There are many styles of mountain bikes, and many ways to ride each style. The best mountain bike tire will match the kind of riding you live to do, the conditions where you ride, and your personal preferences.
For cross-country riding, most mountain bikers prefer a shallower, faster rolling tread. For enduro riding, a deeper lugged tire will grip better, especially if you encounter mud. The right tire will give you the traction you need plus the durability you desire — and it won’t feel sluggish when you’re just rolling along.
Many tires come with multiple casing, sidewall and rubber compound options. For aggressive riding on technical terrain, a heavier casing tire will reduce the chance of a flat. It will also weigh more than a trail casing tire. A higher thread count tire is more supple, which will feel better rolling because it will flex naturally and conform to the terrain. Advanced rubber compounds will have better grip in a multitude of conditions, and they will also last for more miles.
Whatever tire you buy, make sure it’s sized to fit your wheel and bike frame. Most tires come in 650B/27.5" and 700c/29". Some are also available for 26" and smaller wheels. Check your bike’s specs to determine how wide you can go. Not every frame has space in the rear for the widest tires, which will feel more stable but also have more rolling resistance.
What's good right now? Here are the best I have tested lately.
Best All-Mountain Tire
Well equipped to handle most trails and conditions, Vittoria’s Agarro is like a greatest hits album of tire technology. It has provide better traction than an XC tire, but it’s less bulky than an enduro tire, with directional siped lugs for easy rolling in dry or wet conditions. Layered rubber compounds imbued with Graphene 2.0 — which fills the spaces between molecules on a microscopic level — help the tire wear well and also grip tenaciously on trail features like slippery roots and awkward rocks, whether you’re climbing, braking or ripping through loose corners. Editor's note: this tire is currently discounted at the 29x2.6 size, just $49.95.
Best Wet Weather Tire
When the roots are slick, the rocks look like they have algae growing on them, and you’re puckered by the prospect of a slide-out on a challenging line, this is the tire you want. Vittoria combines various durometers of rubber in each lug, with base, side and center lugs all specifically layered. Lug bottoms are stiffer; lug tops are softer for grip, stability and durability, and they’re stepped, ramped and siped to give them best-in-class bite climbing and descending in slippery conditions. Made by the guy who designed the celebrated Maxxis Minion, the Mazza excels in dry conditions, too.
Best Enduro Front Tire
Created with South African World Cup Champion Greg Minnaar, the aggressive-tread Assegai has tall center knobs for race-winning traction in dusty, roly-poly corners, as well as in forest loam. Named for the iron-tipped spear used by the Zulu people, this tire comes in multiple compounds and casings, including 3C MaxxGrip, a sticky and durable rubber blend that grips on technical features without bogging you down on the straightaways. There are trail and enduro casings as well as a dual-ply downhill casing designed to maintain integrity on big drops and with repeat impacts.
Best Off-Road Gravel Tire
If bash, hammer and crush are words you use when talking about how you gravel bike, this is your tire. It’s tubeless compatible and built for hard riding in rugged conditions, with confident cornering and good grip on slick surfaces. The tough sidewalls don’t pinch flat or get beaten up by muddy, rocky, rooty trails, instead conforming to the terrain for a supple feel. Specialized's Gripton rubber gives the tires hold, while big, wide-spaced knobs provide grip on soft surfaces and help you climb daunting hills. The only catch? The Rhombus comes in one just one size, 42mm wide for 700c wheels.
Best Road Gravel Tire
Quick to spin up, the stiff-casing Cinturato holds a smooth and stable line on hardpacked gravel, conquering both casual afternoon rides and multi-day tours. Because it’s so stiff, the Cinturato doesn’t mold around trail features like roots and rocks, but it's fast and straight tracking in long open stretches of true gravel. The tread has low rolling resistance for maintaining speed but is also very responsive to brakes when you need to stop quickly. It's available in both 700x40c (shown) and 700x35c sizes.
Best eBike Tire
For e-bikes, a tough casing is paramount due to the heavier weight that comes with the territory. The Magic Mary is all-around awesome in general — and in the Super Gravity casing, pedal-assist enduro riders will soar through all tracks and conditions with exceptional cornering, braking and overall grip. The tire has pronounced shoulder studs paired with angled middle studs and an aggressive, open tread that grips even when it's muddy, but it still rolls well.