I know the feeling. It’s the first day your local trail is open after a series of rainy days and you’re itching to get back on the bike. Before you hit the slick and messy trail, you decide to take a quick trip to your LBS for some upgrades. Trying to be as prepared as possible, you’re on the hunt for the best mtb tire for mud.
Slightly different than a regular Mountain Bike tire, the best mtb tire for mud will have features that improve grip, manage drag, and reduce buildup. This can make for an easier clean up after rides, but more importantly, helps keep you safer on days the trail is loose. Considering all the aspects of a good mud tire, here is a list of the best mtb mud tires.
What makes a MTB tire good for mud?
Manufacturers have done the research and found quite a few ways to improve a rider’s experience in muddy conditions. Though some trails strictly prohibit riding in the wet conditions, it is still important to know what makes a mtb tire good for mud.
Extra front tire traction
Mentioned in our article “How long do mountain bike tires last?”, it is vital for your front tire to have the most traction.
A good mountain bike tire for mud will make sure the front tire has the most traction possible. Why? Because your front tire handles all the important jobs that keep you upright.
Your front tire handles direction inputs, weight distribution and grip when you need it the most, like when you’re hitting those fast corners.
Have you ever felt your rear tire slide out on a turn? Most of the time you can catch it before you slide out and feel cool for the moment. Other times, it can catch you off guard and you wind up sliding off into the trail.
Now imagine that same slide, but with your front tire. That sounds a lot scarier.
If your front tire slides out from under you, there is no control left other than damage control. You can end up over the bars or seriously hurt. This is why you see some tire sets with different tread patterns, and why it is always recommended to have the newest tire on the front.
This is exaggerated when you’re riding in muddy conditions, as you are more prone to sliding out.
The best mtb tire for mud, will always focus on extra front tire traction.
Balance between Traction and Drag
For mud riding, you’re going to need a little extra traction.
You would think that manufacturers would just load up mud mountain bike tires with the most knobs possible. But there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to traction.
All the feature that make a mountain bike tire good for mud, also make it hard to push and keep momentum.
The features that add the most traction, tend to be heavier and increase rolling resistance.
A good mtb tire for mud will always maintain a good balance between traction and drag.
We will explore this further in the next few points.
A good mtb tire for mud will feature a slightly different tread pattern.
Believe it or not, your mountain bike tires will be some of the best upgrades you can have on your bike. They can drastically change the feel of your ride and are surprisingly advanced for the bicycle industry.
Mountain Bike tire manufacturers have developed some of the most advanced pieces of rubber available for bikes today. It can be easy to see all mountain bike tires as the same, but there is a lot more to them than you know.
So when you see a company release a tire meant for the mud, you can trust that it is the best option out there.
Mountain Bike tires for mud will feature longer and sharper knobs, which allow them to penetrate the loose and wet dirt. The knobs are also spaced out, so the mud can clear when you open up and gain speed.
Make sure you pay attention to your tread pattern if you plan on riding in the mud and always ride cautiously if you’re not too confident in the tires.
Further supporting a point in the paragraph above, even the rubber of your tire can affect how you ride.
While the tire material may not always be a concern every other time you’re riding, mud will call for more careful consideration.
Mountain bike tires will all have varying measures of thickness. The thickness of the rubber on a tire is responsible for things like; grip, rebound, and rolling resistance.
When your trying to cut through mud and prevent “floating” and sliding, your tires play a very important role.
If you’re looking for the absolute best mtb tire for mud, make sure you keep every factor in account.
If you’re looking to be the lightest bike on the track, you may want to avoid riding on mountain bike tires that are made for mud.
The best mtb tires for mud will always be slightly heavier than their packed-dirt counterparts.
While this sounds like a bad idea for most riders, riders who plan on biking in the mud will appreciate the extra weight.
Mountain bike mud tires pack extra weight from the larger width and longer knobs, but also from the extra support it takes to handle these added features.
But don’t worry to much about the added weight, it helps you “cut” through some of the looser mud, and also helps you penetrate the harder stuff.
With all the talk of “cutting” through the mud, you may think that a skinny tire would be best for riding in the mud.
This is where mud mtb tires do another balancing act.
Sure, skinny tires would help you cut through some of the dense mud. But you would be in bad shape on any turns or hard corners.
Plus, you wouldn’t be able to fit that many knobs on a skinny tire, and knobs play an arguably more important role than width. So what’s the best width for a mud mtb tire?
Mtb mud tires will typically be the same width as regular tires and will leave the carving to the knobs. This gives a good balance, without losing traction where you will need it most of the time.
Plus, too wide of a tire could leave you “floating” on top of the mud, getting close to sliding out.
It’s no surprise that the best maintenance tip for mtb tires in general, comes in handy when you’re in muddy situations.
Air pressure will play just as important of a role as ever when you’re riding in the mud. Just like the rubber compound in your tire, the air pressure you run at will affect things like rebound and traction.
The best mtb tire for mud will allow you to run the necessary air pressure to get the most from each tire.
If you plan on riding through mud, make sure you maintain a balance between firmness and traction. Some mud tires can be smaller and will often call for a higher psi to feel as wide.
Our picks for the Best MTB tire for Mud
Where some of the other tires on the list are geared towards DH riders, this tire is suitable for average riders and professionals.
Check out the ForeKaster if you are looking for a good, all-around mtb mud tire.
Maxxis considers this mud mtb tire less “dedicated” than their Wetscream, but with solid traction, nonetheless.
This is a great mtb tire for mud, loose riding, or “confident” riding.
Maxxis considers the Wetscream as their most dedicated mtb mud tire in production.
This tire is great for DH riders who find themselves in loose dirt or mud quite often. You will get the support of a solid tire without sacrificing too much speed.
Not marketed as a mud tire on their website, the Maxxis Highroller ll is actually a solid mtb mud tire.
It features an aggressive and open tread design, so it penetrates dirt and clears dirt just as easily. I would recommend the Wetscream or Shorty if you plan on riding in heavy mud, but the Highroller ll is still great.
The WTB Warden is another mtb mud tire on the list for those who are looking to get extra messy.
This tire has a dedicated mud spike for the added traction but features a surprisingly open tread design. With the High Grip rubber compound, you can trust that you’ll get the maximum speed and traction possible.
Mtb mud tires don’t have to be all too expensive, take the Michelin Country Mud mtb tire for example.
This tire is known for being long lasting and provides solid traction in muddy conditions. This tire is great for average riders who want to have the same confidence in the mud as they do on dry surfaces. I wouldn’t recommend this for anything too muddy though.
Kenda’s Honey Badger DH Pro features a unique tread design compared to the rest of the mtb mud tires on the list.
Kenda really pushes the line between speed and traction on mtb tire and it shows. Making this mtb mud tire even more special, it is rated for everything from rocky terrain to heavy mud.
One of the best mtb mud tires on the market, Schwalbe’s Magic Mary HS 447 is a great option for those looking to tear up some muddy trails.
This mtb mud tire is popular with Enduro racers and DH riders for its speed and traction in the corners.
In conclusion, the best mtb tire for mud is the one that gets the job done, while keeping you safely on your bike.
While most mountain bike tires made for mud focus on the same features, you are able to adjust these based on your needs.
If you need less traction and more speed, buy the tire that best suits you. If you plan on riding through the thickest of mud, make sure you get the tire that can cut through the mud when you need it.
Stay safe, and feel free to comment below.