In this article I’m going to give a number of very solid options for wide 26 inch mountain bike tires.
The tires listed here are between 2.35 and 2.6 inch. The reason I choose these widths is to reduce the risk of frame rubbing. However, that being said, I would seriously make sure your frame can hold a tire width at the lower end of the spectrum listed here. If you move above 2.6 inch into balloon tire territory, the chance of you needing a special frame is extremely likely.
If you have a vintage mountain bike frame, it’s very unlikely you can run these tires. And with vintage I mean a bike from the nineties or earlier. That’s because the tires that were factory installed on those bikes were up to 2.1 inch width for a downhill bike.
Even a 2.35 inch width tire is considered to sit squarely in the all-mountain and enduro discipline now. E.g. used for very rough conditions. That means that apart from the Schwalbe Super-Moto and Fat Frank, and Surly Extraterrestrial you’ll find many tire options for rough trail conditions and downhill. Tires that will maximize your grip no matter what conditions you’re riding in, dry or wet, rocky or muddy.
Enough talk, let’s go to my list for the best wide 26 inch mountain bike tires.
Continental Der Baron Apex
The Continental Der Baron Apex is Continental’s most aggressive mountain bike tire. Massive blocks sufficiently spaced ensure you have both maximum grip and maximum mud clearance, making this tire a solid downhill allrounder in both wet and dry conditions.
The BlackChili compound keeps the weight at a respectable 1245 grams, which is light enough for a 2.5 inch width tire.
Although the Continental Der Baron is a great all-round tire, you might opt for putting the Continental Der Kaiser Project Apex in the rear, since that tire has better braking performance than this one. The two make for a deadly downhill combo.
It’s hard to recommend Der Baron Apex above the tires from Maxxis on this list, if not for the fact that they are extremely durable. So in the long run, they will hurt your wallet less.
Continental Der Baron Projekt ProTection Apex
The Continental Der Baron Projekt is a very aggressive mountain bike tire. Massive blocks sufficiently spaced ensure you have both maximum grip and maximum mud clearance, making this tire a solid enduro allrounder in both wet and dry conditions.
Even in the 2.4 inch width version, this tire weighs 890, which makes this tire a great option if you want to ride all year round, but you stay away from the trail in the worst of conditions.
The BlackChili compound from Continental is known for its great durability. So if you’re also looking for a tire that’ll last you a very long time, and save on cash that way, the Der Baron Projekt is a solid choice as well.
Continental Der Kaiser Project Apex
When riding in dry conditions you might want to choose the Continental Der Kaiser Project Apex. This premium offering is faster than the more allround Der Baron in a number of respects.
Although at 1100 grams, this is a light tire, it is by no means meant to be a fast-rolling trail tire. The knobbies are spaced to wide for a low rolling resistance, something that matters less when going downhill. The horizontal rows of knobs make for some phenomenal braking power. So for those who want to go down at breakneck speeds this tire has your name written all over it.
Kenda Hellkat Pro
The only 26 inch option left in Kenda’s lineup for all-round trail, enduro, and downhill purposes.
Unlike other brands like Maxxis, Schwalbe, and Continental, Kenda seems to be moving away from 26 inch tires for their premium lineup. Although an understandable move it’s still a shame. It means that for downhill you’ll have to settle for the Kenda Hellkat over the Kenda Pinner.
Nonetheless the Kenda Hellkat is an impressive offering which propels the brand back among its peers. The Maxxis DHFs and Schwalbe Magic Marys have been at the top of downhill lists for a very long time now, so it’s good to see Kenda taking a shot with this tire that has excellent traction and durability characteristics.
The absolute cross-country king in Maxxis’ lineup. The Maxxis Ikon has near perfect all-round 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 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 all-round trail-riding and downhill.
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 braking but also gives more traction when going uphill. Both tires have the same side knobs to maximize 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 with the Minion DHF, the Maxxis Minion DHR II is a fantastic and confidence inspiring tire that will take your downhill rides to the next level.
Schwalbe Big Betty
The Schwalbe Big Betty is the go-to rear tire for the Schwalbe Magic Mary. Where the Magic Mary has proven to be among the top tires in terms of traction, when combined with the Big Betty you improve your overall braking power.
It has a horizontal tread pattern to do so, that’s sufficiently spaced to have sufficient clearing characteristics as well when you release the brakes again.
Of all the downhill combinations available on the market today, I can’t think of a single one that beats Schwalbe’s current offering of Magic Mary and Big Betty. It’s one of the heaviest sets of downhill-specific tires, that’ll provide you the ultimate in traction.
Schwalbe Fat Frank
The biggest appeal of the Schwalbe Fat Frank is that they come in a variety of great colors. Besides your standard black, you have beige, creme and tan options for both tread and sidewall. So if you’re looking to add some design flair to your ride you can get the Fat Frank with a brown tread pattern and creme sidewalls, or entirely creme.
This is not a racing tire as some of others, that are meant for slopestyle and pump track. That means it won’t be faster or lighter than those tires.
They come in a 2.35 inch width version besides the standard 2 inch. So if you can get over the weight of 975 grams per tire you’re in for both a colorful and plush ride.
Schwalbe Magic Mary
The Magic Mary is Schwalbe’s grippiest tire from their entire lineup. It performs both brilliantly as a downhill tire, but is just as effective for all-round trail riding in brutal conditions.
It has top-of-the-line traction combined with super fast rolling characteristics and a good feel for the trail at high speeds. If you want to be in the moment and experience flow going down sloppy slopes the Magic Mary delivers big time, with virtually zero cons.
Good braking power, allround riding characteristics in dry and wet conditions, this is Schwalbe’s top tire for all-mountain, enduro and downhill, no matter what the conditions are.
Schwalbe Nobby Nic
The Schwalbe Nobby Nic is the best all-round trail tire from the German manufacturer. If there’s a tire that could rival the dominance of the Maxxis DHR and DHF and its omnipresence on the trail, it’s this one.
It’s tread pattern provides loads of grip and traction. Its allround nature means it’s just as good in the front as it is in the back. And it’s also often seen as a grippy front tire for aggressive XC riding, with a faster and lighter tire in the back.
You can go up to a size 2.35 if you want to and it’s also the only tire that comes in a 26 inch tan version. So if you’re looking for a solid all-round setup, meant for every conceivable condition, dry and wet, hardpack and forest trail, and you want to ride a tan version, this is the tire for you.
Schwalbe Rocket Ron
Both the weight and tread pattern puts the Schwalbe Rocket Ron squarely into XC territory. The evenly spaced knobs mean you always hold contact with the ground ensuring a low rolling resistance.
They are small as well, which means you need to look for the Nobby Nic if you want a more allround and grippy trail tire. But if you want a bit more speed the 640 gr. for a 2.35 inch version you can run two of these.
You should be able to confidently do light trail riding in loose and wet conditions with these tires, and the XC-oriented tread pattern combined with either the Super Ground or Super Race compound will provide you with the speed you need.
It’s worthy to note that the Schwalbe Rocket Ron performs really well in the rolling resistance department, as do all Schwalbe tires. So it’s both light and fast.
Schwalbe Super Moto-X
If you want to go really wide with your tires then the Schwalbe Super Moto-X is what you need. Make sure your frame and fork actually fits the enormous 2.4 inches before placing the order though. You wouldn’t be the first with rubbing problems. And that your rims are not too narrow. You don’t want the tire to blow of the wheel as well.
Specifications wide 26 inch mountain bike tires
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Continental Der Baron Apex
Continental Der Kaiser Project Apex
Schwalbe Nobby Nic
Johan van Seijen
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.