Good mountain bike tires are necessary for any mountain bike ride. They are the only point of contact with the ground beneath you. The choice of specific tires has a direct influence on your driving behaviour. In this guide I discuss everything you need to know about mountain bike tires.
Construction of MTB tires
Let’s start with mountain bike tire construction. Because, what does an MTB tire actually consist of? The tire has a carcass made of nylon fabric. There are different types of fabrics, which have an impact on the weight and strength of the tire. The coarser the weave, the stronger the MTB tires. However, a high density also makes for heavier tires.
There is a bead wire to ensure that the tires remain on the mountain bike wheels. Here again there are two possibilities: a bead wire made of metal or Kevlar. Kevlar is a lot lighter. MTB tires that have a Kevlar bead thread often also have thinner sidewalls.
Finally, there is the matter of the tread. The grip of the tires can be found on the tread of mountain bike tires. In mountain biking it is of course incredibly important that there is a lot of grip.
Different types of MTB tires
There are many different types of mountain bike tires. And as I just mentioned, the type of tire has a huge influence on the handling. There are mountain bike pools in different sizes, in different widths and certain types. There are mountain bikes with very thick tires (fat bikes), you can make your MTB tubeless and there are tires with a very coarse profile. Let’s see the differences.
Mountain bike tire size and width
Previously, MTB tires were standard 26 inches. A smaller wheel size has a number of advantages. The wheels are lighter, stronger and more compact. Today, however, 27.5 and 29 inch tires are more often chosen. Mountain bikes with 29 inch tires are also called 29ers. A larger wheel also has its advantages: it offers more grip, it is easier to go over tree roots and stones offer less rolling resistance.
In addition to the different sizes, there are also different widths. An extra wide tire is often indicated with a + after the tire size. An extra thick 29 inch MTB tire is therefore a 29+ size. There are mountain bikes with fat tires, so-called fat bikes. These tires are also called beach tires and are wider than 3.8″.
Wider tires have the great advantage that you have more control. Do you have narrow tires? Then you can cycle faster. And of course narrow tires are also a lot lighter than wide tires.
ETRTO: European Tire and Rim Technical Organization
To create order in the world of bicycle tire sizes, there is a fixed European size designation. This is the European Tire and Rim Technical Organization (ETRTO). This size indication allows you to better discover the right tire for your mountain bike. The ETRTO consists of the diameter of the bead wire and the tire width. Both sizes are expressed in millimeters.
In the ETRTO table below you can quickly discover the correct tire size in inches.
|Mountain bike tire size||ETRTO||INCHES|
|26 inch||47-559||26 * 1.75|
|26 inch||50-559||26 * 2.00|
|26 inch||54-559||26 * 2.10|
|26 inch||55-559||26 * 2.15|
|26 inch||57-559||26 * 2.125|
|26 inch||60-559||26 * 2.35|
|27.5 inch||35-584||27.5 * 1.35|
|27.5 inch||44-584||27.5 * 1.65|
|27.5 inch||50-584||27.5 * 2.00|
|27.5 inch||55-584||27.5 * 2.20|
|27.5 inch||57-584||27.5 * 2.25|
|27.5 inch||60-584||27.5 * 2.35|
|29 inch||54-622||29 * 2.10|
|29 inch||55-622||29 * 2.20|
|29 inch||57-622||29 * 2.25|
The most important thing is to match the diameter of the bead wire. In terms of width, you can go either way.
Different tire profile
The profile of mountain bike tires can vary considerably. Often people opt for more profile on the front tire than on the rear tire. This prevents the front wheel from breaking out during sharp bends. When a mountain bike tire has a lot of profile (large studs), the mountain bike has a lot of grip. However, you lose a lot of energy, since there is more rolling resistance.
When the studs of the tire are very close together, you will also get muddy tires more quickly. With a somewhat smoother profile, mud or dirt can adhere less quickly.
Make MTB tubeless
You’ve probably heard the term Tubeless in the mountain bike world. Tubeless tires are tires without an inner tube. With liquid latex you can ensure that you no longer need an inner tube. However, you do need tires and a tubeless valve to make an MTB tubeless.
Advantages tubeless MTB:
- The tires are less likely to puncture
- Tubeless tires are lighter
- Less rolling resistance
- You can drive with a lower tire pressure
Disadvantages tubeless MTB:
- You may need to buy new tires suitable for going tubeless
- It’s quite a bit of work to make your MTB tubeless
Popular tire brands
In the field of mountain bike tires, a number of brands stand out. Maxxis MTB tires in particular are very popular. I list the most popular tire brands:
Frequently asked questions about MTB tires
For the right mountain bike tires it is important to pay attention to the tire size and the tire width. With the help of the European ETRTO size indication you can discover the right tires.
Often the MTB tires front and rear have the same tire size, but the profile can be different. In fact, a front tire with a coarser profile than the rear prevents your front wheel from breaking out.
The best MTB tires depend on your riding style, mountain bike and wheel size. It is interesting to see that Maxxis tires often come out on top in the test on various factors.
As with many other mountain bike parts, there are a number of brands that stand out in MTB tires. These are Maxxis, Schwalbe, Vittoria, Bontrager and Continental.
MTB tires often have a French valve. This is also known as a Presta valve. Please note that you need a suitable mountain bike pump or an extension piece for this.