What's the fastest mtb tire in 2.4 (ish)-2.6 size?

I’ve used the race kings only for marathon rides. The Powerline and Columbine descents in the LT100 were a little scary for sure!

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I went over the bars at the top of powerline in training on the same setup, and wanted to blame the tires, but the wheel stopped, because of my lack of skill, any tire would have stopped in the hole I drove into. Thankfully I rode away with only a broken inner bar end and scratched elbow. I have lost the front tire in loose over hard while aggressively turning, it doesn’t forgive when leaned over. The Race Kings climb anything though, as long as you have the power to keep turning the pedals.

Excellent question! It’s because I believe (but am not sure) that wider tires are faster. This is a pretty good article on it…

If I can find a supple casing and small knob wider tire options I think it would be faster. But it’ll have to actually test faster for me to “know” vs. “believe”. I have a 2.6" Mezcal on order now.


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Many of us want to “know” your results too. I look forward to your posting!

There is no simple, conclusive answer to this.

I don’t think measuring rolling resistance the way you do for road tires makes any sense with mountain bike tires. It is clear that a Nobby Nick has more rolling resistance than a Racing Ralph, but depending on terrain and purpose, a Nobby Nick could still lead to faster race times. Plus, you add the possibility of running a mullet setup to the mix and tire choice becomes difficult.

And rolling resistance does not include other important characteristics like performance under braking. E. g. I found that all Maxxis tires I have tested perform much worse under braking than equivalent Schwalbe tires. I also like roundish tires more than squarish tires like Maxxis TreadLite (which are no longer made).

Yet another aspect is how wide the range of application is. Maxxis TreadLite are great tires, but have an extremely narrow range of application. If you are outside of that, your performance deteriorates significantly. So if you know that your race is dry, dusty and not super technical (or you have the technical chops to compensate for less grip), these are great tires. But if it rains the day before, you should better change tires.

Personally, my attitude is to stick with two, three tires you like. My poison is a combination of Racing Ralphs (front), Racing Rays (rear) and Nobby Nicks. I always wanted to try Thunderburts for the rear, too. I like riding a mullet setup, e. g. a faster Racing Ray in the rear and a grippier Nobby Nick in the front. Although a Racing Ralph isn’t bad by any means.

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I would say that by all means experiment yourself, but having tried the 2.6 Mezcal’s I felt they weren’t as fast as the 2.35 due to the added weight and no noticeable increase in rolling speed. I’d almost guess they’d be slower rolling as the felt more sure footed.

2.35 - 2.4 is really where I find the sweet spot of the XC tyres when balancing speed and float.

You should check in on the XC tyre thread as that is essentially this discussion.

I’ve very much wanted to try the Continental tyres, but I haven’t found the right size and tread combo yet.

I will add that I’ve just installed my Thunder Burt on my rear race wheel and it is well undersized. Eyeballing it, it’s more like a 2.25. I am going to ride it a few times before I decide, but I’m nervous about giving up both volume and grip over the Ralph.

I assume you are aware and just have the names backwards, but the Ray is the front specific pattern, and the Ralph the rear (though some racers do run Ralph front and rear on very non-technical terrain). The Ray/Ralph combo is almost always my go to. I’m going to order a Wicked Will to add to my quiver, then I’ll have almost every corner covered with Will Front, or Ray Front, and Ralph rear, or Burt rear.

Please let us know how you like the Ray/Thunderburt combo. I’m currently running Ardent Race/Ikon and have a feeling I could get a bit more speed with the Schwalbe setup.

Which casings are you running, Super Ground or Super Race and why?

Now that’s crazy, I’m running exactly that, the ardent race front and ikon rear with the EXO casings. And found them to be 30 seconds slower for the same power on a 14 minute lap. So if you have the EXO casings…yeah there are faster options for sure.


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Just a (not so) quick comment on feel…I did some laps on a hardtail (specialized epic HT) and trail bike (canyon spectral) Because…I like riding the big bike but it’s 8#'s heavier and squishy and “feels slow” and when I’m with the guys I need every advantage I can get, right?

I used the same wheels to take that out of the equation and got the data below. In summary, ave time on the HT was 13:59 on 171 watts, ave time on the spectral was 14:00 on 177 watts.

You might say “yeah but the power meters were different” … which they were. So I ran a 5 minute steady state on the smart trainer, got the same power. Then I ran 5 minutes of 15s on and 15s off and the HT meter read 3 watts lower. So maybe you could say the HT power meter runs just a tiny bit lower than the spectral powermeter…let’s say 1-2 watts making the adjusted power 173 vs. 177 for the same time (within 1 second anyway). This isn’t much, probably well within the margin of error.

So summary? While the spectral feels WAY SLOWER, it’s not much slower at all. That’s why I just can’t trust “how a tire feels”.

Cornering is kinda that way too. When I had the stock DHF/Dissector combo, I was a cornering maniac! Or maybe it was that I was going to slowly that the corners just felt easier.

I don’t trust feel! And, after actually doing some actual testing, sometimes I don’t trust tests either!



Yeah, I have the EXO version. They came as standard with the bike (Orbea Oiz) so I’m probably going to swicth em out.

Can’t really decide which version of the Racing Ray/Thunder Burt I should get. The Super Race, or Super Ground. The race probably has a more supple carcass, so less rolling resistance. And seeing as I mostly just ride flowy single track with minimal rocks and an odd root here or there, they should hold up well.


Will do. I’m not going to ride those tyres for a couple of weeks but I’ve installed them to stretch while I’m away.

I went SuperRace, mostly for the tan wall (I can now understand why Jonathan doesn’t like tan walls as the Maxxis tan walls are not as nice as the other brands). I was happy though as they are my race tyres and all the Super series ones have the Snakeskin protection now.

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I’m not so sure you can use your data here to determine that trail tyres are as fast (or faster) than the XC ones. I think there’s a sweet spot for grip versus rolling speed.

Running a super grippy front tyre with a fast rolling rear is a pretty normal thing and is actually very fast as it gives more confidence and still reduces the rolling resistance on the rear which is much more impactful.

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Absolutely and as the rear wheel is weighted more than the front, the fast rolling rear should have an outsized impact so I’m with you that a fast rear and grippy front seems like the way to go.


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I like how the Ray is a front specific pattern that rolls well and has better cornering grip. Similar to the Barzo.

Faster than a Nobby

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Victoria Terreno dry as the rear? 2.1” I think

Yes, sorry about that, I always get them mixed up.

Out of curiosity, has Schwalbe phased out the Thunderburts? I can’t find them on Schwalbe’s site any longer. I was curious whether they had a wider variant. And let us know how you like them. :slight_smile:

uhhh, so do you think this means that suspension might actually make people faster, all other things equal? (bias warning, I think it does)

but seriously, when you say “feels WAY SLOWER,” does it take more effort, or is it just cushy like fancy suspension in a luxury car and more comfortable?

They still have them as far as I’m aware. At least they are still available to order.

2.35 is the largest (which is what I have) but it’s looking a smidge small.

I’ll report back with how I find it.

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AFAIK on most terrain and the longer you go a modern fully is going to be faster than a hardtail.

Are you sure the Super Race also has Snakeskin?

According to below link only the Super Ground and up have Snakeskin: