When upgrade fever strikes, many riders skip straight to obsessing over the latest and greatest suspension technology, forgetting that something as simple as a tire swap can have a significant impact on a bike's handling. After all, tires are the first point of contact between your bike and the trail - how that rubber interacts with the ground shouldn't be overlooked.
When it comes to choosing an appropriate tire, tread pattern, compound, and casing are the three most important traits to consider. Picking the tire that best suits the trail conditions you most frequently ride is key; for instance, a more open tread pattern with taller blocks may work well on muddy, mucky trails, but probably won't be the best choice for desert dwellers whose trails are rock solid with a thin layer of gravel or sand over the top.
In the same vein, a tire with a super soft and sticky rubber compound is nice to have in wet weather or on steep trails where traction is of the utmost importance, but there are tradeoffs, namely in the form of a reduced lifespan. For that reason, it's not uncommon to run a softer compound up front, and use a harder compound on the back wheel to increase its lifespan.
The growth of enduro racing, and the fact that more and more riders are riding their trail bikes at an extremely high level, has led to an increasing number of tires with reinforced sidewalls designed to help prevent punctures and pinch flats. Schwalbe's Super Gravity and Maxxis' Double Down casings are the two most prevalent examples. There is a weight penalty that comes with the thicker casing, but it's still not as much as what would be incurred by running a dual ply downhill tire. All the same, in many cases running it's possible to get away with running a tire with a reinforced casing in the back and a lighter, single ply tire up front.
Should I go tubeless?
In a word, yes. If you haven't already converted, you should. Running tubeless tires makes it possible to run lower pressures, and reduces the chances of getting a flat. Modern tires are easier to set up than ever before, and in many cases an air compressor won't be necessary to get everything seated and sealed. All of the tires selected here are tubeless ready.
The six tires profiled below all have their individual strengths and weaknesses, but they share one common trait: their intended usage. These tires were designed for venturing into rough, technical trails, places where traction has a higher priority than weight or rolling resistance.
The Minion DHF is an absolute classic, a tire with a proven track record that extends back more than a decade. There's a reason for its longevity – it simply works, offering predictable traction in nearly any condition. You can run a matching set front and rear, but for the highest amount of traction, a blockier rear tire, something along the lines of the Minion DHR II is a good bet. In really thick, gloppy mud the DHF doesn't clear mud as fast as option with a more widely spaced tread pattern, but otherwise it's an outstanding contender.Maxxis Minion DHF full review Maxxis Minion DHF
• Available for 26", 27.5" and 29" wheels
• 2.3" or 2.5" widths
• Multiple casing, compound options
• Weight: 850 grams (27.5 x 2.3, EXO casing)
• MSRP: $78 USD
• Extremely predictable in a wide range of conditions
• Multiple compound and casing options
• Tread can clog in extremely thick mud
Schwalbe's Magic Mary was first introduced to the DH world, chalking up World Cup wins even before it was available to the public. Since those early days it's become a mainstay in Schwalbe's lineup, with a wide footprint and aggressive tread pattern that makes it able to find traction where other tires falter. The Magic Mary is especially well suited to loose, loamy terrain, where the tall knobs are able to claw into the ground. Downsides? The angled side knobs do make the tire a little more likely to slide out when faced with wet roots, and there's also the fact that early runs of the tire suffered from a less-than-ideal lifespan, especially considering the asking price, although the more recent versions do seem to hold up better. Magic Mary full review Schwalbe Magic Mary
• Sizes available: 26, 27.5 and 29 inch
• 2.35" width (folding bead)
• Carcass: Evolution-Snakeskin, Super Gravity and Downhill
• Compounds available: Trailstar (intermediate), Vertstar (soft)
• Weight: 795g, 1045 or 1190g (dependent on carcass)
• MSRP: $93.25 (Super Gravity)
• Excellent grip in loose terrain
• Wide footprint provides plenty of traction
• Not the longest lasting option
Bontrager's tire lineup tends to fly under the radar, which is a shame, because their current lineup is chock full of worthy options. The SE5 was derived from their G5 downhill tire, with alternating rectangular and L-shaped lugs on each side combined with a blocky center tread. As I wrote when originally reviewing the SE5, “The most noticeable trait of the tread pattern is just how predictable it is. As long as there's something for the knobs to dig into, there's no sense of vagueness or any on/off feeling when leaning into a turn.” It's also a relatively fast rolling tire despite its aggressive appearance, which can help make those long approaches feel like less of a chore. It's not quite as puncture resistant as other tires in this category in rocky terrain; riders with trails full of sharp, jagged rocks may want to look elsewhere.Bontrager SE5 Full Review Bontrager SE5
• Available for 27.5" and 29" wheels
• 2.3" width
• Weight: 935g (27.5"), 990g (29")
• Core Strength sidewall / sub-tread protection
• MSRP: $74.99 USD
• Fast rolling for how much grip they provide
• Supportive cornering knobs
• Sheds mud well
• Can be flat prone in rocky terrain The Shorty's tread pattern is another tire designed to act like a cut down mud spike, with a blocky tread pattern that resembles what you'd find on a dirt bike. Out of all the tires mentioned here, the Shorty is probably the closest to a wet weather specialist, and “although the range of conditions it works well in is broader than its full-spike relatives, for most riders it won't be a tire that they put on and forget about for the rest of the year.” That being said, the Shorty has an uncanny ability to hook up through slimy turns, keeping you and your bike from being spit off the trail and into the woods.Maxxis Shorty Full Review Maxxis Shorty
• Available for 26”, 27.5” and 29” wheels
• 2.3 and 2.5" widths
• 3C MaxxTerra compound
• Weight: 880 grams (27.5" 3C EXO casing)
• MSRP: $78 USD
• Tenacious grip in sloppy, mucky conditions
• Also works well on loose, dusty trails
• Slow rolling
• Tall knobs can slide out on wet roots
Continental used the tread pattern of a cut down mud spike for inspiration when designing the Baron, giving it plenty of room between each knob to help keep it from getting clogged with mud. The tire's overall profile is more square than round, allowing it to act like a serrated knife as it cuts through the slop. It's not the fastest rolling tire, and the casing can feel a little stiff on firmer ground, but those quibbles are more than overshadowed by the excellent wet weather performance. The Baron's Black Chili tread compound was grippy even on wet roots, making it a good option for riders based in the Pacific Northwest or locales with similar terrain. Continental Der Baron Full Review Continental Der Baron
• 'BlackChili' compound
• 240 TPI (60 TPI x 4) under tread
• 180 TPI (60 TPI x3) sidewalls
• 'Apex' sidewall inserts
• Weight: 1,035 grams (29x2.4)
• MSRP: $85.95 USD
• Outstanding wet weather traction
• Unphased by wet roots
• Sheds mud well
• Casing feels stiff on firmer ground
• Not for gram counters
A relative newcomer on the scene, the TRSr is e*thirteen's first entry into the tire world. It's available in two different tread compounds, Race or Plus, with Race being the grippiest, and Plus being a little harder and longer lasting. As I noted in the original review, “The generous width (the tires measured almost exactly 2.4”) and the tall side knobs provides a nice solid platform to push into during hard cornering, and even when running pressures in the low 20s there was plenty of sidewall support.” The TRSr has one of the lowest durometer tread compounds currently on the market, giving it incredible grip on steep rock rolls and anywhere that traction is crucial. The price is reasonable too, especially considering the performance they deliver on the trail. e*thirteen TRSr
• 27.5" or 29" options
• 2.35" width
• Folding bead, reinforced sidewalls
• Triple rubber compound
• Weight: 920 grams (actual, 27.5")
• MSRP: $69.95 USD
e*thirteen TRSr Full Review
• Ultra-sticky compound
• Supportive during hard cornering
• Reasonably priced
• Soft rubber compound can wear quickly
Which Tires Should I Get?
All of these tires work well in rugged terrain, but some stand out above others depending on what you're seeking. Here's a quick synopsis: All-around:
The Minion DHF has the widest range of operating conditions, remaining predictable in everything from mud to moon dust. The Magic Mary can be used as an all-rounder too, but those tall side knobs can cause it to be less predictable when cornering on hardpack. Grip:
e*thirteen's TRSr takes the cake for being the grippiest, stickiest tire in the group, and if you're looking for something that feels like it was constructed from climbing shoe rubber, this is the one to pick. It falls into the all-rounder category as well, but it is slightly slower rolling than the Minion.Muddy / Wet conditions:
This is a close one, but I'd pick the Continental Der Baron over the Shorty, at least for the trails I regularly ride. Why? Because of the Der Baron's outstanding performance when faced with wet roots, which is typically where cut spike style tires falter.
Ford Fiesta- $1300
There are a lot of wrong things in this world
Used Honda accord- $2k
For 75$, I can maybe get something entry level without a good warranty from federal or cooper (online, without shipping fees) for my car, which isn't even a great tire. Or, I'd be stuck with a barely dot-approved chinese knockoff which is what came with my car for around 60$/tire.
To get a brand new tire from a reputable brand like bridgestone from a legit supplier like tirerack, it could be easily 150$/tire. Bike tires are expensive and all but I'm not running 20$ wire bead, hard compound kenda nevegals for a reason.
@Husker2112 My 2012 CPO chevy cruze 6spd was 8650$ with 37k and the warranty lasts longer than the demo's
Cheap car tires at Walmart - $100
High performance car tires - $300+
High performance bike tires ~$90
Sworks Demo- $8500
Ferrari LaFerrari - $ 1.4 million
That would be more of an apples to apples comparison. A Ford Fiesta is more like a Walmart bike
You aren't wrong in your response to his comment but you could have easily just said, "Nope, you're wrong." From what I have gathered on PB saying that someone is wrong will more than likely piss them off more than telling them to get a life... AND! you won't look like as much of a dink... As much... lol
Name brand moto tire ~ $90
Top tier bike tire ~ $90
Sworks demo $8500
2017 honda cr450 $8800
How the hell does that work? A bike is cheap shitty version of a dirt bike that is missing the motor.
So, comparing the same bike that's won multiple WC races to an off the shelf moto that would put you square last in any national event (not even SX or international events). Not comparable.
compare the cheapest DH bike you can find, and it's more fitting to the kind of product you get OTS.
What I do find fkd up though is some E-bikes like Stealth Bomber. KTM E-SX costs the same. The only reason people buy those contraptions is because they are A-affraid of riding a moto, and B-hope for being perceived as more OK on non-moto trails.
@tack836 - so the question is: which price is wrong? Are bicycles too expensive or are motorbikes too cheap? I am affraid you have to bring in a third point of reference and still please compare a 450 OTS moto to Spec Status or cheapest Tues...
Mazda MX-5 costs 10k, La Ferrari 2mln. Please motivate the second one, I can't get my head around it... Have you seen the price of a BMX at Walmart and a carbon race BMX?
Making the correct compound, making the mould, RandD, marketing.... must make up 80% of the cost of any tyre.
At $2 per tyre, surely all the moaners in this thread can have a go at making their own, and report back to us.
Jump in if anyone wants to sweeten the pot!~
I spent way more than that on bike tires in that same time period.
my car is 3k
my bikes are 20k
The mentality of the average pinkbiker who wants champagne performance on a beer budget.
Granted, the first time I bought a set, I didn't like them the first week and went back to the shop to see if they'd buy 'em back. Guy looks and says "you may want to learn to love them" and I said...why? "cause they're gonna last a lonnnnng time buddy!"
DH tires on the other hand...skid, carve, grip...dispose. Repeat.
1 car car model like a Fiesta = millions produced a year.
Consumers are fickle, we expect changes constantly. Tire molds cost more than $20k per mold.
So testing new treads and producing new treads is really expensive when you consider how many tires they may sell.
10-15 year old Accord? Versus a v10 from when?
No one is paying that for a 10 year old v10.
A YT ist more like a Dacia, not a Koenigsegg!
By the way........I checked out your website. Amazing knives. The Canadian SF. was my favorite.
Pro level for sure.
If you price out a moto that will be competitive at the highest level of racing then you're looking at a LOT more $$$'s.
When racing, I would replace my tires at remaining 60% wear at max. I run my auto tires to 20% wear. Km for km, bike tires of similar quality are easily 50-100+ times the cost.
No classic American cars to look forward to in the future
The mx bike argument is valid.
Yes you can buy a world cup worthy mountain bike as opposed to a stock mx bike... but the tech, R&D, raw materials, manufacturing processes etc in that stock mx bike absolutely dwarf anything any mountain bike company can even dream about.
Its all economy of scale, there's 30+ million cars just in the UK alone all using 4 tyres getting replaced fairly regularly (based on average mileage) so worldwide you could safely assume hundreds of millions of car tyres are made and sold each year, if not in the billions. my point being if mountain bike tryes were selling in the millions and billions they'd probably be less than £20 each, just guessing that amount but they'd certainly be a dam sight cheaper so these comparisons are pretty irreverent.
Yea that park version is super hard rubber compared but would be fine for half of the trails out there id imagine.
Mtn bike industry has a complex. It's cute and sad all at the same time.
Also, companies develop products to the point consumers are willing to pay for them, and there's a diminishing point of return in each. Max for two wheel dirt toys (pedal or not) seems to be around 10k (average probably 3.5k for pedal, 8k for a motor). You could design and manufacture a carbon everything special edition 500cc 180lb dirt monster (equivalent to a top spec mountain bike), but I doubt you sell many as you'd likely be over 50k. It's a lot easier to sell a tricked out 10k mountain bike because folks are willing to pay that for a hobby.
I don't know how much r&d goes into licensing a suspension patent off someone but according to you it's a lot.
Bike companies did this shit to themselves. No need for company x to have six or more price points of the same bike model.
And why should YT not be a serious bike? because it does 98% of the expensive brands bikes for half the price? (again, comparing to Europe prices..) But this LBS / direct selling is a whole another discussion. Anyways. There are cheaper LBS brands too, every one of them is absolutely "serious". Resale value is also a whole different topic, of course a premium product loses value slower, just look at apple or HiFi products or Cameras. (not arguing that expensive brands dont have a place; carbon manufacturing, linkages, stiffness, geometry, customer support etc etc I get it that they do put more money in, making the product more expensive. Sometimes higher profit margins but I´d just give the benefit of the doubt and say that they don´t).
And no I am not talking Golf GTI. I just did not want to say "above 6 figures" to avoid people telling me that "you can get a used GTR for less than half of 6 figures" or similar, which in my eyes is a high performance car. So it kinda backfired there
The point I´m trying to get across: there is a BIG difference between a cheapest option get from A to B (e.g. Dacia), to a "budget minded racecar" (whatever GTR, Corvette, or insert what you think fits), to a Pagani or Bugatti, which is the highest possible ever. Same thing with bikes: Supermarket bike for 100€ (is a bycicle and does the job), Radon/Commencal/Canyon/YT/Rose (is the cheapest option out of high-end bycicles, compromises somewhere) and a Santa Cruz for 10k. Everyone should choose what he wants. But in the end personal experiences are always only anecdotal and if a company is selling their stuff well and making money out of it, they probably did something right with the product.
They are good for the trails though, they made me develop fear of skidding in dry, because this is how I tore knobbs on numerous occasions. Maxxis is awfully expensive. No doubts about it. Spec is durable at a good price but they need to make a grippy version of the BUtcher. I would love to try E13 and Michelins. But... they are too expensive to just try something, when DHFs and SSs are so damn good. Continental is a joke in my books. Haven't tried their DH tyres for DH but X-King, MKingII and TrailKing are a laugh. Heavy, expensive, not grippy and hard to setup tubeless due to very hard and stiff compund on the casing to top that.
I don't get why people can't find the deals.... never hard for me to find better than dealer cost on most items.
Conti.. Ive so far only tried MK2 and TK, and for me they only have 2 things: good grip when going up muddy mountains, and very low wear. Tubeless did not even try because it was the paper-racesport sidewall, and also tore sidewall in a week.
I'd say YT is more like the upstart US/British Ford GT40 winning Le Mans in 1966 driven by 2 Kiwis.
I was simply stating a fact. bikes tires are mad expensive for how long they last. I dont give a shit what anyone else commented, I'M SIMPLY STATING A FACT.
I didn't mean to piss you off, ( not sure how that was possible especially with the close minded comment put on this site ).
prove me wrong.........
The *fact* you are stating is not SIMPLE. You are greatly simplyfying it.
Trust me i get what your saying its almost exactly what the pros use I get it. But what you get for the money is not close. Pretend your not into either sport no bias because you know nothing about either but you have $8500 in your pocket and are looking for a new hobby to get into. You can buy a really cool bike that only works well on really steep hills and doesn't even pedal well something a bike should do. Or you could spend the same money on something that outpreforms it in every single category (actual downhill track is debatable) uphill, downhill or flatground.
I think Schwalbe is just stuck catering to Lake Garda/Trans Alp folks... these guys definitely don't push the tyres to the point where lack of durability comes up and quite frankly you have to suck real bad to not find that edge.
My last open performance car, sold it in Dec., had close to 500 hp and weighted 950kg and was as high as my knee cap. That was a performance car. From that spoiled perspective - I would not even consider buying a Pagani. It would be a step down. Bugatti is 3 GTI VR6 and VW Piech had his fingers in it - it must be broken..
Also I had a pair of wicked wills that lasted two years and never flatted, with tubes, including one time when I hit a boulder with my front wheel so hard it bent the wheel into the fork arch. It buzzed all the way down the hill bit never went down. I would regularly hear the wheel rims pinging off baby head rocks with the wills, Marys and dans. Never flatted one. I would still use them now if they weren't so wide and heavy.
Many people used the softer, flexible casing for DH and paid the price with ripped knobs and torn casings. I put a couple of them through their paces as front tires and they both lasted me a full season.
Schwalbe has yet to disappoint me, they are fun, fast and predictable. When using a Procore system, they are near bombproof. Damn I miss the sound of side knobs .........
Only reasons to run schwalbe in Canada: they came stock on your bike. You were upsold them. You buy them in bulk out of Germany on the cheap.
I admit that durability is not an issue for me. I only ride a couple of times a month and literally spend more time looking at my bike than riding it. Sitting on it and pedalling backwards in the house doesn't count as riding.
For example, it's Saturday morning now and I'm watching my kids having a swimming lesson instead of out riding my bike.
They do state they can be used front or rear though
I run DHF on the rear because it's the only tyre that I don't cut at every ride on the rocky terrain where I live. Never tried DHRII though.
Anyway, I'm not here for the applause, but to share knowledge. Thanks for the support!
So if you guys are right, I now have a freeride and a race tire on my fat bike! DOHH !!
Fixed it for you.
The butcher was simply designed as a lighter version of the DHF (by the same guy, IIRC). I'll take on the extra weight for the better grip and stability.
Also was running tubes @ ~28PSI.
How are those compunds on 2017 spec tyres? Any softer? Butcher Grid and Control are rather bad compared to 3C Minion DHF
I cannot find anything about Spec having changed compounds though.
I think I'll try SE4 front/back this summer too after hearing nothing but good things. Or maybe a set of the new Nobby Nic EVO DD 2.35 (27.5) coming out soon.
I've been running Mary SS Trailstar front SE5 rear and it's been good (27.5) The only time I question the SE5 rear is when climbing steep slick rocks...can't help but wonder if another tire would grip better. Reviews keep saying that the SE5 is prone to flats in rocky terrain but I am a heavy rider, riding PNW and no issues yet. I haven't had a single flat since mounting this set and wear has been great, no torn knobs either.
A: One's a Goodyear, and the other is a great year!!
The whole root thing though... Not had a problem. I find almost that the knobs give a bit of "step-over" action and hook on the back side of the root.
Definitely an ideal tyre for the winter.
This year I'll be joining the Megavalanche, which is about 20% on snow and 80% on big loose rocks. Would you recommend the Morsa there or should I rather go for the Minion?
The Minion was my go-to choice for a long time. Now it's the Vigilante. It is not as good on hardpack, but the difference in wet conditions far outweighs that.
I've punctured repeatedly through exo maxxis, trailstar snakeskin schwalbe, spesh butchers and nevegal DTCs casing on my trail bike... So far the michelin wild rock'r 2 reinforced/advanced are the only ones that survived what I make them go through (weight penalty though). This is a major disappointment for me because most of those tires are marketed for trail/enduro but none of them can survive enduro conditions. I was really looking forward to that shoutout because I'm currently debating if I'm getting another michelin or if I should try a DD maxxis or a SG schwalbe so I'm a little bummed out.
Also, what is the point of reviewing a tire if you're not going to push it to its limit? I feel that's like reviewing suspension without ever using more than 60% travel.
An average bike with proper tyres will give you more confidence while riding than a proper bike with cheap shitty tyres.
The next best thing for general wet winter riding was the HR2 . Put that on the rear and it was useless. No braking grip and no climbing grip. The tyre just clogged and stayed clogged until you got to a wide open fast section. Really didn't work for me in the wet and mud.
However I then switched it to the front in the summer and it was great.
I accept there are performance benefits, but it seems possible you'll end up riding with a tube most of the time or shelling out for new tires on the reg.
I tried these pressures before procore but was constantly burping and getting snake bites, even with a 30mm inner rim.
Exactly. I'm running a DHF 2.5WT on 38mm rims and I run 18psi-20psi, and thats even on steep gnarly terrain.
Once home, i took off the tire to check if repairable, and the scab of sealant was pretty impressive.
Now that we have the choice, I would never ride some place rugged like Moab (which I do once or twice a year) with a tube. You're practically guaranteed a pinch flat at some point.
I will probably switch over and give it a shot soon, since the performance benefits (lower pressure = more grip) are more than worth the experimental risk.
The only thing that got me wondering now is how well the Minion DHF in the SuperSticky compound would compare to the TRS? Would it be able to beat the TRS in that game as well?
The DHF is great- apart from the fact it seems to have warped, but the SS is just too narrow and square for wide rims. The side knobs ("side knobs! Knobs! Side! Side knobs! ") just constantly touch the ground even upright so it doesn't roll that quickly. However, climbing and braking traction is very very good for a semi slick.
Must say I did find them pretty draggy, I run the Maxxgrip dualplies though.
•Not available in "26
Once you're down to 50% tread or less, the tires lose much of their performance characteristics anyways, and for most that ride lots, that happens within about 2 weeks of buying a new rear tire.
Cool article... although, aside from the E13 (which I am currently running and really like), they are the usual suspects in the wheel cover arena... I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the lesser run options. Michelin Wild Rock R, Hutchinson Cougar, etc. basically the ones that aren't in every bike shop that we can go get our hands on and make an educated guess. All the on line Hail Mary's...
The best set up overall has been the DHF 2.5 up front and the DHRII 2.4 in the rear. Really worked well all around although I tore all the side knobs off the DHF in the 2nd month.
Then I tried a Shorty 2.5 up front and a DHF 2.5 in the rear. even though I ride dry rocky conditions I have nothing bad to say about the Shorty, it worked everywhere as well as the DHF in spite of looking so different. The rear DHF 2.5 had mad traction except when trying to brake on long loose steeps, but the rolling resistance was pretty awful. It became a limiting factor.
For a very hot summer I wanted better rolling resistance but ended up going too far. I bought the new Addix Nobby Nic 2.6 up front which lacks side traction by a lot but rolls killer; and a rear Addix Hans Dampf lacked traction and also the casing was too mushy and required extra psi to not move around constantly. Great trail tires, not so great enduro tires. That mistake was on me. One of the Schwalbe reps even told me to buy the MM but I didn't listen.The HD is salvagable as a good faster rolling spare tire, however the front NN isn't something I can use.
I now have mounted some old tires up but have ordered the E13 Race for up front and a WTB Breakout tough/ fast for the rear. I ordered them because it's my current best guess as to the best all around combo for my tastes but also I try to test something different every time. I could be way off (again!). We'll see.
It's all a trade off unless you are lift served then you just mount up the most traction and most heavy duty and forget about it.
Available??, my kids are riding very technical trails with me and need some food rubber for their bikes!!
I was wondering this too. Weight surely looks like the Baron project, as does the slightly wider thread pattern...