How To Pick The Right Tires For Your Mountain Bike

Tires have a very significant impact on the performance of your bike and thus different tires can profoundly change your riding experience! Therefore it is well worth your time having a look at the different options and figuring out what suits you best!
The KAP sani2c Adventure and Race are a few weeks away in mid-may with the nonstop version just after that in June, and you better be wise about your choice of tire at an event such as this in order to balance speed, puncture protection and traction.

Preparing For sani2c – Picking The Right Tires

Tire Tread

When it comes to tire tread, you are generally weighing up faster rolling properties against increased traction. In the context of marathon riding, the obvious bias is towards faster rolling tires because let’s face it, you’re tired and aren’t really trying to push the limits of human performance in the corners! Faster rolling tires have a lower profile centre tread and often low profile cornering knobs as well.

How To Pick The Right Tires For Your Mountain Bike
Fast rolling tread has low profile knobs! Great for top end speed but not as effective under braking and cornering.

This type of tread won’t perform as well under braking and cornering as a more aggressively treaded tire but the trade off is usually good for marathon riding. If you are familiar with and not fond of having your front tire sliding out from underneath you then it could be worth going for a tread pattern that is a touch more aggressive on the front wheel.

Threads Per Inch (TPI)

An interesting factor to consider in tire selection is TPI or Threads Per Inch. This is usually a number ranging from 60 to 120 and means absolutely nothing to most of us. Here is the gist of it. Lower thread counts typically means thicker threads which make for a stiffer casing with a bit more puncture protection. Higher thread counts (±120) which use thinner threads typically make for a more supple casing that has a lower rolling resistance. This is ideal for a marathon event such as the KAP sani2c where the trails are well kept and not very rough.

How To Pick The Right Tires For Your Mountain Bike
With tons of single track on the KAP sani2c, getting the right tires on your bike is paramount.

Tire Width

Let’s take a look at tire width. 2.4 and 2.5 inch tires are increasingly popular at marathon races. Their larger volumes make for better puncture protection and lower pressures that allow the tire to conform to the trail and reduce rolling resistance. Going for 2.4 or 2.5 inch tires is almost a no brainer if your rim width is 25mm or wider and your frame / fork have the clearance necessary! These wider tires with lower pressures also have the benefit of better braking and cornering traction. More detail on the technical side of those skills here.

How To Pick The Right Tires For Your Mountain Bike
Higher volume tires allow for a lower tire pressure that lets the tire conform to the ground for reduced rolling resistance.

Tire Pressure

On tire pressures, we’ve mentioned that lower pressure in your tires means reduce rolling resistance on rough terrain so if you’re prone to pumping up your mountain bike tires like they’re going to go on your road bike, you might what to rather leave some of that air in the atmosphere.

At 80kg I ride 21 psi in the front and 25 psi in the rear on 2.5 inch marathon tires (21 psi = 1.45 bar / 25 psi = 1.7 bar). Pressures from there should go up with increased rider weight and narrower tire width or down with decreased rider weight and wider tires (though not many people will be on anything wider than 2.5 inch).

How To Pick The Right Tires For Your Mountain Bike
Having the right tires on your bike can really do wonders for you riding experience. It can take some time to get the right setup but the end result is so worth it.

It takes a bit of work to find the ideal pressure for yourself. If the tire is rolling over while cornering then you’ve gone too low.

When To Get New Tires

If your tires are looking worn out or are aged from too many days in the sun (or years in the garage) fresh rubber is highly recommended. Likewise if your tread is heavily worn down. There are a hoard of marathon tire options out there from Kenda, Maxxis, Hutchinson, Schwalbe, and so on. Chat to mates you can trust or your local bike shop. Pick a brand and model and then be irrationally dogmatic about them being the best. Pop those fast rolling tires on and get out there!

Stay tuned for more content over the coming weeks. See you on the trails.

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