One of the benefits of living in a small city, as I do, is that there are still quite a few nature trails to mountain bike on within a reasonable distance from my home. However, during the week I still mostly ride my bike in the city. I started looking for the best mountain bike tire for riding in the street and on the trail a while ago, and I believe I’ve finally found it.
The Best Mountain Bike Tire for Street and Trail: Continental ProTection Cross King
(Link to Amazon for prices and more reviews)
I recommend Continental’s ProTection Cross King mountain bike tire for anyone who needs a tire that rolls smooth on pavement and is highly capable on the trail. Dubbed as “The all-rounder” this tire is equipped with Continental’s ProTection durability and their versatile BlackChili tread compound.
You might be thinking “What do those fancy marketing terms even mean? Sounds like a gimmick to me.” But I am here to assure you that these are more than just fancy marketing terms. The science behind what makes this a perfect multi-use tire is simple. The tire has two main components to its design…
A fast rolling center tread made of its high efficiency BlackChili compound.
And also, a side wall thread pattern which is made ultra-durable with their ProTection design technology.
As a result, when I use these tires on pavement they roll smother than any of my other tires, but when I take them to the trail I still feel confident in their grip and durability when I’m cornering or just riding on unstable ground.
Things to Consider for Street and Trail Mountain Bike Tires
Traction on Both Street and Trail
Traction is very important for both street and trail riding. When on the trail you want to have as much traction as possible so that you can deal with rough terrain and steep hills. When riding in the street you don’t want to have as much traction because it can slow you down if you have too much rolling resistance.
This is why a combination design with fast rolling center treads and aggressive sidewall tread is the best for a multi-purpose tire. The fast rolling center treads will keep your rolling resistance down, and the aggressive side treads shouldn’t get in your way as you will most likely be riding in a straight line. However, when you get to the trail the slightly more aggressive side treads will save you from slipping when you’re cornering, and they will even help you out on loose ground as your tires sink into the mud/gravel/sand/etc.
MTB Tire Durability on the Street
Durability isn’t as important on the street as it is on the trail. This is mostly due to the impacts a mountain bike tire is likely to receive when riding on a trail as compared to riding in the street. Trails are covered in rocks, sticks, divots, bumps, and several other obstacles which can pop a mountain bike tire that isn’t built to handle them. Many street tires aren’t made to be as durable as trail tires so when you’re looking for a tire that you can use on both you need to make sure that it up to the task.
Tire Compound for MTB Tires: Road and Trail
Just as durability isn’t as important on the street as it is on the trail, tire compound isn’t nearly as important on the trail as it is on the street. The reason why tire compound is so important to street riding is that rolling resistance is heavily affected by the material of the tire not just the tread pattern.
A slicker compound which allows friction reduction on the street can vastly improve speed and vastly decrease pedaling difficulty. On the trail, however, most of their design is geared towards having a tread pattern that will ensure maximum traction. Finding a tire that uses a compound that is advantageous to the road that still has the necessary tread to be useful on the trail is the key to finding the multi-purpose tire.
Thread Pattern and Number of Treads Per Inch
Road tires often use a thread pattern with a high number of threads per inch, 120 tpi is a common ratio for example. The reason is simply that smaller threads leads to a higher number of them on the same amount of tire and a lighter tire that is more suited for speed. Trail tires often have much larger threads for durability, and so a 60 tpi ratio is more common amongst these kinds of tires even though they are usually a bit heavier.
In the case of a multi-purpose tire it is safer to stick with a 60 tpi thread pattern as losing a little extra weight isn’t worth the possibility of wiping out due to a torn side wall when riding on the trail. This is especially a concern for riders who use tubeless mountain bike tire setups as they are more likely to have a tear in their side wall threads.
Tube or Tubeless Mountain Bike Tires
In the contest between tubed or tubeless mountain bike tires, tubeless mountain bike tires are the clear winner for both street and trail riding. Tubeless mountain bike tires are lighter than their tubed counterparts, and they are also more durable as they have no inner tube to pop.
They improve speed both on the trail and on the street by being lighter, while at the same time providing the most cost-effective reliable option available. The real concern is side wall punctures, and if you get a tire that is moderately durable this won’t outweigh the concern that tubed tires have with durability.
What Mountain Bike Tire Pressure is Best for Street and Trail?
On the street you want to have a higher mountain bike tire pressure to reduce rolling resistance, and on the trail, you want to have a lower mountain bike tire pressure to improve traction. However, you can over inflate and under inflate your mountain bikes tires in either scenario. There isn’t really a tire pressure that is best for both street and trail, but that is okay as you can always add or remove air from your tires before riding. For a good guide in determining the best pressures to use for your specific tire and circumstance take a look at this article about that exact topic.
Should you Use Different Mountain Bike Tires in Front and Back for Street and Trail Riding?
The weight of the front tire on a mountain bike doesn’t affect pedaling difficulty and speed as much as the back tire which is directly connected to the drivetrain. It also absorbs most the force when on the trial. Therefore, some riders prefer to put a wider, more durable, tire on the front of their mountain bike, and a slightly lighter, thinner, tire on the back of their mountain bike. However, it is important to remember that the benefits of this are somewhat minute and so only worth slight consideration when picking a good multi-purpose mountain bike tire setup.
The decision ultimately comes down to personal preference in this case therefore, as it is not completely clear whether the benefits of using different tire on the trail will outweigh their negative effect on rolling resistance on the road.