Tires have an incredible influence over a mountain bike’s ride feel and performance. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to compare the test bikes we ride throughout the year without standardizing the tire selection to even the playing field.
Every year we get to check out a number of new mountain bike tire releases, and usually try testing others that were at least new to us. Here are our some of our favorites tested over recent years.
Continental Der Baron
In February 2020 Gerow said the Continental Der Baron were the grippiest tires he had ever tested, and at that point they were. The tread still shares the crown as one of the only tires to offer a noticeable traction advantage on damp roots and rocks. Their knobs are ramped enough to roll fast while providing ample cornering support when it’s time to lay off the brakes.
The Continental Der Baron sidewalls are more supple than a lot of tires in their 1000g weight class, which is a benefit for lighter riders and anyone who wants to precisely dial in the tire’s rebound and overall ride feel. For anything from rowdy XC riding to muddy enduro racing, these tires are ready to grab on and enhance the fun.
- Read Gerow’s Continental der Baron tire review here.
- Available at Amazon and other online retailers.
Some folks may think wire bead tires are a thing of the past, but for downhill racing they remain a thing of necessity. The DH22 rubber took a few people and some draconian tubeless-methods to mount up, so there’s no doubt that they won’t burp or slip in a race run. The wire and robust casing culminate in a 1,500g circle that’s no fun to climb with and all fun to descend on.
The DH22’s quadratic profile and soft rubber help it hook up well in nearly any sort of soil. While slightly less grippy than the softest Schwalbe or Continental tread on the wet stuff, this tire will hold a line on slick roots and rocks where a lot of others slip. Gerow relegated these tires to a race-only pile of tread, as their soft rubber wears quickly and wears him out on climbs. For bike fast park riding and gravity racing, these tires are the ticket.
Schwalbe Magic Mary
The widely beloved Schwalbe Magic Mary handily took the honors as a favorite tire tested in 2020. Its all-terrain traction is more versatile and grippier than any other tread bearing that phrase, and it rolls better than a lot of tires with lower traction coefficients. No matter the conditions or the trail character, this tire gets the grip if there is any to be had.
Prior to testing the Magic Mary Gerow’s favorite tread was on the Continental Der Baron, which is also an amazingly grippy grabber. This tire from Schwalbe is even better in slick mud, without noticeably sacrificing rolling speed.
Schwalbe Magic Mary tires now come in a variety of carcass and tread options, and can be paired with the new Schwalbe Big Betty out back for even more braking traction. At just over 1,100g, the thick gravity casings are well worth their weight. Gerow had good luck with these tires that he will be mounting them on any long-travel test bikes that arrive with inferior single-ply tires from now on.
The Teravail Honcho Light and Supple version isn’t for everyone, but for riders like Jeff who are light on their feet, it’s an excellent choice. This tire is a fast roller thanks to its light, 895g weight in the 29×2.6″ size, and the somewhat closely spaced center lugs that provide an almost continuous and smooth platform.
As Jeff noted in the full review, the Honcho “is perhaps the first all-rounder I’ve tested that actually lives up to its name.” Lean the tire into a corner and the buttressed side knobs bite hard every time. Even in muddy conditions, the Honcho holds steady.
There’s nothing super fancy about this tire. It features a single rubber compound. The upshot is the wallet-friendly $65 retail price for a tire that I know I’ll keep going back to time and again.
The Vittoria Mazza tire is sure to become a staple in the brand’s line for years to come. Riders today rightly place importance on cornering performance, and the Vittoria Mazza delivers with its robust side knobs and durable sidewalls. It’s one of the most consistent tires I’ve ridden in a while, rarely slipping or losing grip unexpectedly.
As an all-around tire designed for mixed conditions, mountain bikers should be able to get plenty of year-round use out of the Vittoria Mazza. It may not be the lightest tire out there, but the performance is worth the weight in my opinion. Jeff’s only wish is that Vittoria would ditch the gray sidewalls that look a little tired.
Versus All-mountain tire
Recently a friend asked me what the incentive to start a new tire company was, in this day and age where there are dozens of choices, but most people will settle on the same ol’ rubber that they have been riding forever. It was a great question that I think Versus has done a good job answering. Versus debuted this spring as a direct-to-consumer tire company. The cost is still in line with a lot of tire choices at $65 per tire or less, but should still save buyers money over buying tires from a local shop.
It’s not always about the savings though. The Versus All-Mountain tires are a great choice for aggressive trail or enduro riders. We didn’t suffer any punctures on the sub-1000g trail casing, and Versus is also available in a heavier downhill casing with a wire bead that weighs 1,500g. The trail casing All-Mountains have a great rolling resistance that isn’t too sticky to pedal around on long rides, and unique accordion side knobs hook into the dirt for a distinct feeling of traction around corners. The VRSA woven layer keeps air inside the tire where it’s supposed to be, so riders don’t have to pump them up nearly as often as some others. Versus has entered a competitive market and done a good job laying out why they’re worthy of consideration. I’ll be waiting eagerly for more size options and different treads as the company grows.
- Read Matt’s Versus All-mountain tire review here.
Maxxis Minion DHRII/DHF 3C, MaxxGrip, DD, WT
The Maxxis Minion DHR-II and DHF are two of the tires I thought of when I wrote the statement above about people riding the tires they always have been. Minions need no introduction and are tried and true. I have ridden plenty of them in this same combo over the years, but riding in this tread/casing/compound combo lately on a review bike has been refreshing. The Double Down case feels supple and tough, resisting puncture even though I’ve drummed the rims on quite a few rocks already.
The most impressive thing is the cornering performance and all-out grip on the MaxxGrip 3C compound. Throughout this very dry and dusty summer, the predictable traction that the Wide Trail profile and sticky side knobs team up for is notable and confidence-inspiring for turns through loose corners. The Double Down casing has also proven to be rather reliable. At $90 each, they are pricey, a little slow on the climbs, and are wearing as predictably as one would assume with a sticky gravity tire. But, they aren’t terribly heavy for a hefty tire combo. The Maxxis Minion DHF weighs a claimed 1,237g and the Maxxis Minion DHRII weighs 1,190g.
It’s hard to argue with the Maxxis Ardent tire’s worth as a cross-country and trail bike tire. It’s fast, it works as a front and rear tire, and it corners well.
The Maxxis Ardent has also been a Singletracks reader favorite tire for a long time. While it may not be the best tire for the most technically aggressive rides, it remains a standard for everyday rides and many, many OEM-specced trail bikes.
The Race version also cuts some height off the knobs for an even faster mountain bike tire.
The Maxxis Ardent is siped sparingly to balance speed and traction and has blocky side knobs for cornering confidence and grip. There are a ton of options for the Ardent, also. It comes in a single or a double-compound tread, with or without EXO sidewalls, tubeless ready (or not), and with foldable or wire beads. Go with the skinwall version for a classic look.
Even More Great Mountain Bike Tires
We’re continuing to test mountain bike tires for all disciplines of riding, from gravel and XC to enduro and downhill. Below are some tires that are also great and worth checking out the next time you’re in the market for new tires:
- Continental Kryptotal
- Hutchinson Touareg
- Maxxis Forekaster
- Specialized Butcher
- Specialized Eliminator
- WTB Venture
- WTB Verdict
Finally, if you don’t see a specific tire here, there’s a good chance we’ve reviewed it on this list of mountain bike tire reviews.