As the weather changes, it’s time to put on a set of the best tyres for your road or mountain bike. The winter season significantly alters your experience on roads and trails.
Water, ice, snow, frozen mud, and additional debris from heavy rain puts a lot more strain on your tyres.
Meanwhile, rolling in chilly temperatures weakens standard tyre compounds and accelerates degradation, resulting in punctures. A tyre designed for cold conditions comes to the rescue. Winter road bike tyres and winter mountain bike tyres are both equipped with weatherproofing materials and high build quality, allowing you to continue riding.
Our guide to the best winter tyres
In this guide to winter tyres, we’ll look at some of the best examples for road and mountain bike, and explore the advantages winter-optimised compounds can deliver for your off-season rides.
So, if you’re determined to pedal face first into a downpour or speed through an ice-caked trail, this guide should help you find treads tough enough to make your masochistic dreams come true.
Don’t want to read our in-depth guide? Head to the relevant product pages via the links below:
Do I really need winter cycling tyres?
Yes, if you ride consistently in the winter. Winter tyres are required.
Water, ice, and snow on the trails will make your bike more difficult to handle than an egg on a marble tile. Increased rains wash debris onto the asphalt, causing glass, nails, and other sharp objects to jostle for position for the perfect puncture.
The worst part is changing a tyre in the wind and sleet — no one wants to do that. Seriously.
This is why both winter road tyres and winter MTB tyres prioritise puncture protection above everything else. However, these festive shoes have a few additional tricks up their rubbery sleeves.
Mountain Bike Winter Tyres
Which MTB tyres for which surface?
The type of terrain you’re riding in should influence your choice of tyre, but there is a variety of ways you can find the best match between your style, the terrain, and the bike you’re using.
Selecting tyres is always a compromise between speed and grip. More grip means more rolling resistance, and therefore more effort to generate speed. But in the winter, staying on the bike is priority. Grip and durability win out, and you’ll find winter MTB tyres focus in these areas.
The MTB tyre buyer – that’s you – has three main choices to achieve the right grip for the conditions – tread choice, tyre pressure, and tyre width.
For hard-packed surfaces
- Tread: If you expect to ride on hard-packed mud, go for tightly spaced, shorter lugs, which will cog with small hard indentations, giving you the best chance at grip.
- Pressure: On hard packed surfaces, you want to avoid pinch flats from landings, so don’t lower your PSI too much. A few extra PSI will also help the cog effect of tightly spaced lugs. Not too hard though, as this can affect your braking performance, especially on slippery dirt.
- Width: On dry, hard-packed surfaces, opt for as wide a tyre as you can get on the front and rear. This will improve traction overall.
Soft, muddy surfaces
- Tread: Wet, muddy surfaces require completely different solutions. Long, widely spaced lugs help with digging into the softer terrain, while the bigger gaps help to clear the mud easier during the tyre’s rotation.
- Pressure: A lower PSI than usual is advised, helping the tyre achieve a larger contact patch and therefore grip. This won’t be great for rolling resistance, but at least the tyre rolls instead of spins in the muck. Tubeless options will help get that pressure down. The softer terrain also means pinch flats are less of an issue.
- Width: Narrower tyres allow the surface of the rubber to bite through the soft mud at the top and reach the hard stuff underneath. This is especially true of the rear tyre, which should be considerably narrower than your front as it looks for grip while accelerating.
- Tread: All season tyres are a good choice, but look out for those with extra-large side lugs. This creates good all-round performance with deep traction on corners – when you need it most – and good rolling resistance and hard-packed performance.
- Pressure: On mixed terrain, go for slightly lower PSIs to ensure you have traction on faster, hard-packed sections. It’ll not be as fast through the mud but at least you’ll have control.
- Width: Wider is probably better in winter as a general rule. However, if you’re going to encounter even a modest amount of mud, then the narrow rule applies.
Best Winter Mountain Bike Tyres
Here’s our list of the best mountain bike mud tyres to help you beat the muck and keep moving till spring arrives.
Schwalbe Magic Mary
The Magic Mary is perfect for enduro racing and all-mountain riding, offering unreal traction in virtually any conditions. This tyre features an extremely stable Addix compound and five fabric layers to protect the centre making it ideal for handling the most demanding of trails. Made using Schwalbe’s Super Gravity construction, this model is also tubeless-ready for less rolling resistance, superior grip, and increased puncture protection.
Continental Der Baron
The Continental Der Baron Projekt folding tyre combines exceptional rolling performance and superb traction thanks to the BlackChili Compound. It has top-level puncture protection thanks to ProTection casing with added stability and reliability via Apex sidewall reinforcement, which ensures optimum stability and supreme protection over rough and rocky terrain.
This tyre has been raced to victory at the top level of the sport, so it’s a fine choice for weekend warriors and podium-chasers alike.
The Maxxis Minion Downhill Front Mountain Bike Tyre benefits from a high-performance tread design for enhanced braking control on the trail. Featuring a 3C Maxx Terra construction, it’s the perfect compound if you like to ride exceptionally fast and tackle every obstacle with confidence. This tubeless ready tyre also comes with EXO+ sidewall protection and enduro-level puncture prevention so it’s ready for whatever challenges you meet on the mountainside.
Schwalbe Hans Dampf
The hard-wearing Schwalbe Hans Dampf Evo tyre delivers outstanding grip and with tough Snakeskin material makes for a cut-resistant sidewall and quick tubeless conversion; it’s a great do-it-all tyre, suitable for winter trail riding.
With this tyre, you’ll have the low rolling resistance, traction, and strength to go as hard as you dare on the trails. With the advanced tread design, this tyre features Schwalbe’s durable Super Gravity casing, which is highly puncture resistant and can take the punishment of severe landings after enormous drops and jumps.
Vittoria Mota G2.0
A world Championship-proven wet weather and muddy conditions tyre, the Vittoria Mota G2.0 model is equipped with TNT tubeless casing. It features an aggressive and generously spaced tread profile that bites firmly into the dirt and clears mud and debris efficiently.
It features advanced tread-siping and the exceptional Graphene 2.0 rubber compound for unmatched rolling performance, traction, and reliability for Downhill and enduro riding in the most demanding conditions.
The Maxxis Aggressor Mountain bike tyre, an all-round trail tyre excelling on everything from loose cross-country trails to hardcore all-mountain riding. It’s ready to help you to take on modern trails where carrying speed is essential. Tubeless ready for running lower pressures to give you extra grip; you’ll be able to dive into berms harder than ever before. Plus, with Maxxis’ EXO puncture protection on board, there’s no need to worry about flats.
In addition to the Aggressor’s excellent rolling characteristics and puncture protection, it has advanced knob shaping on the tread edges for better stability when taking corners at speed.
The Maxxis Assegai is a fast and high grip mountain bike tyre for a wide range of conditions and riding types. The Assegai uses a speed-orientated tread and Maxxis’ 3C Maxx Terra compound to roll through the trails with support and pace.
Large, well-spaced blocks run along the centreline to enhance traction and reduce rolling resistance while the angled shoulder lugs offer precise handling when cornering and braking. EXO+ puncture protection adds another level of durability and strength to this impressive tubeless ready tyre.
Winter Road Tyres
Which road tyres for which surface?
For road bikes, your tyres must deal with only one of two different surfaces, wet or ice.
In the wet, most winter road tyres maintain their slick surface, which actually provides the best grip on even wet tarmac. Winter road tyres include a narrow profile to cut through shallow water, removing the need for water-dispersing treads. Although not all riders or manufacturers agree. A number of successful models feature water dispersing indentations.
In ice or snow you need a large contact area with the ground, so go for the widest tyres you can get at the lowest pressure on. Tubeless tyres are ideal for this situation, allowing you to get down to super-low pressures without risking pinch flats.
For snow, use a treaded tyre and if things are particularly bad don’t rule out an MTB tyre for extra grip. For ice, especially black ice, consider a studded tyre. It’s probably the only thing that’ll give you real grip on sheet ice.
Best Winter Road Bike Tyres
So, to help limit the amount of times we have to deal with a deflated tyre in cold weather; here is our list of our best winter road tyres.
Continental GatorSkin Road Tyre
The Continental Gatorskin Road Bike Tyre is the go-to tyre of choice for cyclists who need a durable and reliable road tyre with excellent resistance to punctures.
This tyre is specifically designed to withstand the harshest of conditions. Made from a durable compound and featuring Continental’s bespoke technologies like DuraSkin® for sidewall protection and a PolyX Breaker for puncture resistance. It can battle wet and wintry conditions or nasty, sharp road debris.
Schwalbe Winter Kevlar Guard Rigid Spiked Road Tyre
Enjoy a lower rolling resistance and exceptional grip in winter weather, thanks to the Winter Spike K-Guard Road Tyre from Schwalbe. With half the number of spikes, reflective lines, and a durable K-Guard protection, which Schwalbe call double defence technology, it offers exceptional security when road cycling in frosty conditions.
Vittoria Rubino Pro Control IV G2.0 Road Tyre
Bringing you the same material and compound as Vittoria’s original Rubino Pro model but offering you more protection from road debris, the Pro Control IV G2.0 is the ideal road bike tyre for endurance cyclists. Using the highly advanced 3C Graphene material that places three different rubber types to increase durability, grip, and speed.
The Rubino Pro Control is a folding tyre with a very robust construction, capable of handling the worst of road conditions, without sacrificing the performance the Rubino range is known for. With full bead-to-bead tread wrap, cuts and punctures are dramatically reduced and are reinforced with the PRB anti-puncture layer inside the casing.
LifeLine Prime Armour Road Tyre
Lifeline’s Prime Armour Road tyre is packed with essential features like puncture protection, speed, and traction. Including speed-focused properties of LifeLine’s Prime Race model with advanced puncture protection features like a Kevlar breaker with full nylon reinforcement, this Prime Armour Road Tyre gives you peace of mind when tackling rough road surfaces.
Rolling resistance is kept to a minimum through the use of a slick centre tread whilst the tyre’s shoulders benefit from a channelled pattern for enhanced grip in the corners and in wet conditions to disperse surface water from the centre channel. Traction is increased through the use of a 70a durometer compound, allowing you to tackle hairpins with ease.
Pirelli Cinturato Velo TLR Road Tyre
The Pirelli Cinturato Velo TLR road tyre, equipped with a SmartNET Silica rubber compound, is a tubeless-ready road bike clincher tyre that offers high levels of wet grip, comfort, mileage, and puncture resistance for tackling every mile of road. Pirelli has also kitted it out with an Armour Tech construction that uses several layers from the inside to the outside to protect against punctures on your journey.
With a high-density nylon layer belt extended from bead to bead, all the way around the casing and underneath the tread as well as an aramid breaker, this model provides excellent shielding against sharp objects while adding support for low-pressure riding. Coming complete with tubeless-ready technology, you’ll also enjoy tubeless benefits such as the ability to run lower pressures for lower rolling resistance, increased grip and a reduced risk of flats or punctures.
Continental Grand Prix 5000 Tyre
Building upon the success of its rider-favourite Grand Prix 4 model, Continental has managed to push the performance level even further with its Grand Prix 5000 Tyre. With use of Active Comfort technology, which absorbs vibrations and smoothens out your ride. This means the tyre can deform more efficiently which also improves grip, puncture protection and speed.
Coming equipped with Vectran puncture protection, which features an enormous tear resistance at a very low weight. Continental has also kitted out this road-ready model with Laser Grip technology, which uses a lasered micro profile structure to expand over the tyre’s shoulder and deliver outstanding cornering grip. This makes it a great choice of upgrade for road riders who want to ride faster, more comfortable and with increased puncture protection, wherever the next ride takes them.
Schwalbe Marathon Plus SmartGuard Road Tyre
Taking pride from being the only tyre on the market to deserve the title “flat-less”, the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Road Tyre – Smart Guard boasts a bespoke patented 5mm thick puncture protection belt. This belt is made from a highly elastic special rubber and resists thumbtacks, glass, and other sharp-edged debris.
Its advanced design offers a lighter roll for a comfortable, smooth, and safe ride, meaning Racing and club cyclists, commuters, touring cyclists, and E-Bike riders can all enjoy the benefits of increased puncture protection.