Mountain Bike Tyre Guide

Mountain Bike tyres provide the only contact that you and your bike will have with the ground that you are travelling across, and with mountain biking taking place over incredibly varied terrain as well as very changeable weather conditions, it’s essential that your mountain bike tyre performs for you and the type of riding that you are doing.

In this guide, we look at the different elements of a mountain bike tyre, as well as the different choices you can make, to ensure you buy the right tyre for your needs.

Mountain Bike Tyre Sizes

A range of different mountain bike tyre sizes are available, and for most mountain bikers the size they will buy will be the same size of tyre that is already on the bike. As a rule of thumb, a wider tyre provides more grip, as they have a greater surface area in contact with the ground. Thinner tyres have a lower rolling resistance, which means they allow the rider to ride quicker.

Sizes also vary in the diameter of the wheel, with tyres starting at 26 inch running up to 29 inch in diameter. A 29 inch wheel is quicker than a 27.5 inch wheel. A larger tyre, although having increased drag will roll quicker because more of the tyre is in contact with the ground.

Mountain Bike Tread Patterns

The tread pattern of a mountain bike tyre is one of the most important elements of your mountain bike setup. There are two main types of mountain bike tread patterns, tyres with lower rolling resistance will have a lower tread profile with blocks set closer together - these less aggressive tyres provide plenty of grip on hard surfaces, as well as a lower rolling resistance meaning that you can ride faster.

More aggressive mountain bike tyres will have a higher and more spaced out tread pattern, which is designed to grip through mud whilst clearing the mud from the tread pattern - allowing more forward momentum in the slippery stuff.

Although the above tread patterns make a massive impact, there are not many recreational riders who change tyres due to the seasons and riding conditions, that’s normally left to the racers. Typically, a good all round mountain bike tyre will suffice for most riders, throughout the year - providing the right balance between a low rolling resistance and an ability to get through the muddy stuff.

Mountain Bike Tyre Compounds

Much in the same way that rubber compounds make a difference in the performance of car tyres, they also make a difference in mountain bike tyre performance. The rubber of a mountain bike tyre is important for so many different reasons, and mountain bike tyres need to be able to conform to the ground they ride over.

Softer rubber compounds provide a greater rolling resistance, but are the tyre choice for events such as downhill racing. Harder rubber compounds provide a lower rolling resistance, so are faster and are a better choice for longer distance riders.

As with most mountain bike tyre choices, there is a sensible middle ground which combines different tyre compounds to provide an all round good tyre for all uses. Harder compounds are used in the centre of a mountain bike tyre for durability, with softer compounds being used on the sides of the tyre for improved cornering and gripping performance.

Many tyres also combine synthetic and natural compounds to provide optimum performance.

Tubeless Mountain Bike Tyres

Riders thinking about upgrading mountain bike tyres will do well to consider ‘going tubeless’ as part of an upgrade. Tubeless mountain bike tyres provide unrivalled protection against punctures and flat tyres - and the entire mountain bike industry is very quickly adapting to tubeless tyres being standard on mountain bikes. 

As well as being able to fix punctures easier when out mountain biking with a tubeless tyre, tubeless tyres have another big advantage. They can be run on much lower tyre pressures, as the risk of pinch punctures is greatly reduced. 

Weight Saving Mountain Bike Tyres

In the quest for lighter and faster mountain bikes, the mountain bike tyre industry has also contributed to providing weight saving mountain bike tyres. Heavier mountain bike tyres can certainly be felt in how they slow down accelerating and uphill performance, with the lightest of mountain bike tyres being known as ‘Folding Tyres’ folding tyres have a kevlar bead instead of a steel beed, which means no loss in strength, with plenty of weight savings to enjoy. 

Mountain Bike Tyre Pressures

Running the right tyre pressure in your mountain bike tyres is massively important, and one of the simplest ways to boost your performance. Although there is no one size fits all tyre pressure to run - optimum tyre pressures depend upon the weight of the trider, the surface you are riding on and your riding style. 

Mountain Bike Tyres need to be soft enough to be able to handle the lumps and bumps from off road use, whilst also being firm enough that you cannot damage your rims when on rough terrain. 

Downhill riding requires lower tyre pressures for more grip, and downhill mountain bike tyres have reinforced sides to protect the rim and the tyre during lower pressure riding. Typically mountain bike riders will run between 20-40 psi - with lighter riders benefiting from lower tyre pressures, and heavier riders benefiting from higher tyre pressures. 

Mountain Bike Tyres Online

At Westbrook Cycles, we stock and supply a complete range of mountain bike tyres available to order online. You can browse via tyre size and your tyre requirements, and if you have any questions about which tyres you should run on your mountain bike, please get in touch and we will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.