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The top 11 lightest 26 inch mountain bike tires for 2023

In this article I’m going to give you the lightest 26 inch mountain bike tires money can buy.

Tires is the best place to look when you want to reduce weight. Because the amount of money you have to invest to shave off hundreds of grams, or maybe even a pound or two, is relatively low. For instance, it’s much, much more expensive to buy a very light full carbon saddle to shave off 100 grams than it is to use one of the tires listed here to shave off hundreds of grams more for a fraction of the cost. Since full carbon saddles are incredibly expensive.

To level the playing field, I didn’t include tires with a width smaller than 2 inches. If you do you move more into the touring section of tires than into straight up knobby mountain bike tries. The tires listed here all have a weight below 600 grams. If this doesn’t say much, just consider that your average MTB trail tire weight almost twice that amount.

The easiest way to reduce weight is to use less rubber, which is the heaviest compound that makes up a tire. But that weight reduction does come at a price, since the tires listed here should be used for either gravel or cross country purposes. Grippier tires have bigger blocks and huge side knobbies. Bigger knobs obviously means more rubber used, hence an increase in weight.

Another component is that the these tires have thinner sidewalls, increasing the opportunity to reduce overall tire weight. Thinner sidewalls also means that sidewall ruptures are more likely to occur. Naturally sidewall ruptures are something you’ll find on enduro, downhill and rough trail riding. Again, an area where you should not be using these tires.

That’s enough talk for now, here are the lightest 26 inch 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 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

Schwalbe Billy Bonkers

The Billy Bonkers is Schwalbe’s answer to the popularity of the Maxxis DTH for pumptrack and slopestyle. They also come in an extremely light 490 grams 26 inch version, making it the perfect tire for fast city flying, gravel and cross country riding.

The Billy Bonkers also comes in a tan-wall version, but you’ll have to stick with a 2.1 inch width, because that’s the only one in Schwalbe’s lineup. The German brand has made a racing tire, which also proves to be very fast and grippy.

It’s a tough choice to make between the two. One isn’t necessarily better than the other

Schwalbe Billy Bonkers Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Very lightweight tire, with tan option available. Great grip, and rolling-resistance characteristics. Fantastic option for MTB builds.
Reasons to avoid
None

Schwalbe Marathon Supreme HS469

The Schwalbe Marathon Supreme is meant for speed with hardly any profile at all on very light tires.

It’s a great fast-rolling commuter and touring tire, that offers excellent puncture-resistance characteristics as well.

Though it might not be the flashiest tire on the market, its appeal lies in its ability to crunch many miles. So even though it might not be the most affordable tire on the market, the ROI is high nonetheless.

Schwalbe Marathon Supreme HS469 Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
fantastic grip, durable and puncture-resistant, fantastic lightweight touring tire
Reasons to avoid
None

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

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

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

Kenda Small Block Eight

The Kenda Small Block Eight is a long-running allround mountain bike tire. Considering the sizes smaller than 26 inch, you can find this tire in the bikepark as well as on the trail.

With a very densely spaced tread pattern in a lightweight package, this is a fast-rolling tire with great momentum. The 26 inch version comes in a 2.35 and 2.1 inch width.

It has a very round profile and the lack of protruding side-knobbies makes this tire more suitable for gravel riding than for pure trail riding. It’s a solid option for a MTB build used for commuting, bikepacking, and urban riding as well.

Kenda Small Block Eight Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Classic mountain bike tire, great allround characteristics, suitable for any type of riding. Fast-rolling and low weight
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

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 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

Specifications lightest 26 inch mountain bike tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
Buy at Amazon
Kenda 3-Sixty
26×2.25
57-559
583
Creme
Black
Single
Tubeless Race
tlr
Kenda 3-Sixty
26×2.25
57-559
598
Black
Black
Single
Tubeless Race
tlr
Panaracer RiBMo
26×2.00
48-559
560
Black
Black
Mile Cruncher
ProTite Shield
foldable
Schwalbe Billy Bonkers
26×2.10
54-559
490
Black
Tan
ADDIX
 
foldable
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme HS469
26×2.00
50-559
560
Black
Black
ADDIX
V-Guard
foldable
Maxxis DTH
26×2.15
52/54-559
570
Black
Black
Single
Silkworm
foldable
Maxxis Ikon
26×2.20
55-559
592
Black
Black
DUAL
 
tlr
Panaracer GravelKing SK
26×2.10
54-559
590
Black
Tan
ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) Natural
ProTite Shield Plus
tlr
Kenda Small Block Eight
26×2.10
54-559
592
Black
Black
DTC
KSCT
foldable
Continental Cross King ProTection
26×2.20
55-559
565
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
tlr
Continental Race King ProTection
26×2.20
55×559
535
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
tlr
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

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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