Tyres make a huge difference to how a bike rides. At this time of year, when the trails are permanently covered in a thick layer of gloop, tyre choice becomes even more crucial. To help out, here’s our pick of a baker’s dozen of the best tyres for mud.
As the wet weather takes a firm grip of the country, now is the time to remove those fast summer tyres, pack them away in the back of the shed for the winter months and invest in a set of new winter-specific treads.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of choice with nearly every manufacturer offering at least one tyre designed for use in the mud. What we’re looking at here are tyres designed specially to excel in the most extreme of conditions, with the sole purpose of finding traction where regular tyres will struggle and fail.
Mud tyres typically have tall pointy spikes that push through the top soft layer of mud to find something harder beneath to bite into. Lots of space between the blocks ensures they clear easily and don’t clag up, turning your previously knobbly tyre into a slick.
They style of the knobs, their shape, size, layout and spacing on the tyre’s carcass varies from brand to brand. Not all mud tyres are created equal, but they are pretty similar.
The nature of your local trails has an influence on the type of tyre you choose. Wet, loose, sloppy conditions might suit a slightly wider tyre run at a lower pressure, while claggyclay trails will suit a narrower pointer tyre run at a higher pressure.
Most tyres are offered in 26in and 29in sizes so whatever side of the fence you sit on, you’re well catered for. And if you’re riding 650b, your choices are limited, you trend-setter, you. The only one we know of is the Pacenti Cycles Quasi-Moto 650B. There’s rumours of Michelin 650b mud tyres, and we’ve heard other tyre brands are quickly developing new moulds.
Schwalbe Dirty Dan
The Dirty Dan has two weapons in its armoury to help it deal with the mud: tall blocks and a soft, tacky compound. Those angular knobs chew through the mud and the soft compound sticks to rocks and roots giving good grip. Generous spacing between the blocks ensures good clearance when it gets claggy. The only downside is the high 920g weight.
More information: Schwalbe Dirty Dan
Maxxis Beaver 2.0 x 29 £35.99
The Maxxis Beaver uses a tread pattern with well-spaced square knobs that has made it a hit with 29er riders seeking a good winter tyre. It’s one of the best 29er mud tyres out there at the moment, and their weight of around 470g each keeps the rolling weight to a minimum. A dual compound rubber improves grip and helps them deal with changeable terrain and conditions. Originally designed for 29ers, it’s no available in 26in size too.
More information: Maxxis Beaver
Bontrager XR-Mud £32.99
Available for both 26in and 29in wheels (as the 29-Mud TLR for £36.99), with the former coming in either 1.8in or 2in widths, the Mud uses a classic and simple square shaped knob tread pattern. Generous spacing between the knobs encourages mud to shed easily, while the central section gives reasonable rolling performance with little drag.
Bontrager use a proprietary tread compound that’s mud-specific, so it’s a little softer than usual. Downhill World Cup racers are fans of customising their mud tyres with a sharp knife, and Bontrager even go as far as saying “trimmable knobs for custom performance” so there’s scope for personalizing the tread pattern for your particular style of riding or terrain.
More information: Bontrager XR-Mud
Geax Gato 29 x 2.3 £30.99
The Gato has been updated this year with a new 29er carcass and huge 2.3in width – the choice of wide 29er tyres is currently limited and this is one of the few. It’s described as being suitable for wet and loose conditions and has tall wide siped knobs with a paddle orientation along the central section. They’re well spaced out to do that tricky job of finding grip and not clogging all at the same time. A folding bead gives an all-up weight of 690g. A heavier (850g) non-folding version costs £18.99.
More information: Geax Gato 29 x 2.3
Michelin Country Mud £13.99
Michelin simplified its range last year and the Country Mud is its sole mud-specific tyre. It’s more of an all-rounder tyre than many of the others here, with wide paddle central knobs surrounded by smaller angled blocks.
It’s a 2in width tyre and weighs a reasonable 590g for this wire bead tyre, which does keep the price down if the weight is a little higher than Kevlar beaded tyres.
More information: Michelin Country Mud
Specialized Storm Control 2Bliss Ready £29.99
Specialized’s offering uses a soft rubber compound do that it doesn’t come unstuck on wet roots and rocks, terrain on which mud tyres can traditionally prove hazardous unless treated with absolute caution.
The square knobs are well spaced to ensure mud clears quickly with a tighter packed outer edge knob pattern. The centre compound is 65a rubber while the shoulder section uses 55a compound for better corning grip. Tubeless ready, the tyre can be used with or without an inner tube.
More information: Specialized Storm Control 2Bliss Ready
Continental Mud King 1.8 £48.95
The Mud King has a lot going for it. It was developed by the Athertons, so it’s available in a 2.3in 1100g downhill version or a lighter 570g 1.8in option. It’s the latter we’re more interested in, but both share the same spiky tread pattern.
The 1.8in ProTection version uses Continental’s Black Chilli tread compound, which helps it stick to slippery obstacles like a limpet. The layout of the angular knobs give good traction in all conditions. The shoulder blocks are siped to allow them to flex a little and find more traction when cornering over slippery rocks and roots.
More information: Continental Mud King
Geax Gato Mud £30.99
Geax’s Gato Mud uses a tread pattern that features L-shaped blocks interspersed with rectangular blocks across the tyre, producing a design that’s distinct from all the other mud tyres available. Reinforcements at the base of the central ridge reduce rolling resistance while similar reinforcements on the side knobs ensure stiffness when cornering.
It’s one of the narrowest here too at just 1.7in, so it’s best served for very extreme conditions or racing when absolute grip is right at the top of the list. The TNT casing means it can be used tubeless or with tubes, and weighs 490g.
More information: Geax Gato Mud
Panaracer TrailRaker £24.99-£34.99
It’s been around for a while but Panaracer’s TrailRaker is a solid performer when the conditions of your favourite trails dictate a change to an aggressive mud tyre.
Tall knobs dig through mud giving high levels of grip even in the wettest trail conditions. Angled shoulder knobs give good drive traction and cornering grip. A UST version is available, and in 1.95in or 2.1in widths.
Maxxis Medusa £29.99
Using a very open profile tread pattern with sparsely placed knobs, the Medusa is a tyre for the mankiest of conditions when clogging is a real possibility. For trails formed of clay soil, the Medusa’s are a good option.
It’s available in loads of versions. The 2.1in Lust is our pick, weighing 675g. A lighter (640g) 1.8in Lust tyre is also available. We’d consider pairing the wider tyre on the front with a narrower rear for the best performance.
More information: Maxxis Medusa
Schwalbe Black Shark £33.94
It’s been around for a long time, and the Black Shark continues to prove it’s one of the best mud tyres. An aggressive tread pattern with extremely tall spiked knobs ensures that it finds traction in even the gloopiest and stickiest conditions.
It can be picked up in 2.1in or 2.25in widths and both feature Schwalbe’s own Puncture Protection design.
More information: Schwalbe Black Shark
Onza Greina £36.99
Onza is a name from the past. The original Californian company made some lusted-over tyres like Porcupine and the mythical Octopus, but folded back in the 90s when the founders fell out. But now the name is back, and the Swiss owners are turning out some good tyre designs once more.
The Greina is pinned as a freeride/downhill tyre but at 2.25in we feel its still worthy for inclusion for those who want a bit more meat on their wheels. It uses an aggressive block tread pattern, with four rows of blocks and the sizes varying across the carcass. The outer knobs are siped for flexibility when banked over. At 670g, the 120tpi folding version is a decent weight for a tyre this meaty.
More information: Onza Greina
WTB VelociRaptor front and rear specific mud tyres £17.99
WTB’s VelociRaptors are a legendary name from the early days of mountain biking, and this front and rear pairing are the only direction-specific tyres in this list.
That’s a good thing. The rear tyre features a generous paddle design for hoofing you up the slippery trails, while the fronts forward pointing long knobs can focus on steering duties.
Available in 2.1in with a DNA rubber compound, it’s a proprietary 60a durometer rubber, gives good grip on loose trails. Weight is between 700g and 760g.
More information: WTB VelociRaptor