Table of Contents
- How to decide what tires you need?
- Tire Tread
- Figure 1: Vitoria Mazza tire tread vs Continental Cross king tread
- Compound: Soft vs Hard
- Figure 2: Tire construction – Credit Maxxis.
- Figure 3 : Maxxis Assegai
- Figure 4 : Maxxis Aspen – XC Tire
- What To Look For When Choosing A New MTB Tyre?
Among all the upgrades you can perform on a bike, tires are one of the few options that can completely transform your ride. Through all the inputs you perform on the bike, your tires are the only thing connecting you to the ground. So, let’s look at how your choice of tire can influence your ride.
No matter what tire brand you pick from, there are certain contributing factors for how the tire will feel and ride. At a glance these are:
- Tread pattern
With all these options, there are going to trade-offs in performance. To choose the best tire, you need to think about:
- What type of terrain you are most likely going to be riding
- How you like to ride – xc, downhill, enduro.
Are you riding for distance, trying to clock up huge miles on some nice smooth single tracks, or are you looking to spend most of your time on the gnarliest of downhills? While having all various tire options may cause a headache, they do allow you to get more from your ride!
How to decide what tires you need?
Start with the basics
Wheel size and width. Tires may be limited to certain sizes so filter out the tires that do not fit your bike. The width of a tire is related to grip, the wider the tire that larger the contact patch. Typically, tires will be in the region between 2.35”-2.5”, but we are already seeing brands move closer to 2.6”. Depending on your type of riding, you may want to ride with a slightly narrower tire on the rear to reduce rolling resistance and a wider tire on the front to maintain grip. Or, if you are building you race machine designed specifically to tackle downhills, you may way want wide tires front and rear to help with grip for turning and braking. It’s all about striking the balance you need.
Figure 1: Vitoria Mazza tire tread vs Continental Cross king tread
The tread of the tire relates to the extruded knobs on the surface of the tire. In the most simplest of terms, the higher the knobs are, the more they will grip the ground. For example, on the Vitoria Mazza we can see how tall and aggressive the tire knobs are compared to the smaller and shallower knobs on the Continental Cross King. In short, the more grip you have, the slower your rolling speed is. This is why it is so important to find a tread that offers what you need.
If you are cycling in a straight line, your tires are on the centre of the tread. Some tires will have a shallower tread in the centre to improve rolling speed for when you are up right and traveling in a straight line, but have larger side knobs for the support and grip you need when cornering. Typically, downhill and enduro tires will have very aggressive tread designs to offer as much grip as possible, but since enduro encompasses a lot of climbs, riders will often look for a slightly faster rolling tire on the rear.
Compound: Soft vs Hard
A softer rubber will offer you more grip, however it will have a slower rolling speed and wear faster. On the contrast, a harder rubber compound will provide more rolling speed and it won’t wear as fast, but it will offer less grip.
However there are many more factors at play. When we look at just the compound, we have chemical grip, mechanical grip and shore hardness. These options are often limited to picking from ‘soft’, ‘medium’ and ‘hard’. These options are essentially relating to how hard or soft the rubber is. i.e the shore hardness.
Just like choosing your compound, every brand has its’ own ‘brand specific’ carcass or compound to choose from. This can make it very hard to choose as each brand adds to an ever ending list of what is available on the market. However, once you understand the basic characteristics of the different type of carcasses available, it makes choosing them far easier. Gather an understanding for the way tyre carcasses are constructed and how they effect your ride and you’ll have a far better understanding for what you want for your ride.
Figure 2: Tire construction – Credit Maxxis.
We will look at the various features that create the body of the tire i.e the carcass.
- Bead: This is the band that fits tightly to the rim, available as a ‘wire bead’ or ‘folding bead’. As the name suggests a folding bead means the tire can be folded, which makes shipping the tires far easier, where as a ‘wire bead’ cannot, but a much tougher construction.
- Carcass / Casing: Available in different levels of protection, the casing is described by measuring the TPI (Threads Per Inch) and the layers of protection that it has.
- Puncture protection: Built into the casing of the tire, a rubber membrane is used to protect the integrity of the tire and reduce the chances of a puncture caused by a tear or pinch.
- Sidewall: As the name suggests, this relates to the sides of the tire, where they often have a different construction to the centre portion of the carcass. The side walls are often very exposed to punctures, so reinforcements are often built into the sidewalls.
The carcass has a very strong correlation with the weight of a tire. Rule of thumb, the heavier the tire, the stronger the carcass (typically!). For cross country a much lighter tire and carcass is more preferable where as for downhill, a much heavier carcass is typically used to offer more protection.
Selecting your tyre
Even with an understanding for the different aspects of a tire, it can still be somewhat overwhelming when it comes to choosing a tire with so many options available. Here we will look at two different tires for two different disciplines and how you go about choosing which one you need:
- Maxxis Assagai, 29”, Double Down casing, 3cMaxxgrip compound. At a glance this can look very confusing, but we will help break it down and see what this tire is intended for.
Figure 3 : Maxxis Assegai
- Assegai tread– aggressive tread with a use case for enduro and downhill. Slow rolling, but very high level of grip.
- Double Down casing – a dual ply casing designed for maximum protection. Intended for downhill and enduro.
- 3CMaxxgrip – this relates to compound and is Maxxis’s softest compound available, designed for enduro and downhill.
In summary this is one of their most aggressive tires, designed for downhill and enduro riders.
2. Now to take a look at the opposite end of the scale, for someone who is looking for rolling speed and a lightweight tire combination. Maxxis Aspen, 29” EXO Protection, Tubeless Ready.
Figure 4 : Maxxis Aspen – XC Tire
Breaking down the characteristics of this tire we have:
- Aspen – Super fast rolling tread design
- Protection casing – Maxxis’s lightest casing option with added side wall protection.
- Tubeless ready – This tire is compatible with a tubeless setup.
In short, this is a cross country tire with speed and weight as the main characteristics that you are looking to optimise. There isn’t a choice in compound for this tire, but it offers a dual compound, meaning they use a softer and harder compound for the side and centre regions of the tire.
Within the tire market, there are a range of tire brands that you can choose from. Here are some brands that you can look to begin with searching:
What To Look For When Choosing A New MTB Tyre?
The tire market has endless options to choose from and can be quite an ordeal to get what you want, especially in the beginning, but in time you will appreciate the options we all have to choose from. Tires are one of the main upgrades you can affordably make to completely transform your ride.