How to choose mountain bike tires

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

Choosing the right tires 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 tire offering that’s perfect for your riding style and the trail conditions in your area. Watch the video below and follow this simple guide, and you’ll be riding more confidently in no time!

Cross-country tires

Ultra-fast-rolling cross-country bike tires 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.

Shop XC tires

Trail bike tires

Tires built for trail riding dial in versatility, with great traction for varied terrain, tough casings for obstacles in the way, and a light enough construction that they won’t bog you down on long climbs to the top.

Shop trail tires

Enduro tires

Enduro bike tires are built on a stronger, more durable tire casing with aggressive tread that can handle loose, rocky trails, whether the dirt is bone-dry or wet.

Shop enduro tires

Downhill tires

Downhill bike tires 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.

Shop downhill tires

More traction or faster rolling?

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

There are four new Bontrager mountain bike tread options, each bearing the name of a location that inspired its tread pattern and design.


A lightweight cross-country race tire named for the World Cup Course in Andorra, Vallnord delivers speed and grip for ultra-hardpacked dirt.

Shop Vallnord tires


Get speed and grip for mixed, rooty, rocky, and even wet XC race conditions with Sainte-Anne – named for the rugged World Cup XC course in Quebec.

Shop Sainte-Anne tires


Giving a nod to a Colorado town nestled outside Black Canyon National Park, Montrose is a fast-rolling trail tire that delivers speed, grip, and durability for mostly hardpacked dirt.

Shop Montrose tires


Get versatile trail riding grip with Gunnison. Tread, sidewall, and pinch-cut protection make Gunnison ready for rougher terrain found in the high deserts of the Colorado Rockies.

Shop Gunnison tires

Durability vs. weight
How do you ride?

Bontrager offers three constructions – XR, XT and G. 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 XR, XT, and G constructions.

The main differences between XR and XT come down to durability and weight. XT tires are beefier, with added puncture protection and more robust sidewalls, but they scale in slightly heavier as a result. For riders with fewer flat worries and a hankering for the lightest tires, XR is the best choice. For riders looking for the most durable option that's ready for the rowdiest terrain, G with Dual Ply construction is the way to go.

XR construction

XR is a lightweight, fast-rolling XC construction that adds a layer of high-strength square-woven nylon fabric to the sidewalls. This maximizes durability without compromising a supple, light tire with a great ride feel.

Shop XR tires

XT construction

XT is a tough trail construction that takes things further by wrapping high-strength square-woven nylon from bead-to-bead for all-over protection. A butyl apex insert is added to the bead area to reduce pinch-flats, making this the ideal option for aggressive riders looking for a tire that holds its own on super rugged trails.

Shop XT tires

G with Dual Ply casing

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

Shop G tires with Dual Ply casing

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 mountain bike tires ranging from 2.0 – 4.5˝ wide, with a huge range of choices in between.

As with tread, the question comes down to traction versus weight. Wider tires grip better, and let you run lower tire 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.

Diameter matters

Most mountain bike tires fall under three sizes – 26˝, 27.5˝, or 29˝, with the exception of kids’ mountain bikes that may use 20 – 26˝ wheels. Make sure to choose a tire that matches your wheel’s diameter – most tires will have their diameter printed on the side.

Wider tires, less pressure

Remember to adjust tire pressure as you adjust tire width. Personal preference plays a large role here, but wider tires 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 tire size, you will find the right tire for you. Luckily, you don’t need to worry much about making the wrong decision thanks to our Unconditional Bontrager Guarantee.

Our tires build strong kids

$1 from the sale of every Bontrager mountain bike tire supports the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. NICA is one of the fastest-growing high school sports in the country, and Trek is proud to support their efforts to provide opportunities for all American youth to build stong body, mind, and character through mountain biking.