How to pick an MTB tire, sizing, surfaces

So I just picked-up a somewhat unique bike, Scalpel SE2. I say it’s unique because it’s 120/115mm, super high bottom bracket, super short wheelbase, steeper head-tube angle. After really enjoying bombing down big stuff with 20mm more travel than I’m accustomed to, I realized this bike performs extremely well at climbing up rocky/rooted big stuff.

My other MTB is a 100/100mm Top Fuel and I race on 2.25” Vittoria Mezcal tires. I like that tire because it always feels hooked-up in the front, that is super important to me or I won’t trust the bike.

My Scalpel came with a 2.5”/2.25” Ardent front and rear and that front tire isn’t super positive with traction feel, doesn’t feel planted initially until the front tire slides a couple inches. I’ve been thinking about putting either Mezcal or Barzo, front and rear, not sure to do 2.6” front or 2.35 front and rear. I don’t understand the relationships or trade-offs between tread compound and knob size. Do I want those knobs to climb up the rocky stuff or do I want more contact patch for that? I am sure rocks and sand need different stuff.

I usually ride in the Dallas area, travel to El Paso, Albuquerque, Austin, and Little Rock frequently. I was thinking I’d use the Ardent in the desert and sandy soils, something else in Arkansas and some of Dallas.

I’m surprised that you find the Ardent sketchy relative to Mezcal. Could it be just how the new bike feels?

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Highly likely.

I noticed when I went from an Ikon to the Saguaro and then to the Mezcal that the front tire felt more and and more planted initially.

@Jonathan needs to weigh in given his tire nerd skills

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What’s the internal rim width on your wheels? I wouldn’t go with a 2.6" tire up front unless your running 30mm internal width or wider wheels.

FWIW, a lot of people don’t like the Ardent and find it to feel a little sketchy, so if you aren’t digging it, you certainly wouldn’t be alone. It might be more aggressive tread than you’re looking for up front, but I really like the Maxxis Rekon (Front)/Ikon (Rear) combo. I primarily ride the Front Range in Colorado, so dry with lots of kitty litter. Honestly though, if you like the Mezcals on your other bike for the terrain you ride, it seems reasonable to me to try them on the Scalpel.

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Nice bikes!

I ride all sorts of terrain and have tried loads of the Maxxis tyres to date.

For XCM racing I like my Fox 100m SC forks and carbon hoops with a 2.35 Ardent race up front. (120 TPI, eco 3c max speed and all that jazz). 2.2 Ikon on the rear.

If I’m playing around and exploring trails I use a cheaper set of wheels that have an Ardent on the rear and a Minnion DHF up front.
I also have a fox 34 120mm travel fork for this arrangement if I’m going to leave it that way for awhile. From memory that fork will only take a 2.5 tyre before it scrubs.

To be honest I’ve found I get used to either setup really quickly and adjust my riding to suit without thinking. The only time I ever miss chunky tyres is on rainforest type trails and on really sharp rocks. The large knobs are the only way to get any grip on slimy roots/leaf litter and they’re less likely to puncture IME.

For the relatively low cost of tyres I think you’d be mad not to try a few different combos out until you find one (or several) that you like.

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Did you try the tires off your other bike?

26mm internal. Sorrry to leave that off, kind of essential.

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Also, if this is a 2.25" in the rear, is going to a 2.35" back there a bad idea?
I’ll get real measurements when I get home and have the calipers.

No because I expect differing needs from the different terrain and style of riding.

You might be able to squeeze a 2.35 in there. Do you really need it though?
I like a 2.35 up front, but don’t feel the need for one on the rear.
Another thing that has happened on my old hardtail is that a fat chunky tyre on the back drags crap through the alluminium frame occasionally. I tend to use that bike as a spare for mates that want to tag along and need all the grip they can get. If it was my fancy carbon bike I’d cry every time I heard a rock getting dragged through.

Check out the “MTB podcast” that Jonathan also hosts, I don’t recall the episode but they cover the different types of tread and the terrain that each would be good for. Worldwide Cyclery has a youtube channel and one of the episodes does a nice job covering tires as well.
The Ardent Race is allegedly better than the Ardent. I’ve ridden the Ardent previously before going to the Mezcal and now Aspen. I’m in NJ so it is mostly hardpack w/ some sand and both those tires are great…i’m also racing so I want low rolling resistance. However, my current bike has a Purgatory up front and I think the Grid (maybe) in the rear. Those suckers will climb over anything that is wet (and they some major tread for that purpose). I like them a lot as they really bite into the trail. I’ll switch them out eventually but fun for now.

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I’m sorry for reviving an old thread but I need to have a couple of questions answered.

I got my new bikes with Maxxis Ardent Race 2.25’’ front and Maxxis Ikons 2.2’’ back. Now I’ve been racing Schwalbe Rocket Ron front and Racing Ralph rear during 2018, switched to Vittoria Barzo front/rear during winter 2018/2019 then went to race Schwalbe Racing Ray front and Racing Ralph rear during 2019.

I really liked the Barzo’s even though they were 2.1’’ during winter. Great grip and not specially heavy weight, I believe they were 660g or maybe 680g. Compared to Rocket Rons they’re much better imho.

I haven’t tried out the Maxxis tyres yet but have just now converted them to tubeless and compared to my half year used Barzo’s the knobs look similar if not equal but the tyres themselves look incredible more voluminous. We have a loot of roots and mud here in the southern part of Sweden where I ride but riding Nobby Nic or something heavier than Rocket Ron isn’t really a great option.

I did order Vittoria Barzo / Vittoria Peyote 2.25’’ in their new 4C compound graphene 2.0+ or whatever but they’re heavy! Around 725g for Peyote and 748g for Barzo. Maxxis were 740g for Ardent Race and 680g for Ikon.

I’m just wondering if anyone has opinions on what I should switch to or try? I’m satisfied with Schwalbe’s even though they wear out fast and sidewalls get amazingly scuffed. But I’m always looking to try out new stuff and improve so can anyone give me their insights? Greatly appreciated.