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The top 6 fastest 26 inch bike tires for 2023

In this article I’m going to focus on providing you with a list of the fastest 26 inch bike tires.

A lot of people think that speed equals weight. Meaning that the lower the weight, the faster the tire. A low weight is certainly beneficial to speed, especially getting up to speed. But there’s much more to it.

First off, what are your riding conditions. Skinny, low-weight tires might seem fine going in a straight line on dry tarmac, but won’t do you any good when conditions are less optimal. You might want to pick tires that inspire a bit more cornering confidene and are more durable.

The next thing is rolling-resistance: how much energy is absorbed simply by rolling over a certain road. Getting up to speed is one thing, being able to maintain that speed is another. Here’s where the tread pattern and tire compound comes into play. With smooth tires with an unbroken center tread line and fast compound performing great in various conditions.

Those are the tire characteristics I had in mind when creating this overview of the fastest 26 inch bike tires. I’ve focused on tires with a high level of versatility, used for commuting, touring or bikepacking, gravel riding, and cross country. Depending on what conditions you feel you’ll be using the tire the most you can pick the one you like.

You can find an overview of all the tires at the end of the article.

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 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

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

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

Schwalbe Hurricane

I also decided to include the Schwalbe Hurricane in this list. It’s a shame they don’t sell them in skinwall versions as well. But the tire packs a solid combination of a flat centerline and side knobs.

The side knobs means the tire is more versatile than the average slick, opening up the possibility to take your bike offroad and away from the beaten path.

If you want to keep a MTB look for your tires without sacrificing too much speed on the road, this is the perfect tire for you. Especially if you like the occassional trail as well because of the added grip.

Schwalbe Hurricane Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Great allround gravel and light XC tire, with an affordable quality.
Reasons to avoid
None

Panaracer GravelKing SK

The Panaracer Gravel King SK has become my favorite gravel tire in 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.

The GravelKing SS might have topped that tire. 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 Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Superb allround gravel tire, very lightweight, with japanese build quality.
Reasons to avoid
None

Specifications fastest 26 inch bike tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
Buy at Amazon
Continental Race King ProTection
26×2.20
55×559
535
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
foldable
Continental CONTACT Speed
26×2.00
50-559
665
Black
Black/reflex
 
SafetySystem Breaker
wired
Maxxis DTH
26×2.15
52/54-559
570
Black
Black
Single
Silkworm
foldable
Maxxis DTH
26×2.30
55/58-559
859
Black
Tan
Dual
EXO/Silkworm
wired
WTB ThickSlick
26×2.00
50-559
620
Black
Black
 
 
 
Schwalbe Hurricane
26×2.10
54-559
620
Black
Black
 
 
wired
Panaracer GravelKing SK
26×2.10
54-559
590
Black
Tan
ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) Natural
 
tlr

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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