Mountain biking is an exhilarating outdoor sport. Many bike enthusiasts find it to be challenging – yet this is a challenge that they are eager to take on. While it is crucial to have the perfect bike for mountain biking, they also need to make sure that they have the best mountain bike tires on. The tire can likely be damaged by impacts, cuts, etc. – so the MTB tires that are being used will decide how your experience is going to be.
Mountain bikes have been using 26″ wheels for a long time. Even though manufacturers have designed 27.5″ and 29″ wheels for mountain bikes, 26″ wheels are still popular amongst users. There are several reasons why riders are still drawn to 26″ – i. They are lightweight ii. More responsive iii. Provide a better overall feel iv. Can accelerate faster. With all the various models of tires available in the market for 26″ mountain bikes, you may face an ambiguous situation if you have to pick the best one without any insight. This is where we can help you.
We have tested several mountain bike tires to prepare this list of 12 MTB tires for wheels that are 26″. As we have gone through the list several times for the best MTB tire – in our opinion, Maxxis Minion DHF is offering the best combination of features and performance. Therefore we have decided to label it as our “Overall best choice“.
Ideal for all surfaces, including pavement; the design is directional and ramped; cornering blocks are large | Overall Best Choice
Maxxis Minion DHF has basically set the standard for all MTB tires. The treads on the DHF have been designed in such a way that there is a perfect balance of rolling speed and traction for cornering and braking. The ramped knobs bring down the resistance to rolling while they have to sipe at the top to provide better grip while braking and taking corners. This is further facilitated by the Dual rubber compound that is being used here within the tread of the DHF. Being Tubeless Ready – it also uses a lightweight, dense, and flexible fabric to protect the sidewall from punctures.
- Size: 26×2.3; Weight: 845g
- Knob design is directional and ramped
- Tubeless Ready
- EXO protection for the sidewalls
- Can be used as a front or rear tire.
- Pair with DHR II at the rear for best performance
A quick view of our list containing some of the best bike tires for 26” for your mountain bikes:
|Tire||Weight (grams)||Our Ratings|
|Maxxis Minion DHF||845||94|
|Maxxis Minion DHR II||900||93|
|WTB Velociraptor Front||710||86|
|WTB Trail Boss||856||85
|Continental Contact Plus||1040||80|
|SCHWALBE Black Jack||820||78|
|Cyclone Maxxis CrossMark||515||75|
Table of Contents
12 best bike tires for 26” wheels that you can buy for your mountain bikes
1. Maxxis Minion DHF: Ideal for all surfaces, including pavement; the design is directional and ramped; cornering blocks are large | Overall best choice
- Tire width: 2.30
- ETRTO: 58-584
- TPI: 60
- Bead: Folding
- Weight(g): 885
- Compound: Dual
- PSI: 60
- Color: Black
- Application: Mountain
- Minion DHF: Enduro, DH, and trail – Minion DHF can be used on all types of mountain bikes. The options for casing, width, and rubber – DHF can offer a version to meet each riding style. DHF works perfectly no matter the conditions.
- Dual Compound: Maxxis Dual compound used here will reduce the wear the tire undergoes while mountain riding. An advantage of the dual compound is that the tire can roll faster. Harder rubber is used at the thread’s base with the top having soft rubber.
- EXO: This casing option makes the Minion DHF resistant to abrasions and cuts. If you are looking for a trail tire that has decent protection against puncture on a lightweight design, you should pick the DHF thanks to the EXO. Tires that have wheel travel between 100 and 150 mm use EXO too. We are seeing this on the single-ply version which uses 60 TPI.
- Tire design: The Maxxis DHF features solid knobs placed in an alternating pattern, along with siped knobs that are tall and skinny. The siping on the center tread provides the extra grip while cornering over roots and rocks. Among the center knobs, DHF is less compact.
- Tubeless Ready (TR): As the DHF can be used tubeless, there are some additional benefits. DHF can be used with low tire pressure that is responsible for the surplus grip. In comparison to tubular tires, rolling resistance is much lower with tubeless. So is the risk of getting punctures. All this does not add any additional weight as well.
- Folding bead: Thanks to the folding bead, the tire’s weight is on the lighter end of the spectrum. This also means that Minion DHF can be stored and moved around easily.
- The treads are not long-lasting.
Maxxis DHF is basically setting the standard for a lot of tires that are produced for mountain biking. No matter the type of mountain biking you are using the DHF for, Maxxis has made a version of DHF available to suit your style. When paired with a DHR or another DHF the tire combo the predictability, stability, and grip cannot be beaten. The tire has center lugs that are easy to roll. This coupled with the similar shoulder knobs to make the tire quick and dialed on the rims. We were able to pick up speed much more efficiently with the center lugs running a little long. They dug in deep during braking and pedaling, allowing more control over steering and speed. Even on flat terrains, the shoulder knobs provided enough grip thanks to their alternate shape patterns. Cornering with the DHF was slightly predictable, while the weight was relatively low. Even on terrains that were wet and slippery – DHF provided excellent grip always. An advantage here was we could use more tire pressure when DHF is mounted at the front, and this included surfaces like pavement too. We were rather impressed at how mud was cleaned and shed from the tread knobs.
Maxxis Minion DHF MTB Tire
2. Maxxis Minion DHR II: Enhances braking, cornering, and accelerating ability; meaty tread for aggressive riding
- Tire width: 2.30″
- ETRTO: 61 – 584
- TPI: 60
- Bead: Folding
- Weight(g): 900
- Compound: 3c Maxx Terra
- PSI: 35 – 50 PSI
- Color: Black
- Application: Enduro, All Mountain, Freeride
- DHR II: This tire from Maxxis is a great option for the rear wheel thanks to the meaty tread design that suited the aggressive style of trail riding. While DHR II can be used as a rear option too – it delivers the best performance as a rear wheel.
- 3c Maxx Terra: This Maxxis technology is using a hard and durable layer at the base of the tread while the pair of upper layers here rubber exhibiting progressive softness. Less resistance to rolling, more traction, and enhanced treadwear – Maxxtera comes with it all.
- Tread pattern: The knobs at the center of the tire are designed like paddles. Their front section is ramped while the edges at the back are running vertically. Thanks to the better grip, DHR II offers instant braking. As the knobs at the center come with ramps that are running directional ( travel direction being perpendicular to the knobs ), rolling resistance has been minimized too. The siping helps the tire to dig in deep even on hard dirt and rock surfaces that run smooth. The side knobs are tall and stout – with their additional width that riders can use to push harder during corners.
- Single-ply casing: The casing on this DHR II is 60 TPI, which is essentially single ply. Here, a nylon layer is attached to the bead so that weight remains lower on this design suited for trail surfaces. The sidewall is provided puncture protection by EXO, which is ideal for this XC tire. As it is Tubeless Ready, the tide can remain lightweight by running low tire pressure.
- Compatibility: The manufacturer recommends using the DHR II on the rear wheel, but it can be used on the front wheel too. On the rear wheel, DHR II can offer a lot of traction thanks to the tread design of the center knobs. For best performance, DHR II on the rear and DHF on the front wheel will deliver excellent performance while riding aggressively on the trails.
- Even though the center treads have a size and are spaced for lower rolling resistance, it is actually moderate here.
After installation, the bead of the tubeless DHR II held up pretty well as we mounted the tire to the rim with relative ease. We tested out the Maxx Terra rubber with this DHR II which offered the perfect balance between speed of roll, wear, and grip. The large ramped knobs coupled with the widely spaced shoulder knobs to offer great grip on the trails. This kept us confident enough during the whole test run. What surprised us was the tire did not squirm at all under us. Even though during our tests there were regular impacts with sharp rocks, except for a few scratches the DHR II held up its strength. With no pinch flats or sidewall wear, it was likely that DHR II would last us a long time. This was also thanks to the tough EXO casing that was used on the tire. We tinkered with the tire pressure on our DHR II and found that even as we lower the pressure to 20 psi, the sidewalls help up well enough. Even though we ran the risk of pinch flats, the lower pressure provided even more grip while taking corners.
Maxxis Minion DHR II Tire
3. Maxxis Ardent: Best MTB tire for XC trail riding; EXO protected sidewall; treads are aggressive and high volume
- Tire width: 2.25
- ETRTO: 56-559
- TPI: 60
- Bead: Foldable
- Weight (g): 725
- Compound: Dual
- PSI: 60
- Color: Black
- Application: Mountain
- Maxxis Ardent: This MTB tyre is ideal for trail and enduro riding. With the option for variable sizing, it delivers excellent performance on the rear wheel. It is offered in widths of 2.25″ and 2.4″.
- EXO Protection: With the EXO layer to protect the sidewall from punctures, the Ardent carries a beefed-up look that makes it long-lasting on the road.
- Tubeless Ready (TR): Thanks to the tubeless-ready design of the Ardent, you do not need any sealants for the installation process. While you can run lower tire pressure, there is a minimized risk of getting a flat too.
- Tread design: The treads have been designed to provide aggressive traction on the large casing. The blocked side knobs allow more leaning while taking high-speed cornering. The center knobs allow faster rolling as they are ramped. Acceleration and braking traction are both maximized.
- Dual compound: Ardent is using a softer rubber compound on the shoulder knobs so that a better cornering grip is available. Meanwhile, center knobs are using harder rubber to make the tire durable, with less rolling resistance.
- If the terrain is soft, the tire may push over. So not an ideal front wheel option
With the 26×2.25 version of the Maxxis Ardent on, we ran lower tire pressure. Yet during our drills, Ardent offered adequate cushioning. With the added protection for the sidewalls, the tire was still lightweight. The center treads were ramped to allow the tire to roll faster. The intermediate spacing to the center knobs allowed a seamless transition. As we continued to try the Ardent out on different surfaces, this mountain bike tire exhibited progressive traction. As we ventured uphill the climbs, the center tread was able to provide the grip while side lugs were offering great excellent grip during corners too. As much dirt failed to accumulate in the spacing, we decided to lower the tire pressure by a bit. The result was even more traction and increased contact patch. It held it well in damp conditions and we would not mind using them in winter too.
Maxxis Ardent MTB Tire
4. Vittoria Mezcal: XC tire; Knobs are compact, with a low profile; optimized for faster rolling; several effective edges
- Tire Width: 2.1
- ETRTO: 52-559
- Carcass: Nylon 120 TPI, XC Trail
- Bead: Folding
- Weight: 580g
- Compound: Graphene 2.0
- Color: Anthracite
- Application: Dry, mixed
- Mezcal: The Mezcal from Vittoria known all over the world for being an XC focused tire that essentially has more grip. Mezcal can be used on both the wheels of your mountain bike. Casing, tire compound, and tread design are all optimized for the best performance.
- TNT: This Tube – NoTube technology is why the Mezcal can be used to ride with or without tubes. It is amongst the best casing options for MTB from the manufacturer. TNT is a complete package that equips the tire with compounds deemed ideal for best performance and unforgiving protection for the sidewall.
- XC trail: Mezcal comes in the strongest casing offered by Vittoria. An extra layer of 120 TPI nylon is used to reinforce the original nylon 120 TPI casing so that the tire is more protected from punctures. Thanks to the Tubeless-ready construction, Mezcal can maintain a lighter weight. The tread uses Graphene 2.0 in combination with the premium 4C technology. The Aramid beads ensure that clinching is optimized.
- 4C: Vittoria’s patented 4C technology has been used on the Mezcal. Thanks to this extrusion process, a single tread on the tire can use 4 unique compounds. At the base of the tread, we can find the harder compounds so that they can keep the Mezcal stable, protected from punctures while cutting down resistance while taking corners. On the surface of the tread, we can find the softer compounds that help the center tread to hold on better during climbs and braking. Even if conditions are wet, the grip never falters inside the side knobs.
- Graphene 2.0: This is the rubber compound that has been used on the Mezcal where nano-particles have enhanced all tire properties by filling up the empty spaces between the molecules of the rubber compound. Mezcal, therefore, is more resistant to punctures, lasts longer, and rolls faster. What is great here is that even when the trails are running wet or damp, Mezcal will always have an uncompromising grip.
- Tread design: The center tread of the Mezcal here has a ridge that is much more defined. This design enhances rolling speed and fluidity when the Mezcal is used on tracks that are typically fast and allow the rider to shoot straight. The profile of the center knobs is uniquely low but compact to facilitate faster rolling and reduce wear. They are alternated in perfect symmetry on the tire’s center. While taking corners, these center knobs flex right or left, as per the action of the rider. The side knobs here are more than capable, which is exhibited by the consistent grip they are known to offer while climbing uphill and coming to a complete stop.
- Punctures may be a common issue with this mountain bike tire
To verify the manufacturer’s claim that Vittoria Mezcal suits all conditions, we carried out our field runs during the dry, hot Californian summer. Classified as a fast-rolling tire, it performed rather well while we were taking on the foothill loops near our office. Consistency with the Mezcal was another noticeable positive, owing to the knobs and these low profiles. While we were taking sweeping turns with a much larger radius, Mezcal lived up to its reputation again. We pushed it to its limit by leaning progressively during the turns until the tire finally broke loose. The remarkably consistent performance allowed us to dive into slides. As we were able to run the Mezcal at lower pressure, the tire delivered the best performance to glide us through rick graders that were rather chunky. The four compound mixtures for rubber ensured consistent grip and increased the service lifespan of the Mezcal too.
Vittoria Mezcal Bike Tire
5. Continental MTB: Fast tire with low rolling resistance and good grip in a wide range of conditions, bar extreme mud, and decent durability, too
- Tire width: 2.2″( Race King ); 2.3″ ( Mountain King ); 2.4″ ( Trail King )
- ETRTO: 55-559
- TPI: 3/180
- Bead: Folding
- Weight(g): 535
- Compound: BlackChili
- PSI: 45-58psi
- Color: Black
- Application: Downhill Race, Gravity Enduro
- Continental Race King: The German hand-made Race King marked the arrival of the range of tires from the range Continental King range. The pattern of the treads and rubber used performs well on both the rear and front wheel, boosting confidence with sufficient traction even on very technical trails.
- 26″ Continental: For the 26″ size, there are two more options – 2.3″ wide Mountain King and 2.4″ wide Trail King.
- BlackChilli compound: This is Continental’s revolutionary compound that brings down resistance to rolling by 26%, and grip is improved by 30 percent. It also brings out 5 % more mileage in this premium tire. While riding, Race King delivers consistently from starting tithe end.
- ProTection system: This protection system is 25 percent light and protects the tire 30% more from punctures. Being lightweight, it is ideal for XC.,
- Tread design: The reduced weight combines with the shallow tread design to ensure that the tire flies from the word go. The blocks are rectangular and small so that rolling resistance is less. We can find shoulder knobs that have been packed tightly for better grip. In the round profile of this tire, several rows of rectangular blocks will allow more leaning.
- Restricted to dry and hardpack trails
Continental’s Race King tire is for XC racing and rolls fast on its lightweight design. We had the beefed-up ProTection version, which weighed around 535g. We were able to push the tire through several instances. The rubber compound offered a balanced better grip and tire wear over many conditions. We preferred staying on the trails that are dry so that mud could not clog up the tread pattern. At no point did we cut or tear the tire during the test period. Tubeless installation was completed rather quickly on our wheels, and we kept an eye if the tires lost any pressure during the daily rides, and it did no. The wear rate and durability have been favorable too.
Continental MTB Tire
6. Maxxis Ikon: Great traction for climbing and braking; all knobs feature siping
- Type: Fast rolling
- Tire width: 2.20
- ETRTO: 57-559
- TPI: 120
- Bead: Folding
- Weight (g): 585
- Compound: 3C MAXX SPEED
- PSI: 60
- Color: Black
- Application: Mountain
- Maxxis Ikon: It is known as Maxxis’ most versatile tire. Thanks to the XC dedicated pattern of the treads, it will perform on any condition out on the trail thanks to the design of the treads that facilitate fast rolling on a casing that can hold more volume.
- 3C Maxx Speed: The technology available thanks to the 3C compound here ensures that the center treads are using long-lasting rubber. The cornering knobs are making use of a soft/grippy rubber. Underneath the tread blocks, we can find the third layer which is hard enough to ensure that the base is durable. 3C Maxx Speed will minimize resistance to rolling and maximize traction.
- TR (Tubeless Ready): Tubeless Ready Ikon uses standard casing, where a sealant has been used to provide more protection from punctures. Even if Ikon is being used aggressively on relatively rough terrains, it will thrive in terms of performance.
- EXO Protection: On the 120 TPI casing here, EXO Protection is used to protect the sidewalls of the Ikon by using a dense material that is lightweight too. Additionally, the material is resistant to cuts and abrasions. Ikon with EXO is perfect for use in terrains that are rocky and rough.
- Tread design: The tread pattern on the Ikon is aggressive but fairly small on the squarish tire profile. Therefore a wider rubber patch is available for ground contact. The blocks are present in a pattern that almost resembles a chevron so that all of them do not hit the ground at the same time. The fact that they are compact enough to provide Ikon with the extra bite. In terms of depth, the treads are shallow and medium. The side knobs are tall and less compact so while taking corners, they can dig in better. Tread design and casing that is like a square are the perfect combos for all-day use that extends beyond XC.
- Folding bead: The beading hook is very secure thanks to the tightest bead fitting. However, Ikon remains lightweight and can be transported with ease thanks to the folding bead.
- While you have the additional grip when you are leaving over your bike, you may see early wear of the side knobs.
- Maxx Speed is more likely to wear faster.
Over a variety of terrains, Maxxis Ikon was just enough for us to ride around with confidence. We had the softer 3C Maxx Speed version on a 120 TPI casing, which was reinforced with EXO. While we stuck around bone dry trails much longer during the test runs, Ikon was able to hold on its own while traction was great during the corners and straight steep drops. On comparatively softer terrains, Ikon fared rather well and never packed up. EXO protection for the sidewalls meant that the tire was extremely stiff during our test runs, resisting tears or scuffs that would have otherwise ruined our rides.
As we leaned on the top of the cornering knobs, we found that they were able to transition on to the trail rather seamlessly. The outside knobs gripped during the turns too. As we encountered thin mud and slicker sections in a few places, Ikon was predictable and fast-rolling. Over more mud, Ikon delivered it’s best when we dropped the tire pressure by a few PSI. This boosted our cornering confidence as we rode around in the wet weather. It was very easy to set up Maxxis Ikon tubeless as the tire bead snapped in place when the air was pumped into it. It can easily be a go-to tire thanks to its versatility.
Maxxis Ikon Tire
7. WTB Velociraptor Front: Top choice for climbing; ear all-purpose mountain bike tire for recreational cycling or racing | Best value for money
- Tire width: 2.1
- ETRTO: 47-559
- TPI: Single-ply 60
- Bead: Wire
- Weight (g): 710
- Compound: DNA
- PSI: 35-60
- Color: Black
- Application: Casual Trails, Cross Country, Downhill, Single Track
- WTB Velociraptor: This is an excellent all-purpose MTB tire. Front and rear-specific versions are offered. The treads are running deep and are classified as hyper-aggressive so that they can deliver lots of traction that would improve handling in every condition. With the Velociraptor Front, you will have access to excellent control over steering while Velociraptor Rear will hold on to lose terrain thanks to the wider knobs.
- Comp level: The Velociraptor is part of the Comp series from WTB. Steel wire bead allows the Velociraptor to use tubes. Thanks to this, we can find the standard casing and durable rubber on this Front tire.
- Wire bead: The steel wire that has been woven thin is running through the length of the bead to increase its tensile strength. It is also making sure that tire retention is perfect.
- Velociraptor Front: As the Velociraptor is wheel specific, the tire is designed with directional treads that are quite large. They claw the dirt that comes under them and ensures that during the corners the tires feel consistent. The control and response to your steering will improve drastically while the Velociraptor Front gets rid of any mud.
- DNA: This casing uses the 60A durometer signature rubber here. It has excellent substantial and robust properties and naturally rolls faster. The DNA runner and the durable casing form a great combo on the Velociraptor Rear Tire. With more threads of rubber per square inch. Thus it can be used to protect against threats and unpleasantries while riding on trails and urban areas.
- You should never use more tire pressure than what is mentioned on the sidewall here.
For the occasional biker, the Velociraptor Front tire can take you anywhere. At the price that is being asked for this Front tire, it may be a good idea to just get a pair. For compatibility, we decided to use the rear version on our back wheel. Installation was fairly easy as we used the air pump only. In the first 15 minutes of our test run, we found ourselves going up an incline that was perhaps angled at 60 degrees. The alternative would have been more inconvenient so we decided to give it a go. Instantly our Velociraptors dug in deep so that we did not fall into a rut. We knew we could use it to roll over almost anything as the distinctive feature was the traction. It was more than enough, and we felt that steering control became better too. We took the Front Velociraptor through hell almost. Yet it held up strong. In addition to being used over a wide range of terrains and weather, we would definitely ask anyone who is looking for a technical tire that would help them with traction while going uphill. It may look like an older model, but looks are deceiving. Perfect for heavy-duty use, and will let you fly from rest on every terrain.
WTB Velociraptor Front Tire
8. WTB Trail Boss: Perfect for trails that have dry hard rock; designed for fast-rolling; great option as an all-around tire
- Tire width: 2.25
- ETRTO: 54-559
- TPI: Single-ply 60
- Bead: Wire
- Weight (g): 856g
- Compound: DNA
- PSI: 30-45 psi
- Color: Black
- Application: XC/Trail/All Mountain riding
- Trail Boss: it is designed for trail/enduro applications. It is a popular choice as a rear tire amongst Enduro riders but can be used on the front wheel if the trail is hardpack
- Comp level: Trail boss from WTB falls on its Comp series, where DNA rubber compound, durable tire casing, and wired beads have been used.
- Tread design: Spacing between the treads is limited so that rolling resistance is minimized. On terrains that are off-camber terrains, the side knobs will keep the bike upright and provide the traction needed. Side out-turned knobs will dig deep into soft or loose soil, and if there is a surface where the tire cannot dog in – like a hardpack, the tire pulls the ground. Despite the small size, this allows riders to slap the rear wheel around.
- Wire bead: Where the tire is touching the rim is known as the bead, and here steel wires have been used throughout the tire’s length as a means of strengthening and holding the tire better. It cannot be folded.
- DNA 60A: 60A durometer compound used here improves rolling efficiency for XC and riding out on the trail. It makes the tire durable and versatile.
- Long-lasting casing: 27 TPI robust and substantial casing provides the strength needed for our wire bead tires to last. A high ratio of rubber to thread protects against trail threats and urban unpleasantries.
- Tire pressure: Find your ideal tire pressure anywhere between 20 and 35 psi. If you weigh more than 180 lbs by 10 lbs, tire pressure will need to be adjusted by psi in range 2 to 3.
- WTB Trail Boss is more susceptible to wear.
Since we have used Trail Boss on our rear wheel, we can provide significant insight into how the tire performed during uphill climbs. We found large knobs on its slick body( if not the largest), that were less compact. Rather, they were sized more evenly as we moved on to the center treads from the side knobs. We were surprised by how much difference it made during the rides. During the climbs, the tire was predictable and provided excellent grip ( to our surprise). We did not need to get off the saddle while climbing uphill over loose surfaces or wet rick. There was some wheel-spin, but we were more comfortable in comparison to similar-sized mountain biking tires. What further impressed us was how the rubbed knobs offered a consistent fast-flowing feel throughout our test runs. Transition to the side knobs from the center was smooth, and we were able to maneuver the tire better, without any sideways ticking. On climbs that are more likely to test your technical skills, Trail Boss can be the ideal tire to offer improved handling and efficient transfer of power. Certainly amongst the top rear-specific mountain bike tires for 26″ wheels available in the market today.
WTB Trail Boss Tire
9. Kenda K816: Great value MTB tire for rugged off-road adventures
- Tire width: 2.1
- ETRTO: 54-559
- TPI: 30
- Bead: Wire
- Weight (g): 840
- Compound: SRC
- PSI: 65
- Color: black
- Application: Mountain
- K816: Durable bike tire with a strong side. On this 26 inch diameter, you will be able to perform extremely well as it grabs hold of the ground without any compromise. The 26 x 2.1 size can be used on all types of MTBs. The 816 can be used on kids’ and BMX bikes too.
- Tread design: The beefy treads will dig in well on surfaces no matter if they are hard or soft. Going uphill and coming down fast will be easier as these Kenda tires will instill your confidence so that you are in charge always.
- Standard rubber compound: Also known as SRC, this compound is found mainly in K-Generation products from the manufacturer. It offers the left combination of minimized rolling resistance, long-lasting treads, and durability in a single package that is beneficial for whatever activity you want to use the tire with.
- Wire Bead: A steel wire has been woven thin for this tire so that it can be the attachment interface between the rim and Kenda 816 tire.
- The width measurement is a bit sloppy
We bought the Kenda 816 tire to replace our original WTB rear tire. We resorted to measuring their width using a measuring scale ( thanks to a previous experience) and found the measured width to correspond to the specified width of 2.1 inches. They allowed us to ride better and were a perfect fit for our rims. No matter what we were doing during the test runs- bombing, gliding, or climbing- we were always confident thanks to this tire. Just because we were able to do it is why we took many fast turns at high velocity. Installation was relatively simple too. The bead of the steel wire did not need to be folded back. On damp grass, the tire grabbed really well, and the tire held up its shape beautifully.
Kenda K816 MTB Tire
10. Continental Contact Plus: Great choice for all-around touring or commuting on city streets; reflective flanks; additional protection from punctures
- Tire Width: 1.75
- ETRTO: 47-559
- TPI: 3/180
- Bead: Reflex
- Weight (g): 1040
- Compound: Rubber
- PSI: 45-58
- Color: Black
- Application: City & Touring, E-Bike
- Continental Contact Plus: This tire is optimized for use with e-bikes. They offer the best protection against punctures and minimize rolling resistance wherever you go.
- Puncture protection: After comparison with many other tires in a piecing test, the manufacturer declared that this tire is uniquely more resistant to glass pieces and other damages. Puncture protection is boosted by 30 percent.
- Tread design: The tread rubber contains a mixture of silica and carbon. Carbon helps with durability white silica boosts grip. The center tread pattern is focused on pace and side patterns that are more triangular can provide enough grip so that braking is controlled and sufficient.
- SafetyPlus: This technology combines a SafetySystem Breaker with a material that is elastic so that the casing is resistant to cuts and punctures. It is used on e-bikes that can reach high speeds of 50 km/h.
- Casing: Thanks to the 180 TPI casing, it is exceptionally resistant to punctures across most common road and country touring routes. For added visibility, a reflective stripe has been used on the sidewall.
- Limited options.
The 26×1.75 Continental Contact Plus pair replaced Knobby tires on our MTB bike. Installation was easy as we did not have to use any levers. When the weather and time were favorable, we went out for testing. We were quick to identify the different feel from riding Contact Plus. Going uphill was easy on this sturdy tire that came with tread designed to reduce rolling resistance. Tire travel and performance of grip was encouraging throughout as no issues like flats, or debris clogging up was faced. The trad material hugged for grip and rolled for speed fluently. As we rode into the night, reflective trim featured in the tire side helped boost visibility. We received several praises for its looks too.
Continental Contact Plus MTB Tire
11. SCHWALBE Black Jack: Best tire from Active series; Versatile use; Kevlar puncture protection
- Tire Width: 2.25
- ETRTO: 57-559
- TPI: 50TPI/EPI
- Bead: Wired
- Weight (g): 720
- Compound: Schwalbe Basic Compound (SBC)
- PSI: 26-54
- Color: black
- Application: MTB all-round
- Active Line: This model is a product from the Active Line, where all tires are using a casing of 50 EPI and high-quality materials. Additionally, K-Guard enhances puncture protection for all tires of this Active Line series.
- Blackjack 26″: Schwalbe BlackJack 26″ MTB Tire is extremely versatile, long-lasting, and offers great value. An excellent choice for an introductory MTB tire.
- K-Guard: The renowned Kevlar belt makes the tire more flexible so that puncture protection is more and rolling resistance is less.
- SBC: Also known as Schwalbe Basic Compound, this rubber provides good grip on a variety of surfaces. It is so versatile that it can be used on an array of road and weather conditions.
- Liteskin: Allows tubeless conversion but with sealant. Bead core is reinforced and coupled with the casing rated at 50 EPI to produce a lightweight carcass that is less susceptible to damage.
- Tread design: Knobs are placed tightly at the center so that it can roll easily no matter the surface. Side knobs keep the tire upright off the road or on loose terrains.
- Wire bead: Inside the tire of Black Jack from Schwalbe we can find that the casing has a wire built into it. Unlike tires that can be folded, tires with wire beads are stiff thanks to the wire on the tire’s sidewall. Even though this makes the tire bulky and difficult to move, it is guaranteed that your rides on Black Jack will be smooth and the tire will last a long time.
- Some rolling resistance is prevailing with the tire.
The Schwalbe Black Jack bicycle tire can be used everywhere and on mountain bikes with 26 wheels. With a 54mm volume, the tire can stand up better than narrow tires. Therefore grip is enhanced and riders can use their power more efficiently. Ideal for use in soft paths that lead up to woods. Knob design can be used on the road too. The tire is protected all around against punctures. Very easy to fit on wheels. Schwalbe indicates the number in the deck’s single layer. Therefore to only the total TPI, this number would need to be multiplied by 3. Even though we had the K-guard option on, we were doubtful of it as it seemed flimsy while we pressed on it using our finger. After more than 50 km on them, we are yet to report a puncture.
SCHWALBE Black Jack MTB Tire
12. Cyclone Maxxis CrossMark: Ramped side lugs; reinforced with kevlar
- Tire Width: 2.1
- ETRTO: 52-559
- TPI: 120
- Bead: Folding
- Weight (g): 530
- Compound: Single 62a
- PSI: 65
- Color: Black
- Application: Mountain
- Cyclone Crossmark: If you are looking for a great mountain bike tire that offers value for money, Maxxis Crossmark is the tire you are looking for. It is well known as an all-condition tire Apart from the 26″ version, we have a 29″ version too.
- Single 62a compound: One compound is used all through the tire’s tread for performance and durability
- Tread design: The continuous center tread are fast toling and have enough space between them to grip wet rocks and enable exact cornering. On straight-line courses, speed is excellent too.
- Kevlar reinforcement: This TR tire is reinforced by Kevlar in such a way that when inflated, it seems that the rin has been engulfed by a seal. A liquid sealant is used here.
- Puncture technology: Silkworm has been incorporated into the casing here to make the tire more resistant to punctures.
- Does not perform well on mud.
At 530 grams, the CrossMark will fly on pavements, trails, and on fire roads. The knobs can dig into gravel and heavy sand really well while accelerating remarkably. If the surface was dry, traction improved even more as the tire was able to grab onto roots of trees while climbing and stuck onto rocks. Traction is superb on dry surfaces, as the tire effortlessly grips roots on climbs and sticks to all types of rock. In loose areas, the tire did spin out to some extent. Since we ran the tires a bit firmer for our test runs, your experience might be a little different. As we used the tire on the rear wheel we cannot comment on how it performs coming downhill or during braking. However, what we can state from our experience is that it should do well coming downhill too.
Cyclone Maxxis CrossMark MTB Tire
A detailed buying guide for MTB tires for 26″ wheels
In this buying guide, we will try to put forward factors that you should keep in mind when you are looking for a tire/tires that will fit the 26” rims of your mountain bike.
Tire characteristics for different surfaces
- For using all-around: The MTB all-round tires have a tread on which we can see that lugs of various heights are arranged to be placed in a close-knit formation. To benefit from more pronounced grip strength in corners, lugs positioned on the flanks are more prominent. A decent all-rounder tire will give you slight advantages in grip, weight, lug design as well as rolling resistance.
- Dry surfaces in forests: The design and build of the semi-slick tires are apt in tackling the challenges of dry forest floors and sandy surfaces. The tread of a semi-slick tire has little to no lugs, and if they are present usually have a low profile on the tire surface. Raised logs of a modest height reside on the tire flanks. The rolling resistance is low on wet muddy surfaces. In such instances, the tires provide you with greater speed for a reduced grip.
- For wet soft surfaces: For woody areas on wet surfaces, the go-to option would be an MTB tire. It should have more pronounced lugs on its tread and flanks. To achieve low rolling resistance, the proximity of the lug placements are kept close. Forest floors that are wet but not muddy need tires that have low rolling resistance and are coupled with flanks that have pronounced lugs. Lugs should be placed on the tire tread in a manner that provides adequate room for the mud to be released without being too far apart from each other.
- Real mud munching tires: Real mud tires are slightly narrower than the typical standard. The narrow shape of the tire allows it to rip through mud easily. Pronounced lugs help in increasing grip quality in muddy conditions significantly. The disadvantage of a typical mud tire comes with its inability in performing efficiently at low pressure. The high rolling resistance of the tire means grip is less on dry surfaces.
- For rocky terrain: Wide tires with high lugs are the best fit in combating rocky terrain and stony tracks. A wide tire has a bigger contact patch, where ramped lugs will provide great traction on mud and loose surfaces of rock and forest floor. Additional sidewall reinforcement thanks to woven nylon will make them more resistant to punctures.
1. Tire size
You must have the correct tire size to match the rims. However, there is no particular standard that is used to describe tire sizes.
- Nominal tire size – We can get a relative idea about the size of a time when its nominal size is mentioned. However, this does not actually ensure that our rims will be compatible with the tire. An example of this would be the 700C, 700B, or 700A markings that could be found on many tires. 700 denotes the approximate diameter of the tire in millimeters, while the letters would be a reference to the volume/width. So 700C would have the smallest volume or width.
- True/ISO size – This was developed to ensure that the tire sizings were consistent and easy to understand. Two numbers are used to describe the ISO size. The first is the tire’s nominal width( in mm), while the second number specifies the tire’s diameter at the bead, in mm. For example, 25-622 represents a tire of width 25mm and 622mm for the diameter of the bead. The ISO size is usually printed on the sidewall of a tire or has been molded onto the rubber. The chart below can help you further.
We have mentioned below the typical diameters that are used today.
- 26″ (ISO size 559): Found on modern MTB’s, as well as hybrid bikes.
- 27″ (ISO size 630): Was popular on road bikes a few years ago. Readily used today still.
- 27.5″ (ISO size 584): Has diameter similar to 650B, but for mountain bikes. 650B & 27.5″ terms are interchanged mostly.
- 29″ (ISO size 622): Diameter similar to 700C, but may not fit 700C rims due to varying width. Tires that are running 29″ are widely popular amongst mountain bikers.
- 650B (ISO size 584): Found on specialized bikes, such as randonneur.
- 650C (ISO size 571): Referred to as 26″ too. Found on bikes used for triathlon events, along with road bikes that have small size
- 700C (ISO size 622): Popular size for road bikes that have modern designs.
2. Tire & Rim width
MTB tires are usually common in the range of 2.1″ – 2.7″. Rims are compatible with specific width ranges, so it is a good idea to do some research before purchase.
We have broken the width of MTB tires into 3 parts.
- <2.25″ wide/ Small: A smaller tire is more likely to be lightweight and will be able to roll quicker. They can be maneuvered easily and will accelerate quicker too. Such tires are designed for XC riding and will come with knobs that are smaller on narrow casings. If you ride long distances regularly or climb – these tires are perfect for you.
- 2.25″ – 2.5″ / Medium: Perfect for trail, AM, and Enduro riding. These riding styles need a tire that can offer sufficient grip only for us to push the tire down and past the turns. At this width range, their weight is relatively lower for you to climb on it. Enduro and trail riding may need a front wheel that is more aggressive to grip during downhill travel. The knobs are usually bigger with tough carcasses so that they are equipped for hard and fast riding.
- >2.5 and more: These tires are popular amongst gravity riders. They will not do so well on climbs or rolling on flat surfaces. The knobs are largest on these tires, while the casing is thick and tough. With larger weight, they will roll slowly while still retaining grip on their robust structure.
You will need to pair the correct tire to the correct rim width while riding. Usually, modern MTBs have rims that fall in the range between 27-35 mm. The internal width of typical mountain bike tires is shown below.
If you manipulate the interface between your rim and tire, the capacity of the tire in terms of volume would change. It would change the profile of your mountain bike too. We can use tires that have a width in the range of 2.25” to 2.6” – but if you face any issues with cornering then you should adjust their mounting. In the picture below you can find 3 such scenarios.
- In Image A, the tire has been mounted on a very wide rim. If we look at the edge of the tire and the lugs used for cornering – there is little or no overlap. If you are looking to lean aggressively while taking corners, this tire will not help.
- Image B illustrates a better shape, where we can see the overlapping of the lugs. It is just on the inside to avoid slippage during usual cornering.
- The cornering lug is beyond the sidewall in Image C. To engage the lugs, you will need a much greater lean angle, and you will be tilting the bike to its side even more.
3. Contact patch
- On tires that can run on wheels of the same diameter but have different widths – even with a similar structure, less width means smaller footprint. However, on the lower width tire, the force that is being applied per unit area is higher. Therefore, a tire that has a lower width can dig deeper into softer soil. This results in more resistance to rolling, along with a high rate of wear. Their weight will come into play too. If we look at tire diameter, we can easily see the long and narrow shape of a 29er is quite different from a tire that can fit on a 26-inch rim. This is why the 29er’s footprint allows more efficient rolling and additional cornering grip over, particularly rocky terrains. Larger tires and larger wheels will always face less resistance to rolling. Their casing undergoes minimal deformation so energy transfer is more efficient. The footprint for narrow treads is likely to be long and narrow. This enables better traction along with braking, thanks to the increased edges found on the footprint that can create the extra traction. With the increased depth of the treads found on wide tires, we can find more volume for enveloping the terrain and lead to better cornering. However, the length of the footprint will be shorter here.
- We may find the same width on two different tires, but they may look bigger/smaller to the eye owing to the width of the tire’s rim or casing. If tire volume is more, the tire has a better “suspension” to damp any vibration or bumps from the road. This is more common in tires designed for XC, where the larger volume can help to get more traction due to the larger contact patch. Low tire pressure can be used in such tires.
4. Tire tread
A tire has 3 key zones: center, cornering/side, and transition zones. Whenever we are rolling straight, we are using the zone at the center. Therefore the design of this area affects how fast you are rolling or rolling resistance, braking performance, and traction that acts in a straight line. The cornering zone on your tire will provide traction as your bike leans and carves during a turn. This is why some riders prefer using a tire that is “toothier” on the front wheel so that better grip is available during the corners. The rear tire can have a low profile for more speed during turns and straight-line travel. Between the center and corner zone, we find the transition zone. They decide how your tire behaves as you are tilting the bike at different angles. A fairly open transition zone will allow your tire to go faster. However, the tire will also drift – resulting in an unpleasant experience. For more control, this area needs to be packed up but this would cause the tire to slow down.
For travel bikes that have a total wheel journey of 140+mm, the transitional knobs are skipped. Only the beefy side knobs and center knobs can be seen. To get the most out of such “aggressive” tread patterns, riders will need to lean over the bike ( similar to DH ). On hardpack conditions that run dry, tires with compact knobs with reduced tread depth are used. Taller knobs are widely spaced to be used in muddy conditions. If the knobs are spaced very wide, extra rubber is placed between them so that they are protected better.
5. Tread patterns
The right tire will have the right tread pattern. On mountain bike tires, we can see knobs that vary in terms of direction, shapes, and orientation.
How your mountain bike will perform will depend on how the knobs are shaped, along with their direction. Often we can find tires for mountain bikes that have directional treads. This design usually makes such tires specific to the front or rear wheel thanks to the optimal traction, control, and overall handling. Such tires are usually marked to denote front or rear wheel mounting, along with the tread direction that is to be followed while mounting. So much care should be taken while installing these tires.
Hardpack surfaces are better suited for shorter knobs. If there is some loose soil over it, a much smaller knob( in terms of height and size) will be needed to dig into the soil and grip. Softer terrains and mud will need taller knobs that have large spaces in between them. The block of the tread has been stabilized for cornering and going uphill. If the knobs are ramped, rolling resistance is minimized. Additionally, the trailing edge is strong enough to come to an instant halt. We can also find grooves/slits on the knobs, which allows them to conform better on surfaces, along with the enhanced “biting edges”. The depths of such siping can be adjusted to meet requirements.
6. Tire type
We will look into the two types of tires that are common for mountain biking but are different in how they are constructed.
- The clincher: Most tires today have a rubber tube inside them. A valve is used to inflate the tube. When tires are being inflated, more air is inside. In case of a flat, the tire has to be removed so that the tube can be patched or replaced.
- Tubeless: They are very common on mountain bike tires. No tube is being used on the inside of the tire, yet it attaches to the rims to form a sealed system with air inside. If you are using a tubeless tire, the risk of getting a flat is minimized even though your tire pressure is low. Also, the tire will be softer resulting in a smooth ride where overall control will be enhanced. Lack of tube means better compliance while riding smoothly. They are less prone to punctures.
7. Tire compound
The tread’s rubber compound will also affect characteristics of a mountain bike tire like performance, grip, durability, and resistance to rolling. Harder compounds will last long and roll better, but for better traction, we have to look at softer rubber compounds. Often more than one type of compound will be used in a mountain bike tire. Usually, the compound that is the hardest forms the base or foundation of the treads. Medium or hard rubber is also preferred on the center knobs so that the tire is increasingly resistant to wear, but can roll faster. It is on the corner knobs where we can find the compound that is the softest to take advantage of the extra grip the softer compound would provide.
Tires dedicated to XC usually resort to hard rubber compounds. Additionally, the tread blocks would have to be short and small – on a lightweight casing where foldable beads have been used to boost rolling resistance. Riders who are into trail and enduro prefer softer rubber on tread blocks that have increasing height on a wide body. If their casings are reinforced, then folding beads can be used again to boost traction and longevity. Tires dedicated to DH are almost similar to those used for enduro and trail – the only difference being DH tires can use both wired and folding beads.
The carcass uses single or multiple layers of nylon that have been stacked. Tires that have a layer for puncture protection have this integrated between the layers.
We can measure Tire carcass quality in TPI, or Treads per Inch. This is the number of nylon threads found per inch within a carcass. Higher TPI means your MTB will be more supple and minimizes the resistance to rolling.
Having a high TPI can bring forth a few drawbacks, such as reduced puncture resistance. Using thinner nylon threads to get higher TPI can make your tireless resistant to sharp objects. When a tire has a TPI of below 60, it is generally classified within the cheaper range of MTB options. These tires are comparatively stiffer with relatively high rolling resistance. Whereas a TPI range of 60 to 90 is known to have the accepted reach of decent puncture protection as well as rolling resistance levels. Most mountain bikers find this range to be suitable for tire choices. For the more seasoned users and those who prefer performance over longevity, they should opt for tires with a TPI of 90 or greater.
This refers to the tire parts that grab hold of the rim to make sure that the tire stays in place after it has been fully inflated. Wire steel beads are one of the options, while flexible Kevlar is used on high-end tires too. They are also known as “folding tires” because thanks to this flexibility, the tire can be folded. Meanwhile, Tires that use wire beads can only be partially folded. Also known as Kevlar bead tires, folding tires are lightweight and can be installed/ removed with relative ease. Folding tires will make it easier for you to ride the bike, while wired beads can be found on cost-effective versions of many high-end models.
10. Breakdown of a cross-section of an MTB tire
- The part of the tire which comes in contact with the ground is known as the tread.
- The sidewall of the tire is known as the flank.
- Nylon is used to make the tire casings. The casings can be unique to a particular tire and sometimes have extra puncture protection- or breaker-layer added to it.
- The bead -or heel-of the tire lets cling to the rim. Regular Clincher tires have a strong and rigid steel bead within the heel. Whereas folding clincher tires constitute several microscopic fibers.
11. Bicycle tire fitting guide
Here, we will take you through the tire fitting process on your mountain bike.
- Begin by inserting half of the tire on the wheel’s rim.
- The valve is then inserted via the valve hole for attaching the hose.
- You will now need to insert air into the tire.
- Put the hose inside the tire.
- The tire will now need to be folded across its length so that it stays in place.
- You will have to inflate the mountain bike’s tire to complete the fitting process.
12. Find the perfect pressure for your mountain bike tire
What to do to find the lowest tire pressure that will not compromise its cornering ability or leave it all flat? A solution to this would be to inflate the tires to 30 psi. Follow this up with a short trail loop to check if you feel any difference in ride quality, grip, or speed. If you find that the tire is compressing all the way to the rim too often, or is punctures – you can slowly increase the tire pressure. Do the same thing if the casing feels unstable, leaving the tire to flop around during corners
F. A. Q.s
Q1. What are the types of 26″ mountain bike tires that are available today, in terms of tread pattern?
Ans.: We have broken down the classifications below.
- All Around Tires: They can be used as both a front/rear tire. Ideally designed to tackle all terrains
- Fast Rolling Tires: Their design is optimized to be used on hardpack trails that run dry. Targeted towards riders who are into racing. If you want to use them on diversified terrains, the fast-rolling tire should be used on the rear wheel so that at the front, a more aggressive tire can be used.
- Aggressive Tires: They have been designed to be used on terrains that run muddy, hardpack, and loose. We can see that the treads on such tires are deep, with a profile that is wider and packs more volume. They last longer too, with the only drawback being that rooking resistance does not decrease for aggressive MTB tires.
Q2. Discuss which wheel size is better for MTB tires: 26″, 27.5″ or 29″.
Ans.: To measure the size of a wheel, you need to measure it from edge to edge. But of course, tire height can vary.
- 26” tires are very nimble, so work great on twisty tracks. Additionally, they offer better acceleration on smooth surfaces. Thanks to the low diameter, weight is minimal too. They are being used for a long time so there is no shortage of components or replacements. However, rollover ability takes a nosedive on a 26”. They impact objects at much steeper angles than a 29 er or a 650B tire and therefore cannot move over them by rolling. A 26” tire is more likely to fall into holes and lose speed on rough terrains.
- 27.5” wheels offer many advantages, and have been able to find a compromise between 29er and a 26″. They are more likely to be faster, with a much more smooth-rolling ability. It is this enhanced rollover that does not compromise maneuverability the reason why 27.5 wheels are so popular. Also, having a 27.5″ tire does not make smaller riders look ” awkward”. So can we say that 27.5 wheels are the best? Even though they were a bit pricey at the beginning, nowadays they have become much cost-effective. Also, it is wiser to change to a 27.5-inch wheel from a 26″ in. We can get 27.5″ Plus versions in the market too.
- Like the others, wheels that run 29 inches come with some pros and cons too. With the rise in their popularity amongst both amateur and professional riders, 29ers are being preferred for DH bikes while they remain intensely popular for XC riding too. The main incentive to use a 29in is it can roll over easily over objects thanks to their large size. 29ers are more likely to come into impact with obstacles at a point low on their body – thus enabling the wheel to move over them by rolling. In particularly bumpy terrains, 29ers will keep you comfortable even in terrains that you could not go to with smaller wheels. With more confidence, while riding comfortably, you are bound to go faster on them. While you are cruising, 29ers are much more efficient in holding up their speed with a better conservation of momentum. The only drawback comes in the form of minimal acceleration, which is because 29ers weigh more and come with increased rotating mass. So even if you can cruise along at a speed, it is likely that with 29ers on reaching this speed takes longer.
So if we have to pick the best size, it comes down to what you are looking for from the tire plus personal preference. While 26” have been around for a long time, they can be fixed relatively easily now along with a low cost. 26″ wheels are very agile, but cannot roll over objects easily. This is why 27.5″ wheels are gaining popularity. With increased comfort during the rides and superior ability to roll over – 27.5-inch tires have become the perfect middle ground. 29ers are trending in the mountain biking community too, as riders have begun to appreciate their capability to keep up the cruising speed and rotate over obstacles.
Q3. Should Mountain Bike Tires be used with tubes or without tubes?
Ans.: When presented with the choice of using Mountain bike tires with or without tubes, tubeless tires are the more favored between the two. The mechanism comprises a liquid sealant in a tubeless tire, which works to close up any number of tiny holes in the tire structure. Using tubeless Mountain Bike Tires can have numerous advantages and drawbacks such as:
|Overall weight of your bike is reduced||A greater amount of time is needed in assembling this system
|Enhanced surface area allows for better traction||The upfront cost is higher|
|Eliminates the need or worry if a spare tire|
|Requires a lower amount of pressure in comparison to tubed tires|
Despite the issues, Mountain Bike Tires with tubes are used in large numbers even in the present day. Similar to its tubeless counterpart, the tubed option comes with its own set of benefits and problems.
|Has a lower price point than its tubeless counterparts||Chances of getting a flat tire is greater|
|Tubes are available in abundance||Overall weight is higher than those of tubeless tires|
|Assembly is easier than that of tubeless tires||Increased amount of tire pressure is required for smooth and efficient functioning|
|The sealing mechanism is simple in nature||Has the need of comparatively better Maintenance levels than its market alternatives|
Irrespective of the trail, tires are a key component of your mountain bike. Look out for the tires that will allow fast-rolling, and are strong enough to be resistant to punctures and exhibit better control over steering especially on mountain trails. They should also be able to maintain the correct tire pressure too. The 26-inch wheel tires that we have mentioned in this article come with the best features along with a casing that allows them to be used for mountain riding. They come with sufficient grip, control over speed, and resistance. Making a decision can be overwhelming, so you may go for any of the 12 mountain bike tires for 26 ” wheels that we have reviewed in our article. Our only aim is to help you select the best products, and we hope you will be able to make use of this article.
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Last update on 2021-01-11 at 22:50 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API