We take grip seriously here, testing every tread pattern we can put our dirty mittens on to share the good word. Our review team have successfully fitted a variety of trail, enduro, fat bike, XC, and gravel tires throughout the 2021 season, and we’ve rounded them up here to help readers find the right traction tools for their local trails.
Do we need a tread that rolls faster than the Maxxis Minion? Troy Brosnan thought so, and he worked with Maxxis to develop this faster DH tread.
“Considering the massive number of tread patterns in the Maxxis lineup, I would say they could ditch the Aggressor model and replace it with the Dissector. With a similar feel at high speed, better overall grip, and a wider range of use, the Dissector seems the top model all around. It can also be used as a front tread, where the Aggressor is a rear-only design, placing it well above the brand’s other quick and dry gravity options.
Depending on the size and build, prices for the Maxxis Dissector range from around $ 65 to $ 100 (available online from REI and other retailers).
Maxxis occasionally updates its pillars, and this new version of the Shorty includes a few welcome changes.
“If you ride in deep mud or dust, you’re probably a committed mountain biker with some level of fitness. A pair of Shorty tires won’t be the best for rock climbing and long valley rides, as they are heavy and require a bit of work to ride. However, people who buy these tires are ready to go no matter how difficult, and they will be handsomely rewarded for the quick and loose bits. At just 1286g for the strongest and most grippy 29-inch model, they’re a bit lighter than a similar-tipped Michelin DH22.
The price of the Maxxis Shorty ranges from around $ 50-90 depending on the size and build. Available at Worldwide Cyclery and other retailers.
Michelin Force AM2
What is an all-terrain tire anyway? Matt Miller checked these Michelin tires to answer this question.
“The nickname ‘all-mountain’ always sounds ambitious for the Force AM2, and it’s hard to tell who the tire is for as it’s rather heavy for serious cross-country riders. But, for someone who defines themselves as an aggressive trail runner, I love him more than I thought. Often times, tires that prioritize efficiency aren’t durable enough to withstand more force, but the Force AM2 does a pretty good job of combining durability, fast rolling speed (not fast), and confidence beyond the hardpack.
Michelin sells the Force AM2 for around $ 65 at Worldwide Cyclery and other online retailers.
Michelin Sauvage AM2
Perhaps the more spirited Wild AM2 is more all-mountain?
“The wear was acceptable on the Wild AM2 and my tire held up well over the last few months of moderate driving. The center knobs have not yet started to round, but they show that they have been fitted. I had no puncture issues on this tire and they maintain the air pressure between the rubber and the rim. Michelin has brought an excellent tire to the market with the Wild AM2. It’s nowhere near too heavy for a tire as capable as it is, and the Wild AM2 feels right at home for winning corners and climbing hills. Riders should easily forget that they have a big tire on the back and will appreciate its confidence on soft trails.
The Michelin Wild AM2 mountain bike tire is sold at Wiggle and other online retailers. The Miller assembly tested weighed 1040 g per wheel.
Onza Porcupine RC
The Porcupine RC isn’t a big bike tire, but you can definitely play in the snow with these grippy studs. I tested it in various conditions last spring and was delighted with its grip which extends the season.
“As a lifelong mud lover, I was delighted when these tires arrived for testing. We have some downright rocky descents nearby which are perfect in bad weather, and the slimy dirt between those stones has been a solid testing ground for the Porcupine RC tread. The spacing between the pods at mid-height is enormous, similar to that of a newly redesigned Maxxis Shorty in terms of shape and spacing. The huge amount of free air between the pods helps them get rid of mud quickly so they can be ready to collect and get rid of again.
You can pick up a set on Onza.com and Amazon for around € 70. This gumwall version weighs approximately 1200g.
Vé HPL Attack
Chris Scheiffer and I have both tested Vee’s Attack HPL tires this season, and our assessment is reflected in the familiar tread pattern: “it’s basically an Assagai”.
Scheiffer says: “I was positively surprised by the performance of these tires on the descents. It was nearly impossible to break the traction with their seemingly endless grip. In the dusty corners where I normally drifted a bit, the Vee Attack tires didn’t break the traction. I intentionally tried to slide them around and it was practically impossible. You can drive them as hard as you want around the corners and they won’t move, slip or bend. I even spent some time in the snow and was pleasantly surprised with the grip. They are not this slippery when wet. True to their claims, the traction is second to none and my initial frowning face on the climbs turned into a really big smiley face on the descents.
You can find Vee Attack VPL tires on Amazon for $ 80.
Fast rolling tires
On the much thinner side of things, Matt Miller reviewed a set of Hutchison Touareg gravel tires last spring and found them to be particularly quick and durable.
“The Hutchinson Touaregs combine a few different properties to make them an excellent gravel tire. They grip and roll quickly over dirt. They are also reliable and a decent weight, although they are not the lightest option. For a few more grams, I’ll gladly accept the Touaregs as a reliable, performance-oriented tire ready for multi-terrain adventures.
The Miller tested set weighed around 500g each, and they sell for around $ 50 each from Chain Reaction Cycles.
Specialized Fast Track and Ground Control
To turn things up a bit, we tested these XC / trail tires on a bikepacking expedition that included fun single tracks and rough military roads.
“This pair isn’t the lightest option for bikepacking or mass racing, but if you love traction and hate punctures, these tires are pretty cool. The Fast Track we tested weighs 782g and the Ground Control hits the scale at 869g. They roll fairly fast and grip most dry surfaces while providing cornering support that matches their intentions. Specialized offers a few lighter options for people who prefer a smoother ride.
Specialized Ground Control tires are sold at JensonUSA and other online retailers, and Fast Trak tires can also be found at JensonUSA and other online retailers.
Our editor had the chance to check the Vittoria Syerra tread before the product launch, and he really liked the way it sticks – despite the nickname ‘lowland’.
“The Vittoria Syerra is a great tire, which excels at riding technical terrain without slowing riders down when it’s time to pedal (and yes, we will all pedal at some point). It is not a tire that fits on a certain type of bicycle; it’s an all-condition tire that adapts to a fairly wide range of riding styles, from XC to trail. My advice is to take the tag off the downcountry and just ride.
The tires Jeff Barber tested weigh between 870-890g and are available from Competitive Cyclist and other online retailers for $ 79.99.
Fat bike tires
45NRTH Dillinger 5
Our resident fatbike guru Chris Hrenko rode on four different fat tires last winter and sent the full report in before the snow this fall. He rated the Dillinger 5 as the best all-round studded tread in the peloton.
Hrenko says this tire is for “those who gravitate towards the top-notch ‘best in test’ type of equipment. Someone who just wants to ride groomed, groomed trails all winter long and not worry too much about ice or think too much about the tires. Someone who wants to float above anything that can float, but still has a grip on the glazed elements. If you want to get weird, there are plenty of weird tires out there. If you want something reliable, proven and strong, this tire is for you.
The Tanwall Dillinger 5 has 258 concave carbide tipped studs in this version. It weighs around 1565g and costs $ 220. Available at JensonUSA and other online retailers.
45NRTH Lord of Wrath
“Best maximum grip tire” was Hrenko’s rating for the Wrathlorde. If you’re going to be hitting some shiny ice, this might be the tread for you.
“Wrathlorde is a compelling option for anyone who rides a slower climb, heartbreaking descent enduro bike in the summer and wants to extend that vibe as much as possible in the winter. It is also excellent for rugged trails that are only “maintained” by walkers and snowshoers. All studded tires are good for ice, but with 300 MAX TRACTION CONCAVE STUDS the Wrathlorde is an extremely formidable ice tire.
All of that ice-snacking prowess sells for $ 250 and the tire is sold at REI. Check out Hrenko’s advice on retaining studs to keep him going for a while.
At 26 × 3.8 ″, Hrenko ranks the Bontrager Gnarwhal as the best narrow fatbike option.
“With the shortest and stiffest sidewall in the test, the Gnarwhal feels super stable and planted in the corners, with very little bounce feeling that tends to accompany high volume tires operating at low pressure. Gnarwhals also have more teeth than they look, with the little extra traction you need to make stiff laces.
These fat, skinny tires cost $ 119 without studs on the Trek website and weigh about 1275g each. Get a Gnarwal stud tool and stud kit to add even more grip.
Terrene Cake Eater
The Terrene Cake Eater that Hrenko slid across the slope is a quick option for people who want to improve their track time.
“We tested the 26 × 4.0-inch flat-point studded tire with a 33 tpi casing.” He continues, “We’ll call it a ‘quiver tire’ because most of the testing was done on hilly and steep terrain, and the braking performance left us feeling confident on the steeper descents. “
Cake Eaters is available on Amazon for around $ 200.