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Mountain and Hybrid Bike Tire Treads

How to Pick the Right One for You

The Basics

Having the right tread pattern for your style of riding and the current road / trail conditions can increase your efficiency and improve your traction so that you can concentrate on enjoying your bike ride.  The number of variations in design is pretty amazing.  Of course, every manufacturer will tell you that there tire is the best. So how do you decide which tire is the best?  Here are some basic guidelines to follow.

Aggressive Big Tread

Aggressive looking tire treads are used primarily for off road use. Many new bikes come with this style of tread because they look as if they can ride up a wall without losing grip.  The large tire lugs or knobs often resemble a waffle iron gone berserk. The lugs are constantly interrupted and, frequently, the shape of the lugs have several levels to them.  These tires are designed to gain traction and steering control at all costs.  Rolling efficiency is not a by product of these tires.  You can ride aggressive tread patterns on  the road, but you will need more energy to keep up with someone on a slicker tire, you will wear out your tread faster (pavement is like sandpaper) and you may notice some reduction in control due to tire tread deforming under load on the hard pavement.

Dry Conditions Aggressive Tread

These tires can be identified by the close knit knobs with very little space between them. The tread can be low to the tire for better rolling efficiency or higher from the tire for better control.  These tires can be ridden in wet conditions, but they will often clog up with mud and clay making them into a slick mud / rubber wheel.

Wet / Muddy Conditions Aggressive Tread

This style of tire has large lugs that are medium to tall height with a lot of space between them.  These tires are made to get traction, but not to clog up.  The space between the knobs helps to shed any mud that has stuck to the tire.  A trick to improve your mud shedding capacity is to spray Pam cooking oil onto your tire tread. Just remember that on rocks and pavement you will lose traction.

Mixed Tread

Mixed tread tires are good for mixed conditions.  The most popular style of mixed tread tire has a connected center tread with knobby tread on the sides.  The connected center tread gives good rolling efficiency. This is because it rolls smoothly due to the lack of gaps in the tread.  The outer knobs give control and traction in softer conditions as the tire tends to sink into the trail.  You can also gain more traction and control by lowering the tire pressure so that the tire conforms more readily to the ground.  Just be aware that you will increase your chances of getting a flat tire by doing this.

Another popular mixed tread tire is the file treaded tire with knobs on the outer edges of the tire.  These tires are very popular with experienced rider because they offer great rolling efficiency and some steering control.  These tires do sacrifice some control, so they do take some time to get used to their limits.

Reverse Tread

Similar to the mixed tread, the reverse tread is used to give good rolling efficiency on hard surfaces and good traction in softer stuff.  These tires are a better road rather than off road tire, but they do hold their own for light off road use.  Gravel road riders use this style of tire frequently.

Slick Tread

If you know that you are not going to ride off of pavement, the slick mountain tread may be for you.  These tire treads give excellent rolling efficiency on road but offer little to no traction in off road situations.  You also will save some rolling weight by using a tire that has a slick tread.

Tire Width

The width of a tire also can affect the way it will perform.  Narrower tires are lighter (faster) but don't give the cushion or contact area (traction) that a wider tire does.  Full suspension bike often come with narrower tires because the mechanical pivots of the frame off set the lack of cushion and the suspension keeps the tire in touch with the ground helping with traction.

Front Specific / Rear Specific Tread

Many tires are specifically designed for either front or rear use. Front tires are typically wider than rear tires. The tread pattern gives more traction for cornering, this makes for easier steering. The knobs of front specific tires usually run the length of the tire, so that you can carve your front wheel through corners without loosing traction.

The knobs on rear specific tires usually go perpendicular to the rotating direction of the wheel. These allow you to apply full pressure to the pedals with less chance of the rear wheel slipping. Many rear specific tires can be run in either direction. One direction offers more traction, but builds up mud easily. The other direction offers slightly less traction, but the tread stays free of the mud.

If you have any questions on which is which or how to run your tires stop in to see us. We will be glad to point out the options you have, or even help you pick out new tires.

Why My Favorite Tire May Not Be Your Favorite.

Tires that work great for a friend may not be the best tire for you. Rider weight has a significant impact on tire performance. Lighter weight riders may need more tread to help traction and steering. The terrain you ride will also necessitate different style tires. Slippery rock terrain requires a smoother tread, where as loosely packed dirt requires more tread. Your riding style also will affect your choice in tires. More aggressive riders use a knobbier tread; racers typically use a smoother tread. Less skilled riders should use a wider tire for more control. 

Questions or Comments Welcome


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