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The top 9 best 26 inch slick mountain bike tires for 2023

I’ve been looking for the best 26 inch slick mountain bike tires for quite a while now. I’ve restored 3 Cannondales and the last one, a Cannondale Killer V, has a set of worn Schwalbe Big Apple tires.

Slick mountain bike tires are the option when you’re looking into converting your retro MTB into a city- or gravel/trail bike. The Killer V is definitely no downhill monster with just 60mm of travel in its Headshok P-bone fork. And overall, the bike is incredibly stiff and pretty unforgiving.

However it’s an absolute inner-city monster, which is much more fun to ride than a traditional road bike, and way cooler looking. Ever since I put Schwalbe Fat Franks on my Cannondale M300 I started to love slick tires on retro MTB builds. Both for their plush ride quality and their minimal rolling resistance.

So let’s take a look at my pick for the best 26 inch slick mountain bike tires.

Maxxis DTH

The Maxxis DTH is by far the tire I most often see on (retro) MTB builds, and for good reason. It’s a gorgeous-looking semi-slick tire that’s exceptionally fast because it’s meant for BMX, dirt-jumping, and pump tracks.

That means the tire has a racing pedigree, which brings both fast-rolling characteristics, and grip with it. It’s wrapped in a very lightweight package. And because of its intended usage on the race track, it also means the tire is great for gaining momentum quickly.

Maxxis is known for providing a wide range of high-quality tires, and with the added benefit of providing both a standard black and tan version, it’s no wonder many older mountain bikes get outfitted with a pair of these.

Sizes range from 2.15 up to 2.3 inches, which will make for a great-looking setup with a very plush road feel.

Maxxis DTH Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Exceptionally fast racing tire. Tan options available. Fantastic tire for MTB builds, with excellent puncture protection.
Reasons to avoid
None

Maxxis Hookworm

The Maxxis Hookworm is a durable urban road bike tire meant to last for many miles as a trustworthy commuting companion.

It’s a large volume, round, and heavy wired tire that smooths out small bumps and road buzz once it has gathered momentum. It’s definitely not a race tire.

It has one of the weirder looking tread patterns I’ve seen on a tire, which makes it fall into the semi-slick category since there are no knobbies whatsover. The swirling patterns probably do a well siphoning water away to the outside in wet conditions.

At 26 x 2.5 inches make sure you’ve got enough frame clearance to be able to actually run these big tires.

I’ve run these type of heavy round tires and can say they offer an incredible plush and comfortable feel, and once you get going are fast enough for quick urban assaults.

Maxxis Hookworm Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
long lasting slick mile-cruncher, wide tire
Reasons to avoid
Heavy wired tire, might not fit every frame

Continental CONTACT Speed

Meant for the road the Continental Contact Speed is a slick tire in the true sense of the word. A minimalistic profile will turn your bike into a city slicker.

In the commuting and touring range from this German brand, it sits in the fastest category and is one of the most affordable options to obtain a fast-rolling tire.

It also has excellent puncture protection with Continental’s more than adequate SafetySystem breaker technology. Chances of flats are minimized.

Continental CONTACT Speed Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Affordable slick tire , with excellent puncture protection
Reasons to avoid
None

Continental CONTACT Urban

The Continental CONTACT Urban is, as it name implies, a slick tire meant for urban commuting.

It’s one of the fastest tires for urban applications, and has a certificate for it to be mounted on speed pedelecs up to a speed of 50kmh. It has the performance-oriented PureGrip compound, which is a step below their race compound BlackChili used for mountain bike tires.

A strong nylon breaker sits underneath the center tread and serves as a lightweight, flexible, yet very puncture-resistant protective layer.

Continental CONTACT Urban Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Very fast, lightweight, yet puncture-resistant slick tire
Reasons to avoid
For those who prefer speed over durability

Kenda 3-Sixty

The Kenda 3-Sixty is a semi-slick tire meant for slopestyle that also comes in a 26 inch version.

The tire comes in a standard black and a creme tread pattern. But the color isn’t just there for looks, but denotes a difference in functionality. The creme version uses a rubber compound that is ideal for dry condition tracks. While the black tread rubber is the perfect solution for wet conditions.

Kenda 3-Sixty Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
multiple colors available, fast rolling
Reasons to avoid
different colors have different characteristics

Kenda K838 City Slick

The Kenda City Slick looks remarkably like the Kenda Kwest, only this one comes in a classic mountain bike width.

They are slicks with a minimal tread pattern, so great for people who want to use their mountain bike for non-offroad purposes. And wide enough to still maintain an actual mountain bike feel.

And, last but not least, cheap enough to not hurt your wallet.

Kenda K838 City Slick Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Extremely cheap slick tires
Reasons to avoid
None

Panaracer RiBMo

At 26 x 2 inches and 560 grams the Panaracer RibMo is among the lightest tires for its size on this list. Its minimal tread pattern moves it into the direction of being a slick tire, perfect for fast urban commuting.

The Panaracer RiBMo uses their proprietary ProTite technology, which is an extra puncture-resistant layer which runs the entire length and width of the tire. And they offer a more durable, commuter-friendly compound.

The conclusion is this tire will make your bike feel fast and nimble for many many miles at a reasonable enough price.

Panaracer RiBMo Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Ultra-light slick tire, affordable, durable, and supple, japanese build quality
Reasons to avoid
None

Schwalbe Big Apple

The beaded Schwalbe Big Apple tires is a great value for money and coming in three different sizes, from 2 to 2.35 inches.

It’s not my favorite in the racing department, they’re simply too heavy for that. But as mentioned before, extra rubber does mean more durability in general, and more miles.

So besides already being cheaper than other options on this list, it will last you a long time as well and you’ve got the RaceGuard puncture protection to boot.

Schwalbe Big Apple Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
affordable excellent commuter tire, RaceGuard puncture protection
Reasons to avoid
heavy

WTB ThickSlick

Of all the tires I’ve come across, none is as true to its name as the WTB ThickSlick.

The high-contrast white letters on the smooth carcass is one of the most distinctive designs for a black tire you can find. A tire with a non-existent tread pattern such as this one is obviously meant for riding on pavement and tarmac. And it does so admirably, with a reasonable enough weight and rolling-resistance.

It’s a very niche-oriented tire to turn your bike into something more. And one of the best-looking slick mountain bike tires ever to hit the market.

WTB ThickSlick Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
True slick with no tread pattern. Unique-looking tire
Reasons to avoid
Meant for urban riding only

Specifications 26 inch slick mountain bike tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
Buy at Amazon
Continental CONTACT Speed
26×2.00
50-559
665
Black
Black/reflex
Standard
SafetySystem Breaker
wired
Continental CONTACT Speed
26×1.60
42-559
665
Black
Black/reflex
 
SafetySystem Breaker
wired
Continental CONTACT Urban
26×2.00
50-559
590
Black
Black reflex
PureGrip
SafetyPro
wired
Continental CONTACT Urban
26×1.75
47-559
565
Black
Black reflex
PureGrip
SafetyPro
wired
Kenda 3-Sixty
26×2.25
57-559
583
Creme
Black
Single
Tubeless Race
tlr
Kenda K838 City Slick
26×1.95
53-559
 
Black
Black
 
 
wired
Maxxis DTH
26×2.30
55/58-559
859
Black
Tan
Dual
EXO/Silkworm
wired
Maxxis DTH
26×2.15
52/54-559
570
Black
Black
Single
Silkworm
foldable
Maxxis Hookworm
26×2.50
63-559
1076
Black
Black
Single
 
wired
Panaracer RiBMo
26×2.00
48-559
560
Black
Black
Mile Cruncher
ProTite Shield
foldable
Panaracer RiBMo
26×1.50
37-559
460
Black
Black
Mile Cruncher
ProTite Shield
foldable
Panaracer RiBMo
26×1.25
32-559
350
Black
Black
Mile Cruncher
ProTite Shield
foldable
Schwalbe Big Apple
26×2.00
50-559
675
Black
Black/reflex
ADDIX
RaceGuard
wired
Schwalbe Big Apple
26×2.15
55-559
710
Black
Black/reflex
ADDIX
RaceGuard
wired
Schwalbe Big Apple
26×2.35
60-559
780
Black
Black/reflex
ADDIX
RaceGuard
wired
WTB ThickSlick
26×2.00
50-559
620
Black
Black
 
 
 

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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