Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.
You need the right mtb tires for muddy conditions
A guide to choosing the best Mountain Bike tires for mud
The arrival of winter brings with it a challenge for all mountain bikers- Mud, mud,glorious mud!
When an MTBer talks about a 'dirty weekend'. It usually means that conditions have been particularly sloppy underfoot and when you're cycling through the mud ends up going everywhere! Which is why you need the best mountain bike tires for mud.
When you buy a mountain bike it will generally come equipped with a general purpose tire which will often be designed to perform mainly on hard, rocky or loosely packed trails. That tire will also have a very large volume to provide grip and comfort. These features will likely slow you down in the depths of a muddy winter so a change to a mud specific mountain bike tire for the winter months is a requirement.
Choosing a mountain bike tire for the mud
A regular, large volume mountain bike tire (such as a 2.1 inch diameter tire) will tend to float when a rider hits puddles of thick mud. Therefore when looking for winter mud tires for your mtb a 'less-is-more' attitude to tire casing size is often a requirement as narrower tires will allow you to slice through the mud and gain more traction whether you're racing after a week oof incessant rain or heading out on your favourite ride on a damp December day.
When it comes to tire tread to deal with muddy conditions you need to look for a tread which has tread knobs spaced well apart to allow the mud to clear.
The guide below showcases some fantastic MTB tires to tackle mud in recreational riding and race conditions while potentially throwing up tire choices you may never have thought of.
Lets bring on the mud!
Pick up your Michelin Country Mud's for less than $15 (A bargain tire!)
Mud performance for the budget conscious mtber
If you're looking for a winter mountain biking tire on a budget the Michelin Country Mud is definitely worth consideration. Their design has been around for some time however they're a great cheap tire for winter conditions
The tread pattern features deep but well spaced tread knobs which clear relatively well. The tread is relatively multi-functional so you don't need to worry excessively on any hard pack. Although the soft compound which works great in the mud has a habit of wearing quickly in other conditions.
You can pick them up for less than $15 (usd) if you shop around which is exceptionally good value for an aggressive, mud specific tire.
Cheap and cheerful performance in the Mud- Michelin Country Mud
Panaracer Smoke tires for mud performance
A classic mtb tire tread for mud performance
Designed primarily as a rear tire to really dig into the dirt to propel yourself forwards, the Panaracer Smoke tire is a tried and tested favourite for winter mountain biking.
The Smoke clears mud well and has an aggressive tread pattern to really dig in like a tractor tire and keep you moving. Sadly only available with a clincher bead but combine it with the front specific Dart for steering precision.
A modern classic for gooey trails- The Maxxis Medusa
If you really feel you suffer on trails which are extensively gooey with clay-like soil- You need a mud specific tire which isn't going to clog and wimp out whilst having a large volume
Consider fitting a set of Maxxis Medusa tires. The Medusa features widely spaced knobs and is available in a particularly mud slicing 1.8 inch format which many xc racers feel is ideal as a rear tire when combined with a wider front tire. The Medusa has been a particularly successful tire for British mountain bike racers who suffer with damp summers and wet winters.
The Medusa comes in a number of formats including UST friendly and various different widths so you can choose your preference.
Available from 26x 1.55 inch narrow profile up to a large volume 2.1 inch profile for those who like a fat tire.
Houffalize World Cup- Muddy Mayhem
Retro slim profile tires that love the mud: Specialized Houffalize: Tires named after the muddiest mountain bike racing circuit
It rains a lot in Belgium which leads to lots of mud. It rains so much that it led Specialized to name a mud specific tire after the legendary Houffalize World Cup racing course.
The Specialized Houffalize appears to be no longer in production but is a classic retro mtb racing tire for wet and muddy conditions which can be picked up on sites like eBay at sensible prices. With the popularity of wide profile mtb tires the Houffalize offers a reassuringly different narrow profile tire which will prevent almost any frame clogging in the mud.
The Houffalize is a fantastic tire for those who are looking for something different as a bit of 'bling' for their bike. Old-school mtbers will take one look and give you a nod of approval at this retro tire choice.
Wildcard Tire: Consider a cyclocross racing tire for your MTB
Consider cyclocross tires to slice through the mud on your MTB
A cyclocross tire on your MTB may seem a bit of a wild card choice. If you're really looking for a tire to cut through the mud- a set of cyclocross specific tires could be a great wild card option.
When it comes to racing in muddy conditions- no cyclesport does it better than cyclocross. The demands of a cyclocross race are determined by their racing conditions and deep into a notoriously wet Belgian winter that means courses which involve lots of mud.
A cyclocross type tire will allow you to consider entering a few cx races during the winter on your mountain bike to allow an alternative focus to your riding and fitness development.
Using significantly narrower tires will also challenge your riding abilities as large volume MTB tires absorb a huge amount of the difficulty while riding over roots and rocks . By running narrow tires you'll be challenged to follow the best lines on the trail and help improve your bike handling skills.
Schwalbe CX tires for you MTB
Schwalbe have been producing their classic CX Pro tires for a number of years. They're a simple, lightweight cyclocross racing tire that will help you to really slice through the mud.
Their 26 x 1.35 inch size will feel like you're riding a slim road tire when compared to regular MTB rubber but you'll be pleasantly surprised by their performance in soft conditions.
Thanks for reading and good look riding in the mud
Liam Hallam (CyclingFitness @Hubpages)
What's your favourite tire for the mud?
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on December 22, 2012:
Thanks MarleneB - we all have our own comfort zone, thanks for your comment cf
Marlene Bertrand from USA on December 22, 2012:
Hahahaha! I laugh because, while I can ride a bike, I take the easy route. Just give me straight roads along the sidewalk and I'm happy.
Liam Hallam (author) from Nottingham UK on December 21, 2012:
Thanks MarleneB, mountain biking often involves lots of mud so thank you so much for sharing. Have you considered joining them for a ride?
Marlene Bertrand from USA on December 21, 2012:
Lots of great information here. I have friends who enjoy mountain biking as an ameteaur sport. Definitely sharing your hub with them.