I don’t really have a strong opinion on this, because I don’t ride my mtb often enough, but I think it’s a difficult question because so much depends on the conditions. I think in general you would find a tyre that works well for the terrain, and then maybe use a version with a harder compound and more sidewall/puncture protection as a training/just riding tyre. For pure XC races, you could then swap to a lighter version of that tyre. But then you increase your puncture risk during the race, so the question is if that is worth it. It would also depend on the amount of support you have during the race, and how important the lighter tyre is, at least for me. So for examply if it was very muddy and wet, but no sharp rocks, a more supple tyre with better grip might help quite a bit, while the risk from rocks is low. If it was just really rocky, the puncture risk would be higher, and you’d run higher pressures anyway, so I’d probably not swap tyres.
One thing I’d probably do before important races is to put fresh tyres on, for better grip, and to not have any small cuts etc in them, but not neccessarily different tyres.
It really does depend on where you ride. I live where we deal with wet roots and sand, but almost no rocks or thorns. I’ve had a set of tires last me for multiple years of weekend mtb without a single flat or puncture. I rode that same bike with those same tires in Boulder and I jumped off the trail a few times to go around walkers or pass oncoming traffic. I got back to my room and had at least a dozen punctures in the sidewall seeping sealant.
TLDR - I would ask locals what is best where I am riding and use those
There really isn’t much filling that gap between the XC race tires and full on Trail riding tires. Taking a look at the Maxxis catalog its really quick from the Ardent Race to the Minion SS with just the Ardent, Rekon and Forekaster in between.
I’ve always just ran the same tires for racing and training. That is a low profile xc tread, high volume 2.3-2.4 with the higher level of protection offered. My training and racing are the same type of variable surfaces that likely have a few tough sections. Then since I’m not a pro the benefit of having confidence in my setup is worth way more than 100 grams saved by moving to a lighter casing.
I keep a Forekaster in case I have a really wet event, but found swapping tires to be a hassle because in the winter when I would want extra tread for trail rides I was just as likely to do a gravel or road heavy ride. Then in season I get really comfortable on the race tires by training on them all the time. I had only found a few downhill segments where my trail bike (DHF/Aggressor) times were faster than the XC/Aspen combo.
If I didn’t have as much confidence on the XC tires and I had a second wheelset available I would set it up as Rekon/Forecaster (dry&hard/wet&soft) front Ardent Race back. Would be a nice bit of extra grip without changing the feeling of the bike. From my personal experience a DHF can make the fox 32 feel really unstable.
I prefer trail/enduro treads when I’m out for fun or training. However, when race day approaches I go back to the pinner tires for at least a few rides before hand so I get a sense of how little grip there is.
From Scwalbe the Nobby Nic and Hans Dampf are decent choices.
To keep the rolling resistance down you could pair a Maxxis Highroller up front with a Minion SS out back, or run a pair of Ikons.
Vittoria are underrated and a mix of Barzo and Mezcal work well in most conditions.
Michelin is a little lacking I feel in pure trail tyres. The Force range is supposed to be the trail range but although I’ve never punctured one, the grip isn’t quite there for me. Step up to Enduro riding and the Wild Enduro tyres are fantastic.
For research, read the reviews of tyres on sites like Chain Reaction Cycles, or for a journalists review, look at Pinkbike or FlowMTB.
I decided to get the Aggressor 2.3 with the DD casing for the rear. Time to get fitter and pedal harder up the hills! Just don’t want to get flats anymore when I end up wanting to go fast down a rock garden like some of the steep chewed up loose rock sections in on Canfield mountain MTB area.
Going with the Bontrager SE4 2.4" up front.
So basically I’m running an enduro setup on my XC bike for my all-mountain riding. Partly because of current online availability.
Definitely open to suggestions!
Goal = puncture and sidewall tear resistance, grip and width up front, durability, longevity, and traction in the rear. I’ve thrown out much interest in rolling resistance for now.
I am planning to do something similar this fall on a trip to Bentonville. I’ll be running a 2.3 Aggressor EXO and a 2.3 Minion DHF EXO on my Tallboy 3. It’s mostly XC where I live, so hard to see the motivation to scour the internet and pay top dollar for a trail/enduro bike with 20-30mm more travel and .2 on the tires.
With those chunky tyres you can certainly afford to drop tyre pressures.
Not saying that you should listen to every YouTube influencer out there, but Paul the Punter recently (as in within the last month) did a video with Cos-Cos (it’s his nickname and makes sense when you know how to say it) who is a former (read 1990s) World Cup DH racer and now manager of the UR NS DH team (formerly UR Polygon) with Tracey Hannah and her bro Mick Hannah.
Anyways, long story short, CosCos is a fan of low pressure, as in lower than you think is safe. Have a watch of this video as it is very insightful in terms of pressure that you can get away with.
I’ll be interested in how you find the big burly tyres in terms of feel.
I run some big slow tyres on my HardTail that I commute on and it’s just slow. It’s a bit of a chore to ride, but I only really notice it when I hope on the Spark which then feels like an E-Bike the way it just rolls.
There could be more to it, and I think you’ve got to have tyres you’re confident in and comfortable with so I think you’re making a good decision. You’re faster any day pedaling than you are stopped on the side of the trail changing flats.
I just threw some 2.6 Vittoria tyres (Barzo/Mezcal) on to my spare wheels to have as my slow/wet weather tyres for the Spark.
I’m in the process of sourcing an SLX cassette for the spare wheels (no point having them if they aren’t ready to go as I’d never use them). I’m not opposed to a deore cassette, but as I run XT I feel like SLX is a pretty good compromise for it’s given use.
As long as you monitor your chain wear you ought to be able to change without too much issue. Cassettes wear more significantly when used with stretched chains.
I got a crash course in that a few weeks ago when I had nothing but a road bike pump and a slow pinch flat leak that I could not find for the life of me out on trail. I just kept pumping the tire every mile or so to make it home. I was running 7-12psi in my rear with 220 pounds of rider weight and gear, and hitting the rim on everything. Rode pretty cautiously of course. Burped the dang thing constantly but made it home with no additional flats.
After that I attempted to run ~24 front and 25-27 rear, but still got flats while bashing rocks and small drops/jumps, so have opted for 25 front Maxxis Aspen 2.40WT EXO and ~30psi rear Ardent Race 2.4WT EXO.
I’m interested to see how low I can go without issue with the rear Aggressor 2.30 w/ DD casing and Bontrager SE4 2.40". Presumably 2-3 psi lower than with EXO casings on my prior tires… right?
My wife runs 13-14psi in the front and likes 15-16 in the rear for anything remotely technical and loves it. For faster stuff with more risk of high-speed impacts she’ll run 16 & 18-ish, Ikon/Rekon Race, 2.35/2.25 EXO casings. Only flat she’s ever had was when she hit a cactus.
The double down casing will give you a larger margin for error against flats.
Touch wood but I haven’t had a flat in at least four years, and the last one I had was due to a leaky valve core that had started to unscrew itself.
Line choice and body position to keep yourself light plays a big part. I am currently 90kg skidding around on Maxxis Ikons on my Rocky Mountain Element 21psi up front and 23psi in the rear and riding it just as hard and aggressively as if I was on my Strive with Michelin Wild Enduros. Prior to running the Ikons I was running Vittoria Mezcal and Barzo, again with no flats (just changed tyres as I got a second set of wheels and couldn’t purchase any tanwall Vittoria’s otherwise I’d have fitted them).
I also have a Mondraker XC bike that I run with Michelin Jet XC tyres which are the thinnest tyres I’ve run in the past five years. Once again, no flats, even though I’ve read reviews from average Joe’s on online sites saying that they’ve destroyed the Jets in half an hour.
So don’t overlook that the bash and hope vs pick a line and ride it approaches will result in differing results.
Your wife’s pressures relate very closely to women’s World Cup XC rider pressures, by the way. They seem to run from 1 to 1.4 bar…1 bar being equal to 14.5psi.
This is the exact combo I run on my xc bike for trail riding. I got tired of destroying xc tires on my local rocky trails. In a way I think the xc tires were more fun, but these tires allow me to corner so much harder and I don’t have to worry as much about punctures.
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