Everyone has their preferred tire of choice, and with so many different tire choices and combinations, we decided to look through back through the archives to find some of the tire choices of the world's top riders. From the more conventional lightweight setups to some wild handmade custom options there are plenty of variation among the top XC riders.
Maxxis Rekon Race
The Rekon Race is one of the faster rolling XC tires from Maxxis and features a semi-slick tread pattern with a low profile tread pattern that still has some decent side knobs which will hook up with the dirt when leaned over. While working most effectively on the rear when paired with a more aggressive front tire, the dual pairing of the Rekon Race does offer an ultra-fast ride for racers that aren't as concerned about having the most amount of grip.
Michelin Jet XCR
When Michelin launched the Jet XCR with a new lightweight casing they claimed it was their fastest mountain bike tire to date, and with its very low profile tread you can definitely see why that might be the case. Just like some of the other tires in this lineup the Jet XCR is purposely designed for racing and with the almost slick tread; it is recommended that it is only used for dry and hard pack terrain as there isn't a lot of bite to the tread which could make things quite wild in tougher conditions.
Chaoyang Phantom Speed
Another super-fast semi-slick tire we spotted on the XC World Cup circuit is the Chaoyang Phantom Speed. This tire is the fastest XC option from Chaoyang and it uses small low profile center knobs for great rolling resistance but it has slightly larger side knobs to give the tire more grip when leaned over in the corners.
Schwalbe Racing Ray // Racing Ralph
A popular combination we spotted this year is the mix of Schwalbe's newer Racing Ray tire at the front and their classic XC tire the Racing Ralph out back. The Racing Ray is the German brand's newer more aggressive XC option with strong shoulder blocks for precise cornering and low rolling resistance. The rear tire option of the Racing Ralph has been recently revised as a specific rear tire option (although it can still be run front and rear). The new updates feature a changed center tread pattern which adds more braking traction and just like previous designs it keeps a low profile for great speed on the trails.
Mitas Scylla Textra
The Scylla Textra from Mitas uses a rounder tire profile to increase its predictability in corners and the larges side knobs should also help when the tires are searching for grip. The Textra sidewalls which seem to be more common among the riders adds some extra protection against sidewall damage which is a bonus when a flat tire can be race ending.
Continental Race King
The classic Continental Race King has been ridden on the World Cup circuit by the likes of Julien Absalon and Mathieu Van Der Poel, and with a rounded carcass and its very low profile tread pattern it provides high levels of speed through turns and down the straight where rolling speed matters the most.
Kenda Honey Badger XC Pro
The Honey Badger XC is a redesigned version of their more trail orientated Honey Badger tire, with Kenda saying it is for "those who would rather wear spandex than baggies". The XC-specific version of the tire sees the triangular knobs resized and repositioned to offer more efficiency for climbing and descending with the spacing adjusted to clear mud faster for more grip.
Bontrager XR1 Team Issue
Designed for fast, dry and dusty surfaces the Bontrager XR1 Team Issue is mostly used by the Trek Factory Racing team. The tread pattern uses tightly spaced central knobs with a more open outer tread for faster rolling and grip on dry and loose terrain.
Michelin Force XC // Andre Dugast Rhino XL
One of the more unique setups on the XC World Cup circuit is the Michelin Force XC and Andre Dugast seen at La Bresse 2018. The Michelin Force XC tire used up front features a more aggressive pattern than the brands Jet XC tire which helps when the weather is wetter and the trails are slippery. The Force using a softer compound, staggered edging blocks and a harder center tread to help with durability and increase grip in difficult conditions. On the rear of the bike is the handmade Andra Dugast Rhino XL tire from the USA. The tire was originally developed by A. Dugast BV & Thomas Frischknecht to take on the muddiest course on the World Cup circuit. The tread uses wide spacing of higher-profile studs to give a bit of extra grip in the slop.
The Specialized S-Works Renegade tire is often spotted onboard the Specialized's team bikes and is designed to be effective across wet and dry conditions. Using a fast-rolling tread and shaped outer blocks it maintains a low rolling resistance while still having decent levels of cornering and braking traction.
Andre Dugast Nino
Probably one of the rarest tires is the custom made Andre Dugast Nino tires. Designed by Andre Dugast and Nino Schurter the Swiss riders worked on three different handmade options which were specifically molded to his 650b DT Swiss wheels.
Schwalbe Racing Ralph
The new Racing Ralph may be specifically designed as a rear tire but it still works great front and rear and this combination has been an XC classic for many years. The latest updates feature a changed center tread pattern which adds more braking traction and just like previous designs it keeps a low profile for great speed on the trails.
Schwalbe Rocket Ron // Racing Ralph
Although before the new Racing Ray the Rocket Ron was a more popular choice at World Cup XC races it still is an excellent all-rounder for most conditions. Using a low rolling resistant tread and wide gaps between knobs for better mud clearing. The rear tire option of the Racing Ralph has been recently revised as a specific rear tire option (although it can still be run front and rear). The new updates feature a changed center tread pattern which adds more braking traction and just like previous designs it keeps a low profile for great speed on the trails.
The Mezcal tire from Vittoria is designed for XC riding in dry conditions and features a focus on fast rolling with a low profile tread pattern but directional shaping on the knobs help to find grip when you need it.
Continental Cross King
Continental's Cross King tire is aimed to be used as an all-round tire for a wide variety of conditions. With slightly larger side knobs it can provide some extra levels of grip through the corners but it will still roll fast.
Used by Kate Courtney and Nino Schurter this year the Maxxis Aspen offers minimal rolling resistance with a high volume casing to smooth out the trail. But the tire also features more aggressive side knobs and the dual compound provides some extra traction in the corners.
The Ikon tire from Maxxis is designed for all-out speed when racing with low profile tread allow for faster rolling. The Ikon combines these features with a high volume designed to allow the tires to work effectively across a range of different conditions and surface types.
Bontrager XR2 Team Issue
Specialized Fast Trak
Schwalbe Racing Ray
The Racing Ray is the German brands newer more aggressive XC option with strong shoulder blocks for precise cornering and low rolling resistance. This year we spotted the dual Racing Ray combination on the bikes of Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini.
Vittoria's Barzo tire is designed for technical and wet XC racing and short sharp lugs offer a more rounded tread to dig into for ground for excellent grip. The tire profile also offers good predictability on the trail so you are more aware of how it will react in tricky conditions.
Offering an aggressive tread the Booster tire from Kenda is a great XC race weapon for when you need some extra grip. The tubeless version is also the lightest tire Kenda offers without the need for tubes and the tread is designed purely for fast rolling and reliable cornering.
The Skeleton is a pure XC race tire that is designed for optimal rolling performance but with aggressive side knobs, it aims to still provide plenty of bite on the more technical and tougher XC race courses.
Specialized Fast Trak // Renegade
Another combo spotted on the Specialized team's bike is the pairing of the Fast Trak and Renegade tires. The Fast Trak tire is designed for speed with a new redesign focusing on less rolling resistance, more traction and a stronger casing for the more rugged race courses. The Renegade is designed to be effective across wet and dry conditions. Using a fast-rolling tread and shaped outer blocks it maintains a low rolling resistance while still having decent levels of cornering and braking traction.
Offering a different look to many of the other XC race tires the MSC Roller uses a small block pattern for great performance on drier trails. Using ramped central knobs paired with a low profile and tight spacing this will be a very fast rolling option for those looking for some extra speed in the dry.