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The top 12 best 26 inch tubeless mountain bike tires for 2023

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

Running tubes still has some advantages. I have a lot of bikes, and trying to run all of them tubeless would be a nightmare. Especially vintage wheels can be particularly troublesome.

Having said that, if you just have a single mountain bike (or maybe two or three), running tubeless tires does have a lot of advantages. No more pinch flats, being able to run a lower tire pressure, automatic tire repairs for small punctures, and a lighter weight.

Luckily for those runner older-tyle 26 inch wheels, some of the best tires are available in tubuless versions of this size. So here’s my list of the best 26 inch tubeless mountain bike tires.E

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 Mountain King ProTection

The Continental Mountain King ProTection is a very lightweight, vey fast, and very grippy tire.

Just as the Trail King it comes with the BlackChili compound and ProTection multi-ply casings. That means the tires are a bit harder than their competitors, fast-rolling on dry trails, and very durable in general, with superb puncture protection and durability characteristics.

The Mountain King has better mud and dirt shedding features in the tread pattern than the Trail King. It means you can either choose for a dual setup for aggressive riding, or put the Mountain King in the front with the Trail King in the back.

Continental Mountain King ProTection Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Extremely lightweight, fast trail tire
Reasons to avoid
None

Continental Race King ProTection

The Continental Race King ProTection is an extremely light tire. In the weight department it means it outshines every comparable tire from every other brand by far. And it’s also the best XC tire in the rolling-resistance department.

I cannot stress enough that with respect to speed and acceleration, a light tire makes all the difference. And tires are also the most cost-effective way to reduce the overall weight of the bike.

Try reducing a couple of hundred grams of any other bike component and be ready to spend in the hundreds of dollars. Not so the case with tires. And on top of that the tire has the advanced ProTection puncture protection, with a composite breaker and a bead to bead sidewall protection polyamide fabric.

All that speed comes at a price, because traction is not this tire’s strength when compared to other mountain bike tires. And it’s the reason this tire performs best in dry conditions.

But when riding in those conditions getting up to speed and keeping it is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. It rightly deserves its name.

Continental Race King ProTection Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
One of the lightest mountain bike tire on the market, with excellent puncture protection. Geared towards speed in every way.
Reasons to avoid
None

Continental Trail King ProTection Apex

The aptly named Continental Trail King ProTection Apex is the German brand’s allround trail-tackling solution.

It performs exceptionally well in all sorts of conditions, and might only wafer a bit on the steepest of technical downhill sections. That means this tire is a very good and lightweight all mountain solution indeed.

It’s one of the faster tires on this list, well-suited for those among you who don’t shy away from a steep climb. The tread pattern provides high levels of traction and with even the 2.8 width version sitting at just over a kilo, which is about 20 percent lighter than its competitors.

The knobs are rather spaced-out from each other, which means this might not be the grippiest tire in the front. On the flip side, riding in wet conditions is marginally improved because it’ll shed mud better and won’t clog up that easily.

Continental Trail King ProTection Apex Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Very fast allround trail tire, that's extremely puncture resistant.
Reasons to avoid
Not the trail tire with the most grip.

Kenda Booster Pro

The Kenda Booster Pro is the only 26 inch XC tire on this list that comes in a 2.4 inch width.

It’s unfortunate I don’t have the weight and rolling resistance numbers for that version of the tire.

The knobs are extremely densely packed with 6 in a row, so you know the tire is meant for speed and will loose it’s grip very fast in wet conditions.

It looks very similar to the Continental Race King RaceSport with its arrowhead like tread pattern, making it ideal for cross country and dirt jumping.

Kenda Booster Pro Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Durable and lightweight XC and dirt jumping tire
Reasons to avoid
None

Maxxis Ardent

If you want more grip than the Ardent Race might offer, you’ll be looking for the Maxxis Ardent. It’s a crossover tire sitting somewhere in between a trail and a cross country one.

When you resize the knobs on the Ardent Race and make them bigger, you’ll trade in a bit of speed for more grip. And that’s what they did with the Maxxis Ardent.

And trading in speed has to be taken with a grain of salt, for this is still a very fast tire, which excels on dry, hardpack trails.

Maxxis Ardent Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
More grip than the Ardent Race. Makes for a grippy combination with the Maxis Ikon.
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

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 allround trail-riding and downhill.

Maxxis Minion DHF Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Superb allrounder with loads of sizing / compound combinations possible. Combines with Maxxis Minion DHR II for an excellent allround trail setup.
Reasons to avoid
None

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 breaking but also gives more traction when going uphill. Both tires have the same side knobs to maximise 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 witth the Minion DHF, the Maxxis Minion DHR II is a fantastic and confidence inspring tire that will take your downhill rides to the next level.

Maxxis Minion DHR II Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
One of the best rear tires available, combines with Maxxis Minion DHF for an excellent allround trail setup
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

WTB Trail Boss 2.25

The WTB Trail Boss 2.25 is a great, premium allround trail tire with fast-rolling XC characteristics. Its densily packed knobs are a good option for fast riding in dry conditions.

As it should be, the tread pattern offers enough grip in normal conditions, and is on the faster side of the mountain bike spectrum. So it’s either a solid dual setup in dry condtions for aggressive XC and trail riding, or mounted in the rear for a faster-rolling, lightweight enduro option.

A great allround option for people who prefer fast and relatively straight.

WTB Trail Boss 2.25 Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Fast-rolling, grippy tire for aggresive XC and trail riding.
Reasons to avoid
Might be to light for some in rough conditons

WTB Vigilante 2.3

The WTB Vigilante 2.3 is a premium trail and enduro contender for people who don’t mind spending a bit of cash.

For a pretty sum you get an incredibly durable tire for aggressive trail and enduro riding. The tire favors a front setup with widely spaced knobs that easily clear mud. That wide spacing and high side knobs does mean you feel the transition from straight to hard cornering, which is something to get used to.

A compound containing 3 separate rubbers offer superb grip in a heavy casing, which is especially noticeable going uphill. The tire excels in fast descents which are not too technical, because the grip, weight, and durability means it rougshods over anything in your path.

WTB Vigilante 2.3 Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Going fast and straight on not too technical terrain. Extremely durable.
Reasons to avoid
You feel tire transition in hard corners

Specifications 26 inch tubeless mountain bike tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
Buy at Amazon
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 Mountain King ProTection
26×2.30
58-559
675
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
tlr
Continental Race King ProTection
26×2.20
55×559
535
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
tlr
Continental Trail King ProTection Apex
26×2.20
55-559
735
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection Apex
tlr
Continental Trail King ProTection Apex
26×2.40
60-559
875
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection Apex
tlr
Kenda Booster Pro
26×2.40
61-559
618
Black
Black
Single
 
tlr
Maxxis Ardent
26×2.25
57-559
714
Black
Black
DUAL
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Ardent
26×2.40
61-559
861
Black
Black
DUAL
EXO
tlr
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
Maxxis Minion DHF
26×2.30
58-559
840
Black
Black
3C MAXX TERRA
3CT/EXO
tlr
Maxxis Minion DHF
26×2.50WT
55-559
860
Black
Black
3C MAXX TERRA
3CT/EXO
foldable
Maxxis Minion DHF
26×2.50WT
63-559
905
Black
Black
DUAL
EXO/TR
tlr
Maxxis Minion DHR II
26×2.30
58-559
780
Black
Black
DUAL
EXO/TR
tlr
Maxxis Minion DHR II
26×2.40WT
61-559
865
Black
Black
DUAL
EXO/TR
tlr
Maxxis Minion DHR II
26×2.40WT
61-559
865
Black
Black
3C MAXX TERRA
3CT/EXO/TR
tlr
Panaracer GravelKing SK
26×2.10
54-559
590
Black
Tan
ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) Natural
ProTite Shield Plus
tlr
WTB Trail Boss 2.25
26×2.25
54-559
865
Black
Black
DNA
Comp Tube-Type
foldable
WTB Vigilante 2.3
26×2.30
57-559
893
Black
Black
TriTec Single
Light/High Grip
foldable

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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