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The top 5 best 26 inch downhill mountain bike tires

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

26 inch mountain bike tires are a dying breed with the entire industry adopting the 29 inch standard. But as with all new technologies, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with the old.

This entire website is a testament to the fact that older technology is far from being obsolete. Sure, I’m not advocating the use of caged pedals, and 29 inch tires bring a lot to the table, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still bomb down a trail with a mountain bike sporting 26 inch tires.

So for those of you who don’t mind being flipped over your handlebars a bit faster with those tiny wheels, I proudly bring my list of the best 26 inch downhill mountain bike tires. Ride or die!

Maxxis Minion DHF

Maxxis Minion DHF
Maxxis Minion DHF

When you’re looking for a mountain bike tire it’s almost impossible not to have heard of the Maxxis Minion DHF. The reason being it’s like the ultimate fit-and-forget mountain bike tire on the market. That means that the tire is just about perfect for any local trail riding, to enduro and downhill races.

The tread pattern shows that this tire prefers to sit on your front wheel. You can opt to put another fan favorite, the Maxxis Minion DHR II, at the back. That tire has horizontally aligned knobbies for increased braking power.

Its popularity ensures there are many options to choose from, both with respect to size, as well as casing. And all of them offer either the EXO sidewall protection, or Double Down breaker. For those with a penchant for tan sidewalls, there are those as well.

On its own, or paired with the Minion DHR II, the Maxxis Minion DHF is such a no-brainer that it’s hard to not recommend it to anyone for all-round trail-riding and downhill.

Expert Experience

Jeff Barber | Editor in Chief – August 24, 2023

I’ve found the Maxxis Minion DHF truly serves as an all conditions tire, from loose to firm and from wet to dry. Obviously the compound makes a difference when it comes to hard surface traction, as does tire pressure. The Minions do a good job clearing mud and clay, and cut through sandy washes better than most.

Thinking back over hundreds of rides on the Minions DHF tires, I can’t recall a single pinch flat despite running “just” EXO/TR casings. Honestly most riders should be able to get away with a lighter casing on the DHFs since it is a front tire after all. That’s not to say I haven’t had punctures due to sharp objects, though no more or less than other tires.

Pros and Cons

Maxxis Minion DHR II

Maxxis Minion DHR II
Maxxis Minion DHR II

The “DH” in DHF and DHR stands for “downhill”. The “F” and “R” for “front” and “rear” respectively. The “downhill” in the name is a bit misleading, because the horizontal tread pattern of the DHR not only aids braking but also gives more traction when going uphill. Both tires have the same side knobs to maximize grip while cornering.

Maxxis intended these two tires to be used together as their go-to allround solution for trail riding. And these tires are in some many lists that it’s probably the best allround no-worries solution money can buy.

Together with the Minion DHF, the Maxxis Minion DHR II is a fantastic and confidence inspiring tire that will take your downhill rides to the next level.

Expert Experience

Jeremy Benson | Product reviewer – November 22, 2018

I’m a pretty big fan of this tire. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option for a rear tire for aggressive everyday trail riding. The combination of cornering confidence and pedaling and braking traction is hard to beat. There are faster rolling tires out there, but few that can dominate the trail like the DHR II. Mount this up as a rear tire with a Minion DHF up front and you’ve got our winning combination for aggressive trail riding.

Pros and Cons

Maxxis High Roller II

Maxxis High Roller II
Maxxis High Roller II

The Maxxis High Roller II is a solid option, both front and back, in loose and dry condition riding.

If you don’t have that much climbing to do, you might opt for a dual High Roller setup. But for any non-competitive riders. However, the DHR II plus High Roller front and back respectively, is a more forgiving, allround setup.

But as far as downhill goes, the High Roller’s spaced out knobs proved a perfect amount of bite in loose conditions.

Expert Experience

Dunbar Cycles | Contributor – August 8, 2011

I loved the improved predictability during cornering and was impressed by how well the tire performed in the sloppiest of conditions. The new High Roller II is a step away from a comprehensive dry tire, and a step towards a true all-conditions option that can be used in more settings. It slots in between the Minion, a dry tire, and the Wet Screams. The original High Roller was, and still is, a great tire. I’d still use the first generation High Roller, but the new version is an improvement in nearly every regard.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Big Betty

Schwalbe Big Betty
Schwalbe Big Betty

The Schwalbe Big Betty is the go-to rear tire for the Schwalbe Magic Mary. Where the Magic Mary has proven to be among the top tires in terms of traction, when combined with the Big Betty you improve your overall braking power.

It has a horizontal tread pattern to do so, that’s sufficiently spaced to have sufficient clearing characteristics as well when you release the brakes again.

Of all the downhill combinations available on the market today, I can’t think of a single one that beats Schwalbe’s current offering of Magic Mary and Big Betty. It’s one of the heaviest sets of downhill-specific tires, that’ll provide you the ultimate in traction.

Expert Experience

Mike Kazimer | Technical reviewer – May 19, 2021

The Big Betty’s braking traction is its standout trait – as soon as the brakes are applied those center knobs get to work, biting ferociously into the ground. That tenacious grip is especially noticeable in loose conditions, whether that’s dry and dusty or wet and muddy, and it’s in those instances that I’d put the Big Betty ahead of the Maxxis DHR II as far as overall braking traction. The DHR II is obviously no slouch in the braking department, but it doesn’t dig in quite as hard as the Big Betty does.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Magic Mary

Schwalbe Magic Mary
Schwalbe Magic Mary

The Magic Mary is Schwalbe’s grippiest tire from their entire lineup. It performs both brilliantly as a downhill tire, but is just as effective for all-round trail riding in brutal conditions.

It has top-of-the-line traction combined with super fast rolling characteristics and a good feel for the trail at high speeds. If you want to be in the moment and experience flow going down sloppy slopes the Magic Mary delivers big time, with virtually zero cons.

Good braking power, allround riding characteristics in dry and wet conditions, this is Schwalbe’s top tire for all-mountain, enduro and downhill, no matter what the conditions are.

Expert Experience

Tor Weiland | Contributor – November 03, 2022

The Magic Mary is a seriously universal tire because of how many configurations it comes in. It’s right at home on the front of a trail bike in the Super Trail casing, on an enduro bike in the Super Gravity casing, or on a downhill bike in the Super Downhill casing. As long as you’re happy to put up with the high rolling resistance that you should expect from a performance tire, there aren’t many people that I wouldn’t recommend this tire to. It’s versatile enough to perform excellently in the wet and the dry, and dependable enough to take to your next race.

Pros and Cons

Specifications 26 inch downhill mountain bike tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
TPI
Maxxis Minion DHF
26×2.50WT
55-559
860
Black
Black
3C MaxxTerra
foldable
60
Maxxis Minion DHF
26×2.30
58-559
840
Black
Black
3C MaxxTerra
tlr
60
Maxxis Minion DHF
26×2.50WT
63-559
905
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
60
Maxxis Minion DHR II
26×2.30
58-559
780
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
60
Maxxis Minion DHR II
26×2.40WT
61-559
865
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
60
Maxxis Minion DHR II
26×2.40WT
61-559
865
Black
Black
3C MaxxTerra
EXO
tlr
60
Maxxis High Roller II
26×2.30
58-559
835
Black
Black
Dual
tlr
120
Maxxis High Roller II
26×2.30
58-559
846
Black
Black
3C MaxxTerra
tlr
120

Sources

Jeff Barber, The Maxxis Minion DHF Tire is Still the One to Beat, Singletracks, August 24, 2023
Jeremy Benson, Maxxis Minion DHR II Review, Outdoorgearlab, November 22, 2018
Dunbar Cycles, Maxxis High Roller II Tires Review, Pinkbike, August 8, 2011
Mike Kazimer, Review: Schwalbe’s Big Betty Tire is Dependable & Durable, Pinkbike, May 19, 2021
Tor Weiland, Schwalbe Magic Mary | Mountain Bike Tire Review, Thelostco, November 03, 2022
bio vanseijen

Johan van Seijen

Founder Restoration.bike

Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His cycling career has seen him at the starting line of classics such as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege. Realizing his racing capacity would fall short of what was needed he obtained a MS from the University of Amsterdam in engineering. His love for cycling changed into riding in an amateur capacity with his local cycling club TFC Weesp as a roadie and supporting MTB Noordwest as a mountain biker. He repairs, restores, and builds bicycles and shares his knowledge on YouTube, Facebook and this website. 

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