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The top 9 best 26 inch bikepacking tires for 2023

In this article I’m going to give you my top picks for the best 26 inch bikepacking tires.

If the gravel bike craze has done one thing is to inspire people to take a good hard look at their old mountain bike. In a certain way gravel bikes have been around since the eighties. It’s just that they were called different.

Gravel bikes sit roughly between your average road bike and mountain bike, and are the perfect tool for bikepacking adventures.

And since vintage mountain bikes have the perfect geometry to be converted into a gravel bike, it makes sense to see if there are specific 26 inch bikepacking tires.

And if you ask me, there are. So without ado, here is my list of the best 26 inch bikepacking tires.

Schwalbe Marathon HS420

I’ve run multiple Schwalbe Marathon’s on various bikes in various sizes and I can’t remember ever running a flat.

To me, this original Schwalbe Marathon set the standard for a package of puncture-protection and durability. And it spawned an entire category of spin-offs for various other cycling disciplines.

I believe it’s one of the best-selling commuting tires because they do what they’re meant for, keep you riding. And they do so consistently.

Schwalbe Marathon HS420 Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
The go-to touring and commuting tire, mile-cruncher.
Reasons to avoid
None

Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB

The Schwalbe Marathon is the ultimate allrounder in the tire department and one of the best-selling tires on the market. So the German brand decided to make a MTB-specific version of this tire: the Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB.

Although it looks like a knobby tire, if you look close enough you can see that center tread will let you run smoothly across pavement. And just like the standard Marathon is meant for commuting and touring, the same goes for this one.

It’s a heavy tire when compared to some of the XC racers. But the biggest plus for hauling all that extra weight is that in terms of puncture protection, this tire has no equal. The reason is pretty simple. Schwalbe stuffed a 5mm strip underneath the center tread, made from highly puncture resistant rubber. And as simple as that sounds, it’s extremely effective in preventing punctures.

So for those of you who want the risk of flats nearing zero, this is the tire for you.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Mile cruncher, unparalleled puncture protection
Reasons to avoid
Heavy, meant for commuting, touring, and bikepacking.

Continental CONTACT Plus

The Continental CONTACT Plus is another great allround commuting tire from the German brand.

It sets itself apart from the other tires in the lineup because of a cut resistant casing, besides the puncture-resistant belt and reinforced sidewalls.

The tire sacrifices a low weight in favor of basically never running a flat, and does so perfectly. It’s flat center tread pattern means it’s a great long-lasting-durable commuter option.

Continental CONTACT Plus Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Extremely puncture-resistant
Reasons to avoid
Heavy

Continental CONTACT Travel

The Continental CONTACT Travel is the most durable, most puncture-resistant touring tire in Continental’s lineup.

A composite breaker underneath the center tread made from kevlar-reinforced nylon is combined with a bead-to-bead polyamide fabric to reinforce the sidewalls as well.

Meant for pavement, hardpack and gravel, commuting, touring, bikepacking, and anything your bike could basically take you apart from technical trail riding.

This protection comes at the price of both weight and speed, but you shouldn’t buy this tire if you’re looking for a tire which excels in those aspects. If you’re looking for a 4-season, long-lasting tire, which is highly versatile, look no further.

Continental CONTACT Travel Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Great 4-season tire. Highly versatile, from commuting to gravel, bikepacking and touring. Maximum durability, with maximum protection.
Reasons to avoid
None

Continental Cross King ProTection

The Continental Cross King ProTection is the newer version of a magnificent, lightweight cross-country racer.

ProTection replaces the RaceSport moniker. It’s a three- and four ply system underneath respectively the tread and sidewall, ensuring maximum puncture protection and shieldwall tearing.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that this tire is still one of the lightest in its category. A true racer.

Continental Cross King ProTection Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Maximum puncture protection in a lightweight cross-country racing tire.
Reasons to avoid
None

Continental RIDE Tour

The Continental RIDE Tour is a fantastic allround tire meant for urban commuting. It’s a 4-season option for those people who want to ride their bike year round, and be assured of riding with the most effective puncture-protection for an commuting tire.

As an allrounder it shows characteristics of durability and puncture-proofness. With both reinforced sidewalls and a puncture-resistant belt underneath the center tread. The belt differs from the more road-bike oriented, and lighter breaker, offering extremely effective protection against everything you might encounter on the road.

An unbroken center tread means it’s reasonably fast in a straight line, and it offers a tread pattern to support riding in the rain.

With all that added material and rubber, you should pick this tire for its long-lasting lifespan.

Continental RIDE Tour Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Ultra-durable, great allround, 4-season option for urban riding and commuting. The best puncture-protection from Continental for a wider commuting tire.
Reasons to avoid
None

Panaracer GravelKing SK (TLC)

The Panaracer Gravel King SK has become my favorite gravel tire on the market. In my mind there are two brands that stand out from the crowd, and those are american-made WTB and their Japanese counterpart Panaracer.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Panaracer. When the gravel-craze took hold of the bicycle industry, they created the tire that would serve as the de facto standard for gravel tires with the GravelKing SK. It has just the right weight, just the right tread pattern, just the right puncture protection, and all wrapped up in a beautiful package, both in black and tan-wall options.

Deservedly so the Panaracer Gravel King SK is in my mind the true fit-and-forget, all-weather, all-season option for gravel afficionados. But will serve those bikepackers and hard-riding daily commuters just as well.

Panaracer GravelKing SK (TLC) Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Superb allround gravel tire, very lightweight, with excellent puncture protection, ride characteristics, and with japanese build quality.
Reasons to avoid
None

Maxxis Crossmark II

The Maxxis Crossmark II is fast-rolling, dry condition, XC or gravel tire with the shallow center knobs and minimal side knobs.

It’s designed for speed on dry hardpack when going in a straight line, with the most minimal tread pattern you can find within this mountain bike category.

The hard-wearing 60 TPI dual casing and EXO reinforced sidewalls make it an excellent companion for long gravel and/or touring rides as well. Especially if you want to have the flexibility to veer off the beaten path yet still ride with confidence.

Maxxis Crossmark II Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Fast-rolling, and versatile tire, Maxxis' build quality with EXO protection.
Reasons to avoid
None

Maxxis Ikon

The absolute cross-country king in Maxxis’ lineup. The Maxxis Ikon has near perfect allround tire characteristics, which makes it an excellent option for diverse road and trail conditions. Though it’s categorized obviously as an XC tire, it’ll also perform superior for bikepackers and gravel riders.

That being said, this is a racing tire, which means it’s light. But the reliable EXO compound, also used for harsher enduro racing, also means you’ll enjoy this tire for many miles.

As with any tire with this type of tread, it’ll perform well in dry conditions. The 26 inch version has both a 2.35 and 2.2 inch width option. You can run this tire both front and back, and might opt for the wider version in the front for some added grip. Especially if you expect some portions of your ride to be particularly rough.

It’s undeniable that the top-of-the-line products of Maxxis are superior to many if not all of their competitors. And the Maxxis Ikon shows it, with a perfect blend of weight, speed, grip, and protection.

Maxxis Ikon Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
The cross-country king. Highly versatile tire which excels in XC, bikepacking, and gravel, lightweight. Can be used front and rear. Pair with Ardent Race in the front for ultra-fast yet grippy XC setup. Tan options available
Reasons to avoid
None

Specifications 26 inch bikepacking tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
Buy at Amazon
Continental CONTACT Plus
26×1.75
42-559
1040
Black
Black
 
SafetyPlus Breaker
wired
Continental CONTACT Travel
26×1.75
47-599
670
Black
Black
 
SafetySystem breaker / DuraSkin
wired
Continental CONTACT Travel
26×1.75
47-599
670
Black
Black reflex
 
SafetySystem breaker / DuraSkin
wired
Continental CONTACT Travel
26×2.00
50-599
760
Black
Black
 
SafetySystem breaker / DuraSkin
wired
Continental Cross King ProTection
26×2.20
55-559
565
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
tlr
Continental Cross King ProTection
26×2.30
58-559
675
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
tlr
Continental RIDE Tour
26×1.75
47 – 559
780
Black
Black
 
ExtraPuncture Belt
wired
Maxxis Ikon
26×2.20
55-559
676
Black
Tan
DUAL
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Ikon
26×2.20
55-559
592
Black
Black
DUAL
 
tlr
Maxxis Ikon
26×2.20
55-559
657
Black
Black
3C MAXX SPEED
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Ikon
26×2.35
60-559
742
Black
Black
3C MAXX SPEED
EXO
tlr
Panaracer GravelKing SK
26×2.10
54-559
590
Black
Tan
ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) Natural
ProTite Shield Plus
tlr
Schwalbe Marathon HS420
26×1.50
40-559
730
Black
Black
ADDIX
GreenGuard
wired
Schwalbe Marathon HS420
26×1.75
47-559
875
Black
Black
ADDIX
GreenGuard
wired
Schwalbe Marathon HS420
26×2.00
50-559
970
Black
Black
ADDIX
GreenGuard
wired
Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB
26×2.10
54-559
1150
Black
Black
ADDIX
SmartGuard, E-50
wired
Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB
26×2.25
57-559
1260
Black
Black
ADDIX
SmartGuard, E-50
wired

Bicycle tire puncture resistance

EXO, GreenGuard, AGC, AEC, ATC, do you ever get confused with all the jargon related to puncture protection. I know I did? That’s why I’ve written a separate article about puncture resistance technologies. That way, you’ll be able to better understand what’s out there and if it’s worth your money.

Johan van Seijen

FoundeR Restoration.bike

Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His passion for cycling in general, and restoring older bikes turned into a website to share his knowledge with a broader audience. Starting out on his father’s road bike and riding classics as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege he has shifted his attention to trail, XC, and gravel riding since. No matter how much he loves writing about everything related to cycling, nothing beats actually using his ever-expanding bicycle collection.

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