As the weather changes, it’s time to put on a set of the best tyres for your mountain bike. The winter season significantly alters your experience on the 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 mountain bike tyres are equipped with weatherproofing materials and high build quality, allowing you to continue riding.
Our guide to the best winter tyres
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 mud covered dreams come true.
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Do I really need winter MTB tyres?
The type of terrain you’re riding in should influence your choice of tyre, but there are 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 a 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.