How to choose mountain bike tires

Mountain bike tyres for singletrack lovers, full-face fanatics and everyone in between

Cross country bike tyres

Ultra-fast-rolling cross country bike tyres are built around a tread design that strikes a balance of rolling speed and traction and are ready to dominate the race course or crush the driest, dustiest trails.

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Trail and enduro bike tyres

Trail and enduro bike tyres are built around a stronger, more durable tyre casing with an aggressive tread that provides incredible traction and cornering performance on loose, rocky trails whether they’re wet or dry.

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Downhill bike tyres

Downhill bike tyres are built with a tough multi-layer casing to give incredible durability, braking control and traction at high speed over aggressive, loose, rocky terrain whether it’s wet or dry.

Choosing the right tyres for your mountain bike is crucial to riding your best out on the trails, but with so many options out there, choosing the right pair can seem overwhelming. But worry not! Bontrager has a tyre offering that’s perfect for your riding style and the trail conditions in your area. Watch the video below, follow this simple guide, and you’ll be riding more confidently in no time!

More traction or faster rolling?

The first step in finding the right set of tyres is deciding how much tread you need. Tread determines how much traction a tyre provides, but there are trade-offs to picking a meatier option. The key is finding the pattern that provides sufficient grip for your local trails while also considering rolling resistance and weight.

Bontrager offers 6 different mountain bike tread options, which follow a simple naming structure of 1-6. Lower numbers indicate lighter, fast-rolling treads best suited for hard-pack courses. As the number increases, the tyre will have progressively larger knobs to hook up in loose terrain and provide more traction, but rolling resistance and weight both go up as a trade-off.

1 – Legendary World Cup speed

Ultra-fast rolling cross country tread ready to dominate the race course or crush the driest, dustiest trails.

2 – Roll fast with greater grip

Strikes a balance for versatility. Fast enough for dedicated cross country riders but with enough tread to take on more trails. Excels on loose over hardpack.

3 – Versatile, any-trail traction

All-around option for any trail. If you plan on riding a variety of conditions and need a tyre that can handle both dusty days and light mud, this is the tread for you.

4 – Excels on loose, chunky terrain

An aggressive tread that provides incredible traction and cornering performance on loose, rocky trails whether they’re wet or dry.

5 – Rugged enduro grip, rain or shine

Deep tread designed specifically for aggressive traction in wet, rugged trail conditions.

6 – Aggressive traction in any conditions

Our most aggressively treaded tyre delivers confident traction in all trail or weather conditions.

Durability vs weight:
How do you ride?

Bontrager offers two ranges of tyres for cross country, trail, and enduro riders: XR and SE. While tread choice is primarily driven by the conditions you’ll be riding in, considering the way you ride will allow you to choose between Bontrager’s XR or SE line-up.

The main differences between XR and SE come down to durability and weight. SE tyres are beefier, with added puncture protection as well as more robust sidewalls, but they are slightly heavier as a result.

Downhill riders and racers will want a tyre from our G line. These tyres are built for incredible traction and braking control on the gnarliest runs, and feature Bontrager’s most robust casing and anti-flat tech.

XR with Inner Strength Casing

XR tyres are designed for cross country and general trail riding. This range covers the widest variety of riding styles and terrain profiles, so if you’re looking for ultimate versatility, XR is the best option. XR Team Issue tyres are Tubeless Ready, with an Inner Strength Casing that features woven nylon sidewall inserts mated to a single ply construction to maximize durability for most riders while still providing a supple, lightweight tyre with great ride feel

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SE with Core Strength Casing

SE tyres feature Core Strength Casing, which offers additional puncture protection via a nylon sub-tread insert and more robust sidewall inserts. This makes SE a solid choice for aggressive riders who tend to ride on rocky trails or appreciate the support of a more robust sidewall while cornering at speed. They are perfect for enduro racing and the aggressive rider looking for a tyre that can stand up to the most rugged trail conditions

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G with Dual Ply Casing

G tyres are designed for downhill riding and feature our Dual-Ply multi-layer casing that adds the stability and support necessary for heavy-duty tyres. An added butyl layer helps prevent flats, and gravity-specific rubber compounds maximise traction and durability on even the harshest trails. Our G-Spike tyre is perfect for wet and muddy trails, and has beefy tread spikes that are trimmable to suit the day’s conditions.

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Traction and compliance versus weight and precision

Now that you’ve selected the ideal tread and construction for the way you ride, the next consideration is width. Bontrager offers XR and SE mountain bike tyres ranging from 2.0 - 3.0˝ wide, with a wide range of choices in between.

As with tread, the question comes down to traction versus weight. Wider tyres grip better, and let you run lower tyre pressures for a smoother ride over rough terrain, but they weigh a little more and can feel less precise in rough terrain. The best way to find the width that works best for you is to try a variety of options, but these profiles are a good place to start.


Cross country racing on rims up to 30 mm inner width

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General trail riding on rims up to 30 mm inner width

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All varieties of trail riding on midfat rims around 40 mm rims

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Diameter matters

Make sure that you choose a tyre that matches your wheel’s diameter. Your options are 26”, 27.5” and 29” – most tyres will have the diameter printed on the side.

Wider tyres, less pressure

Remember to adjust tyre pressure as you adjust tyre width. Personal preference plays a large role here, but wider tyres tend to have more overall volume and perform better at slightly lower pressures.

Be confident in your decision

There are a lot of options out there, but by taking it one step at a time, starting with tread, then considering construction, and finishing at tyre size, you will find the right tyre for you. Luckily, you don’t need to worry much about making the wrong decision thanks to our U