What Type of MTB Tyres Should You Use in What Conditions?

By Adam Marsal

The choice of the MTB tyres often decides whether you enjoy the ride or crash on every other corner. There are many aspects to consider because tyres designed for hard ground will not work in mud and vice versa. MITAS tyres ambassador Richard Gasperotti explains the differences between the endless varieties of MTB tyres.

How can I choose just one pair of totally versatile tyres that would work best for me in any conditions?

Regarding tyres, the ground conditions and type of use are decisive for making the right choice. The wide DH tyres with big knobs will provide better traction when riding in mud and dirt, while slick tyres with only tiny knobs will roll over a flat surface with considerably smaller resistance and less pedalling effort. If I were to choose just one type of MTB tyre design, I’d choose tyres with a mushroom-shaped profile featuring medium-sized knobs made of a rather softer compound. Such tyres would run smoothly on flat and hard surface like tarmac, while still giving you satisfactory grip in terrain.

Bicycle tyre
Is there any way to find a totally versatile type of tyres? © Milos Stafek

If I have two tyres, one of which is more worn than the other – which one should I put on the front and which on the rear rim?

I’d certainly put the newer tyre on the front wheel. The front tyre is exposed to more strain when braking and cornering. That’s why the condition of the front tyre tread is more important for the precision of steering. If you put the worn tyre to the front, you might lose control over your bike when cornering or braking. The same goes for riding two tyres, one of which is narrower than the other. The wider tyre should always run on the front wheel for better steering control.

What if I ride mainly in the city?

Again, I’d recommend a mushroom- or oval-shaped profile, yet this time made of a hard compound for lower rolling resistance. In the city, there’s no need for strong sidewalls that add a lot of weight. City riding requires light tyres with an easy-rolling tread design with only tiny knobs that will absorb the least amount of your pedalling effort. The ever more popular bike park riding consists of nailing steep trails, many jumps or wooden segments.

MTB tyre
When it comes to mountain bike tyres, the ground conditions and type of use are decisive for making the right choice.© Milos Stafek

Is there any tyre type that would help me to get over this kind of obstacles?

When choosing the right tyre, you should take into account that the bike has contact with the ground thanks to up to 4 cm2 of rubber both in the front and in the rear. Such a tiny surface must ensure sufficient grip. In the bike park, a square-shaped profile with bold cornering knobs on the sides will work best. Tyres designed for DH and bike park riding are usually made of a soft compound that won’t give you much acceleration on tough surfaces, but will give you perfect traction on inclined sections including wooden wallrides. For that kind of riding, I’d use mountain bike tyres with strong sidewalls that are tough and damage resistant.

How about wet mud after heavy rains? Is there a tyre design that will get me safely through the most fearsome conditions?

There are two basic problems when riding in mud. The mud quickly gets into the tyre pattern and sticks to the knobs. You can hardly control a bike rolling down on a pair of muddy balls instead of rubber tyres. Trails covered in gloop and muck require tyres with big knobs that will dig in the mud and hold firmly. On the other hand, wet weather tyres have fewer knobs than average tyres to enable the tread pattern to get rid of the mud by spinning and to prevent mud from getting into the pattern.

Bicycle tyre
What’s the best design for muddy terrains? © Milos Stafek

A tyre with an inner tube or a tubeless tyre?

MTB riders are divided into two groups. One of them prefers tubeless tyres that allow you to run the tyre at lower pressures, resulting in more traction and comfort. The tubeless system is also less prone to puncture as there is no tube to pinch between the rim and the obstacle, which is a very common cause of tube damage. Also, when a small puncture occurs, it can be often easily sealed with a sealant. The downside of the tubeless system is more complex service and set-up, requiring bigger initial investments. And also, if something goes really wrong, you spend a lot of time repairing it, while with the traditional tube system you just change the tube and ride off.

Do I need special tyres for my e-MTB?

As far as I know, tyre producers do not offer something like e-MTB specific tyres. On the other hand, e-MTB often wear wider tyres to cope with the heavier weight of e-motor.