Mountain Bike Tyres

QUICK GUIDE TO BUYING MOUNTAIN BIKE TYRES

Replacing worn tyres isn’t just an essential part of mountain bike maintenance, it’s also a great opportunity to improve the performance of your bike. Your tyres have a significant impact on the ride your bike gives and can drastically alter the bike’s character and the way it moves.

SIZE

The first thing you need to know before you start browsing is the wheel size you need. Mountain bike wheels come in three sizes, 29-inch, 27.5-inch and 26-inch. You should be able to find out which one you need from the manufacturer’s label on your wheelset.

The next thing to determine is which tyre width you are looking for. Choosing width is a game of compromise. The wider the tyre, naturally, the more stable the bike is and the more traction it has in the corners but it is also slower. A thinner tyre has less surfacing area, offering less grip and stability, but delivers more speed.

The tyre width will depend on how you like to ride. I personally use my bike for downhill racing and prefer something a little wider, between 2.1-2.4 inches to give me more stability in the corners.

TUBE OR TUBELESS

Inner tubes have been the norm for mountain bike tyres since their inception, but new technology has led to the birth of the tubeless tyre. These tyres rely on a sealant or an extra layer of rubber to create a completely airtight tyre, removing the need for an inner tube.

Having tried both, I can’t say I have been won over with the tubeless tyres. They come with a much heavier price tag, and although they are slightly more resistant to punctures they don’t seem worth the extra money. They also limit you in terms of tyre choice as not all brands, styles and sizes come as a fully tubeless UST system yet.

There are also tubeless compatible systems. These allow you to use an inner tube or if you buy some sealant and rim tape, you can make the whole tyre tubeless. These are much cheaper and give you more flexibility. They can be a little tricky to set up, but if you get your local bike shop to apply the sealant and rim tape for you, they are a great lower-cost option.

TREAD PATTERN AND COMPOUND

When choosing the tread, think about what conditions you usually ride in. If the tread is tightly spaced, you will be able to harness more grip in the dry and propel yourself down clear trails in overcast conditions. If you regularly find yourself in rainy or muddy conditions, you might want something with more space between the tread. This will help you in the wet and make you faster in muddy sections.

Unless you are competing, you will want a tyre with a durometer of 60 or 70. These will last a long time and give you plenty of grip. Experienced riders looking to give themselves a competitive edge in a competition might want to go for something softer with a 40 rating. The soft tyre will give more speed, but won’t last anywhere near as long and you will find yourself replacing them more often.

THE BEST TYRES FOR EACH STYLE

CROSS COUNTRY

For smashing those clear, well-ridden trails, you can go for some quick narrow tyres with tight tread spacing. The trails should be well maintained, so you don’t have to battle roots constantly and can afford to use faster tyres without quite so much stability.

ENDURO AND DOWNHILL TRAIL RIDING

Enduro and downhill riding throws you against some tough terrain so you need something with more grip. A wider, softer tyre would be better to give you a little more bite in the corners.

Get the most out of your ride by giving yourself the perfect tyres for your riding style. When you have the perfect tyre and everything is well-suited for the conditions, you find the whole bike reaches a new level of performance. When bike and rider are working in harmony, there is no stopping you.

Can you add anything to this Quick Guide? What else is important and what else should we be thinking about when it comes to buying tyres?

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Neil Watson
neilwatson@dinga.com.au

Neil loves mountain bikes and everything to do with them. He's got years of experience he is sharing.