I like to run heavy duty mountain bike tires on my bike. Let me tell you why. I like to ride fast through loose rock. We have a lot of loose rock here in San Diego County. For an 8-month stretch I had a flat tire every time I rode. On a family vacation to Moab I only got to go on two rides. Sure enough, halfway through the world famous Slickrock Trail I had a flat!! Most of my flats were caused by sidewall gashes or pinch flats (when you hit something hard and the tube gets pinched between the tire and the rim).
Desert Riding? I do my share. All kinds of sharp stuff out there … ocotillo, prickly pear, cholla, and cats claw acacia just to name a few.
So, I finally wised up and asked a guy in a Moab bike shop what they use on their rental bikes. I figured they would not be putting new tires on their rentals every day! The employee told me they used tubeless Maxxis Minions with tubes inside. When I got home I immediately did some research. Then I ordered two 2.5 inch DR (Downhill Rear) with UST (Ultra Sidewall Technology) ST (Super Tacky) tires, one for the front and one for the rear.
When I removed them from the box they looked like motorcycle tires! Reviewers had said this tire provided good traction, was a little heavy, and the ST compound would wear out quickly. I found these tires provide GREAT TRACTION, and I figured if I ever did start racing I would look into lighter tires. They floated well over sand and have a low roll-resistant rating.
As far as durability? I ran one set without tubes with Stan’s (sealant) solution inside for 2-years and … the only flat I had came from an Ocotillo I ran over in our local desert.
Check the photo (below) of an Ocotillo. These thorns could probably penetrate a bulletproof vest. More important, I had no gashes in the sidewalls.
While mountain biking in our local mountains (Cuyamacas) I met Andy Meyer, who was in the midst of a 50-mile ride in order to prep for a Trans-Pyranees trip. When asked what tire he preferred he said he always runs Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic on the front, and most anything on the rear.
Upon returning from his (successful) Trans-Pyranees trip I emalied Andy to see how his trip went and ask him again about the tires (I’d forgotten a few things). He told me about his adventure and then said this about tires, “The tire is a Schwalbe Nobby Nic. I run the UST (tubeless) version, but the regular one is a bit cheaper if you don’t run tubeless.
My buddy in Spain recommended a rear tire — Maxxis Larsen TT — that I bought before the trip and used; I was very happy with it too. It worked well on hardpack and most everything except mud, but boasts low rolling resistance.”
While I have never tried Schwalbe’s or Maxxis Larsen TT’s, I will always use tubeless tires on my bike, whether I put tubes in them or not. The sidewalls are always heavier, in weight and durability. I am willing to put up with a little more weight just so I don’t get a shard through a sidewall 12-miles from my truck. In addition, the thickness of the sidewalls helps prevent the tire from burping or rolling if the bead of the rim (see below).
Jens Jensen, a friend and 20 year mountain biking veteran, says he has always run Kenda Navigals on his bikes. Jens, who lives outside of Cedar City, Utah, orders them over the internet a few at a time to save on shipping. When ordering over the internet it is always a good idea to check the shipping cost. Sometimes the shipping cost can make a great bargain … not so great.
While in Park City, I noticed my Maxxis rear tire had a crack in the tread. I was going on a 30-mile ride the next day, so I went to a bike shop right before they closed (for the day) and had them mount a tire. They did not have the 2.5 inch Maxxis Minion rear I like, so I got the 2.3 inch Kenda Navigal (John Tomac Series) , just like the ones Jens uses. The shop worker assured me the Kenda was rugged like the Minion, and the 2.3 seems as wide as the Maxxis 2.5. After that I ran Navigals for a couple of years and they seemed fine.
Mountain Bike Tires … Tubes vs Tubeless:
As I stated above, I only use tubeless mountain bike tires. I prefer to run my tubeless tires tubeless. Running tires tubeless prevents pinch-flats, and most punctures are immediately sealed by the Stan’s or Orange sealing solution I have inside.
Any tubeless tire knocked off the bead will not reseal unless you have a large blast of air … from an air compressor. Some guys have told me they got their tubeless to reseal, but I have not had any luck. Some say a CO2 canister will pop it back on. But, what if it doesn’t work?
I carry something that always works … an extra tube and a pump. I figure I can always put a tube into a tubeless tire if need be.
I have been running a 2.3 inch Specialized Pergutory lately, with UST. Specialized calls their UST model, “The Grid.”
Tire pressure- I like to inflate my tires at about 25 psi. I weigh 175 pounds and ride pretty aggressively. Running the tires at 25 softens the ride and widens the face of the tire, allowing a better “hook up” with the trail. The wider face also helps me float over patches of loose sand.
So, why not use only 15 psi in my mountain bike tires?
I have tried ultra low psi’s but have found this causes my tire to roll off the bead much easier.In conclusion, for the type of riding I do I prefer tubeless tires about 2.3 inches wide with Ultra Sidewall Technology, I like to run those tires tubeless. at around 25 psi, with a couple of ounces of sealer sloshing around inside. And I always carry a tube in case my tire jumps off the rim or develops a leak my sealer won’t fix.