12 Best Tubeless Mountain Bike Tires 2021 [By Riding Category]

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Mountain bike tires have the crucial role of maintaining traction with the ground while braking, pedaling, and cornering. Whether you are a high-speed cross-country racer or a downhill daredevil, the choice of tires will either make you or break you. Instead of just replacing your old tires, use this as an opportunity to greatly improve your performance.

Tread pattern, compound, diameter, width, casing; with so many factors to consider, it can be a daunting task to find the right tire for you. If you are feeling lost then this article will help you to decide.

We have tested and reviewed some of the top tubeless mountain bike tires that are available in the market. You will also find a buying guide and some F.A.Q.s here to further increase your knowledge on the matter.

Buying Guide: Mountain Bike Tires

1. Tube vs Tubeless

Traditionally bike tires have had an inner tube that is filled with air to support the bike. Nowadays, more and more tires are being made that are tubeless or tubeless-ready. Meaning these tires can be used without an air-filled tube. Instead, the tire bead attaches to the rim directly to form an airtight seal. A liquid sealant is poured into the tire as well to block off small punctures. Many riders opt for tubeless tires over tube tires because of the advantages they offer. However, some downsides come with them as well.

Sealant

Image: Sealant

I. Benefits of a tubeless tire

‘Pinch flats’ are caused when the tire passes over a small, sharp object. This creates a lot of pressure at one point and the tube simply pops. Since there is no tube, the chance of getting a pinch flat is eliminated. ‘Puncture flats’ can still occur, which is when something pierces through the tire. However, if the puncture is small, it can be sealed off by the sealant without you even noticing. So overall, with tubeless tires, you will experience far fewer flats.

Blown out inner tube

Image: Blown-out-inner-tube

Tubeless tires can also be run with a lower air pressure since pinch flats are no longer a concern. This is advantageous for mountain biking as the lower pressure allows the tire to grip better. It also leads to smoother rides since the tire won’t bounce off rocks and sticks. A final bonus of using a tubeless setup is that they are a few hundred grams lighter because of the lack of tube.

II. Drawbacks of a tubeless tire

We should point out that there are certain disadvantages of tubeless tires. Namely, they are more expensive, you will have to get a sealant with you, and the installation can be trickier. Nevertheless, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, and tube tires for MTB are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

2. Tire Size

This is an obvious factor to take into account. Whether or not the tire will fit your wheels is determined by the size, which is usually given in this format; 27.5”×2.3”. The first number denotes the diameter in inches and the second value tells us the tire width in inches. Most MTB tires come in one of three diameters; 26”, 27.5” or 29”. You should choose a diameter according to the wheel size on your bike.

When it comes to tire width, it should be compatible with the rim width of the wheel. Wider tires offer improved traction and absorb bumps better due to the increased air volume. On the other hand, narrow tires are lighter and have better rolling efficiency. Certain tire width ranges are suited to different styles of riding, and you should choose accordingly.

Intended UseTire Width (in)Rim Width (mm)
XC Racing1.90 - 2.2020 - 25
Light Trail2.20 - 2.4025 - 30
AM/Enduro/Downhill2.30 - 2.5028 - 35
2.635 - 40
Plus2.80 - 3.0040 - 45
Fat3.80 - 4.0070 - 80
4.890 - 100

Image: Tire and Rim Pairing for MTB

3. Tread Pattern

The design of the knobs/lugs on the tread is the primary factor that determines how much traction a tire will get during pedaling, braking, or cornering. Again, specific patterns will work better for specific riding styles. In general, tires have center knobs (which are the main grippers) and side knobs (which are used for cornering). You should have an understanding of the various patterns and components of the tread.

  • Large, widely-spaced knobs: This design can grip the soft, muddy ground and loose dirt very well, and the wide spacing allows the muck to be cleared.
  • Smaller, closely-spaced knobs: This pattern offers lower rolling resistance which translates to more speed. They are great for hardpack and dry trails.
  • Ramped knobs (leaning backward): Typically found at the center, they are present in some tires to enhance rolling efficiency and aid faster rolling.
  • Side knobs: These make up the outer tread and are usually bigger so that they have an extra bite while turning/cornering.
  • Transition knobs: Some tires have these located between the outer and inner knobs. They allow for a smooth transition when you lean to one side for a turn.
  • Sipes: Many knobs have slits called sipes within them to improve their traction on smooth, hard surfaces.

Tread patterns

Image: Tread-patterns

4. Compound

Achieving the right balance between grip and rolling resistance is an ongoing struggle for tire manufacturers. Ideally, you would want a very strong grip and negligible rolling resistance in one tire. However, this is not possible with current rubber compounds. The softer a rubber is, the grippier the tire will be, while harder rubber will roll faster and be more durable. Most tires today use a dual or even a triple compound. The upper layer of the tread is made of a softer rubber for better grip. Usually, the side lugs will have the softest compound for precise turning control. Underneath this, there is a hard rubber layer to improve speed and also to provide puncture protection.

Tire compounds

Image: Tire-compounds

Image Source: maxxis.com

5. Casing and TPI

The casing, also known as the carcass, is the foundation over which the tread is attached. It consists of synthetic fibers woven in alternating directions. Many times, especially ones for enduro or downhill, can have multiple casing layers. This improves the tire’s resistance to cuts and abrasions but also makes it heavier. Casing ratings are often given in terms of TPI, which stands for “threads per inch”. A higher TPI offers lower weight, better flexibility, and a more comfortable feel, but it also leaves the tire more prone to punctures. The opposite is true for lower TPI ratings.

Tire construction

Image: Tire-construction

Image Source: maxxis.com

6. Front vs Rear

Some manufacturers produce tires that are front or rear specific. This means that the tire and tread pattern has been designed to provide optimum performance when used on the specified wheel. Regardless, you can still use a rear tire on the front and vice versa. A front-specific tire might have a wider profile and taller side lugs. Rear tires may be narrower with more horizontal spanning lugs. Whether you should use the same or different tires for the front and back ultimately comes down to personal preference.

Our Top Pick(s)

We have prepared this list by carefully researching online and then by testing out multiple MTB tires in person. According to their performance, a score rating was given to each product. After much deliberation, we have decided that the Maxxis Minion DHR II is the tire worthy of being named as the ‘Overall Best Choice’.

Maxxis Minion DHR II

Superb cornering, excellent grip, works in nearly all terrain | Overall Best Choice

The Maxxis Minion DHR II is the most popular option among MTB riders, and rightly so. It has excellent braking and pedaling traction, superior cornering control, and great durability. It can handle nearly all types of terrain, and it performs especially well for enduro and downhill tracks. The DHR II is also not too heavy and there are numerous size and compound options to choose from.

  • Recommended Use: Trail, all-mountain, enduro
  • Sizes Tested: 27.5”×2.3”, 29”×2.3”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Rear/Both
  • ETRTO: 58-584, 58-622
  • TPI: 60
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 800, 855
  • Compound: Dual compound
  • Max PSI: 60
  • Tech: EXO/TR
  • Color: Black

 

A quick view of our list of the finest tubeless tires that we have selected for your mountain bikes: 

TireMax PSIOur Ratings
Maxxis Minion DHR II6095
Maxxis Assegai5094
Michelin Wild Enduro5892
Continental Der Kaiser Projekt 2.45190
Maxxis Minion DHF60, 4088
Schwalbe Magic Mary5086
Maxxis Ardent6085
WTB Judge 2.43583
Maxxis Shorty6081
Schwalbe Hans Dampf HS 4915080
Continental Cross King ProTection5878
Continental Race King ShieldWall5878

12 best tubeless mountain bike tires you can buy today

TirePreviewUseSize Tested
(wheel size × width)
Front, Rear, or BothETRTOWeight
(grams)
CompoundMax PSI
Maxxis Minion DHR IIMaxxis 27.5x2.3 M-327RU Minion DHR II F60 DC EXO TRTrail, all-mountain, enduro27.5”×2.3”
29”×2.3”
Rear/Both58-584, 58-622800, 855Dual60
Maxxis AssegaiMaxxis Unisex's MXT00172400 Technology, Black, 27.5 x 2.50 inchesAll-mountain, enduro, downhill27.5”×2.5”
29”×2.5”
Both63-584, 63-6221050, 11253C MaxxTerra50
Michelin Wild EnduroMichelin Wild Enduro Front Mountain Bike Tire for Mixed and Soft Terrain, GUM-X3D Compound, 27.5 x 2.80 inchTrail, enduro27.5”×2.6”
29”×2.4”
Front/Rear66-584, 61-6221000, 1025Gum-X3D58
Continental Der Kaiser Projekt 2.4Continental Der Kaiser Projekt APEX Dual Ply Bike Tire, Black, 26-Inch x 2.4All-mountain, enduro, downhill26”×2.4”Both60-559935BlackChili51
Maxxis Minion DHFMaxxis - Minion DHF Tubeless Ready Bicycle Tire | 29 x 2.3 | Dual, EXO| BlackTrail, all-mountain, enduro26”×2.3”
27.5”×2.6”
Front/Both58-559, 66-584840, 965Dual,
3C MaxxTerra
60, 40
Schwalbe Magic MarySCHWALBE Magic Mary HS 447 Addix Soft Super Gravity TL Easy Mountain Bicycle Tire with Folding BeadEnduro, downhill29”×2.35”Both60-6221190Addix Soft50
Maxxis ArdentMaxxis - Ardent | 29 x 2.4 | Dual, EXO | BlackXC racing, trail26”×2.25”Both56-559725Dual60
WTB Judge 2.4WTB Judge 2.4 27.5' TCS Tough/TriTec High Grip TireEnduro, downhill27.5”×2.4”
29”×2.4”
Rear55-584, 55-6221323, 1295TriTec35
Maxxis ShortyMAXXIS Shorty 3C Exo Tubeless Ready Wire Tire, 27.5-InchXC, all-mountain, enduro, downhill27.5”×2.3”Both58-5848653C MaxxTerra60
Schwalbe Hans Dampf HS 491SCHWALBE Hans Dampf HS491, Addix Evo Folding, Tubeless MTN Bike TireTrail, enduro, downhill29”×2.35”Both60-6221075Addix Soft50
Continental Cross King ProTectionContinental Mountain Bike ProTection Tire - Black Chili, Tubeless, Folding Handmade MTB Performance Tire (26', 27.5', 29'), 26 x 2.2, Cross KingXC, trail, all-mountain29”×2.2”Both55-622640BlackChili58
Continental Race King ShieldWallContinental ShieldWall Mountain Bike Tire - All Terrain Replacement MTB Tire (26', 27.5', 29')XC racing, trail, e-bike26”×2.2”Both55-559660PureGrip58

1. Maxxis Minion DHR II: Superb cornering, excellent grip, works in nearly all terrain | Overall Best Choice

Maxxis Minion DHR II
  • Recommended Use: Trail, all-mountain, enduro
  • Sizes Tested: 27.5”×2.3”, 29”×2.3”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Rear/Both
  • ETRTO: 58-584, 58-622
  • TPI: 60
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 800, 855
  • Compound: Dual compound
  • Max PSI: 60
  • Tech: EXO/TR
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Great Traction: The alternating pattern of paddle-shaped lugs of the center tread provide good pedaling and braking traction in all conditions.
  • Excellent Cornering: The large side knobs offer an impeccable grip on tight turns that is unmatched by any other tire.
  • Reasonable Weight: Considering the dimensions, the weight has been kept comparatively low thanks to various design features.
  • Long-Lasting: The Exo Protection layer under the sidewalls is made of a densely woven fabric that adds cut/abrasion resistance while being flexible at the same time.
  • Numerous Options Available: Other than the ones we have tested, there are dozens of versions with different combinations of wheel diameter, width, compound, etc.

Some Weaknesses
  • There is a moderate amount of rolling resistance.

The Maxxis Minion DHR II has become one of the most popular choices for mountain biking and the one we would recommend to any MTB rider, regardless of their style. Even though the original DHR was a rear-specific tire, the DHR II can be run on both the front and back wheels. No matter what the trail conditions are as well, the tread pattern allows for good traction. However, what sets this tire apart is the bigger and wider side lugs. Due to them, the tire corners like no other and you can be confident even on the most difficult turns.

Another reason why this tire is so great is that it’s not as soft as other popular models like the Minion DHF. So, it provides a good balance of speed and traction for racing as well as for downhill. We tested two sizes both with the dual compound. But Maxxis offers a ton of options in terms of diameter, width, compound, pressure, and casing combinations. Therefore, there is a suitable version for just about any cyclist. The price is not too high either considering the quality of the tire.

Maxxis Minion DHR II MTB Tubeless Tire

Maxxis Minion DHR II Tubeless MTB Tire

2. Maxxis Assegai: Signature tire of World Cup champion Greg Minnaar

Sale
Maxxis Assegai
  • Recommended Use: All-mountain, enduro, downhill
  • Sizes Tested: 27.5”×2.5”, 29”×2.5”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Both
  • ETRTO: 63-584, 63-622
  • TPI: 120
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 1050, 1125
  • Compound: 3C MaxxTerra
  • Max PSI: 50
  • Tech: 3CT/EXO+/TR
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Superior Grip: This tire has been specially designed with large knobs and a tread pattern that provides excellent traction while going straight or cornering.
  • Triple Compound: The 3C MaxxTerra is a compound combining soft, medium, and hard rubber for a good combination of speed and traction.
  • Reliable in all Conditions: While many MTB tires work best in specific conditions, this tire is built to handle any type of trail.
  • Great Durability: The EXO+ technology features two internal layers of material that increases the puncture resistance as well as abrasion resistance.
  • Wide Profile: This tire comes in widths above 2.5” which have lower rolling resistance and are more comfortable.
  • Numerous Options Available: Other than the ones we have tested, there are plenty of versions with different combinations of size, compound, weight, etc.

Some Weaknesses
  • This tire is very expensive.
  • It is slightly on the heavier side.

The Maxxis Assegai is the signature tire of Greg Minnaar. The World Cup champion and Maxxis have collaborated to design this tire with pure grip in mind. After testing it out for ourselves, we can say that they succeeded. Whether on loose soil or wet rocks and roots, the Assegai did not slip at all. Not only does it handle straight pedaling well, but it also has excellent cornering and braking traction. Additionally, the rolling resistance was unexpectedly low, and hence, you can go pretty fast on this as well.

In terms of durability, this tire is solid. The EXO+ technology combines a layer of tough fabric along the sidewalls and another layer that runs bead-to-bead. This lengthens the life of the tire by improving puncture protection, sidewall durability, and resistance against pinch flats. Although you can run this tire for XC-style riding, we found it to perform especially well on aggressive or downhill trails. One slight caveat is that it is available only in larger and wider sizes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.

Maxxis Assegai MTB Tire

Maxxis Assegai MTB Tire

3. Michelin Wild Enduro: High traction, high strength, reasonable price

Michelin Wild Enduro
  • Recommended Use: Trail, Enduro
  • Sizes Tested: 27.5”×2.6”, 29”×2.4”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Front/Rear
  • ETRTO: 66-584, 61-622
  • TPI: 60
  • Weight (g): 1000, 1025
  • Compound: Gum-X3D
  • Max PSI: 58
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Superb Traction: The tread pattern and rubber compound used for this tire provide a strong grip during cornering, pedaling, and braking.
  • Robust Casing: The casing uses Gravity Shield technology that ensures that the tire can survive even the most challenging terrain.
  • Triple Compound: The Gum-X3D compound incorporates three types of rubber and each offers different performance benefits.
  • Multiple Sizes Available: There are 5 sizes available for this model including 3 different diameters, making them available to use by almost everyone.
  • Bargain Price: Compared to other tires with a similar performance level, the price is quite affordable.

Some Weaknesses
  • Not so fast rolling on hard ground.
  • Weight is a little high.

The Michelin Wild Enduro is a great choice for aggressive trail and enduro riders who demand superior grip, similar to the Maxxis Assegai, but at a more palatable price. The traction remains powerful and reliable in various terrain types and climates. And we are not talking about the pedaling traction, braking and turning are also top-notch. All this is made possible by the well-designed tread pattern and the Gum-X3D compound. This is a triple rubber compound that combines the distinct advantages of each rubber type.

The Wild Enduro also had good durability. The high-density fiber layer of the casing makes the tire robust and less prone to damage and puncturing. The downsides are that it is slow-rolling on hard trails and that it’s not really lightweight. However, these properties are a direct consequence of the high grip and strength. This tire comes in multiple sizes to suit the needs of various riders. Also, both front and rear-specific tires are available. Overall, this is a high performing tire and perfect for enduro riding.

Michelin Wild Enduro MTB Tire

Michelin Wild Enduro MTB Tire

4. Continental Der Kaiser Projekt 2.4: Efficient propulsion for serious enduro and downhill riders

Continental Der Kaiser Projekt 2.4
  • Recommended Use: All-mountain, enduro, downhill
  • Sizes Tested: 26”×2.4”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Both
  • ETRTO: 60-559
  • TPI: 240
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 935
  • Compound: BlackChili
  • Max PSI: 51
  • Tech: ProTection Apex
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Excellent Grip: The combination of the BlackChili compound and tread design offers high braking power and great handling.
  • Fast Rolling: This tire not only has good traction but is also able to reach high speeds which are quite difficult to achieve.
  • Enhanced Durability: The tire has been reinforced with ProTection Apex technology, which minimizes the chance of cuts or punctures occurring.
  • Reasonable Weight: Even with the reinforcement layers added, the weight of this tire is not significantly high.
  • Casing Options: You can choose the type of casing based on your needs, a 6-ply casing for downhill or a 4-ply casing for enduro.

Some Weaknesses
  • Does not perform as well on wet or muddy terrain.
  • Available only in a single width.

The Continental Der Kaiser Projekt 2.4 is one of Continental’s top tires. It was designed for the difficulty levels of the EWS and World Cup. What really amazed us was the performance of the BlackChili compound used. We don’t know exactly how this innovative compound is manufactured. But it has arguably the best balance between high rolling speed and grip. The braking force, cornering control, and pedaling traction are all pretty high, while the rolling resistance is low.

There are 3 diameter choices and 2 casing options to choose from. Both the 6-ply and 4-ply casings have sidewall reinforcement with Apex. However, the 4-ply casing also has ProTection technology which further improves resistance against cuts and puncturing. This makes it suitable for enduro riding. On the other hand, the 6-ply casing offers a better grip and is more suitable for downhill riding. One more thing we noticed was that the performance of this tire drops in wet conditions, but it is the perfect tire for dry and hardpack trails.

Continental Der Kaiser Projekt 2.4 MTB Tire

Continental Der Kaiser Projekt 2.4 Tire

5. Maxxis Minion DHF: Superb traction and cornering, highly durable, reasonable weight

Maxxis Minion DHF
  • Recommended Use: Trail, all-mountain, enduro
  • Sizes Tested: 26”×2.3”, 27.5”×2.6”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Both
  • ETRTO: 58-559, 66-584
  • TPI: 60
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 840, 965
  • Compound: Dual compound, 3C MaxxTerra
  • Max PSI: 60, 40
  • Tech: 3C/EXO/TR, EXO/TR
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Great Traction: The pattern design of the center tread knobs provide good pedaling and braking traction in nearly all conditions.
  • Excellent Cornering: The oversized outer knobs offer an impeccable grip on tight turns that is hard to match.
  • Reasonable Weight: Considering the dimensions, the weight has been kept comparatively low thanks to various design features.
  • Long-Lasting: The Exo Protection layer under the sidewalls is made of a densely woven fabric that adds cut/abrasion resistance while being flexible at the same time.
  • Numerous Options Available: There are dozens of versions to suit your needs with different combinations of wheel diameter, width, compound, etc.

Some Weaknesses
  • Not the best option for hardpack.
  • A moderate amount of rolling resistance.

The Maxxis Minion DHF is another one of Maxxis’ top tires for MTB. It actually feels very similar to the DHR II in terms of looks and performance. This tire bites really well into various types of terrain and weather conditions. The cornering ability is a particularly strong point about this tire. This is thanks to the well-designed center tread and the large lugs of the side tread. The rubber compound also plays a big part in this. There are various rubber compound options. We recommend getting either the dual or triple compound options.

Besides that, there are multiple size options as well to cater to different needs. Compared to the DHR II, the DHF is a little softer and so is not as good for hardpack roads. Although, this does make it better for more aggressive trails. Also, it has higher rolling resistance, so you will get less speed. Keep in mind that the DHF is still an excellent tire which is why it is one of our top picks. Other than grip, the tire is highly resistant to punctures and cuts. It also has a reasonable weight for the size.

Maxxis Minion DHF MTB Tubeless Tire

Maxxis Minion DHF Tubeless Tire

6. Schwalbe Magic Mary: Multiple compounds/casings for enduro and downhill experts

Schwalbe Magic Mary
  • Recommended Use: Enduro, downhill
  • Sizes Tested: 29”×2.35”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Both
  • ETRTO: 60-622
  • TPI: 67
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 1190
  • Compound: Addix Soft
  • Max PSI: 50
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Superior Grip: This large blocky knobs with sipes and the Addix compound will give you superb grip while braking and pedalling.
  • Reliable in all Conditions: While many MTB tires work best in specific conditions, this tire performs well on any type of terrain in any weather.
  • Great Cornering: The side knobs are even taller than the center ones and have softer rubber which offers precise control on turns.
  • Numerous Options Available: Schwalbe offers plenty of sizes, compounds, and even casing options to cater to all kinds of mountain bikers.

Some Weaknesses
  • Has only moderate durability.
  • This is quite an expensive bike tire.

The Schwalbe Magic Mary is, according to us, the best MTB tire made by Schwalbe. It has a proven record in various competitions, including the downhill World Cup. What we really liked was the powerful and consistent grip across all conditions. The inner lugs ensure near-perfect braking and pedaling traction, while the outer lugs provide excellent cornering. Be it dusty summers or wet winters, you can always rely on this tire. These factors make the Magic Mary a great tire for downhill and enduro riding.

In terms of durability, this tire does not make it to the top of the list. This has been a problem with previous Schwalbe tires as well. Although, it can still last longer than a lot of tires not mentioned in this article. The model we tested is made of the Addix Soft compound which has somewhat lower rolling resistance. However, this tire comes in varying compounds for different riding styles. Not only that, but a wide range of sizes and casing types are also available. The price may be a bit high, but the gripping power you get is worth it.

Schwalbe Magic Mary MTB Tire

Schwalbe Magic Mary MTB Tire

7. Maxxis Ardent: Durable, lightweight, and fast rolling tire for trail racing

Maxxis Ardent
  • Recommended Use: XC racing, trail
  • Sizes Tested: 26”×2.25”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Both
  • ETRTO: 56-559
  • TPI: 60
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 725
  • Compound: Dual compound
  • Max PSI: 60
  • Tech: EXO/TR
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Fast Rolling: The low profile tread and the ramped knobs in the center enable the tire to function with significantly low rolling resistance.
  • Lightweight: This tire has a low weight which further enhances the rolling speed and makes it a great option for weight weenies.
  • Affordable: This high-quality tire is a good choice for those on a budget or beginners due to its low cost.
  • Great Durability: The sidewalls of the tire have an EXO layer which protects the tire from cuts and abrasions.
  • Multiple Options Available: As with other Maxxis tires, there are various size options to fit the bikes of different riders.

Some Weaknesses
  • Not optimum for loose conditions.

The Maxxis Ardent is, in our opinion, the best mountain biking tire for cross-country racers. The rolling resistance of the tire is remarkably low allowing you to achieve high speeds on the trail. This is possible due to the narrow profile of the tire and ramped knobs of the center tread. Other factors such as the low weight also help to increase the speed. Despite this, the traction is still pretty good, especially the cornering. The large shoulder knobs provide excellent grip when the tire is leaning and gives you precise control.

However, in terms of overall grip, the Ardent does not measure up to the likes of the DHR II or the Magic Mary. For example, you wouldn’t get the best performance on loose trails. But that’s fine since it wasn’t designed for this. The durability of this tire is really great. During our tests, there was no major damage to the tread or the sidewall thanks to a dense fabric layer called EXO protection. Finally, you should definitely buy this tire if you are on a low budget as it is highly affordable.

Maxxis Ardent MTB Tire

Maxxis Ardent MTB Tire

8. WTB Judge 2.4: Low cost rear tire w/ triple compound for sketchy descents

Sale
WTB Judge 2.4
  • Recommended Use: Enduro, downhill
  • Sizes Tested: 27.5”×2.4” (Fast Rolling), 29”×2.4” (High Grip)
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Rear
  • ETRTO: 55-584, 55-622
  • TPI: 60
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 1323, 1295
  • Compound: TriTec compound
  • Max PSI: 35
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Excellent Traction: The large lugs at the center and the sides provide a strong grip during pedaling as well as during tight turns.
  • Good Rolling Efficiency: With this tire, there isn’t much of a trade-off between high grip and low rolling resistance due to the alternating wide and long center knobs.
  • Triple Compound: The TriTec compound features a soft rubber for the outer knobs and a medium rubber for the center ones, while the base is made of hard rubber.
  • Low Cost: This tire has a very affordable price considering the quality and also when compared to other similar tires.
  • Performance Options: Two different versions can be bought. One is for better grip and the other is for faster rolling.

Some Weaknesses
  • Not ideal for wet conditions.
  • This is quite a heavy tire.

The WTB Judge 2.4 is a rear-specific tire that is designed for enduro and downhill riding. According to WTB, it works best with a Verdict 2.5 or a Vigilante 2.5 mounted on the front wheel. While we don’t know for sure if that is the best combo, the Judge itself is a great buy. First of all, it has excellent value-for-money and nearly everyone can afford to buy it. Secondly, it performs superbly on loose, dry, or even rocky trails. For wet conditions, we would say that there are better options, but it does well in the mud nonetheless.

This tire definitely emphasizes being as grippy as possible, but some design aspects also keep the rolling resistance in check. For example, the center tread has alternating long and wide knobs and is made of rubber of medium hardness. This is in contrast to the side knobs which are made of soft rubber for maximum cornering control. Since the base of the whole tread is composed of hard rubber, the tire holds up quite well against abrasion and puncturing.

WTB Judge 2.4 MTB Tire

WTB Judge 2.4 MTB Tire

9. Maxxis Shorty: Great all-round tire for all types of mountain biking

Maxxis Shorty
  • Recommended Use: XC, all-mountain, enduro, downhill
  • Sizes Tested: 27.5”×2.3”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Both
  • ETRTO: 58-584
  • TPI: 60
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 865
  • Compound: 3C MaxxTerra
  • Max PSI: 60
  • Tech: 3C/EXO/TR
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Highly Versatile: This tire has been designed to handle anything you throw at it, from dry hardpack to lose and even muddy terrain.
  • Triple Compound: The 3C MaxxTerra features hard rubber at the base, while the center and outer treads are covered with medium and soft rubber respectively.
  • Affordable: When you compare the performance and quality to the price, it is obvious that this tire has great value-for-money.
  • Great Durability: The sidewalls of the tire are protected from damage by the integration of an EXO layer of high-density fabric under it.
  • Numerous Options Available: There are various options to choose from, combining different sizes, casings, and even compounds.

Some Weaknesses
  • It is not the best tire for any specific riding condition.
  • Side knobs wear out a bit faster than the center knobs.

The Maxxis Shorty is definitely the most versatile mountain biking tire that we have tested. While most tires are specialized for a certain terrain type, the Shorty performs superbly anywhere, be it loose, dry, or muddy. This is achieved by a combination of the tread design and the type of compound used. The tread has a “mid-spike” design which is not too big and not too small. The 3C MaxxTerra compound was also designed to have a good balance between good grip and fast-rolling by utilizing 3 rubber types.

As a consequence of this versatility, the Shorty does not perform exceedingly well in any condition. It is truly the jack of all trades but a master of none. So, this wouldn’t be our first recommendation for either XC racers or downhill riders. However, many like to change up trail types from time to time. For them, this is probably the best option. You can also get slightly varying specs to suit your needs. Another great reason to purchase this tire is the affordable price.

Maxxis Shorty MTB Tire

Maxxis Shorty MTB Tire

10. Schwalbe Hans Dampf HS 491: Great handling and puncture protection for demanding enduro trails

Schwalbe Hans Dampf HS 491
  • Recommended Use: Trail, enduro, downhill
  • Sizes Tested: 29”×2.35”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Both
  • ETRTO: 60-622
  • TPI: 50
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 1075
  • Compound: Addix Soft
  • Max PSI: 50
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Great Traction: The non-directional tread pattern and the Addix Soft compound gives it a good grip while pedaling, cornering, and braking.
  • Predictable Drifting: The side-to-side profile of the tire is rounded which makes it easy to roll over during a turn and ensures zero dead spots.
  • Highly Durable: Both the tread lugs and the sidewalls can stand up well against wear, abrasion, and puncturing.
  • Good Rolling Speed: The rolling resistance is not really low, but it is less than what you would expect from a tire with this amount of grip.
  • Various Options Available: You can get different combinations of sizes, casing types, and compounds according to your requirements.

Some Weaknesses
  • It is a little expensive.
  • Installation is comparatively difficult.

The Schwalbe Hans Dampf HS 491 is another excellent MTB tire by Schwalbe. Its previous version, the HS 426, was a popular choice and known for its fun drifty feel. This new version brings the same feel with the large side knobs. The rounded profile makes the transition into cornering a lot smoother. However, unlike its predecessor, the HS 491 is a more robust tire with a beefier build. The knobs are taller, the pattern is more aggressive, and there are wider options available. This gives it the ability to better withstand more aggressive trails.

This tire can be used both on the front and the back of a bike. The non-directional pattern of the tread has a lot of sharp square-edged knobs that can grip well on all kinds of surfaces. We tested out a model with a width of 2.35”, but we think that with a 2.6” one you can get a lot of air volume and run lower pressures. This will give you excellent pedaling and braking traction on loose ground. The price is a bit high, but overall it’s a solid tire.

Schwalbe Hans Dampf HS 491 Tubeless MTB Tire

Schwalbe Hans Dampf HS 491 Tubeless Tire

11. Continental Cross King ProTection: Affordable, durable, and versatile MTB tire

Continental Cross King ProTection
  • Recommended Use: XC, trail, all-mountain
  • Sizes Tested: 29”×2.2”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Both
  • ETRTO: 55-622
  • TPI: 180
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 640
  • Compound: BlackChili
  • Max PSI: 58
  • Tech: ProTection
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • All-Rounder: This tire is very versatile and performs decently well on all kinds of terrain due to the combination of good traction and little rolling resistance.
  • Lightweight: The design of this tire makes it very lightweight which can help you go faster for fast-paced riding.
  • Affordable: This tire is not too expensive at all considering the high level of performance and the overall quality that you get.
  • High Durability: The tire has great puncture protection and abrasion resistance thanks to the integrated ProTection technology.
  • Multiple Options Available: There are enough size options to cater to the needs of just about all mountain bikers.

Some Weaknesses
  • Not optimal for extreme conditions.
  • Installation can be a bit difficult.

The Continental Cross King ProTection is quite similar to the Maxxis Shorty tire in that it is also suitable for highly varied forms of riding. Whether you are on hardpack paths or muddy trails, this tire can handle it. We found it to work especially well on dry and loose terrain. This is made possible by the well-designed tread pattern and the selection of the BlackChili compound. This patented rubber formula is one of Continental’s best inventions as it strikes a very good balance between grip and rolling speed.

For the tread, the side tread has larger knobs than the ones in the center tread. This helps to maintain perfect control during cornering, while also reducing the rolling resistance at the same time. Consequently, the Cross King would not be the top choice for wet conditions or steep descents, even if it performs fairly well. We also wouldn’t pick it as our go-to for hardpack or XC racing. However, with it being lightweight, robust, and affordable, there is no concrete reason to not buy this tire.

Continental Cross King ProTection Tire

Continental Cross King ProTection Tire

12. Continental Race King ShieldWall: Fast-rolling, lightweight, and cheap tire for XC racing

Continental Race King ShieldWall
  • Recommended Use: XC racing, trail, e-bike
  • Sizes Tested: 26”×2.2”
  • Front, Rear, or Both: Both
  • ETRTO: 55-559
  • TPI: 180
  • Bead: Foldable
  • Weight (g): 660
  • Compound: PureGrip
  • Max PSI: 58
  • Tech: Shieldwall System
  • Color: Black

Features & Considerations
  • Fast Rolling: The low profile, tread pattern, and internal construction design enable the tire to have a considerably low rolling resistance.
  • Lightweight: The weight of this tire is pretty low and it is one the most lightweight MTB tires available out there.
  • Highly Affordable: This high-performance tire is the least expensive product mentioned in this article.
  • Great Durability: The tire incorporates the Shieldwall system which is a technology that greatly enhances the protection from damage and punctures.
  • Multiple Options Available: As with other Continental tires, there are various size options to fit the bikes of different riders.
  • E-Bike Compatible: Due to the little rolling resistance and solid wear protection, this tire is rated for e-bikes with a maximum speed of 25 km/h.

Some Weaknesses
  • Among the tires mentioned in this article, this one has the least grip.

The Continental Race King ShieldWall, as the name suggests, is another excellent tire choice if you are an XC racer. Out of all the tires listed, this one has the least rolling resistance and the least amount of traction. If you are looking to prioritize speed on your off-road rides, then the Race King is the way to go. Thanks to the rigid construction and the low profile tread, this tire has a very high rolling speed when compared to most other mountain bike wheels.

Keep in mind that the traction of the tire is only relatively low. The PureGrip compound still maintains more bite than many of its competitors. Other than that, this tire is also built to last. There is a layer of finely woven fabric under the entire tread and sidewalls, which resists puncturing and damage. This is called the Shieldwall system. Additionally, the Race King is quite lightweight, low cost, and has very good damping ability. You can install this tire on an E-bike as well. It is rated for up to 25 km/h.

Continental Race King ShieldWall Tubeless Tire

Continental Race King ShieldWall Tire


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Is tubeless better for mountain bike tires?

Ans.: As previously mentioned, both tubeless and tube tires have their pros and cons. And for road bikes, both are a viable option. However, most riders prefer having tubeless tires when it comes to mountain biking. The option to run lower tire pressures and not having to worry about pinch flats is well worth the higher price.

Q2. What PSI should my tubeless mountain bike tires be?

Ans.: The tire pressure has a huge effect on the performance of the bike. If you are on dry or hardpack XC trails where you might need more speed, then higher pressures are better. Low tire pressures offer better traction and are suitable for downhill or muddy conditions. The optimum tire pressure for mountain biking can range anywhere from 35 PSI all the way down to 15 PSI. The right pressure depends on your weight, your bike, and wheels, the type of terrain, riding style and intensity, etc. Finding that sweet spot can take a bit of trial and error but this is an important step, so don’t skip it.

How To Find Your Perfect Tyre Pressure | Hard Vs Soft Tyres

Q3. Is a 27.5” or a 29er better?

Ans.: Since the release of 27.5 in. (650b) and 29 in. (29ers) wheels, they have quickly overtaken the standard 26 in. wheels as the go-to. We wouldn’t say that one is particularly better than the other. Rather it depends on what you are looking for in a bike. Generally, 27.5” wheels are lighter, more maneuverable, and have better acceleration. On the contrary, 29ers have better traction due to a larger contact patch, and a smaller attack angle which allows the tire to roll over an object more easily. Additionally, taller riders may prefer 29ers, while 27.5” wheels are better suited to shorter people. Your best bet would be to try them both out and see which one you like.

Q4. When should I replace my mountain bike tires?

Ans.: Mountain bike tires can last anywhere from 3000 to 8000 miles depending on the type of use and the tire quality. Regardless of this, if you notice any of the following on your tires, then you need a replacement.

  • The knobs are not as tall as they used to be and have rounded edges.
  • Threads from the casing are coming out of the rubber in places.
  • Bulges and blisters appear in some spots.
  • A noticeable amount of cracking on the tread.

Worn out knobs

Image: Worn-out-knobs

Conclusion

After reading the entire article, you should have a good idea about what to look for in an MTB tire. A lot of hours of hard work has gone into this article and we have tried to be as comprehensive as possible. We can assure you that you will not be let down by any of the products in our selection. Whether you want low rolling resistance, good grip, or solid puncture protection, you are sure to find the perfect one.

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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