Slick Tyre Shootout - Bike Magic

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Slick Tyre Shootout

There are a whole load of slick tyres out there for MTB’s from which we’ve taken an example of each category, from super-tough heavyweights, to paperwall road race tyres in 26″ sizes. Read the reviews and work out which one sounds most like what you need for burning up the blacktop this weekend.

Continental’s Grand Prix – Roadie favourite resized for MTB’s
Continental Grand Prix, 26 x 1″, 195g, £20.99

Continetal’s Grand Prix tyre has been a road race favourite for years. Lightweight supple sidewall for silky feel and lightly treaded natural rubber for fast-rolling but sure grip in the corners.

The tiny caracass size requires specific 1″ innertubes as fat ones simply won’t fit, and you’ll fight getting it on and off most rims anyway. Make sure you get the right 26″ too – 650c are triathlon bike size, 559 are what you want for mtb’s.

Once you’ve wrestled it on and got it up to it’s 120 psi operating pressure (you’ll need a high pressure or track pump rather than a short fat mini pump) the tyre is extremely fast. Its minimal weight picks up speed with ease as soon as you press the pedals and give true road bike performance to whatever speeds the tyres allow.

The downsides are exactly those of road bikes, jittery cornering and sharp road shock on all but the smoothest surfaces. Also. you’ll need to be constantly alert for pot holes, stones, grates, kerbs or anything else that’s likely to pinch puncture such a skinny caracass. It’s also more likely to cut or chafe on roadside shrapnel.

In short these are (unsurprisingly) the closest you’ll get to true road bike performance. For those used to MTB tyres they’re totally solid in feel (though with time you’ll realise their quality actually makes them supple compared to other road tyres) and unbeatable in terms of acceleration and straight line speed.Cornering is far more sure footed than you’d expect but the narrow carcass makes them vulnerable to impact punctures, so they’re not for those who either forget what they’re riding or fancy a bit of fire road rumbling mid-ride.

None more bald than Specialized’s Fat Boy slick

Specialized Fat Boy, 26 x 1.25″, 325g, £14.99
If you want slick they don’t get any slicker than this. Complete lack of tread means ultra-quiet and smooth performance (particularly noticeable on turbo trainers), and bags of road speed. The small carcass picks up speed well but you can still squeeze a normal tube in there which helps puncture protection.

The sidewall is slightly stiffer than on the Conti but the taller profile makes it feel more supple even at its 100 psi max, and the rounded profile means that it drops into corners smoothly.

Suprisingly, the totally slick tread never gave us any traction problems even on wet tarmac (the tyre profile seems to be too narrow to get enough water under for aquaplaning), but it’s not a wise option if you’re thinking of mixing it off road. From experience they last for ages, and the ‘Flak Jacket’ band under the tread reduces thorn and glass punctures noticeably over time.

Suprisingly grippy despite their baldness but certainly slick when it comes down to speed. Combined with the lack of tread this makes them a perfect turbo trainer choice. Caracass size is still on the ‘remember you’re wearing them’ side of skinny and you’ll be on your arse as soon as you try and venture off road. Good puncture protection and longevity though for a pure road tyre

HI-Road – cut tread fast runner but fat enough for survival
Panaracer Hi-Road, 26 x 1.5, 450g, £14.99

Panaracer’s Hi Road has been a commuter’s staple for years. Thick cut slick tread gives plenty of rolling life and speed but the reassuring notion of some sort of tread when it’s wet. The 1.5″ carcass size is fat enough to handle the odd pothole of clunked kerb without popping, making it suitable for everyday work slogs or those likely to forget they’re meant to stay on the road. Reasonably lightweight (comparable to all but the lightest knobblies) and supple sidewalls also make it feel lively and responsive, and lower (85 psi max) pressure gives a more forgiving (if a little slower) feel. The little circular tread holes are a bugger for picking up gravel and hoarding it.

A well proven compromise between speed, longevity and pothole / kerb protection at a decent price. Fat enough for absent minded rough track use, or carrying your weekly shop but still fast enough to make road trips a blast.

Spider – heavy duty slick centre with side knobbles for dirty cornering

Vredestein Spider, 26 x 1.9, 650g, £17.99

Full size carcass with thick centre plateau for smooth rolling, puncture resistant longevity make this a great choice for heavy or heavily loaded riders and those who include flights of steps in their idea of “road” riding. Small knob tread also gives basic cornering traction if you stray off the beaten path occasionally. With stiff carcass and heavy tread, they’re slow to accelerate but roll well once cruising and provide impressive protection that’ll last for years.

Verdict: Heavy duty protection with smooth rolling performance. They aren’t going to change your mountain bike into a road thoroughbred, but they will let you carry on riding it like a mountain bike without worry.

There’s a few true slick centre options such as the Conti Goliath, but if you expand the search to centre ridge tyres such as Specilaized Crossroads, or off road racing semi slicks then there are tons of options.


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