Connecting You to The Earth
Without doubt there are hundreds of opinions out there relating to Mountain Bike Tire Reviews. Some are assessed and evaluated by professionals’ others come from opinions of experienced riders. Whatever the MTB community or industry thinks about specific brands, you need to be sure that the tires you choose maintain a great connection with the trails you typically ride while providing fair value for money.
So Much Choice
There’s more to consider than price alone before choosing your next set of new tires. If you like what your bike came with, you could simply replace them, or, you could do a little research and find a set that will really slay the trail. it’s a fantastic opportunity to discover some potential that you didn’t know your bike had and, you might discover a set of tires that last longer and save you some money in the process.
Let me share three examples and a short, sharp technical climb that I enjoy immensely. The climb really would be almost insignificant but for the way the trail not only goes up but slopes at 30° from left to right. There are a few large pebbles and plenty of roots thrown in too for a bit of variety. On a dry day, it’s very sandy. In the wet it’s slick and extremely cheeky. If local hunters have driven down it on a wet day in their 4 x 4’s, it becomes a serious challenge with plenty to think about and I definitely don’t want to be thinking about whether my tires are up for it.
At around 10 euros each (let’s say the same in dollars and UK £’s to keep it simple), the first set simply couldn’t cope in any conditions even though they were sold as “All-Terrain Mountain Bike Tires”. No matter how good my positioning was, I would either slide sideways into the bushes or my rear wheel would spin leading to traction loss, loss of control, loss of everything. Simply not worth the hassle. Cornering was slow too, there just wasn’t the grip I needed to maintain connection and speed.
Looking at them on the shelves, all the knobbly bits seemed in the right places, they looked authentic but were absolutely lacking in all areas.
Step up to 34 euros each and things improved dramatically. The treads on these tires even resembled other far more expensive brands. These had to be the ones, right? No, unfortunately not although so long as the hill was dry, I could get up. A different story in mildly wet conditions because they liked to collect mud and traction was gone very quickly.
Cornering was better though, the speed demon was back, until he noticed severe wear on the rear tire walls. The compound was too soft for mixed trails or any trails where speed mattered.
Designed for Cross country riding on mixed terrain, the next set made a difference and were only fractionally more expensive than the previous set. I could feel the difference in all situations and the connection between bike and earth was sound.
So, let’s ignore the 10-euro tires and think about what makes the difference between the other two sets.
MTB tires use aggressive tread patterns to provide grip on tough off-road terrain, while balancing speed and riding comfort. There are an enormous range of MTB tires on the market in lots of sizes designed for different riding disciplines, terrains, and weather conditions. So, it’s helpful to understand some basic concepts behind construction and design to choose a set that will best suit your typical ride.
The Rubber Compound Matters
Two tires can look the same but if they use different rubber compounds they will manage differently, like examples two and three above. The softer the rubber compound, the grippier the tire will be, especially in wet conditions. But it does have a downside because soft is less durable and wears faster. A harder compound rubber will roll faster and last longer but won’t offer the same levels of grip.
The tire carcass is the skeleton of a tire. Basic building blocks are the plies; threads of cotton impregnated with a small amount of rubber. How fine the strands of material are determine the durability and rolling resistance of the tire. Measured in threads per inch (TPI), a high thread count means thin fibres that easily conform to obstacles and reduce rolling resistance but are susceptible to cuts or damage. A low TPI means thicker, more durable fibres at the expense of rolling resistance and weight.
These sheets are layered on top of each other and wrapped around the tire bead. Wire beads are usually found on cheaper tires, while the more expensive have lighter and more flexible Kevlar beads.
Heavy duty tires typically have two or more plies layered over each other to increase durability. Many downhill tires are called ‘dual ply’. It’s possible to boost the durability of tires without affecting the weight much by adding extra layers of synthetic material between the plies. This can be on top of the tire to help prevent object damage or on the sidewalls to help reduce pinch punctures. A heavy-duty or low TPI casing will often feel better when riding over bumpy terrain but a lighter tire can often lead to feeling bounced around as the tire bounces over obstacles.
If in doubt
Ask at your local bike store, read reviews or get on a MTB forum. Education is one of the keys to spending wisely and getting a great ride from your tires.
Arguably Maxxis produce some of the best tires in the industry and you can find some great offers at Amazon. Especially useful if like me, your local area is heavily over-priced.
If you do decide to buy through the link in the image above, please note that I may receive a small commission. This however does not affect the price you will pay. You pay only the advertised price, nothing more.
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