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There’s arguably no better (and relatively speaking, more affordable) upgrade for your mountain bike than a fresh set of mountain bike tires. Whether you’re lining up at a local cross-country race, chasing world enduro glory, or headed out for an all-day backcountry epic, the right set of mountain bike tires can improve rolling speed, enhance traction, and generally boost your confidence and riding ability, especially when the trail turns loose or technical.
But selecting the right mountain bike tire requires research and careful consideration. Basic choices include diameter, which is most commonly 29” or 27.5, though there are still some standard mountain bikes out there rolling on 26” tires, which is also the most common diameter for snow taming fat bike tires.
Width and tread design are also an important factors when picking mountain bike tires. Cross-country bikes are typically spec’d with narrower tires in the 2.0” to 2.3” range with shallower, less toothy tread in order to maximize rolling speed while keeping weight low for easier climbing.
Mountain bike tires targeted at trail, enduro, and downhill bikes are progressively wider, more durable, and have toothier traction-enhancing tread blocks. Widths for these tires range from 2.3” all the way to 2.8” and even 3.0”, with the latter two widths referred to as plus tires, which are known for their superb traction. At the far end of the width spectrum are fat bike tires, which range from 4.0” to 5.2”, the wider tires delivering more traction in soft snow and loose sand. Just remember that some mountain bike frames have limited tire clearance, and that you can compromise tire performance if you run a really wide tire on a narrow rim or vice versa.
No matter the size, the vast majority of modern mountain bike tires are tubeless ready, meaning they will hold air without a tube inside, which in turn allows you to run lower air presser for better traction without the fear of pinch flatting. Just know that you will also want to add some tire sealant to the inside of your tire, which will help seal holes in the event of a puncture.
Construction and compound are also critical factors to weigh when perusing mountain bike tires. Tire manufacturers use all manner of jargon for their compounds, but generally you’ll be balancing factors such as puncture protection, price, weight, traction, grip, and durability when choosing between various tire compounds and construction designs. For instance a softer rubber compound will improve traction, but wear more quickly than a harder, less grippy compound. There are also some mountain bike tires that are made specifically for front or rear use.
No matter what type of mountain bike tires you’re looking for, JensonUSA has an expansive variety of options from top brands like Maxxis, Michelin, Vittoria, Kenda, Hutchinson, Surly, Continental, Goodyear, Schwalbe, Panaracer, and many others. If you have any questions about mountain bike tires, pick up the phone and call one of our Gear Advisors at 888-880-3811.