Six of the best fast-rolling MTB tyres

Treads that’ll make your bike quicker for XC and trail

The fact is, nothing makes your bike faster than putting faster rolling tyres on it. Better still, because most of the rolling resistance comes from the rear tyre you can stick quick rubber on and go faster for less effort without necessarily sacrificing the crucial corner and braking grip from the front.

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Plenty of front end grip and less back end bite also adds a speedway ‘safety fuse’ aspect where you know the rear of the bike will always step and slide before the front. That’s not only the safer way to overstep the mark but definitely the most stylish and feelgood foot-out flair to add to your riding.

Having said that, you’ll be surprised just how much grip and control some seemingly treadless tyres can give if they’re made of the right carcass and compound to suit your riding. There is a surprising amount of performance difference between superficially similar looking and sounding tyres though, so we’ve used our massive rubber wrangling experience to choose from six speedy tyres, ideal for dryer and more summery conditions – however you like to ride.

What to look for

  • Compound: The harder the rubber, the faster the tyre will roll and the longer it will last but the less it will grip. The hardness is expressed as a durometer figure, with a lower number meaning softer, gripper rubber. Compounds can be altered in two or more areas of the tyre to balance these characteristics.
  • Carcass: The body of the tyre can make a big difference to the weight, toughness and feel. Supple lightweight tyres accelerate easily and mould to the terrain for extra grip and smoothness but can be vulnerable to tears and punctures. Reinforced tyres can feel really numb.
  • Tubeless: Most tyres and rims are now ‘tubeless ready’. That means they just need a rim strip, a sealable valve and some liquid sealant to make them airtight rather than a separate inner tube. They shrug off potential impact punctures much better as a result and can also ‘self heal’ small thorn punctures.
  • Tread: Summer tyres generally have a lower height or flatter tread which rolls faster and ‘quieter’ with less buzz. Decent edge knobs are useful for digging into corners without dragging in a straight line, or you can decide to go for a full drift experience.
  • Size: All the tyres here (save one – the Bontrager) were tested in 650b size for direct context comparison but most of them are available in 29er options and some in 26in too. All the different size options easily available in the UK/Australia are listed in the stats.

Schwalbe Rock Razor Evo Super Gravity Trailstar

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Schwalbe rock razor evo super gravity trailstar:
  • Price: £55 / AU$92.50 / US$97
  • Weight: 950g
  • Sizes: 26, 650b or 29×2.35in
4.5 out of 5 star rating
  • Highs: Malleable to the trail, stable, light and nippy
  • Lows: Potentially, tread tearing or delamination if you start skidding and scuffing too much – so ride smooth and smart

Verdict: Surprisingly grippy speed booster for flat out riding, so well damped it feels like a rear suspension upgrade. At under a kilo it’s noticeably lighter and more agile in feel than most tyres in its category, with multiple small split topped knobs are that are ramped for even easier rolling – adding instant and obvious pace. The transition onto the big softer compound side knobs is seamless too, so grip increases just when you need it for corner carving.

Schwalbe

Read our full review of the Schwalbe Rock Razor Evo Super Gravity Trailstar

Bontrager XR2 Team Issue

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Bontrager xr2 team issue:
  • Price: £40 / AU$80 / US$75
  • Weight: 610g
  • Sizes: 26×2.0, 2.20, 29×2.0, 2.2in
3.5 out of 5 star rating
  • Highs: Dry-trail trustworthy, seal well on most rims, shrug off scuffs and impacts well for a mid sized tyre
  • Lows: High setup pressures needed to get them to seat properly, sizing is on the extreme side

Verdict: Fast rolling, smooth tracking, and simple regular small knob pattern and supple carcass can pull surprising traction out of dry to damp loose soil and gravel. These are definitely drifters not railers though.

Bontrager

Read our full review of the Bontrager XR2 Team Issue

Mavic Roam XL

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Mavic roam xl:
  • Price: £50 / AU$59 / US$75
  • Weight: 890g
  • Sizes: 26, 650b or 29×2.2in (650b only in Aus)
3.5 out of 5 star rating
  • Highs: Low weight, high acceleration and super tough
  • Lows: Minimal upright grip means this isn’t for the faint hearted

Verdict: A real opinion divider, but a huge speed boost for aggressive and dynamic riders. If you can get it right over onto it’s distant CC compound ‘off the shoulder’ tread it rips corners really well.

Mavic

Read our full review of the Mavic Roam XL

Maxxis Ardent EXO TR

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Maxxis ardent exo tr:
  • Price: £33 / AU$80 / US$65
  • Weight: 765g
  • Sizes: 26×2.25, 2.4, 650bx2.25, 2.4, 29×2.25, 2.4in
3.5 out of 5 star rating
  • Highs: Easy tubeless setup, easy rolling tread with enough bite to brake and get the power down
  • Lows: Acceleration not the snappiest, unstable at lower pressures

Verdict: The EXO carcass version of the Ardent adds a bit more protection than standard without affecting the smooth rolling, rock shrugging ride. It’s a fast and very user friendly big-volume all rounder for a surprising amount of the year.

Maxxis / Extra UK

Read our full review of the Maxxis Ardent EXO TR

Michelin Wild Race’R Advanced Reinforced

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Michelin wild race’r advanced reinforced:
  • Price: £46 / AU$N/A / US$75
  • Weight: 1060g
  • Sizes: 650b or 29×2.25in
3.5 out of 5 star rating
  • Highs: Sturdy and stout yet less wooden than earlier models, simple tubeless sealing
  • Lows: Barely-there centre tread means you’ve got to be snappy getting it onto the shoulders when cornering hard

Verdict: Expensive but easy, rockproof rear end speed for enduro race/bike park action, and has held up well in terms of general wear and tear.

Michelin

Read our full review of the Michelin Wild Race’R Advanced Reinforced

WTB Trail Boss Light

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WTB trail boss light:
  • Price: £40 / AU$85 / US$79
  • Weight: 790g
  • Sizes: 650bx2.25, 2.4 29 x2.25, 2.4in
3.5 out of 5 star rating
  • Highs: TCS carcass seals easily and moulds to trails very well, with particularly consistent control over random roots and rocks
  • Lows: At 800g, it doesn’t exactly leap off down the trail

Verdict: Versatile grip/speed balance and smooth float but floppy when soft, and more of a middleweight tyre than a true ‘Light’

WTB / Hotlines UK

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Read our full review of the WTB Trail Boss Light