on wet rocks, and a higher tpi casing can make the tire conform and grip better (potentially at the cost of durability).
Continental Trail King, Protection Apex casing, Black Chili rubber compound
Maxxis Forekaster, Exo casing, Dual Compound
WTB Vigilante, Gravity DNA rubber compound
(7) You want to save some money, so you want a tire that’ll last a long time.
Look for a tire with a hard rubber compound (60a or higher). Big blocky knobs tend to wear slower than small ones. A low tpi casing (60tpi) will generally hold up better to rocks and pointy things.
Specialized Ground Control Sport
WTB Breakout, Comp casing, DNA rubber Compound
(8) You tend to get a lot of punctures and tears in your tires.
For single-ply tires, stick with low thread count casings. If you’re not already, consider converting to tubeless and running a good sealant that’ll seal around thorns. It comes with a weight penalty, but look at some of the more substantially reinforced tires.
Most knobbier tires have an option for a heavier casing. Look at tires with Maxxis Doubledown casings, Schwalbe Supergravity casings, Specialized Grid casings. Vittoria TNT casings, or other reinforced tires.
(9) You ride a bit of everything, and you want a magical do-it-all tire that excels everywhere.
We all love unicorns, but you are just going to have to deal with a middle-of-the-road option that does “pretty okay” in most situations. Of course, “middle of the road” is somewhat subjective, but look for something with a dual (or triple) compound rubber and a single-ply casing with a reinforced sidewall.
For tread, decide what you want to prioritize: either traction, or low weight and low rolling resistance. If you said traction, look for a tire with meaty tread and substantial side knobs. If you said low weight and low rolling resistance, look for something with lower, more tightly-spaced knobs.
Examples that Prioritize Grip:
Front Tire: Maxxis DHF, Exo casing, 3C MaxxTerra rubber compound
Rear Tire: Maxxis DHRII, Exo casing (or DoubleDown if you have issues with flats), 3C MaxxTerra rubber compound
Examples that Grip but Roll a Little Faster:
Front Tire: Schwalbe Hans Dampf, Snakeskin casing, Addix Soft rubber compound
Rear Tire: Schwalbe RockRazor, Snakeskin casing (or Supergravity casing if you have issues with flats), Addix Soft rubber compound
Example that Sacrifices a bit of Grip for Faster Rolling:
Front and Rear: Specialized Ground Control, 2Bliss casing
Examples that Prioritize Fast Rolling over Grip:
Front Tire: Maxxis Ardent Race, Single Ply casing, 3C MaxxSpeed rubber compound
Rear Tire: Maxxis Ikon, Single Ply or Exo casing, Dual rubber compound