Six of the best fast-rolling MTB tires

Treads that’ll make your bike quicker for XC and trail

The fact is, nothing makes your bike faster than putting faster rolling tires on it. Better still, because most of the rolling resistance comes from the rear tire you can stick quick rubber on and go faster for less effort without necessarily sacrificing the crucial corner and braking grip from the front.

Plenty of front end grip and less back end bite also adds a speedway 'safety fuse' aspect where you know the rear of the bike will always step and slide before the front. That’s not only the safer way to overstep the mark but definitely the most stylish and feelgood foot-out flair to add to your riding.

Having said that, you’ll be surprised just how much grip and control some seemingly treadless tires can give if they’re made of the right carcass and compound to suit your riding. There is a surprising amount of performance difference between superficially similar looking and sounding tires though, so we’ve used our massive rubber wrangling experience to choose from six speedy tires, ideal for dryer and more summery conditions – however you like to ride.

What to look for

  • Compound: The harder the rubber, the faster the tire will roll and the longer it will last but the less it will grip. The hardness is expressed as a durometer figure, with a lower number meaning softer, gripper rubber. Compounds can be altered in two or more areas of the tire to balance these characteristics.
  • Carcass: The body of the tire can make a big difference to the weight, toughness and feel. Supple lightweight tires accelerate easily and mold to the terrain for extra grip and smoothness but can be vulnerable to tears and punctures. Reinforced tires can feel really numb.
  • Tubeless: Most tires and rims are now ‘tubeless ready’. That means they just need a rim strip, a sealable valve and some liquid sealant to make them airtight rather than a separate inner tube. They shrug off potential impact punctures much better as a result and can also ‘self heal’ small thorn punctures.
  • Tread: Summer tires generally have a lower height or flatter tread which rolls faster and ‘quieter’ with less buzz. Decent edge knobs are useful for digging into corners without dragging in a straight line, or you can decide to go for a full drift experience.
  • Size: All the tires here (save one - the Bontrager) were tested in 27.5in size for direct context comparison but most of them are available in 29er options and some in 26in too. 

Schwalbe Rock Razor Evo Super Gravity Trailstar

Schwalbe rock razor evo super gravity trailstar:
Schwalbe rock razor evo super gravity trailstar:

  • Price: US$97
  • Weight: 950g
  • Sizes: 26, 650b or 29x2.35in
BikeRadar score4.5/5

    Verdict: Surprisingly grippy speed booster for flat out riding, so well damped it feels like a rear suspension upgrade. At under a kilo it’s noticeably lighter and more agile in feel than most tires in its category, with multiple small split topped knobs are that are ramped for even easier rolling – adding instant and obvious pace. The transition onto the big softer compound side knobs is seamless too, so grip increases just when you need it for corner carving.


    Read our full review of the Schwalbe Rock Razor Evo Super Gravity Trailstar

    Bontrager XR2 Team Issue

    Bontrager xr2 team issue:
    Bontrager xr2 team issue:

    • Price: US$75
    • Weight: 610g
    • Sizes: 26x2.0, 2.20, 29x2.0 (tested), 2.2in
    BikeRadar score3.5/5

      Verdict: Fast rolling, smooth tracking, and simple regular small knob pattern and supple carcass can pull surprising traction out of dry to damp loose soil and gravel. These are definitely drifters not railers though.


      Read our full review of the Bontrager XR2 Team Issue

      Mavic Roam XL

      Mavic roam xl: mavic roam xl
      Mavic roam xl: mavic roam xl

      • Price: US$75
      • Weight: 890g
      • Sizes: 26, 650b or 29x2.2in 
      BikeRadar score3.5/5

        Verdict: A real opinion divider, but a huge speed boost for aggressive and dynamic riders. If you can get it right over onto it’s distant CC compound ‘off the shoulder’ tread it rips corners really well.


        Read our full review of the Mavic Roam XL

        Maxxis Ardent EXO TR

        Maxxis ardent exo tr: maxxis ardent exo tr
        Maxxis ardent exo tr: maxxis ardent exo tr

        • Price: US$65
        • Weight: 765g
        • Sizes: 26x2.25, 2.4, 650bx2.25 (tested), 2.4, 29x2.25, 2.4in
        BikeRadar score3.5/5

          Verdict: The EXO carcass version of the Ardent adds a bit more protection than standard without affecting the smooth rolling, rock shrugging ride. It’s a fast and very user friendly big-volume all rounder for a surprising amount of the year.

          Maxxis / Extra UK

          Read our full review of the Maxxis Ardent EXO TR

          Michelin Wild Race’R Advanced Reinforced

          Michelin wild race’r advanced reinforced: michelin wild race’r advanced reinforced
          Michelin wild race’r advanced reinforced: michelin wild race’r advanced reinforced

          • Price: US$75
          • Weight: 1060g
          • Sizes: 650b or 29x2.25in
          BikeRadar score3.5/5

            Verdict: Expensive but easy, rockproof rear end speed for enduro race/bike park action, and has held up well in terms of general wear and tear.


            Read our full review of the Michelin Wild Race’R Advanced Reinforced

            WTB Trail Boss Light

            WTB trail boss light: wtb trail boss light
            WTB trail boss light: wtb trail boss light

            • Price: US$79
            • Weight: 790g
            • Sizes: 650bx2.25 (tested), 2.4 29 x2.25, 2.4in
            BikeRadar score3.5/5

              Verdict: Versatile grip/speed balance and smooth float but floppy when soft, and more of a middleweight tire than a true ‘Light’


              Read our full review of the WTB Trail Boss Light

              This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

              Guy Kesteven

              Freelance Writer, UK
              Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
              • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
              • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
              • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
              • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
              • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
              • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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