In this article I’m going to give you my top picks for the best Panaracer 26 inch mountain bike tires.
Panaracer is one of my favorite tire brands, and I’ve bought various types to adorn my vintage builds. The reason I like them so much is that they offer a great variety of 26 inch mountain bike tires. And they offer them in tan-wall versions.
Panaracer isn’t that well-known for its mountain bike offering, losing to some of the bigger names like Maxxis and Schwalbe. But they do offer a number of great gravel and touring tires in a 26 inch package. And one of their biggest hits is the Panaracer Gravel King, which is also on this list.
The list features Panaracer 26 inch mountain bike tires starting at a width of 2 inches and up. So without further ado, here’s the list.
Both the Dart and Smoke come in a 2.1 inch width version, and being true to their vintage nature, are only meant for 26 inch wheels. 2.1 inch was considered downhill territory in the nineties.
I recommend it as the best option for purist vintage mountain bike restorers. And it so happens I’ve put both the Dart and Smoke on a 1994 Cannondale Super V.
The Panaracer Dart is a true skinwall tire, which was all the rage in the eighties and nineties. It means that the sidewall is thinner, because of a lack of black rubber used for the center tread. It means skinwall tires are lighter and more supple than their non-skinwall counterparts, but also more prone to punctures. And skinwall tend to dry out when exposed to UV light.
The Dart has elongated knobbies that follow the rotation of the wheel. These knobbies are meant to dig deep into the soil, giving you that front-wheel grip necessary for trail riding. For such a slim tire they perform pretty good on the trail.
Johan van Seijen | Senior Review Editor – December 7, 2021
Panaracer always makes very nice tires. I’ve bought a bunch of them and these Smoke and Dart are a very obvious choice for any retro build. They are a solid ride in dry conditions and will get you across the average trail.
If you don’t mind the fact whether or not you ride skinwalls I would pick a wider tire if your frame and rims hold them. Though not a true skinwall tire, the 2.3″ Schwalbe Nobby Nic provides more grip while cornering.
Panaracer GravelKing (Tubed)
The tubed version of the Panaracer GravelKing inherits the compound and puncture protection technology of the entire lineup, but is offered in road bike tire dimensions.
This means you have your standard 23 to 28mm variants, with the durable ZSG compound, and the very reliable ProTite Shield Plus breaker. Which is a step up from their standard ProTite breaker, and also reinforces the sidewalls.
I use these tires for my daily driver, which is basically a road bike with panniers and fenders. They look great, ride even better, and though after many miles, there are small cuts on the well worn carcass, I haven’t had a flat.
All Panaracer tires are very low weight, including these ones. So whether you’re going to use them for a fast commuter, or a puncture-proof 4-season option for your road bike, know that these are some of the best road bike tires out there.
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.
Dave Atkinson | Road.cc founder – October 15, 2015
The tread shape, which is ovalised a bit like the pointy end of an egg, is designed to decrease rolling resistance while still offering good grip when cornering. I can’t say that I ever had any problems with grip, even with the hard compound.
One of the reasons for this is that with a bigger air chamber you can afford to run the tyres at a lower pressure. I’m 100kg and normally put 100psi into a 25mm tyre; I found I could run these RiBMos at 85-90psi without any more danger of pinch-flatting than I’d have with a thinner tyre. That means more grip and extra comfort too, and it didn’t noticeably affect the tyre’s ability to roll.
The Panaracer Smoke is a classic reissue of a very popular tire with the same name from the early nineties.
The tire comes in both a black and light tan wall option, with the latter being much more popular for obvious reasons.
The Panaracer Smoke is meant to be ridden with the Panaracer Dart. With the Smoke going on the rear wheel and the Dart on the front. This classic combination will serve you best if you go cross-country and light trail riding.
The Panaracer Smoke has the classic tread pattern of a rear tire, with horizontal knobbies for increased braking and traction. But it’s not uncommon to use them both front and back.
Seb Rogers | Contributor – May 19, 2008
Mud clearance isn’t great, there’s noticeable drag on hard surfaces, and some riders find the square profile has a tendency to break loose suddenly in corners, but for the most part these revived classics give the current crop of tyres a run for their money.
Specifications Panaracer 26 inch mountain bike tires
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.