MTB Tires Really Effect Your Ride, Control and Confidence!

Wow, I have posted on the importance of good tires before, but after a weekend on a rental bike with tires very similar to the ones used by many of our xc racing students I have to discuss this again! I had not been on tires like this in years so I forgot how bad they really are! Is lower rolling resistance worth losing 25-50% of your control? On fast, non-technical race courses it may be, but at the Jungle Habit and Ringwood, NJ trails this weekend it was not worth it.

These WTB Tires rolled fast but did not get much grip!

The small (in height and thickness) knobs provided little rolling resistance, but squirmed on rocks (because they flexed, a lot) and didn’t climb or corner well. I would only use these tires on a bike path (or maybe an easy xc race trail involving no skill).

If you are looking for a confidence inspiring tire that will hook up, study what the best downhill racers are using in your area and buy similar tires (if you are worried about weight get the single ply versions, if you hate flatting, like increased control and don’t mind extra weight (double the tire weight) use downhill, double ply tires.  Tall knobs work well on softer surfaces like the loomy trails in the Pacific Northwest and in mud. The more hard packed the surface (as in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and much of California) a medium to low height knob with a lot of surface area (blocky knobs instead of skinny knobs) as these tires will put more rubber on the ground (as the surface is too hard for the knobs to push into the ground) and the big surface area keeps the knobs from flexing (flexing makes the tires squirm). My personal favorite tire for Colorado, Utah, Arizona and California is the Maxxis High Roller.

 

The High Roller!

Notice how thick the knobs are! These tires are also Greg Minnaar’s favorite tires. Greg says that they roll fast for an aggressive tire and they are very predictable. Specialized, Kenda and Schwalbe all make excellent tires, do your research and find the ones made for your trail conditions.

Tires also come in different rubber hardness, the harder the rubber the faster they roll and the longer they last. The softer the rubber the better traction they have but they roll slower and where quicker. Many manufacturers offer dual and triple compound tires where the center, rolling knobs that get the most wear are a harder compound than the cornering knobs (which get less use but are vital to cornering control). Tire hardness is measured in Durometer, the higher the number the harder the rubber. Most tires range in Durometer from 42 to 70. 70 durometer tires feel almost like plastic and slide easily, but roll fast. 42 durometer tires are favored by downhill racers but wear really quickly and roll slow, most tires will fall in between. Better, more expensive tires often will have a dual compound of around 55 for the center knobs and 45 for the side. Dual and triple compound tires are my favorite for xc use as they hook up almost as well as a downhill tire, but roll a little faster and last longer.

Tire pressure also greatly effects your ride. Lower pressure hooks up better, smooths out the trail a bit and rolls faster than higher pressure so go lower. For more info on tires check out my older post on this:

http://betterride.net/blog/2010/another-thing-you-can-buy-and-instantly-have-more-bike-control/

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19 replies
  1. Todd says:

    Wow….High Rollers? I ride all the trails on the front range and just pulled my High Rollers off after 6-7 rides. There was a ton of wear and the center knobs were almost gone. I’m running the UST 26×21.

    The Maxxis ADVantage seems to work well in CO as well as the Kenda Nevegal.

    My two cents…

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Todd,

      Yep, High Rollers, the winning-est tires in downhill racing history! When I climb trails like Morrison Slide at Red Rocks I need all the traction I can get! Although I haven’t run a 2.1 tire in years, especially in Maxxis as a Maxxis 2.1 is more like a 1.8, I bought one years ago and that tire stinks, I understand your dislike of it. Try the 2.5′s they will roll much faster and be much more fun than the 2.1′s. Do they even make the 2.1s in the 3C or 42A durometer? The Maxxis ADVantage is a good tire too, doesn’t corner quite as well as a High Roller but rolls faster.

      Reply
  2. Don says:

    I ride trails in the southeast where trails are probably similar to those in the Pacific NW: primarily loamy with rocks and lots of roots. What tire would you suggest?

    Reply
  3. Brete says:

    I ride 2.5 Minions and love them. 3C dhf on the front and 60a dhf on the back. Surprised they go unmentioned in your article.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Brete, Minions are good tires, this was never meant to be a list of every tire on the market, just a reminder of their importance. I linked to a much more detailed tire article I wrote a few years ago I learned from a few racers like Greg Minnaar that High Rollers are better for skilled riders as they have a very predictable release when they let go. Minions actually allow you a hair more lean angle before they let go but once they let go you are done, no saving the slide.

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  4. Terry Jones says:

    Gene, I completely respect your opinion on all things bike related. I moved to Colorado (from Florida) about 6 weeks ago and have ridden Apex twice and Lair of the Bear twice. I currently run FR 3 (team issue) on my steed and was surprised at how much more the High Rollers weigh. I am already struggling with stamina trying to make it uphill. Won’t this extra weight just make it more difficult?

    BTW, I will be seeing you in Lakewood in September at your Betterride camp!

    Terry

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Terry,

      The double wall High Rollers I use weigh twice what a normal xc tire weighs. They definitely require more effort to climb a steep hill put allow me to run much lower tire pressure than xc tires (even less than than a good tubeless system) giving much more control and steep loose and/or technical climbs and allow me to descend much faster. Not the set up for everyone. I am not worried about how fast I climb, I am more concerned with being able to ride every section of trail (like the wooden stairs on Dakota Ridge!) and rail corners.

      Create your best ride yet,

      Gene

      Reply
  5. Scott says:

    Hi Gene,

    How do the High Rollers compare to the Nevegals? I have Nevegals and love how they corner and love the confidence I feel over rough stuff, but they feel so much heavier than other tires I have owned. I don’t feel I am able to accelerate or climb as fast with them for instance. Are High Rollers any lighter?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Scott,

      I like the cornering, rubber compound and rolling of the High roller much more than the Nevegals. I doubt the High Rollers are any lighter though. This obsession with weight has to stop!:) Seriously, there is almost always a trade off between weight and control. Unless one races xc I don’t understand all the gram counting.

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  6. terry jones says:

    Okay Gene, I am reading you loud and clear. The obsession with the gram counting needs to take second place to proper equipment for the ride and the control. I was looking at it from the point of just struggling up Lair of the Bear and Apex .I have to stop and rest while others just go on by. I was worried that a heavier tire would make it that much more difficult. I see where you are coming from though and I value your opinion greatly. I will certainly try to make each ride my best ride yet!

    Thank you!

    Reply
  7. Brete says:

    Good info, Gene. I didn’t know that about Minions vs High Rollers. I think the HRs have a more round profile, which would explain the difference in drift.

    Reply
  8. terry jones says:

    Absolute, total confusion. Stopped by the LBS yesterday to pick up a shorter stem and Maxxis High Rollers. Person (who seemed knowledgeable) told me that Maxxis HR should only go on the rear of the bike and the bigger tire should be up front (which he recommended be something else). He guided me away from Maxxis to Specialized and WTB (have not bought anything yet). Any advice here anyone?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Thanks, was wondering about the grammar rule for the use of affect and effect! Thanks for stating it so simply!

      Reply
  9. flugmann says:

    I started out in 1991 with the Smoke and the Dart and I always seem to like tires similar to theese. The worst tires I bought were Green michelin hybrids back in 98. Fast on pavement, but no traction on dirt and dont get the side knobs wet, unless you want to eat pavement.

    Reply
  10. Dave D. says:

    Gene,

    I am looking on the Maxxis site, and it looks like the High Roller only comes in 26in sizes. Any recommendations for Colorado Western Slope 29er riders?

    Reply
  11. Bicycle Motard says:

    What would be a good tire for all around use? I live in SE Tennessee and use my MTB to ride on both the trails as well as the road. I might ride 30 miles one day on the road, then turn around the next day and ride 12 miles on mixed steep terrain with hard pack covered by loose small gravel, to loamy trails covered with pine needles, to long wet muddy sections of roots and rocks. I’m currently using Schwalbe Nobby Nic’s and they seem to hook up pretty good but are there better tires out there for the riding I do?

    For what it’s worth, here’s how I determine when to use affect vs. effect: I look at it kind of like a ‘future and past ‘ thing.
    Affect = what actions or influences are GOING to do, cause, or produce in the future.
    Effect = the results of what the actions or influences was previously taken or committed in the past DID, caused, or produced.
    E.g. Having the correct MTB tires will AFFECT your ride by providing control and confidence which makes riding fun! But, the EFFECT of riding with poor crappy tires was crashing, and crashing sucks!

    Reply
  12. Mark V says:

    Wow…REALLY? I ran the High Rollers on my Cannondale and I ALWAYS had traction and confidence issues on steep climbs. Loose conditions quite often took me off the bike. My Colorado trails demand a more aggressive center-line tread, in both pattern AND size. I switched to the Kenda Nevegal and I believe that I have found a PERFECT Colorado, all-mountain tire! I now run these on a Devinci Dixon XP and, given the up-to-date geometry design, these tires are the prescription for the varied surfaces that are found in my state. I think the Maxxis tires referrenced are OK if you happen to be HIGHLY skilled out of the gate, but really, my opinion is that they are a poor choice for weekend warriors and novice riders.

    Reply

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