Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.
Choosing The Best Tires For Cyclocross Racing On A Mountain Bike
Cyclocross is a great sport for it's inclusiveness. You don't always need a specific cyclocross racing bike and riders can be just as competitive in local cx league events on a mountain bike.
While you can race a mountain bike on a cyclocross course with pretty much no effort in modifying your mountain bike on the early season, hard-packed courses; when the Autumn weather sends courses damp and muddy it makes sense to pay attention to the need for cyclocross specific tires for your mountain bike.
Any cross country worthy mountain bike will be suitable for cyclocross with a hardtail being the best option but a full suspension bike won't stop you riding. A few slight alterations will help and the right tires make a big difference in a cx race so here are 5 great tires to consider.
Schwalbe CX Pro 26 inch- Traditional Cyclocross Tread For MTBs
Cyclocross racing tires are narrow to cut through thick glutinous winter mud. They also feature a generally more pronounced central tread section than a traditional mountain bike tire to ensure they're fast rolling, yet able to dig into the turf.
The Schwalbe CX Pro 269 is the ultimate tire to convert your mountain bike into a cyclocross racer. The tread pattern is exactly the same as the 700x 30mm race specific version which has been around for years and is still popular with racers.
The CX Pro 269 is also a great option for the budget-wise racer. Expect to pay around $25 usd although UK readers can pick them up for less than £15 which is exceptionally good value for money.
The tread measures 32 mm across so you effectively will be riding the equivalent to all the other riders in the field too so there's no worries that extra rubber is holding you back.
Schwalbe CX Pro For 26 Inch MTB Wheels
Knobbly And Gnarly For Muddy Courses- Schwalbe Black Shark Mud
If you're looking for a tire to switch to mid-season the Schwalbe Black Shark 1.5in format could be the racing tire for you. It's a great tire for a gloopy, muddy winter which excels on muddy tracks.
The tread features small yet sturdy, tall lugs which help to provide outstanding grip on soft ground. It's narrow profile helps to slice through the mud and also limits rotary mass to make it a fast racing option over the winter months.
Unlike many cyclocross tire the tread knobs are very widely spaced. This provides additional rolling resistance on any hard-packed surfaces so this is definitely a cyclocross tire to fit to your mountain bike for the depths of a wet and muddy winter only.
Wide-Volume For Mud— WTB Raijin
If you want a tire that's going to deal with the depths of winter without any compromise on tire volume WTB's Raijin tire could be the best option for you. It's named after the Japanese gods of lightning, rain and thunder.
It's tread features a cross country specific design with a self-clearing pattern with square blocks to really dig into deep mud for both recreational riding and racing in sloppy, muddy conditions that you would expect from a cyclocross course deep into winter.
Raijin's are a great race tire for soft conditions. They're lightweight (490g in 26 x 2.1 inch format) so a great option when you're pushing the pace through the mud.
Geax Gato Mud- Crying Out For Rain!
The Geax Gato Mud is one of the narrowest mountain bike specific tires currently produced. It's 1.7 inch casing goes against the 'bigger is better' current philosophy.
It features a narrow profile with widely spaced 'L-shaped' tread knobs to offer aggressive performance in the mud while being effective at clearing out the tread for the next onslaught.
Available with a folding bead at 390g and a TNT puncture breaker adding a little more weight up to a claimed 460g but offering a sensible upgrade in protection. Sadly the tire is currently only available in 26 inch format.
You Don't Need A CX Bike- Just The Right Tires!
Cheap And Effective In The Mud For An All Purpose Tire- Michelin Country Mud
If you're looking for an all-around tire for cyclocross and winter general riding the Michelin Country Mud is a great value option which you might wish to consider. The Country Mud is Micehlin's only mud-specific tire although in reality it comes across as an all-conditions all-around tire which will be suitable for cyclocross events throughout the season.
The tread is more all-around performance orientated with a tread that features an arrowhead format of central knobs surrounded by smaller angled blocks which work to dig in and clear away the gloop.
At 590g for a 26x2.0 inch tire it may be considered on the heavier side but if you factor how much they cost it makes them an excellent low cost all purpose mountain bike tire. Last check on Amazon they were selling for less than $15 usd which is phenomenal for such a good tire.
Michelin Country Mud Mountain Bike Tires
Other Tires To Consider For A Muddy CX Course
As mountain bike tires have grown in volume you can find some great bargains for now discontinued mountain bike tires which will be great for cyclocross racing through a muddy British or North American winter.
Keep an eye out for
Panaracer Fire Mud Pro 1.8- A skinny version of Panaracer's great all-round racing tire.
Specialized Houfallize 1.5- Names after a muddy Belgian race circuit so you know it should handle the soft stuff well.
Bonus Tire: As Rare As Rocking Horse Poo! Continental Cross Country 26 x 1.5 inches
An old favourite (though sadly discontinued) with mountain bikers hitting the CX circuit during the winter months is the Continental Cross Country 26x1.5 format. If you can find some on eBay or in a bargain bin in your local bike shop you could be one of the lucky ones. Over time mountain bike tires have got fatter and fatter so 1.5 inch widths are now very rare.
If you can pick up a set on the internet somewhere or from an LBS you're on to a winner!
Have We Missed Any Great Tires For Cyclocross?
We're always looking for your feedback on our reviews and articles. Have you tried any of these mountain bike tires? Did they help you in a cyclocross race or hold you back in the mud?
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on April 24, 2013:
Thanks Steve- narrower tires do tend to need a higher psi than their higher volume counterparts- particularly as a clincher. Most cx clinchers tend to operate in a recommended range above 40 psi from experience
Steve on April 24, 2013:
I used to have some Cross Country's in 26x1.5 format! They were an awesome tyre in the mud but had an awful habit of pinch flatting when run at low pressure so beware.