The Ultimate Guide to Mountain Bike Tires: Insights from AMS and WTB

Hey mountain biking aficionados! Ever found yourself halfway down a trail, questioning if your tires were really the MVP of your ride? Well, let’s tackle that mystery head-on. While we at All Mountain Style are your go-to for bike protection, grips and components, we've joined forces with the tire gurus at WTB to dive deep into the world of mountain bike tires. Stay with me, and we’ll unravel the secrets to picking the right tread for every adventure.

If you don't like reading here's a quick summary, but the devil is in the details, so skip reading to the end at your own risk 🤘:

Tire Type Compound Best For Characteristics
Fast Rolling Harder Center, Softer Edges Hard-packed Terrain, Efficiency Harder rubber in the center for durability. Softer rubber on edges for grip. Ideal for long trails and rolling efficiency.
High Grip Soft Throughout Demanding Terrain, Wet Conditions Soft rubber compound for maximum traction. Excellent for technical descents and challenging conditions. Stickier tread for increased grip.
Knobby Tires Varied Mixed Terrain All-rounder, versatile for various conditions. Suitable for both dry and moderately wet conditions.
Mud Tires Soft Wet, Muddy Conditions Deep treads for shedding mud efficiently. Provides traction in muddy environments. Spaced out knobs to prevent mud build-up.
Rock Grip Tires Soft to Medium Rocky Terrains Designed to grip onto rocky surfaces. Often features reinforced sidewalls for durability against sharp rocks. Tends to have a more rugged tread pattern.
Tubeless Tires Varied General, All Types Can be used at lower pressures without risk of pinch flats. Generally offer better grip and a more forgiving ride. Requires compatible rim and tire for tubeless setup.

Understanding Tire Basics: Compounds and Beads

First up, tire compounds. Think of these as the personality of your tire. They range from soft and grippy for those daring descents, to tough and long-lasting for endless trails. 

Selecting the right one can transform your ride. And here’s where we need WTB to shine light on the subject. But let’s the experts at WTB explain how they balance grip and durability when developing tire compounds:

The subject of tire compounds can be overly complex, but we do our best not to over complicate things. When choosing a WTB mountain bike tire, you’ll only need to decide between two rubber compounds; Fast Rolling and High Grip.

Tire parts by AMS

Fast Rolling tires are designed to maximize rolling efficiency, while still providing excellent levels of traction. The tread of a Fast Rolling tyre features harder wearing rubber along the center, and softer, more sticky rubber on the outer edges. This means you get durability & longevity where it matters, but plenty of grip when you lean it over.

High Grip tires on the other hand, prioritize traction above all else. They’re designed to inspire confidence on the most demanding terrain and in the most challenging conditions. The tread of a High Grip tire also utilizes two rubber compounds, with soft rubber along the centreline, and an even softer, stickier rubber on the outer edges.

The different rubber compounds tend to lend themselves to specific riding styles and terrain, so you’ll find that Fast Rolling and High Grip compounds are often assigned to the most appropriate tread designs… [leads into Treads section below].

Beads are the unsung heroes of the tire world. They're the part of the tire that locks onto your rim – think of them as the handshake between your tire and bike. Wire beads are the tough, reliable type, while folding beads are all about flexibility and weight savings. This bit of knowledge can be a lifesaver when you're out tackling diverse terrains.

After delving into the world of tire compounds, it's important not to overlook another key component: tire beads. These might not grab the headlines like tread patterns or compounds, but they are fundamental to tire performance and safety.

Beads are the unsung heroes of the tire world. They're the part of the tire that locks onto your rim – think of them as the handshake between your tire and bike. Wire beads are the tough, reliable type, offering robustness, while folding beads are all about flexibility and weight savings. This bit of knowledge can be a lifesaver when you're out tackling diverse terrains.

Tire Treads for Specific Terrains

Now, let’s talk treads. Knobby, mud, rock – each has its specialty. Knobby tires are the all-rounders, great for a bit of everything. Mud tires? They're like mud's worst enemy, shedding it off so you maintain traction. And rock grip tires, well, they cling to rocky surfaces like they’re glued on.

WTB tire treads

This is what WTB has to say about tire treads: 

When looking at the differences between tire treads, there are some rules of thumb to follow if you’re looking for certain characteristics.

Tires with a tightly spaced tread pattern will generally have good rolling efficiency and will usually work best on harder-packed terrain and in drier conditions (when the ground is too firm for the tread to ‘bite’ into).

Tires that feature a tread with larger knobs & more space between them, will usually be better suited to more loose terrain and wetter conditions (where the ground is softer and the tread will dig deeper into the dirt).

The more extreme the tread design (really small and tightly packed tread vs really tall tread with wide spaces in between), the more obviously those characteristics will become.

It’s also common to want different characteristics depending whether you’ll use that tire on the front or rear, as each wheel essentially does a very different job on the trail.

If you look at our Trail Boss (rear) and Vigilante (front) combo, you’ll notice the front tire has larger knobs with wider spacing, and the rear has slightly smaller knobs with tight spacing. Neither is on the extreme side, which makes this a great combo for all-round trail & enduro riding as you’ll benefit from the Trail Boss’s great rolling efficiency on the rear, and the Vigilante’s impressive grip levels on the front.

The Judge (rear) and Verdict (front) combo on the other hand, features noticeably larger tread blocks, and a lot more space in between them. The taller knobs and wider spacing will help shed mud and allow the tire to really dig in and find traction when you need it, but, this max-traction combo will inevitably result in a little more drag on hard packed surfaces.

WTB Tire guide

Advanced Tire Technologies

Tubeless tires are a game changer in the MTB world. They allow lower pressure without the risk of pinch flats, meaning better grip and a more forgiving ride. 

Tubeless Tire

Tire suppliers like WTB have mastered tubeless technology, making installation and maintenance a breeze: 

It’s no secret that we at WTB are HUGE advocates of all things tubeless. The advantages far outweigh any disadvantages (are there even any negatives these days?), and we work hard to maintain our position as industry leaders in tubeless technology. We offer the full package; from rims, wheels, & tires, through to tubeless tape, valves, and sealant too. Any WTB product that bears the TCS logo is tubeless ready, and is therefore compatible with any tubeless system.

If you are thinking about making the switch to tubeless, it’s crucial that ALL components are tubeless ready. ‘DIY/Hack setups just aren't safe, and could result in a tyre blowing off a rim at any time.

Tubeless ready components are specifically designed to not only hold the tire bead in position safely, even at low pressures, but the inner profile of rim is shaped to make installation and inflation easier too.

For some tips on setting up your bike tubeless, you can check out this video:

Optimizing Performance

Rolling resistance and tread patterns are where science meets the trail. Low rolling resistance equals less effort for more speed – a win-win in any rider’s book. Tread patterns, on the other hand, are like the strategic plan for your tire, dictating how it behaves in different conditions:

As previously mentioned, there’s always a trade-off when it comes to rolling resistance vs traction, but that doesn’t mean a grippy tire needs to be slow and draggy. Most tire treads are designed to work differently depending on the angle of attack…

It’s rare to lose traction when your bike is rolling in a straight line, but you start asking more of your tires when you lean into a corner. This is why you often see the centreline of a tire featuring smaller, more tightly spaced tread, with the knob size and space between them growing as you move out. This means you’ll roll along happily without too much effort when upright, but the more you lean over, the more the tread design will bite into the dirt.

The rubber compounds used in the tread will also complement this, with firmer and faster rolling rubber in the middle, and softer & stickier rubber as you move out. More speed when you want it, more grip when you need it!.

Trail riding mtb


Choosing the right mountainbike tire isn’t just about looks; it’s about performance, safety, and fun. With these insights and WTB’s expertise, you’re well-equipped to make the best choice for your riding style and terrain.

Curious about which WTB tire is your perfect match? Dive into their range and discover tires that are crafted for every kind of adventure. And if you need a bit more guidance, their experts are just a message away. Here’s to finding the perfect tread and making every ride unforgettable!

Carles Carrera

Co-Founder, Product&Marketing

Carles' passion for Enduro MTB ignited the creation of AMS. Nowadays, you're more likely to find him speeding along scenic gravel paths, enjoying the thrill of his gravel bike.