Weird Tire Selection Question - MTB used mostly on road

so I got a dual suspension mountain bike and use it as my do-it-all gravel bike (i’m just more comfy on it and just like it).

  • 80%+ of my riding is on road commuting to work, and maybe 18% on gravel, and 2% on slightly rougher stuff.
  • I don’t wanna mess around with wheel changes as I have a road bike when I know conditions are A-OK
  • I choose the mountain bike in bad weather or when I am carrying stuff (I commute to work so sometimes bring in lunch or clothes)
  • I am not racing so I am ok sacrificing some road speed to keep mountain with knobs on there (so not interested in things like schwalbe with really tiny knobs). So if it’s a matter of saving 1 minute per hour, I would prefer the safest tires for all conditions. I just have no idea what the spread is on these.

I don’t really understand tread / knob patterns. Rene Herse marketing basically is saying you never need those side knobs on gravel or road because by the time you use them you’re too far leaned. and they are claiming their knobs are flatter and faster rolling on the road. but if i’m running into wet gravel I don’t wanna be wiping out - especially being as over-biked as I am.

so I have it narrowed to these 3:

  • Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge TC Tire
  • Maxxis Rekon Race
  • Continental Race King

wondering if anyone has experience with these / thoughts for my situation?

thank you for any input!

ETA: my wheels

Reynolds BLACKLABEL 309/289 XC PRO

•Outer Rim Width - Front: 35.5mm | Rear: 33.5mm
•Internal Rim Width - Front: 30mm | Rear: 28mm
•Rim Depth: 21mm
•Rim Material: Carbon Fiber
•Rim Construction: Hookless tire bead, tubeless-ready, Mountain Rim 5 (MR5)

If you’re riding 80% or more on the road and only ~2% on MTB terrain, I’d go with the Rene Herse Antelope Hill. You probably won’t find a faster rolling tire than that.

I’m in a similar boat. I mostly ride a hardtail and have sold several bikes in the past year. I spend most of my time doing long rides that connect the 50-mile paved trail, scenic roads (50/50 paved and gravel), and local MTB trailheads. Since I’m spending a decent amount of time on singletrack, I’m using Maxxis Aspens, which are really light and fast rolling for a MTB tire.

I do wish I had a second set of wheels with those Rene Herse tires, though, for the days when I plan to stick to the bike path/roads. Living where I do, I really don’t think I need more than a fast XC hardtail, and the slick 2.2s would be really fun to have on hand. :racing_car:


I’d second the fat, fast, slick option.

The deal with knobs is they need something to bite into to make a difference. Rubber knobs are not going to penetrate pavement. It hurts, not helps. Same thing with very hard packed dirt, though less so. A fine tread might help a tad, but I’d be perfectly happy with a slick.

Same with gravel. It’s not really going to offer much lateral resistance…It will just move sideways under your tire if you lean hard enough.

Knobs are AMAZING in softer dirt. Basically if you can see your tread pattern in the ground behind you, knobs are making a massive difference. If not…they probably arent doing much if anything.

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I’ve two wheelsets for my drop bar MTB bike, Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.2" for when I’m doing a lot of rough stuff and Contiental Ultrasport 28mm for everything else. The mtb tyres with knobs are much more dangerous at high speed on wet tarmac than the road slicks are on gravel.

Basically as per the other replies I’ll 3rd the fat, fast, slick option.

Schwalbe Thunder Burts are really hard to beat in both rolling resistance and in off-road capability. I’ve ridden all winter so far with a set of 2.35" Burts on my Epic EVO and aside from when actually riding muddy trails, those things are awesome!

I’d go with a narrower tire with the focus on road/gravel. Just because you are on a mtb frame doesn’t mean you need to run mtb tire sizes. I know the trend is “wider is better”, but I can’t see any upside to going bigger than a 45-50mm gravel tire unless your gravel is really chunky. I do a bunch of mixed surface training on my FS mtb (w/ a bunch on the road) and will typically run my leftover gravel tires. Much better fit for road/gravel and fine for most singletrack. A 47mm pathfinder would be my choice for road/gravel.

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Mezcal is a durable fast tire that will have long tread life and the knobs don’t roll on pavement like something with taller knobs would. They aren’t particularly big, so 2.35 is probably the way to go. I ride it on snow and ice to lots of tarmac, and it’s pretty solid.


I just did a test run of Maxxis Ramblers (50mm/2") on my MTB. They are fast as long as you’re not trying to shread with some heavy lean angle

I ran rambler 45’s on my XC bike the last couple years doing training leading into leadville. Good on gravel, OK on single track, pretty slow on pavement (but good enough to hang with local group ride). They used to be my go-to gravel tire, so I’d run them into the ground as a training tire on the MTB once their gravel life was over. Pathfinder faster and wears better on road and smooth gravel, rambler better on the dirt/mud where knobs help.

You won’t find many applicable and mixed-terrain versatile tires which are faster than the Continental Race King you already found out or the Schwalbe Thunder Burt.

Especially not any gravel tire with similar (or weaker) robustness than these two. I know and see it also here in this thread again that people propose narrower gravel tires like Maxxis Ramblers or whatnot. Seemingly thinking because they are narrower and pure “Gravel” tires they must somehow be faster. They are not. For most, they are not even lighter than a Conti Race King in 2.2 inch.

So in a way you can have your cake and eat it, too, with the Race Kings. If your bike can clear them (and yours can) there really is no reason to mount a narrower gravel tire.

Can you find a faster tire? For sure. But then you really are looking for a performance road slick. Schwalbe Pro Ones in 34 or 38 mm come to mind. Or Conti GP 5000 AS TR in 35 mm.
But then you really should mount some other wheels and would compromise on the ease and peace of mind you could ride over any road, no matter how chip sealed, pot hole ridden or otherwise bad it might be.

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Did we all just assume the MTB in question was 29" (ETRO 622 ) and not 27.5 (ETRO 584)?

he mentioned fleecer ridge. That tire is only 700x55

Hard disagree based on my experience. I’ve got many, many thousands of road and gravel miles on my MTB running 2.2 race kings and 45mm ramblers and the ramblers are noticeable faster on road and tame gravel. Before I had a gravel bike, I raced gravel on my xc MTB and did a bunch of testing on different tire setups. Race kings are at least 15 watts slower at 20+ mph on the road and (at least on my bike). And they are about 150g per tire heavier. And ramblers aren’t great on the road compared to something like a Pathfinder. I’m a big fan of race kings and use them for XCM racing, but my experience (based on powermeter and speed) makes it very clear to me that they are much slower than a rambler on the road. I can hang on a fast group ride on the road with ramblers, I have a very hard time when I’ve got the race kings on. Gravel can depend on the chunk-factor, but ramblers are still noticeably faster on most courses. The OP is 80% on the road, I see no upside to running a 2.2 (other than MTB’s look kind of funny rocking 45’s).

I’m generally a fan of running a wider tire when in doubt, but the primary advantage of a bigger tire is ability to run lower pressure to absorb irregularities in the road/surface. If you don’t have a rough enough surface, the lower pressure of a larger tire doesn’t help and it’s just slower. Just like you wouldn’t run a 32mm pumped up to 70psi for singletrack, you wouldn’t run a 2.4 at 13psi for road riding.


Hmmm…interesting. I have a lot to learn about tires. Just assumed knobs = safer.

How will that hold up on a gravel ride? Roots, mud, grass, rocks…nothing like a single track course…i would not be cornering hard / fast - but want good braking grip if needed

If you’re commuting I would firmly consider durability and puncture resistance in this paradigm. Race kings are great. They are also race tyres - the MTB equivalent of GP5k TTs.

The whole cornering thing is that if you aren’t in mud you don’t need knobs. They are mostly window dressing for anything hard like gravel or bumpy tarmac.

Thunder burts in the heavy carcass would be ideal.for this. Maybe even something like a trail casing Vittoria mezcal.

Hmm, that’s a head scratcher.
It sounds like you are versed in riding those tires as well as using your power meter and I assume you are aware of what goes into the impression of and the all the real parameters of speed for the same watts like body position / used handlebars, wind, different surfaces etc.
And yet it’s totally different than what I see and really measured (granted - I did no 1 to 1 comparison of the Race King to the Rambler) and know from my riding. Which is confirmed by independent testing from BRR.

I could see it a wash if the tested rr (it’s measuring only hysteresis but that’s a more than valid data point for real surface rr including impedance losses) would be somewhat close. But it’s nearly day and night.

A Maxis Rambler EXO/TR 120 TPI 40 measures at 25 watts (per single tire) for appropriate pressure compared to 15.7 watts for a Conti Race King Protection 2.2" for comparable casing tension. So this makes a whopping 18 Watts difference between those two! I can’t fathom how you would come to the opposite conclusion that the ramblers would be noticeably faster. If at all - on road and tame gravel the resulting effective rr is closest to test results like from BRR.

The only reason I could imagine is, that you didn’t used the Conti Race King ProTection (the fastest of the bunch) but a budget or a very old version? E.g. if your experiences stem from the 2014 Race King Race Sport. This would measure at 22.4. Or the 2015 Race King Performance (26 Watts) or the current Race King Performance Shieldwall (24.9 Watts).

If you have ridden those (and honestly I can’t think you have otherwise) than at least it would have been a wash with both tires at the same (really bad) rolling resistance. But even then I have a hard time that you could say that one tire would be “noticable” faster. Strange.


sorry yes it’s 29"

Reynolds BLACKLABEL 309/289 XC PRO

•Outer Rim Width - Front: 35.5mm | Rear: 33.5mm
•Internal Rim Width - Front: 30mm | Rear: 28mm
•Rim Depth: 21mm
•Rim Material: Carbon Fiber
•Rim Construction: Hookless tire bead, tubeless-ready, Mountain Rim 5 (MR5)

A wider tire costs more aero watts at higher speeds. Wider can certainly be faster at slower speeds on rough terrain but it will cost you on smooth, fast dirt/tarmac sections. Horses for courses…choose wisely.

Yes, that’s true.
But then: he’s on a full sus bike with at least the suspension fork as additional drag and then on box rims he just described in the previous post. While I’m an aero weenie myself in this case I would happily say that the additional drag of the tires frontal area is most negligible.

It would swing a bit in favor of narrower tires if said narrower tires would be mounted on an effective aero rim.

I did tests and actually ran the numbers of exactly this because I wanted to know if and by how much a drop bar MTB would be faster or slower then a Gravel Bike with a) Schwalbe Pro One 34-622 slicks and b) Schwalbe G-One R 40-622.

What’s faster: Drop-bar MTB vs Gravel bike? – It’s all about the tires! – Torsten Frank . : : . – Das Blog Caution: Nerd and detailed text warning applies :wink:

Bottomline: Aero Matters always and you are faster on the gravel bike with the Pro Ones from 20 km/h onwards. But that also depends mostly on your body position.
With the G-One R gravel tires it’s harder - because they are slower than the Conti Race Kings. So you have to over compensate the rr disadvantage of the gravel bike with it’s better aerodynamics. All the way not having the “gains” of comfort, confidence, grip, traction as the dropbar MTB has. So the OP really has a point in wanting to use his full sus for all the riding he wants to do with it.

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Yeah but don’t forget that’d because ramblers are garbage (most consumer available maxxis tyres are - with respect to rr that is!)

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