MTB Tires for Road and Off-Road Use

Is there a perfect tire for on road and off-road use? No, but there are a few viable options.

The Problem

I like to bike to the trails which results in a multi-use ride. Half the ride is on the road, while the other half is on the single track MTB trails.

This results in a tire selection issue due to contrasting conditions as most off-road tires are not designed for the road and vice versa.

Off-Road Tires

  • The best off-road tires are not suited for roads
    • Knobs wear out quickly due to the hard surface
    • Soft rubber compounds wear out quickly due to the hard surface
    • Knobs increase rolling resistance on smooth surfaces
    • Knobs vibrate on smooth hard surfaces

Road Slick Tires

  • The best MTB slicks for roads are not suited for off-road trails
    • Hard rubber compounds lack grip on uneven and loose surfaces
    • Thin sidewalls pinch flat and tear easily on rough surfaces
    • Lack of knobs results in spin outs on loose or soft conditions

A compromise is needed, and unfortunately there are very few tires made for dual usage (road and trails).

The Dual Usage Options

The following are the best MTB tires I could find for both road and trail use. None are perfect and all suffer in loose wet conditions.

1. Maxxis Holy Roller

A BMX tire designed for pavement and hardpack. It rolls extremely well on the road and has a wonderful grip on singletrack off-road trails. It is a great tire for dual usage.

On dry hardpack trails and gravel roads, this tire rolls incredibly well with minimal rolling resistance. Yet, it still grips well on the turns and hills when needed. It’s my favorite tire for mixed usage.

The tire also wears extremely well on-road/off-road and has a long lifespan. Overall, it’s a well balanced tire.

Only negative point is the tire is a bit heavy.

Holy Roller-Road and Off-Road MTB Tire

2. Maxxis Hookworm

An urban assault tire designed for pavement abuse. This semi-slick rolls extremely well on the road. Off-road it also works well due to its size and large contact patch with the ground. However, without knobs, a less aggressive cycling style is required. Push it too hard, it will spin in soft surfaces. Ease off, it will still climb and roll due to the large surface area.

The Hookworm is extra tough and durable. Glass will not affect it, which makes it great for street riding. Overall, it’s better suited for the road with some off-road use.

Negative points are the heavy weight and large size. At 26×2.5” it may be too big for many bike frames.

Hookworm-Road and Hardpack Trail MTB Tire

3. Kenda K-Rad

A multi-use tire with an inverted thread design intended for street and hardpack use. They roll well on the road and off-road.

They are often compared to the Maxxis Holy Roller. Unlike the Holy Roller, the sidewalls are thin and prone to punctures. In addition, the grip is notably worse especially if it’s wet.

On a more positive note, they are cheaper and lighter. Overall, they are better for street use with minimal trail use.

4. Kenda Small Block Eight

A cross-country racing tire designed for speed and grip. These are popular amongst XC racers.

Off-road and on road they roll really well like a semi-slick . Grip is fantastic on hardpack but not as good on pavement or concrete.

The tires are really light and made of soft rubber. However, they wear out quickly especially on the road.

Overall, they are well suited for off-road use with minimal road use.

Summary

The Maxxis Holy Roller and Hookworm are my favorite MTB tires for biking to the trailhead. They both feature low rolling resistance, good grip in dry conditions, and long lifespans.

  • The Hookworm is slightly better for road use due to its tougher casing
  • The Holy Roller is slightly better for trail use due to its side knobs

Roads Trails Durability Price Dual Use Rating
Maxxis Holy Roller Good Good Good $$ Excellent
Maxxis Hookworm Excellent Okay Excellent $$ Excellent
Kenda K-Rad Good Good Poor $ Okay
Kenda Small Block Eight Okay Excellent Poor $$$ Okay


Maxxis Hookworm Off-Road-01-thumb.jpgMaxxis Hookworm Off-Road-02-thumb.jpgMaxxis Hookworm Off-Road-03-thumb.jpgMaxxis Hookworm Off-Road-04-thumb.jpgMaxxis Hookworm Off-Road-05-thumb.jpgMaxxis Hookworm Off-Road-06-thumb.jpgMaxxis Hookworm Off-Road-07-thumb.jpgMaxxis Hookworm Off-Road-08-thumb.jpg


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