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5. Continental Trail King Tire: $30-$70

continental-trail-king

The Continental Trail King mountain bike tire took the third spot on our list last year, but slips a couple spots to number five for 2016. As the name suggests, the Trail King is an all-purpose trail tire. With tall blocks and plenty of space between them, the Trail King can claw its way over trail features such as roots and rocks. Continental offers two casing options: RaceSport and ProTection, the latter of which offers the most puncture resistance. It’s also available with Continental’s Black Chili rubber compound, which has excellent grip and tread wear–a tough feat to accomplish.

Diameters available: 26″, 27.5″, 29″

Widths available: 2.20″, 2.40″

Cyclo X-King - 700 X 35 Folding BW
$19.71    Amazon   AD 

4. Schwalbe Nobby Nic Tire: $30-$102

schwalbe nobby nic

Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic might just be the most commonly spec’d tire on new mountain bikes. It’s available in a wide variety of configurations, price points, and the tread pattern itself is versatile. Many companies chose the Nobby Nic because it is light, which keeps complete bike weights down, but that often came with a serious tradeoff in durability. However, Schwalbe has just revamped the Nic, making the knobs larger and the casing more robust. After riding it on a handful of test bikes, I have to say I was impressed with the updated version.

Diameters available: 26″, 27.5″, 29″

Widths available: 2.10″, 2.25″, 2.35″, 2.60″, 2.80, 3.00″

Schwalbe Nobby Nic Performance MTB Tire - 2.25" 27.5" Black | Tires
$21.83    Wiggle US   AD 

3. Maxxis Minion DHF Tire: $51-$105

maxxis dhf

There’s a reason the Minion DHF hasn’t seen a redesign à la the DHR. It’s because the DHF is damn-near perfect as it is. Many riders–myself included–consider it the gold standard for aggressive treads. It rolls well for such a burly tire thanks to the heavily-ramped center tread, and it has a predictable transition to the side knobs. And once you’re on those side knobs, you can really lay into the tire. If you want more confidence in the corners, mount up a set of these.

Diameters available: 24″, 26″, 27.5″, 29″

Widths available: 2.30″, 2.50″, 2.80″, 3.00″

Maxxis Minion DHF MTB Tire - 3C - EXO - TR - 26" 2.3" Black | Tires
$50.56    Wiggle US   AD 

2. Maxxis Ardent Tire: $61-$65

maxxis ardent

The Maxxis Ardent is another mountain bike tire you often see spec’d stock. It bridges the gap nicely between the XC-focused Ikon and the more aggressive Minion DHF, which makes the Ardent ideal for short travel trail bikes. The tread pattern works well in a variety of terrain, but does struggle in loose over hard–tough conditions for any tire. I personally am not a fan of the Ardent, as I find it to be vague at the limit like the Schwalbe Hans Dampf. However, if you can ride just inside that limit, it’s a ripping trail tire.

Diameters available: 26″, 27.5″, 29″

Widths available: 2.25″, 2.40″

Maxxis Ardent Race Folding Mountain Bicycle Tire 27.5 x 2.20 (EXO/TR)
$19.99    ebay   AD 

1. Maxxis High Roller II Tire: $62-$105

maxxis-hr-ii

Messing with a mountain bike tire as legendary as the original High Roller was risky. After all, humans in general are averse to change. However, once most people tried the High Roller II, they forgot all about its predecessor. That’s because the High Roller II does everything better–it rolls faster, brakes better, and has a slightly better transition to the side knobs. I say slightly because there is still a little bit of vagueness in that transition zone going from the center to side knobs. It’s best to use a firm, deliberate hand to get over on those knobs quickly. Once you get used to that quirk, you’ll be schralping berms with the best of them.

Diameters available: 26″, 27.5″, 29″

Widths available: 2.30″, 2.40″, 2.80″, 3.00″

Maxxis High Roller II 27.5 x 2.40 MTB Tire Tubeless Ready 3C MaxxGrip DH Casing
$30.00    ebay   AD 

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# Comments

  • Chris Daniels

    Cool to see the HRII on top. Great tire. True about getting the side knobs hooked up. I’m not good enough to intentionally lean it over far enough, but instead, it usually bails me out of a messy corner (usually one that I’ve messed up).

  • Greg Heil

    This spring I switched my front tire over to the DHF and man, I’ve been cornering like there’s no tomorrow all year! I have to totally agree on the high marks it received. Also, I’m running a HRII in the rear, so I guess I have two of the all-time-best tires covered.

    • mongwolf

      I’ve tried a variety of Specialized tires and also the Nevegals (old and new). I guess it’s time to step over and give the Maxxis a try — the DHF in front and HRII in the rear. I’ve been considering this for while. In Specialized I had settled with the Butcher Grid in front and have liked that tire a lot. So I think jumping over to the DHF shouldn’t produce too much surprise. On the rear I currently have the newer Nevegal (but not the XPro). When I bought the tire, I put it on front at first and hated it, but once on the rear, it shines imo — very consistent and good follower. The biggest issue with it – and it’s a big issue – is that I couldn’t get it to set up tubeless and neither could a couple of mechanics. So I’m running tubeless in front and tubes in the rear this season. Yuck. I’ll be really happy to get out of the rear tubes next year.

  • mongwolf

    Does anyone have experience with both the Butcher and DHF as front tires? They are so similar it seems with the Butch being a copy cat essentially — at least in the tread pattern. As I mentioned above I am running a Butcher Grid in front right now and like it. But I think I’ll give the DHF a try next.

  • Joel DH

    Um…Where, the heck, is Specialized on this list? This is a list of the most popular tires, not necessarily the best. To determine the best, look at the tires DH racers are riding. Then again, everybody seems to have their own definition on what a good tire is. Some prefer speed, others grip, some mud clearance. One would have to decide which factor is the most important in a tire, and then test many different tires to assess the capability of each product. Only then will we have the true “best” tire.
    One of my personal favorites is the Specialized Captain tire. It rarely “steers” me wrong.

    • Aaron Chamberlain

      Okay let’s do that. Here are the results from the 2016 World Cup Elite Men by tire:

      Round 1:
      1. Maxxis
      2. Maxxis
      3. Maxxis

      Round 2:
      1. Specialized
      2. Specialized
      3. Hutchinson

      Round 3:
      1. Maxxis
      2. Maxxis
      3. Maxxis

      Round 4:
      1. Maxxis
      2. Specialized
      3. Specialized

      Round 5:
      1. Maxxis
      2. Maxxis
      3. Maxxis

      Round 6:
      1. Maxxis
      2. Maxxis
      3. Specialized

      Round 7:
      1. Maxxis
      2. Maxxis
      3. Specialized

      World Championships:
      1. Maxxis
      2. Maxxis
      3. Schwalbe

      Final tally:
      Maxxis – 16 podium spots (67% of the time)
      Specialized – 6 podium spots (25% of the time)
      Hutchinson – 1 podium spot (4.2% of the time)
      Schwalbe – 1 podium spot (4.2% of the time)

      So, even by your criteria, Maxxis comes out on top.

    • Greg Heil

      Hahaha yes!

    • Joel DH

      You got me. You have exposed my Specialized bias. I think (gasp!) I may try a Maxxis tire. We shall see…

    • Deeperrin

      Think the author was going for a more XC list and not a DH comparison or there wold be more Specialized on the list.

    • Aaron Chamberlain

      The operative words here are READERS’ CHOICE. This has nothing to do with the author’s opinion on tires. And no, it’s not a DH comparison either.

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