How to Pick Mountain Bike Tires

Here's a guide on what tires to choose for your mountain bike.


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    Check the measurements of your wheels. The two most common wheel sizes are 26 and 29 inch. If the bike already has tires, you can check their measurements and buy similar tires.
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    Decide between using clincher or tubular tires. Both require different rims. Clincher tires have a bead which hooks onto the inside of the rim. Tubular tires are glued onto a specially designed rim.
    • Clincher tires are the most widely available.
    • Tubular tires are slightly lighter and stronger.
    • Tubular tires have a smaller chance of getting pitch flats.
    • When getting a flat tire at high speed, a tubular tire will not roll off the rim as long the tire is glued on properly.
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    Decide between using tubed or tubeless tires. Solid tires are also used, but much less commonly. Tubed tires have an inner tube, tubeless tires don't. A tubeless tire has a bead which hooks onto the rim, preventing air from escaping.
    • Tubed tires are the most common.
    • A tubeless tire with a small hole will gently deflate while a tubed tire may burst like a balloon, leading to loss of control.
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    Use knobby, wide tires for muddy surfaces. There are lots of tires available with varying amounts of knob sizes, knob patterns and tire widths.
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    Use semi-slick tires for harder surfaces. The smoother center of a semi-slick tire gives good grip on hard and relatively soft surfaces while having less rolling resistance than knobby tires. The knobby edges help with cornering, allowing for more aggressive cornering. They also help a little in muddy conditions.
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    Use slick tires for asphalt. That's right, nothing is stopping you from putting completely smooth tires on your mountain bike. In fact, it's what you should do if most of your riding takes place on asphalt and hard surfaces. You don't need to have a tire pattern for asphalt because the asphalt's surface is knobby enough on it's own.
    • Having a non-slick tire is inefficient even in wet conditions as you will never be able to reach a speed under your own power to allow for hydroplaning to occur. If you lose grip with a slick tire, for example on a very smooth surface like metal or ice, you would also lose grip with basically any other tread pattern.
    • Tread only slows you down on asphalt.
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    Image titled Pick Mountain Bike Tires Step 7
    Use studded tires for ice. You could get away with semislick or knobby tires with extreme caution but to cycle effectively and safely on ice, you need studs.
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    Use knobby or semislick tires for snow. This one is up to you, both patterns have comparable performance, with the knobby tires having better grip in deeper snow and the semislick having less resistance on smoother surfaces and lighter snow.
    • In deeper snow, tire width has a massive effect on grip. Wider tires will spread the weight of the bike and rider over a larger surface, meaning the tires will not sink into the snow as much. Fatbikes have oversized tires, more than 4 wide, giving them excellent versatility.


  • When riding, it's a good idea to carry several spare tire kits in case you get a flat tire.


  • Always wear proper safety gear when cycling.

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Categories: Bicycle Tire Maintenance | Mountain Biking