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Do MTB Tires Matter? (Explained for Beginners)

When I was choosing new MTB tires for my bike I realized that there are a lot of tire options on the market and there is a big price gap between them.

Mountain bike tires matter a lot because tire size, width, tread, and materials all make a difference depending on the type of ride and the terrain you are on. Different types of rides and riding styles require different types of tires, and that’s why mountain bike tires really matter.

What you need to know is that every component on your mountain bike matters in every sense. This, of course, includes your mountain bike tires, which do make a difference in a lot of different aspects.

Do MTB tires make a difference?

Muddy MTB tire

Those who are still starting out often overlook the tires because they are yet to realize what different mountain bike tires tend to do depending on the ride or terrain.

Yes, of course, the tires on your mountain bike make a very big difference when it comes to your riding experience. And the reason why this is such is that different types of tires tend to have different sizes and characteristics that can affect the way you ride.

Here are the things you need to know:

1. Tire size

The size of your tires depends on the size of your bike’s wheel. This means that you won’t be able to easily choose a bike tire unless you change the mountain bike’s wheels. The most common tire sizes are 26, 27.5, or 29.

So, basically, the bigger the diameter of the tire, the more ground it will be able to cover. But you should know that the size of the tires is not the only factor that can affect your speed and the ground you will be able to cover in a certain span of time.

2. Tire width

Different mountain bike tires can also have different widths depending on your needs and personal preferences. This is where it gets interesting because different tire widths can affect your ride more than your tire size. 

The width of the tires you should be used should depend on the type of ride you go on:

  • Cross country (XC): 1.9 to 2.25 inches
  • Downhill: 2.4 to 2.5 inches
  • Trail or Enduro: 2.25 to 2.6 inches

So, the reason why the tire width matters when it comes to different rides is that they provide more stability. For example, because how cross-country mountain biking doesn’t require the same kind of stability on a comparatively flatter and smoother surface compared to downhill or trail biking, thinner tires can be more than enough.

On the other hand, because it can be dangerous to use thinner bikes on rough downhill or trail terrains, you need a bike that’s wider because how the extra width provides more stability without making the bike feel heavy and slow.

3. Material

Every mountain bike tire brand makes use of its own rubber compound when manufacturing its tires. And what you need to know is that the rubber compound your tires are made of can affect the way your ride feels. Also, most tire companies reveal the durometer, which is the measure of the firmness, of their tires. 

Mountain bike tires that are lower on the durometer scale or are below 60 tend to be the softer tires. As such, this leads to tires that have a better grip on the surface you are on. But these tires are slower and are more likely to wear out.

On the other hand, tires that are higher up on the durometer scale or are more than 60 are more likely to roll faster because they are more resistant due to their harder rubber material. But you won’t be able to rely too much on the grip of rubber tires that are harder even though they may be faster and more durable.

Do different treads on MTB tires make a difference?

MTB tires

Another factor that we failed to mention previously but is also just as important as any factor when it comes to your mountain bike tires’ performance is the treads. In short, yes, different treads do make a difference when it comes to your mountain bike and how it performs in certain instances and terrain.

The easiest way to explain what treads are is that these are the different patterns or knobs or lugs found on the surface of mountain bike tires. These are not simply there for aesthetic purposes because the treads really do serve an important purpose depending on the lugs.

  • When the lugs are spaced farther apart, they are better for grounds or terrains that are softer. That’s because it will be easier for the tires to release the muck due to how spacious the lugs are.
  • The more closely spaced the lugs on the bike tires are, the more likely they are to have a modest grip. However, because of the lower rolling resistance, these tires are better built for speed.
  • Meanwhile, lugs that are ramped or are slanting to the rear are capable of lowering the rolling resistance so that the bike can go faster.
  • Side lugs are the bigger type of lugs that are capable of improving the grips in the corners of the bike’s tires.
  • Smaller lugs are great for harder surfaces that don’t require your bike tires to have a firm grip. This is why they are better for terrains that are smoother, harder, and have fewer obstacles.

Do plus-size tires make a difference?

Plus-size tires are mountain bike tires that are over 2.8 inches wide. Because of the very fact that these tires can go over 3 inches or even 4 inches, they are certainly heavier than most other tires. 

Consequently, the bike will feel heavier and more difficult to move due to the heavier tires. The heavier plus-size tires will also make the bike less reactive. 

But, because they are bigger and wider, they provide more grip and traction on the terrain. As such, plus-size tires are better when it comes to stability.

However, there are some downsides that some trail and downhill riders would feel are not worth it when it comes to plus-size tires. For one, these tires require a higher air pressure on tougher surfaces to minimize the chances of going flat. However, when the air pressure is higher on a tire, the traction and grip are negatively affected.

On the other hand, they do go well on trails that aren’t too tough as long as you hit the air pressure right. They offer more stability and traction in that regard. But don’t expect them to excel when it comes to speed. This is why you don’t see plus-size tires very often in the biggest competitions and stages.

But, if you are simply looking to have fun and get a good workout, then you would certainly enjoy using plus-size mountain bike tires on trails that aren’t too rough. 

Conclusion

The tires you put on your bike make a huge difference.

The tires could make or break your experience, and that’s why they matter just as much as any of the components on your bike. As such, make sure you make a more informed decision when choosing a good mountain bike tire.

I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.