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Mountain Bike Tires Explained

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Welcome to the Wild and Mysterious World of MTB Tires

Mountain bike tires are a critical component of any rider’s rig. Serving as the liaison between Earth and Rider, they are the only part of the bicycle that actually makes contact with the ground.

This relatively low-cost component has an outsized impact on a bike’s ride quality and rider experience. You can fiddle around with your $1500 fork all you want, but your bike won’t reach its potential if your tires aren’t dialed in. However, the world of MTB tires is vast and often poorly explained. We break down all the nuances of selecting the right tire for your offroad adventures (and recommend a few of our favorites).

Downhill mountain biking

How MTB Tires Impact Your Ride

We’ve all seen great riders whose bikes are just glued to the trail no matter what they do. No tire will ever replace skill when it comes to cornering prowess, slippery roots, or riding aggressively in loose conditions, but tire manufacturers love to spin how their latest mix of rubber and tread can change your riding game.

Nevertheless, every great rider shares at least one characteristic. They have absolute faith and commitment in their tires – their only point of contact with the ground – whether they are diving into a steep berm blasting down a steep loamer. Let’s discuss the ways tires can impact your ride to give you the faith you ultimately need to push your bike and yourself harder. 


The first thing mountain bikers think of when they hear the word ‘tire’ is traction. Traction is one of the keys to always maintaining control. Even the fastest and gnarliest riders are in control, despite their appearance to the viewer. Talk to Remy Metailler and he will confirm – although he does say that to succeed in racing you need to push the boundaries of ‘control,’ hence the high injury rate.

There are limitless variations in tread design, but all mountain bike tires share the same general pattern of center knobs and side knobs. The center knobs provide traction going straight up or down, while the side knobs offer more traction in the corners.

Pedal and Braking Traction

The center knobs on your tires provide pedal and braking traction. Pedal traction is important for maintaining momentum on steep, punchy climbs. It can make the difference between busting through a climb or putting a foot down. In my experience, modern MTB tires have become so sticky that it is always my legs and lungs that give out before my tires. One exception is very loose or sandy sections like those found on fire roads or double-track not designed for mountain biking. Unlike braking traction, only the rear tire provides pedal traction.

Braking traction is the result of both the front tire and the rear tire working simultaneously. A more aggressive tread pattern with burly center knobs will offer great braking traction. When you apply braking pressure, your mountain bike pushes downward and the tall knobs dig into the trail like claws. However, aggressive tread also causes rolling resistance and slower trail speeds.

Pro Tip: As a mountain bike coach, I’ve noticed many riders opt for increasingly aggressive rear tires to maintain traction as they progress to steeper trails. This improves traction but drags down rolling speed. Meanwhile, the pros are using something less aggressive like a Maxxis SS or Dissector. 

The problem is usually an over-reliance on the rear brake. In normal trail conditions, try to use both brakes equally. Like cornering, using the front brake requires commitment but it will stop the bike and rider much quicker. 


The side knobs (or “shoulder knobs” ) on mountain bike tires are responsible for ground control when the bike is tilted – for example, when you go to turn a corner. These knobs are pretty straightforward. They are designed to latch onto the trail and keep you planted. Like with center knobs, taller and burlier equates to more cornering traction and less wheel sliding.

These knobs are also the most under-utilized on mountain bike tires. Most people don’t commit to corners properly – they don’t tilt their bike enough to fully introduce these lugs into trail surfaces. Advanced riders will have worn center knobs from dragging their brakes down steeps. Expert riders will have worn side knobs from shralping around corners. 

Rolling Speed

As mountain bike riders progress, they often like to go faster and faster. This is where riders begin considering their rolling speed. Tires are a major factor in rolling speed. Wider tires with an aggressive tread design will have a lower rolling speed, whereas narrower tires with a less aggressive tread offer less resistance and a higher rolling speed. Road bike tires are the perfect example of this. They are pencil-thin and have very little tread. The lack of friction improves rolling efficiency.

Finding the right tire in mountain biking involves a personal compromise between traction and rolling efficiency. Mountain bike tires do have a few features to improve rolling speed without sacrificing traction. For example, rear tires are usually narrower with slanted and rearward-facing center knobs.

MTB Tire Characteristics


The width of your tires makes a big difference in ride quality. Tires range from huge fat bikes, that have 4”-5” tires while road bikes can be as thin as 18 mm (about 3/4 an inch). The ideal size for mountain bike tires is 2.3” – 2.6” for full suspension bikes. Sometimes, a wider tire (2.8” – 3”, also known as ‘Plus’) can be fun, especially on hardtail bikes, because the wide tires act as a suspension. Beginners may also like the dampened and stable ride from these tires. However, any decent rider will agree that tires above 2.6” will reduce trail speed, bike performance, and ride quality.

Mountain bike tires of varying widths
There are many different widths that mountain bike tires come in

A standard setup (especially for aggressive riders) may include a slightly wider front tires to maximize grip, with a narrower rear to improve rolling speed. Also, you can’t expect to run a super wide tire on a narrow rim without sacrificing performance and stability, so stay within manufacturer recommendations on the rim front.


The casing (also known as the carcass) is the main structure of the tire, made up of one or more layers of woven cloth material covered in rubber. It is responsible for holding the tire together, sealing in air, and providing some abrasion resistance. Some casings may also include additional elements such as rubber or plastic inserts to reinforce the tire, particularly near the bead. Different tire models may be available with different casing options, with heavier casings being tougher and more resistant to punctures and cuts, but also heavier in weight.

A tough casing can also provide more sidewall support during hard cornering and protect against ‘burping’ in tubeless setups, making for a more durable tire that adds cornering stability. The weight of a tire can be used as an approximation of its casing toughness, although it is important to consider factors such as tire width, diameter, knob size, and knob density when making comparisons.

The industry leader Maxxis has three options for casing: EXO, Double Down, and DH. Other brands have different names referring to the same thing. EXO and Double Down are great for trail riding, while the DH casing holds up in the park. Aggressive riding will wear down all components, but it’s especially noticeable with bike tires. Therefore, I’m a huge proponent of using DH casing tires at bike parks. The treads last longer, I get fewer flats, and the overall performance of the tire is superior. For example, I don’t roll them over as much in corners. 

Tread Pattern

Tightly spaced, uniform tread patterns are well-suited for cross-country riding. They are lightweight and have low rolling resistance. However, they may not provide as much grip for braking and cornering as tires with more widely spaced, taller knobs.

Detail of a mountain bike tire tread pattern
There are many different tread pattern types

When the tire tread consists of tall, widely spaced knobs and bigger channels, aggressive riding is on the agenda. These tires are good for mud and trail riding and offer added traction on steep, rocky trails. They also have better braking grip but have higher rolling resistance and are typically heavier due to their more durable casing, which allows for aggressive cornering and handling of rough terrain.

Front vs. Rear - Does It Matter?

Maxxis Minions are one of the most popular tires on the market. They offer a DHF and DHR (front and rear) and many riders don’t understand the difference. The DHF is a more aggressive tire, whereas the DHR has some slight modifications to increase rolling speed. 

The DHF is a wider tire (2.5”) with slightly more aggressive knobs, although it maintains the same general tread pattern. The DHR (2.3 or 2.4”) is narrower with rearward-slanted center knobs that increase rolling efficiency. Many riders find that having an overly aggressive tire in the rear caused a reduction in speed with little added benefit. A bit of rear-wheel slip is often acceptable when cornering or on uneven surfaces, while a front tire sliding out is potentially devastating.

You can interchange these tires front and rear without noticing too much of a difference. Or, you can devise your own front and rear system. For example, an Assegai upfront provides maximum handling, while an Aggressor or Dissector in the rear improves rolling speed and still offers ample traction. 

Rubber Compounds

A tire’s rubber compound can significantly impact its performance. Softer compounds offer more grip but may have less durability and higher rolling resistance, while harder compounds have the opposite properties. The differences in grip between compounds becomes more pronounced on harder surfaces, particularly when they are wet. Some manufacturers use multi-compound construction to try to balance the benefits of both soft and hard rubber, such as using a harder rubber for the center knobs to reduce rolling resistance and softer rubber for the side knobs to improve cornering grip. Tread patterns are important, but the rubber compound used in the tread is also crucial for determining how the tire will perform in various conditions.

Soft-rubber tires tend to rebound more slowly when compressed, which can improve their ability to grip the terrain and maintain traction when hitting roots and rocks. This is especially noticeable on high-speed, rough trails. On mountain bikes, the rear tire has a greater impact on rolling resistance and tends to wear more quickly, so it is common to use a softer rubber compound on the front tire and a firmer one on the rear to balance these factors. 


While they reduce rolling resistance, harder tires may have difficulty gripping the trail and tend to bounce, chatter, slip, and ultimately reduce speed. Conversely, softer tires are able to conform to uneven terrain, maintaining excellent grip and making up for any slight reduction in maximum rolling speed. 

However, if tires are too soft (with pressure below ~20 psi depending on rider weight), they may drag on the surface, increasing friction and slowing the rider down. In addition, the rims may suffer from unnecessary impact damage. It is important to find the right balance of tire pressure to optimize performance on the trail.

Ideal pressure is also dependent on trail conditions. In dry and loose conditions I reduce my tire pressure for better contact and cornering grip. If the trail is wet and tacky and I already have exceptional grip, I’ll raise my tire pressure to take advanatge of the lower rolling resistance.

A few years ago, the industry-leading brand Stans came up with a simple formula for PSI. This is (Rider Weight / 7) – 1 Front, and (Rider Weight / 7) + 2 Rear. This offers a good starting point for most riders, who can then go on to hone in their personal tire pressure preferences as they gain experience.

Pro Tip: Many riders change their PSI during the ride itself. If I’m doing a big enduro ride, I’ll hike up my PSI for the ascent to improve my rolling speed and maximize my input during the climb. Then I’ll drop it back down for the descent. It’s a great technique for big ups and downs, but it’s not very practical for cross-country trail riding in undulating terrain. 

Another jump

Tubes Vs. Tubeless Tires

Although most riders have adopted tubeless MTB tires, there are still some holdouts. Like many aspects of MTB componentry, this is a personalized choice, so I’ll go over the pros and cons of tubeless tires. However, from a performance standpoint, tubeless tires are inarguably superior.

Pros of Tubeless Tires

Superior Ride Quality

Tubeless tires can be run at lower pressure without the risk of pinch flats, which increases the amount of tire tread in contact with the ground and improves traction, especially in corners where pinch flat resistance is super useful. 

Lower pressures also help maintain the bike’s forward momentum as the tires are able to conform to obstacles rather than bouncing off them, resulting in a smoother ride by absorbing small bumps and trail chatter. The tire’s capacity to absorb inconsistencies in the trail is known as damping.Tire inserts such as Cushcore further amplify these benefits and help mitigate some of the cons of tubeless tires. They also provide puncture protection.

Mountain bike jump
Fewer Flats

Tubed tires are prone to “pinch flats” or “snake bites” when hitting hard objects such as rocks, as the impact can cause the tire and rim to squeeze together and puncture the tube. Tubeless tires, on the other hand, are sealed upon mounting. In fact, riders often have small punctures are sealed on the go by the tubeless sealant, without the rider even noticing. These types of holes would result in a flat tire with an inner tube. Therefore, tubeless tires can provide a more reliable and hassle-free ride, as pinch flats and puncture flats are much less common. 

The flipside to the relative infrequency of flats is that, when you do get one, it is often exceptionally more of a hassle to fix.

Less Weight

Depending on how much sealant you use and whether or not you’re a fan of tire inserts, you’ll drop a few hundred grams going with tubeless.

Cons of Tubeless Tires

More Expensive

It’s true that tubeless-ready tires and wheels are more expensive than their non-tubeless counterparts. However, these components are also the most advanced offerings from a brand, featuring advanced rubber compounds and strong, lightweight wheels.

Mountain bike track

Now that you’ve dropped your entire savings account into a tubeless setup, you’ll be pleased to know that these puppies are a monumental source of frustration. First of all, to change a flat you need a special pump to ‘seal’ the bead of the tire against the rim. This is usually executed with a compressor pump, but they now manufacture hand pumps that have a storage compartment and release a lot of air at once, mimicking a compressor. Then you’re dealing with sealant. It’s messy, and when it dries inside your tire it creates lots of little rubbery bunches that have to be cleaned out. Plus, you have rim tape and a perfectly flat bead surface on the wheel to maintain. 

Puncture Resistance and Fixing Flats

As we discussed above, tubeless tires are much more resistant to punctures. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. As bikes have evolved, riders are attacking increasingly rowdy terrain. Moreover, trail erosion has become more of a problem than ever with this increase in riders. The same trail can change drastically between one season and the next, with the change usually consisting of an explosion of rocks, roots, and ruts. 

Fixing a flat on a tubeless tire is where the complications can begin. Small holes in the tire can usually be patched via something called a ‘bacon strip’: a small piece of rubber that gets wedged into the hole to stop airflow of of the tire. Sidewall tears usually require putting in a tube to finish out your ride. If you remove the tire in any case, you’ll need a special device that can shoot compressed air to re-seal the bead. Problems with the rim, whether it be an indentation compromising the seal of the bead or a hole in the rim tape, are solvable with a tube as well. If you have Cushcore, you’ll have to remove it to fit the tube in. 

29” vs. 27.5” vs MX (29” Front, 27.5” Rear)

In addition to constantly devising new ways to make old gear even more outdated, the cycling industry is also dedicated to creating meaningful evolution. The evolution of tires from 26” to 27.5” to 29” has been ongoing for the last two decades. When companies finally arrived at 29”, riders wondered what would be next. The last few years have shown us that the MX, or ‘Mullet’ setup, is indeed the next setup in the evolution, while 26” wheels have become obsolete. At this point, no adult should be riding a 26” MTB wheel, and I won’t discuss them in this article.

Choosing the right wheel size for your mountain bike can be difficult with all the options available. Nevertheless, it’s important to consider because an inch and a half can make a huge difference. It’s also essential to note that wheel size is a highly personalized choice; there is no size that is necessarily better or worse. Choosing the right size for you depends on your size, riding style, and terrain preference.

Bikes along a mountain bike trail

27.5” - The ‘Playful’ Size

A few years ago, 29” wheels became all the rage. Bike manufacturers were pushing new geometry on frames and racers were winning with the new wheels. As a bike coach, I see 12-year-old kids riding 29’ers all the time. Meanwhile, I’m riding a 27.5” and loving it, and I’m 6’3” with a rider weight approaching 215 lb.

With their smaller size, 27.5” wheels are more nimble than 29s. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, there is less of a contact point with the ground. While this reduces traction, it makes the front wheel easier to manipulate. 27.5s are also significantly lighter weight than 29s – wheelsets plus tires can be more than a pound lighter, contributing to the ‘snappy’ nature. Moreover, 27.5s are quicker to accelerate from a standstill.

If you’re a rider who likes to flick the bike in the air, over rocks, or around corners, 27.5 is the ideal size. The maneuverability also makes this the best size for smaller riders – most riders under 6’ who aren’t racing will have a better experience on the smaller wheelset.

29” - Fearsomely Fast

29” wheels have taken off for multiple reasons. First of all, almost everyone in the race circuit these days is using some variation of 29”. 29’ers are slower to accelerate up to speed, but they have a higher top speed and carry rolling speed better.  Second, 29” wheels make riding steep, techy terrain easier because the wheels roll over obstacles better. The physics of a larger circumference means a slacker angle rolling over rocks, as well as a larger ground contact point for better traction. The last main reason is that 29” wheels have markedly improved climbing efficiency even though they are heavier than their 27.5” counterparts.

The main complaint among riders is that 29” wheels take away some of the inherent fun found in the riding experience. I have a 27.5” downhill bike and a 29” enduro bike. On most trails, I can actually run faster times on my enduro bike. However, I always have more fun on my downhill bike. I feel like a hero on the trail, even though I’m going slower. Generally speaking, I attribute this sentiment to the feeling that my 29’er is doing all the work, while I am the puppet master on my 27.5”.

Off-camber mountain bike trail

MX - Best of Both Worlds?

The latest craze is taking a fast-rolling 29” on the front with a 27.5” in the back. Colloquially referred to as “business in the front, party in the back,” this ‘mullet’ setup gives effectively gives riders the advantages of both wheel sizes. The front wheel carries trail speed and rolls over rocks while the rear is snappy and flickable.

The Art of Knowing When to Replace MTB Tires

Mountain bike tires are like an expensive equivalent to guitar strings. That is to say, none of them last that long and the pros change them out before every gig. Eric Clapton has guitar techs change the strings on all of his guitars before every show so he gets the brightest and best tone possible. Similarly, Greg Minaar has a tire sponsor (Maxxis), while bike techs change out his tires before a race. There is nothing quite like that new tire feel.

However, unless time and money are of no consequence to you, this is not a viable option. The Maxxis Assegai with a DH casing runs upwards of $120 for us unsponsored mortals. 

Examining a tire for wear
Examining a tire for wear

As they wear, tires will start to exhibit one or more of the following:

  • Center knobs becoming rounded and short
  • Side knobs losing stiffness and/or flaking off
  • Hashtagging on the sidewalls
  • Bike handling is worse – losing corners, bad brake traction
  • Increased frequency of flats

The ‘art’ of knowing when to replace your tires is simply when the negative factors of a used tire outweigh your desire not to lighten your wallet. In a hypothetical scenario, my tire is worn but I’m just going to be cruising for the next several rides, followed by a race weekend in three weeks. I’ll hang on to my old tire for another few weeks then change it a day or two before the race. As long as it’s not in imminent danger of going flat, I don’t mind running a used tire. 


Tires don’t last as long as you’d think. A tire’s range is anywhere from a couple hundred miles to maybe 1000 maximum. This time frame is as short as a few weeks for the rear tire of an aggressive rider at a DH park. Meanwhile, a mellow cross-country trail rider may be able to work with the same tires for the whole season. Because it varies so much from rider to rider, you need to keep an eye out for the signs mentioned above. Do a tire check every few rides as well. 

The sensitive, soft compound in high-end MTB tires tend to degrade somewhat over the winter or any other prolonged lack of use, so don’t change your tires right before the season ends!

Thorns puncturing a mountain bike tire

Does Weight Matter?

Weight absolutely matters, especially on your wheel. This is one of the reasons why mountain bikers spend thousands of dollars on carbon wheels that reduce weight by 500 grams or less. However, like many other aspects of MTB tires, there is a personalized choice between lighter, less burly tires and heavier, more durable tires.

For many riders, weight doesn’t matter enough to sacrifice durability and performance for lightweight, especially on long rides. Getting an irreparably damaged tire in the backcountry sounds like a slog at best. Depending on your water and the weather, it could be downright dangerous. You need to evaluate your ride when choosing a tire.

Cross-country tires like the Maxxis Aspen tip the scales at around 600 grams. They’re great for pedaling with minimal chunk, and their lightweight is a godsend – they weigh less than half of the Minion DHR II with a DH casing. But these tires consist of less than half of the material of the minions and this makes them especially prone to damage. 

A mountain bike cornering

Don’t use a DH casing tire on an enduro bike if you want to pedal. They are obnoxiously heavy. However, I recommend erring on the side of durability over lightweight for long rides. My rider weight is over 200 pounds, so I like to use a Maxxis double-down casing. An EXO or EXO+ casing is also designed for enduro. My double-down tires are cumulatively 800 grams heavier than if I had cross-country tires on my bike, but it’s worth it to me.   

On the other end of the spectrum, if you are looking to improve your mileage and performance and you ride trails that feel great with 120 mm travel front and rear, I highly recommend switching to a lightweight tire. The difference is palpable.

Tips for Buying MTB Tires

If this guide makes one thing extremely evident, it’s that there are many factors to consider in choosing the right tires. It’s important to note that the most popular tires are not always the best tires for you. Tire choice is important whether you are drifting around deep dust or getting caught up in sticky mud, and these conditions will dictate how each tire performs.

Most of the pro riders on the world cup circuit are using different models and combinations of tires from dozens of different tire sponsors, and they are all faster than you or me. Ultimately, all the best brands of mountain bike tires are grippy and capable of greatness with the right rider in the right conditions. Still, not all tires are created equal and some designs have emerged as winners over the years. I’ve comprised a list of the best mountain bike tires for various conditions based on durability, performance, and value.

Some astute readers may notice that most of the tires we chose are on the more aggressive side. Tire development has come a long way, and trail riders of all sorts should really be taking advantage of these technologies, whether they are riding downhill, enduro, or cross-country. 

Because all industry-leading tires now incorporate this technology, all the tires on our list are tubeless compatible.

Best Mountain Bike Tires

Maxxis Minion DHF
Maxxis Minion DHF

The ultimate front tire. Maxxis’s design has inspired confidence in many riders, and the DHF is the most popular front tire on the trail today. Many riders use it in the rear as well. 

  • EXO, EXO+, Double Down, and Downhill casing available.
  • Single, dual compound, 3C MaxxTerra, 3C MaxxGrip, or Super Tacky rubber compound options.
  • Perfect for everything from trail to downhill. 
  • Recommended as Front tire.
Maxxis Minion DHR ii
Maxxis Minion DHR ii

The ultimate rear tire. Similar to the DHF, the DHR ii has some modifications in the rear that improve the rolling speed. 

  • EXO, EXO+, Double Down, and Downhill casing available.
  • Single, dual compound, 3C MaxxTerra, 3C MaxxGrip, or Super Tacky rubber compound options.
  • Perfect for everything from trail to downhill. 
  • Recommended as a Rear tire.
Michelin Wild Enduro
Michelin Wild Enduro

Michelin’s classic trail tire, the Wild Enduro is similar to a DHF. It functions best as a trail or enduro tire, but can be used for downhill as well. With its low MSRP, this tire offers some of the best value on the market. However, in my experience the Wild Enduro is not as durable as Maxxis tires.

  • Front and Rear specific models.
  • Magi-X and Gum-X options for front, Gum-X for rear.
  • Aproximatekly 1100 g.
Specialized Butcher
Specialized Butcher

The Butcher is Specialized’s answer to a tire like the Minion. It’s great for trail and enduro alike, and will even manage in the downhill park – although the 60 TPI casing is designed for enduro, not downhill. Specialized touts their high frequency damping with the Butcher, where the high frequency from trail chatter is absorbed while low frequencies pass through. The manufacturers claim that it increases rolling speed without sacrificing traction, and it’s true that riders love the Butcher. Specialized is a massive company and can afford to price their tires competitively, and the Butcher is a huge bang for your buck.

  • Casing: 60 TPI
  • GRIPTON Rubber Compound.
  • Front and Rear
  • 2.3” to 2.6”
Schwalbe Magic Mary
Schwalbe Magic Mary

This is Schwalbe’s take on the perfect enduro/downhill tire. The Magic Mary provides great cornering, damping and low rolling resistance, a trifecta for performance-oriented riders.

  • Strong shoulder studs and aggressivetread design provide maximum braking traction and cornering grip.
  • Equipped with V-Groves, every lug can bite into the ground for more grip.
  • Angled studs in the middle of the tread optimise rolling speed.
  • Front or Rear
Maxxis Assegai
Maxxis Assegai

This is the most aggressive tire Maxxis offers. It’s also the most expensive. Greg Minaar’s signature tire, this is basically a Minion DHF with an extra set of lugs between the center and side lugs. It gives you grip no matter the lean angle, and the Assegai is legendary for it’s grip. You can have confidence in this aggressive tire, but you can also be sure that it will slow your rolling speed.

  • Dual compound, 3C MaxxTerra, or 3C MaxxGrip options
  • 60 TPI, DoubleDown (2×120 TPI), or Downhill (2×60 TPI) casing options
  • EXO or EXO+ puncture protection options
  • Front or rear – expect slow rolling speed in the rear.
Maxxis Minion SS
Maxxis Minion SS

This tire has become a favorite amongst racers and those looking to go fast – it’s great for everything from racing to all-mountain riding. It keeps the classic minion design and cornering lugs, but shaves down the center knobs for surprisingly low rolling resistance.

  • ​​Dual compound
  • 60 TPI or DoubleDown (2×120 TPI) casing options
  • Silkworm or EXO puncture protection options.
  • Recommended as a Rear tire.
Maxxis Ardent
Maxxis Ardent

The Ardent is the classic trail tire from Maxxis. It’s a little less aggressive than the DHF and DHR and good for riders looking to do coss country and enduro riding. This tire will really ramp up rolling speed compared to the other Maxxis options on this list.

  • Single or dual compound options
  • 60 TPI casing
  • Available with EXO sidewall protection
  • Front or Rear
WTB Trail Boss
WTB Trail Boss

The Trail Boss has evolved from the original 2.25” version into a signature enduro tire offered in 2.4-2.6”, as well as 2.25”. 

  • Three rubber compounds (Tritec) offer maximum grip, rolling speed and durability.
  • Directional siping improves grip in wet conditions without sacrificing rolling speed.
  • Recommended as a Rear tire.

I’ve chosen a lot of Maxxis tires because they are the industry leader in tires. I try not to confuse popularity with quality. To use a computer example, I genuinely feel that Apple computers are superior to PCs and I am willing to pay a premium to buy one. I don’t like huge corporations and Apple is the largest corporation in the world – but I love their computers so much that I am willing to put that aside. It’s the same with Maxxis. They are more expensive, but their tires perform wonderfully and they are durable, so the cost levels out after time. 

The only qualm I have with Maxxis tires is something called the Maxxis wobble, where the bead/casing of the tire is out of sync and the tire does not sit evenly on the rim. However, any decent shop will give you a new tire if you show them that the original casing was flawed. It is definitely a quality control issue, but they are good about replacing them.


Casing: The fabric body of the tire beneath the rubber, comprised of overlapping nylon threads. Measured in TPI (Threads Per Inch).

Damping: In the world of mountain bike tires, damping refers to the tire’s ability to absorb some of the roughness of the terrain.  

Sealant: Substance inserted into tubeless tires to clog small holes that may arise within the system. 

Siping: Grooves in the lugs of a tire that splayed under pressure, increasing surface area and grip, especially on wet surfaces.

Sidewall: The bare side of the tire between the side knobs and the bead.

Bead: The rigid portion of the tire that interfaces with the rim to seal air inside.

Cornering: Biker-speak for ‘turning,’ especially sharp turns.

Enduro Riding: Characterized by long man-powered ascents and descents over many miles of terrain. 

Downhill Riding: Access is provided by car, shuttle, chairlift, or some other means of uphill assistance. Riding consists of little or no pedaling. Often rocky or technical.

Cross Country Riding: Riding takes place on flat or undulating terrain with no distinct climb and descent. Often times, although not always, these types of trails are less rocky and technical.


When it comes to researching bike tires, you will likely encounter an unreal amount of technical language and confusing terminology. However, tires are an affordable way to enhance your bike’s handling and overall performance. 

With so many tires out there, it seems impossible to try all of them to find your ideal tire. Our comprehensive comparison aims to assist you in finding the right tires that fit your needs, budget, and riding style. In the end, each rider will have to narrow down his or her choices using these factors. If you can’t decide what tire to start with, watch some bike checks of pro riders to get ideas. Once you find a good combination of tires, it’ s helpful to stay consistent so you become intimate with the specific performance of your setup. 


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Disclosure: Products are selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases from a link. “I can’t wait to get on the road

Credit Brian Gerow

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