The kind of tyres you use on your bike is determined by what you are using your bike for. Getting the right tyres is really important for safety and performance. Mountain bike tyres are basically different to road bike tyres but there is still a vast range of tyres to choose from for a mountain bike.
Mountain bikes can be used for a number of different terrains and disciplines that require different skill sets as much as different tyres. Get the right tyres and they will improve your riding and increase your safety.
Tyres either come with a standard inner tube to keep them inflated or they are tubeless, so the question to answer is which one do you go for?
Most tubeless tyres now use Michelin and Mavic’s UST (Universal System Tubeless) with a thick side-walled tyre that locks into a specific sealed-bed UST rim. These tyres can take a beating over rough terrain so they are ideal for downhill, but the downside is that they are expensive.
The advantages of an airtight seal and a stable, puncture-resistant, low-pressure performance are balanced out by the high price and the need for a clean rim and tyre to fit them, along with a big pump to inflate them.
Clean conditions are usually unavailable if the tyre has to be replaced on the trail. And even with a C02 cartridge pump you’ll usually have to use an inner tube to get you home and then repair the tyre later. Also while small holes might be repairable, a big hole can mean the tyre is completely written off as well.
Tubeless tyres are also heavier, so if fast start times and riding speeds are required, pick a lighter tyre. Tyres with inner tubes are usually lighter and offer greater flexibility. They are available in more designs and tread styles, so finding the right one for your riding style might be easier as well.
You can get kits to convert a conventional tyre with an inner tube to a tubeless tyre, such as Stan’s No Tubes kits. These combine a latex-based filling liquid and a rubber rim strip to seal the inside of the tyre and rim. You will probably have to top off the filler now and then, but the cost is still much less than a standard thick wall tubeless tyre.
You still get most of the low pressure advantages of a UST tubeless tyre but with a much bigger choice of rims and treads, and with only the initial kit cost and latex top-ups to pay for. They are also lighter than UST set-ups. The same repair problems on the trail apply though unfortunately, and the tyres are less stable than actual UST models.
Whichever kind of tyre you choose, it is essential to replace your tyres regularly. A blow out on a trail can cause injury to you or other riders or even cost you a competition. Replacing your mountain bike tyres mid trail is often a possibility, so make sure you always carry at least one spare with you. With proper maintenance and careful selection, your tyres will make a massive difference to your riding.
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