Mountain Bike Tire Combinations for Hard Pack Conditions

Tire choice can be the difference between frustration, enjoyment, or through-the-roof stoke on any mountain bike ride. With a myriad of tread patterns and casings available for every condition you’ll ever ride through, how do you ensure your tires aren’t holding you back from maximum trail fun?

If you haven’t read our blog post on front and rear tire combinations, give it a look. It presents a quick overview of how tires are expected to perform and offers several pairings we like for all around use.

For this installment of our tire guide series, we focus on combinations that work for hardpack conditions. Generally, firm dirt calls for short, or at least ramped knobs. This minimizes rolling resistance, and reduces squirming, as taller knobs won’t be able to dig into the hard earth.Screen shot 2014-09-30 at 12.20.04 PM

Different disciplines will also call for different hardpack tread combos. Cross-Country racers can often get away with the same minimal-tread tire front and rear as decreasing rolling resistance is more important than any other factor. Traditionally, front tires place an emphasis on cornering control and traction in turns, which sacrifices rolling speed.

Trail/All-Mountain/Enduro riders require higher levels of cornering traction, so front tires with stouter, grippier knobs are acceptable, but still stop short of aggressive knobs designed to dig into softer soil.

Finally, since downhill racers rarely encounter true hardpack conditions over an entire track, tread designs have to be a bit more versatile. Knobs must be aggressive enough to grab softer dirt, but adequately ramped for low rolling resistance, while being stable enough for control in high-speed corners.

Cross-Country

  • Choose the thinnest casing for both tires
  • Choose widths from 1.9″ to 2.1″

Front

Rear

Geax AKA

Geax AKA

Kenda Slant Six

Kenda Slant Six

Maxxis Ikon

Maxxis Ikon

Continental Race King

Continental Race King

Schwalbe Racing Ralph

Schwalbe Thunder Burt

WTB Nine Line Bee Line

WTB Nine Line Bee Line

Trail/All-Mountain/Enduro

  • Usually, this style of tire would require a medium-reinforcement casing, but for true hardpack conditions without rocks, the extra weight isn’t necessary, although higher pressure will be required
  • Choose widths around 2.3″

Front

Rear

Maxxis Ardent

Maxxis Ikon

Mavic Crossmax Quest

Mavic Crossmax Roam

Schwalbe Rocket Ron

Schwalbe Rock Razor

WTB Trail Boss

WTB Trail Boss

Downhill

  • Choose EVO (Schwalbe) or EXO (Maxxis) casings for lighter weight
  • Super Gravity (Schwalbe) or 2-Ply DH (Maxxis) casings are usually not necessary for true hard packed dirt

Front

Rear

Maxxis Minion DHR II

Maxxis High Roller II

Schwalbe Hans Dampf

Schwalbe Rock Razor

 

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