Tyres are often overlooked and undervalued when it comes to upgrading your MTB performance. Yet, they can offer the most significant improvements at the lowest price. Being the only component that connects you to the ground, knowing something about them is useful.
As the only contact point with the trail, it’s important you choose the best tyres for your style of riding. No matter the budget you can significantly improve your bike’s control and feel on the rough stuff. Let’s have a look at some important things to know about MTB tyres.
1. Always run tubeless. Always.
In recent years tubeless technology has vastly improved and it’s now incredibly simple (and less messy!) to convert your wheels to a tubeless set-up. By running a tubeless setup you can run your tyres at a lower pressure, (which we’ll get onto next) and minimises trail-side puncture repairs. Make sure your wheels and tyres are tubeless-ready before making this step — but your local bike shop can help you if you’re not sure.
Take it from us, once you make the switch you’re never going back!
2. Tyre pressure is essential
An argument many riders have had over the years, the perfect tyre pressure is personal and depends on several variables such as rider weight, terrain, tyre profile and rim width to name a few. Generally speaking the lower the pressure the more grip and comfort you will acquire, but too low a pressure increases the risk of pinch-flats. The higher the pressure the less comfortable the ride, but high pressure can increase sidewall stability (good for cornering). A good starting point is to check the manufacturer’s recommendations on the sidewall of your tyre (typically between 25–35 psi or 1.7–2.4 bar) but these pressures will change depending on the conditions you ride in. It may take a while, but before too long you will have an encyclopaedic knowledge of what pressure to ride and when.
3. Choose your tyre width wisely
MTB tyres come in three diameters to match their accompanying wheel size: 26 inches, 27.5 inches, and 29 inches. The width of MTB tyres available generally varies from 1.6 to 2.5 inches dependent on wheel size. Broadly, the wider and bigger the tyre, the more stability and ability to roll over obstacles, but the optimum tyre width largely depends on your discipline. If you’re riding an XC bike you’re unlikely to need a 2.5-inch tyre, however, if you ride downhill or at uplift venues then you may need to look towards the chunkier end of the spectrum.
5. The rear and front tyres perform different roles
If you look at pro MTB rider’s bikes, you’ll probably notice they have different tyres on the front and rear wheels. Why? Because they perform different functions. The front wheel is designed to control the bike and offer the most grip whereas the rear wheel is responsible for power delivery and balance. With this in mind, many riders now choose to run a chunkier or nobblier tyre up front and a slicker tyre on the rear to help them ride over obstacles faster without losing grip or control.
There is no quintessential tyre to rule them all. Choosing the correct tyre largely depends on how you ride and where you ride and what you ride. Tell your local bike store what your goals are, and they will help you find the perfect match.