Schwalbe, MAXXIS, Continental, Michelin, WTB, Kenda… The range of eMTB tires is huge and sometimes confusing. We tested over 50 tires and while we couldn't pick a clear favourite, we can give you some tips on how to find the perfect tire for you and your bike.
A word of caution before we begin: This E-MOUNTAINBIKE group test doesn't have a best in the test, nor did we pick a best tip. When it comes to tires, there are countless factors to consider that affect performance, which is why tire manufacturers offer a variety of models for different types of riders, trail conditions, and skill levels. Someone who regularly commutes to work on their eMTB has completely different requirements than an alpine adventurer who loves to tackle the toughest descents. Even if we agreed on "one" tire, it would still be the best possible compromise for versatile use. You see, there is no such thing as a perfect tire for every cyclist! Instead, we'll tell you about our favorite tires and explain how to find the right tire for you.
To keep things as simple as possible, we've divided the group test into three parts. The first part contains the basic tire information you need to know. In part two, we'll show you the four most important factors to consider when choosing your new tires. And in the last part, we suggest how to find the right tire for you. After covering the basics, we'll give you an overview of all the well-known brands. We test every tread pattern, rubber compound and casing.
All models in the test.
Click here to choose Continental
Click here to see Kenda
Click here for MAXXIS
Click here for Michelin
Click here to view Schwalbe
Click here to watch WTB
Part 1– Theory: what you need to know about tires
What tires can I mount on my eMTB?
Yes and no: there are no regulations for the tires that can be mounted on a typical eMTB (up to 25 km/h). Since it's legally classified as a regular bike, you can put any tire on it. However, the S-Pedelec regulations (up to 45 km/h) are a bit more complicated. S-Pedelec tires must be ECE-R75 certified. In addition, you will find information on the compatibility of the tires with your bike in the owner's manual.
If you're still running tubes, you're on your own
The advantages of tubeless tires are obvious: less weight, better grip, less rolling resistance and better puncture resistance. Even though installing them can be a bit tricky at times (although modern rims and tires generally make the process painless these days), almost all modern eMTB tires and rims are tubeless ready. If you're still using pipes, we havedetailed instructions for fitting tubeless tiresand we strongly recommend that you finally convert. We only ride tubeless and that's how we review all tires here.
It all depends on the tire pressure.
Correct tire pressure is essential: too high can say goodbye to comfort and grip. Too little, and handling becomes jerky and spongy, and punctures much more likely. That being said, the correct emphasis depends on personal preference, as well as countless other variables. However, we have sometips on how to find the perfect tire pressure for you and your driving style. If you're just looking for a starting point that will work in most cases, we recommend a pressure of 1.8 bar (26 psi) for 2.35" to 2.5" wide tires and a rider weight between 70 kg and 95 kg, both front and rear. For tires with a volume greater than 2.6" and above, we recommend a pressure of 1.4 bar.
Tire pressure above 2.5 bar causes serious loss of grip!
rim width ≠ rim width
How wide is too wide and how narrow is too narrow? A wider tire has a larger footprint, so it can generate more traction. Increased bulk can also lead to greater puncture protection and comfort. However, with tires wider than 2.6″, aggressive riders will have to deal with some negative cornering side effects. The handling becomes spongy and imprecise, making it difficult to maintain the fine line. At the shoulders, wider tires can sink in more easily, which has a much bigger effect on handling. Both the rim and the profile of the tire have a great influence on the actual width of the tire. Different tire widths will best suit each tire size range, and final tire size can be influenced by fitting a narrow or wide tire. You should also check the tire clearance on the frame to make sure it will actually fit. The actual width of the tire is always measured at the widest point: at the edges of the shoulders.
Don't underestimate the weight of your tires. A standalone kit will add approximately 2kg to your bike. While not much heavier than a full waterskin, the weight of the tires has a noticeable effect on handling, as the tires are part of the rotating mass of the wheels that must speed up and slow down as you pedal and brake. Although tires have a damping effect that reacts to bumps much faster than a fork, they are also part of the "unsprung" mass on the bike and therefore have a major impact on the suspension. However, a heavy tire can also have a positive effect on handling. When the going gets rough, heavy tires will help you hold your line through a rock garden or over roots, as side impacts won't knock them off balance as easily. However, there is a fine line between too heavy and too light, although we generally prefer to have a little more weight in the tires to conserve our spare tires and inner tubes.
Hard, thick casings are heavy, so many bike brands use delicate tires in their designs to reduce the weight of the bike. What a pity!
Front tires ≠ rear tires
Front tire requirements are different from rear tire requirements. On an eMTB, you want to generate as much traction as possible at the front end, while the rear end will be a compromise between enough traction to transfer engine power and rolling resistance. When it comes to puncture protection, there are also big differences. The forces on the rear wheel tend to be higher, and considering all the punctures we've had, most were in the rear; Might be worth putting on a more durable tire.
Yes, tires are expensive!
Even if you don't put new tires on every day like the pros do, spare tires add a lot to your vacation fund. The fact is that a high-quality tire is relatively expensive, but it also has a huge impact on your bike's performance on the trails. A tire is not just a consumable part; treat it as something that allows you to fine-tune your bike and its handling. Instead of carbon spacers, it is much more profitable to invest in a high-quality tire.
What are the benefits of tire inserts?
Tire inserts have made it into the top ten, and the price range for these systems is huge. The principle of operation is basically the same: the foam insert acts as a shock absorber between the rim flange and the tire during hard impacts. Thanks to this, the tire no longer hits the rim and is not so easily damaged. Other problems, such as bouncing and the consequent loss of tire pressure, can only be avoided with very few systems. We've already reviewed many of the popular tire inserts on the market, testing them on the trails and in the lab. However, we generally prefer to just put on a tire with a thicker casing. Because? The difference in weight between a tire insert and a thicker casing is usually marginal. In addition, the tires are much more durable, do not puncture as easily and provide better cornering stability.
The field of application is not fixed.
Even if the tire is designed specifically for the front or rear wheel, you don't necessarily have to follow these instructions. The Minion DHRII (Downhill Rear II) also works well up front and is a slightly narrower alternative to the bulky Minion DHF. Even Michelin's Wild Enduro front tire can provide better rear wheel traction in muddy conditions than your "intended" rear tire.
You can also freely use the tires in any condition. A mud tire is usually great in the summer when the trails are covered in a thick layer of dust. Tire manufacturers give rough guidelines as to what a tire is for, but they are not set in stone - it's up to you!
Who said a mud tire can't perform in deep dust?
How do we check so many tires?
Good things take time: no other E-MOUNTAINBIKE group event has taken us as long or involved as many riders as this one. All of our editors got involved. In the last two years we have checked about 150 bikes. That's 300 tires we've covered countless miles of trails on. This allowed us to draw on our extensive experience in evaluating tires. During every ride on our test bikes, we evaluate the features of the most popular models in all their variations.
Experience, ratings and test drives are one thing, but direct tire comparison is what really matters. During our back-to-back sessions at various bike parks, our tubeless pump was running at full capacity while we were changing tires. We focus on specific criteria and only compare select tire combinations - there's no point comparing a mud tire and a semi-slick if you're looking for the perfect all-purpose tire. What really matters is the difference between two tires for the same purpose: which ones fold too easily, which ones provide better self-cleaning, which ones won't let you down under braking, and which ones give you the most range?
By far the most common cause of tubeless tire punctures are punctures when the rim cuts into the tire when it hits an obstacle. Again, we rely on the testing experiences of all of our publishers. But since no two punctures are the same, we also test the tires for puncture resistance in the Schwalbe tire test lab – tubeless of course!
The path is not a laboratory.Driving conditions cannot be accurately reproduced on any machine.
Part 2– The four most important factors when choosing tires
Whether you're looking to convert your commuter to an all-terrain bike, planning an alpine crossover, or planning a week-long cycling vacation with your friends, if you're in the market for new tires, there are four essential things you need to do. keep in mind when searching for the "perfect" tire.
Wheels for a children's bike or a van? Of course, you need a tire with the right diameter for your wheels and you have to be careful here. Most eMTBs have 29" or 27.5" wheels, although many brands have started to combine wheel sizes by putting a 29" front wheel and a 27.5" rear wheel, which is MX, Mixed, Mullet. or DIMMIX...actually I wanted to talk about how to find the correct width tires. It should suit your tire and riding style, not to mention the clearance between the frame and fork. The wide, large-volume tire provides better "suspension" and increases comfort. Grip and puncture resistance also improve with increasing tire volume (using the same tire with different widths). However, as the width increases, the precision of the tire decreases, and if it is not supported by a matching (wide) rim, the tire will twist a lot in the corners. With a rim width of about 30mm, you can fit most tires between 2.4 and 2.6 inches wide. If the rim is narrower than 25mm internally, the maximum applicable tire width is 2.4 inches. If your tires are wider than 35mm, your tires should not be narrower than 2.6".
The casing is the foundation of your tire. It gives the tire shape and structure and significantly affects cornering stability, puncture protection and weight. First of all, you shouldn't choose a casing based on its weight, but rather based on your weight, riding style, and trail conditions. The stronger the casing, the lower the tire pressure without risking puncturing every rock and root or flexing the tire around corners. If in doubt, it's better to use a stronger casing so you don't risk damaging your new tire on the first ride.
Tire manufacturers guard the secrets of their rubber compounds like McDonald's guards the recipe for its Big Mac sauce. They have a good reason for this: while almost all rubber compounds can generate sufficient grip in the dry, there are huge differences in the performance as soon as the trails are wet. Tire manufacturers are constantly struggling to find the perfect compromise between grip, rolling resistance and durability. To achieve this, most of them are no longer based on a single rubber compound, but combine up to three different compounds with different properties. For example, a triple compound tire, that is, a tire made of three different compounds, uses the harder compound as a base to give the tire stability. The softer compound, which offers better grip but significantly less durability, has been used for the shoulder knobs. They only make contact with the ground when cornering, offering much better traction when you lean the bike into a corner. Intermediate blocks use an "intermediate" compound that reduces rolling resistance and extends tire life. As if that weren't enough, the manufacturers also offer various combinations of triple compound construction. For example, WTB keeps it simple and describes their tires as High Grip or Fast Rolling. For trail riding, we like to use the soft version with lots of grip in the front and the harder triple compound in the rear for less rolling resistance and more range. Tires with just one or two rubber compounds are usually a bit cheaper, making them a particularly good rear alternative if you want to lighten your wallet a bit.
The tread pattern is the distinguishing feature of each tire and has a major impact on handling. The tread has three sections: the intermediate blocks that affect rolling resistance and grip under braking; side studs that provide the necessary grip when cornering, and transition studs between the center and the side studs. They provide a transition between the center and shoulder blocks and provide traction when you rest the bike fully against the shoulder of the tire. There are countless tread variants in terms of block spacing, shape, and size. When choosing the right tread, special attention should be paid to the road conditions. On soft, moist soil, you should choose an "open" pattern with large bumps and large gaps between them. Thanks to this, the tread is not clogged with mud, and the blocks dig deep into soft ground. If you're looking for a tire that rolls fast and won't twist on hard rock slabs and berms or drain your battery, you need a more "closed" tread.
part 3– How to choose the right tire
The best starting point for finding the right tire or front/rear wheel combination is your current setup. Now it's your turn to troubleshoot: analyze how your tires are performing on the road, where they are working well and where they are not, and consider the last time you had a flat tire. Here are some tips to get rid of tire problems:
I want to increase my rank
Do you want to go further and climb even higher? The range of your eMTB depends on countless variables and factors that are well beyond the scope of this article. However, your tires also affect the range of your eMTB. Rolling resistance largely depends on the tread pattern and the rubber compound of the tyre. The hard compound rolls faster, and since you only use the center tread on level ground, you can go ahead and choose a triple compound tire with a hard compound in the middle and a soft compound on the shoulder knobs. This way you can ride faster and still benefit from the soft compound's increased grip in the corners. As for the tread pattern, a semi-slick tire with small center knobs on the rear wheel will roll much faster. The resulting compromise in grip is generally only worth it on very hard, hard packed terrain. Loss of grip can also kill your range - if you continue to spin, a slower rolling, more grippy tire may be more effective. Larger knobby tires may also roll well if the tread is too tight. A good example of this is the MAXXIS Aggressor.
Flattened punctures are like the snake bites you got from your tire tubes. A hard landing or impact causes the tire to get caught between a rock (or other road obstacle) and puncture the tire in two places: at the edge and between the center and shoulder blocks. If, despite using high-pressure tyres, you experience flattening on a regular basis, the casing is too thin for your weight, driving style and routes. A temporary solution is to increase the tire pressure further. In the long run, though, you should stick with a thicker case (like Schwalbe's Super Gravity instead of Snakeskin). If you only have occasional punctures on your rear wheel and are otherwise happy with your tires and they are still new, it may make sense to fit a tire insert.
Good dry grip, but no wet grip
As soon as it starts to rain, the demands on the tires change very quickly. Of course, you can't expect the same level of performance on wet roots and rocks as you can on dry pavement, but you don't have to give up losing traction entirely. Check the tire while driving in wet conditions to see if it is clogged with mud. If the tread is not cleaned effectively, you will hardly be able to make out the tread pattern in all the mud. In this case, a more open layout with a large gap between the knobs would make sense. Good examples of this are Magic Mary Schwalbe, WTB Verdict Wet, and Shorty MAXXIS.
When it gets wet, you'll be able to quickly tell the good rubber compounds from the bad. Only the most delicate rubber compounds find support on wet roots. Try a soft compound on the front and a medium compound on the rear wheel in the wet winter months. This way you reduce the risk of front wheel skidding and can still keep up with your peers on climbs.
cut side wall
Tire sidewalls can be cut relatively easily, especially on very rocky tracks. One of the most common causes is a rim that is too wide or a tire that is too narrow. If the sidewalls of the tire extend wider than the shoulder blocks, they are much more vulnerable and prone to being cut by rocks at an angle to the road and any other sharp objects. Solution: put a wider tire. The carcass of a tire also determines how easily its sidewalls can be cut. A higher TPI (threads per inch) casing can mean better cut protection, although this rule of thumb doesn't apply to very expensive Cross Country tires that are over 120 TPI. Some tires also have a cut resistant layer built into the casing, such as the EXO casing used by MAXXIS.
There is no one tire that is right for everyone, but everyone can find a tire that is right for them.
In high-grip corners and embankments, the enormous lateral forces acting on the tire can tear the tire bead from the rim, opening a small gap between the rim and the tire and causing a loud "burp" as the air escapes. In addition to pressure loss, other telltale signs of burping include tubeless sealant residue on the sidewall and rims of the tire. Kickback is especially likely on tracks with many banks. You can simply add a little more air to your tires for these trails, but if that's still a problem, or you managed to literally push the tire off the rim, you'll need a thicker casing. If the problem persists, the burp may also be caused by an improper rim and tire combination. If you have a wide tire on a very narrow rim, the tire will not have enough support.
Editors' Choice: What tires do we use?
Trev Worsey, 78 kg, Scotland: 15° and drizzle: a beautiful Scottish day in August. To maintain control on our steep and wet trails, I put a mud tire on the front. The knobs on the MAXXIS Shorty aren't as aggressive as some and they still roll pretty well on climbs. Our climbs are very long and steep, so I put a HighRoller II on the rear wheel, which has good self-cleaning properties and rolls fast enough.
Manne Schmitt, 87 kg:, Stuttgart: As a pensioner, I have nothing to prove. When riding an eMTB, experience matters, not a timer. I appreciate the grip and comfort offered by the large 2.6” to 2.8” tires. Schwalbe's 2.6" Magic Mary is very wide and gives me the comfort and grip I need, whatever the terrain.
petirrojo schmitt, 71 kg, Stuttgart: I love the different wheel sizes. The agility and play of a small wheel in the rear combined with the "monster truck" characteristics of the 29" in the front is a perfect match. After the last few tests, I opted for a slightly narrower rear end, as it still offers more than enough grip and the handling is more precise and agile I prefer the 2.6-inch MAXXIS Minion DHRII in the rear and the 2.5-inch WT Assegai in the front.
Cristobal Bayer, 87 kg, Alpine Office: For years my favorite front and rear tire was the 2.4-inch MAXXIS Minion DHRII. However, Michelin's super-grippy Enduro combo is slowly taking its place. The front tire gives you great traction and the rear tire allows you to take corners when you want. Super fast and clean fun! The 2.6-inch E-Wild seems a bit fuzzy in the corners.
Félix Stix, 92 kg, Stuttgart: Wait and load, my driving style is not clean. Thin-walled tires have an average life of 5 minutes on the road. Besides trails, I encounter a lot of paved roads on my daily commute, so I like to ride the WTB TrailBoss with a "tough" chassis in the rear. At the front I have Vigilante "High-Grip" which gives me grip in the wet.
All models in the test.
If you've made it this far: congratulations! You are now a tire expert. On the following pages we give you an overview of the different tires in our large group test. We've tested every profile, rubber compound and casing so you can find the best fit for your needs.
Click here to choose Continental
Click here to see Kenda
Click here for MAXXIS
Click here for Michelin
Click here to view Schwalbe
Click here to watch WTB
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Words:Félix StixPhotos:E-MOUNTAINBIKE Team