Your Guide to the Different Mountain Bike Tire Sizes

mountain bike tires ideal for biking

Mountain biking is an exciting but dangerous sport, and as a result, it’s essential to be familiar with the different mountain bike tire sizes. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran with years of experience, or you’re going mountain biking for the first time, understanding the mountain bike tire sizes is essential.

Having one of the wrong mountain bike tire sizes for the wrong type of mountain biking can be dangerous.

There are a variety of environments that mountain biking takes place. For each setting, they have a tire size that is ideal for biking. Since you’re searching for information on mountain bike tire sizes, you’re probably wondering just how many sizes there are.

How Many Mountain Bike Tire Sizes Are There?

mountain bike fat tires on the road

Image by Lars_Nissen_Photoart from Pixabay

There are only three main tire sizes that exist for mountain biking currently. There are standard tires, fat bike tires, and plus tires. The standard tires are roughly 1.95 to 2.5 inches in width. Fat bike tires are 3.8 to 5.0 inches in width. Finally, the plus size tires are 2.8 to 3.0 inches in width.

Each tire has its own benefits and detriments. And some are better for different environments. As a result, it’s essential to know which mountain bike tire sizes you need for the situation you’re in.

It should also be noted that all tires among the three main tire widths come in three different diameters. These diameters are 26 inches, 27.5 inches, and 29 inches. However, these sizes aren’t as significant, and the width of the wheel is far more critical.

What Does Having Each of the Different Mountain Bike Tire Sizes Mean?

fat tires of a mountain bike beside the tree

Image by Fahrradblog from Pixabay

Each of the mountain bike tire sizes is best for different environments. The standard tires are the thinnest and, as a result, they generate the least traction. Their lack of traction makes them worse for situations where the ground is softer, but it makes them superior for going fast.

The fat bike tires are the biggest and with the size comes a considerable amount of traction. Fat bike tires are by far the best size for slippery trails or if you’re riding through snow or sand.

Finally, plus tires offer a perfect medium between the two other mountain bike tire sizes. They aren’t much wider than the standard tires, so they can be used in environments where you want to go fast. Conversely, they're thick enough to generate traction in moderately difficult terrain.

What Different Types of Mountain Biking Are There?

If you’re new to mountain biking, you may be surprised to learn that mountain biking is more than just biking up or down a mountain.

Mountain biking is a broad term that refers to nearly every kind of off-road biking.

There are five main subcategories of mountain biking that exist: expedition, sand and snow, cross country racing, gravity riding, and trail riding.

Expedition and exploratory riding

Sand and snow

Cross country racing

Gravity riding

Trail riding

Will I Be Ok with the Tires My Mountain Bike

Came With?

2 Bikers are paddling the mountain bikes at the top of the ice mountain

Usually, you can get by with the tires that come attached to the mountain bike you purchased. If you’re buying a mountain bike for the first time, you’re probably getting one with standard tires. If they aren’t the standard tires, they’re probably plus tires which are also very versatile.

However, if you plan on biking in more extreme environments quickly, you’ll want to get the right mountain bike tire sizes if possible. Having fat bike tires, for example, in wet environments, will make your life a lot easier.

If money is an issue and you stick to standard downhill mountain biking or trail riding, using the attached tires should work perfectly fine.

A Guide to the Different Mountain Bike Tire Sizes

When you start mountain biking, it’s crucial to do your research on the different mountain bike tire sizes. Mountain biking can be dangerous for the inexperienced, and being informed about the equipment you’re using can help mitigate some of the risks.

With that in mind, we’ll take you through the pros and cons of each of the three main mountain bike tire sizes.

Standard tires

Standard tires are the smallest of the three main tire sizes. They range anywhere from 1.95 to 2.5 inches. However, the most standard size is for the width to be 2.3 inches.

The most significant benefit of the standard tires is that the shorter sidewalls squirm less under hard cornering. That makes it far easier to make sharp turns with the thinner tires. Additionally, the wheels roll quickly because they're lighter, and therefore, it’s easier to go fast with standard tires.

Finally, standard tires are, as you would expect, the most common of the mountain bike tire sizes. As a result, they have the largest selection of different bikes and components.

Unfortunately, there are downsides to using standard tires. Since they’re thinner, they have less surface area on the ground and thus generate the least traction of the mountain bike tire sizes.

In softer conditions, standard tires perform very poorly, and it can be dangerous to use them in the snow or the rain.

Standard tires are great for cross country riding and gravity riding. Their ability to generate speed is excellent for both types of mountain biking. Additionally, they are solid tires for trail riding, as this is usually the most casual form of mountain biking.

Fat bike tires

Fat bike tires are the largest of the three tire sizes. They range from 3.8 inches to 5.0 inches in width.

The most significant benefit of using fat bike tires is that they give an insane amount of traction. Since they’re the largest of the mountain bike tire sizes, they also have the most surface area on the ground.

Their width allows the tires to grip the ground better in wet or unstable environments.

Furthermore, fat bike tires won’t sink as easily when you’re riding through the snow or mud. That makes them the best tires for mountain biking in the rain or after a storm.

Unfortunately, all that traction comes at a cost and that cost is weight. The fat bike tires are cumbersome, and that means they aren’t great for generating speed. Additionally, with how burdensome they are, they aren’t good for making a sharp turn.

Furthermore, practicing using these tires and testing how much pressure they have is very important. Even experienced riders have trouble balancing tire pressure to prevent squirm and bounce.

Additionally, since these tires are quite large, they have a limited number of bikes that they fit in.

Fat bike tires are best for sand, snow, or wet riding. They provide the traction you need to excel in these environments. Additionally, they can be suitable for exploratory riding, as it’s better to have too much traction in an unknown environment than too little.

These tires can also be used for trail riding, but if you like going fast, they shouldn’t be your first choice.

Plus tires

The final of the mountain bike tire sizes are the plus tires. These tires range from 2.8 to 3.0 inches in width. It’s a very narrow range, and they're meant to be a perfect medium between standard and fat bike tires.

Plus tires aren’t much more substantial than standard tires, and as a result, they can generate a decent amount of speed. They also can get around tight corners well. They aren’t as fast or as quick at turning as the standard tires, but they perform fine.

Plus tires can also provide traction in unpredictable terrain because of their slightly greater width. Additionally, they can fit in frames that some fat bike tires cannot because of their thinner width.

The biggest downside to the plus size is that they aren’t the best in any area. They’re decent at everything. Plus tires are a jack of all trades, but master of none.

The result of being decent at everything but not the best is that you will never run into a situation where your bike doesn’t perform at all. However, it also means that your bike could have small things that cause you problems no matter the environment.

Plus tires are the best of the mountain bike tire sizes for exploratory riding. They give you the traction you need in an unfamiliar environment.

However, if the trail ends up smoother than expected, they can also allow you to traverse it quickly.

What Mountain Bike Tire Sizes Are Right for You?

We can’t tell you what the right mountain bike tire sizes are for you; we can only give you the information we have on each type of tire. After all, we don’t know what kind of mountain biking you’re interested in, so we can’t give you an informed answer.

What we can tell you is that standard tires are great for generating speed and going around corners. Fat bike tires are best for harsh environments where you need a lot of traction. Lastly, plus tires are a good balance between the two.

Are you a new or experienced mountain biker? Which of the mountain bike tire sizes do you think is the best fit for you? Let us know in the comments

Featured Photo by Malik Junaid on Unsplash


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