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The top 13 best wide 26 inch mountain bike tires

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

Continental Der Baron Apex
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.

Expert Experience

Gerow | Product reviewer – February 10, 2020

While we all have different tastes and expectations for traction, I can’t type enough good things about this set of tires. If you like riding fast and hard on trails that were built to flat tires and throw riders off their line, you will likely dig this combination of rubber circles.

Pros and Cons

Continental Der Baron Projekt ProTection Apex

Continental Der Baron Projekt ProTection Apex
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.

Expert Experience

Jeremy Benson | Product reviewer – November 2, 2020

The Continental Der Baron Projekt is a user-friendly tire that works best in looser and loamy conditions. The most notable design aspects of this tire are the relatively low knobs and open tread pattern. Even though this tire doesn’t have big knobs with an aggressive bite, the open pattern helps them hook up surprisingly well. Rolling speed is sub-par and there is noticeable drag on firm surfaces. I found braking traction to be below average and I found the tire slipped into skid-mode a little too quickly. I was impressed with the longevity as our test tire showed minimal wear with over 300-miles on it. At this price, it is difficult to recommend this tire over the competition. Still, the Der Baron is a respectable performer.

Pros and Cons

Continental Der Kaiser Project Apex

Continental Der Kaiser Project Apex
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.

Expert Experience

Pat Donahue | Senior Mountain Bike Editor – November 2, 2020

he Continental Der Kaiser Projekt ProTection Apex is a rock-solid tire that delivers impressive performance on the front and rear wheel. The side knobs are stout and supportive, and the Kaiser trends towards a square profile with excellent cornering abilities. I also found the braking and pedaling traction to be excellent. The sidewalls offer ample support with a robust feel that works well at lower tire pressures. I was particularly impressed by their longevity, as the sidewalls and cornering knobs were still in great shape after approximately 300 rough and chunky test miles. My biggest gripe is that the aggressive tread feels quite draggy on the climbs. That said, if you’re searching for a hard-charging, long-lasting tire for gravity or aggressive trail riding, the Der Kaiser is a solid option to consider.

Pros and Cons

Kenda Hellkat Pro

Kenda Hellkat Pro
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.

Expert Experience

Drew Rohde | Editor in Chief – September 15, 2017

The Hellkats rode very well and changed our mind about Kenda’s mountain bike program. From dry, hard pack terrain to loamy PNW trails, the Hellkats continue to impress. Highlights include: braking performance, rolling speed, longevity and traction. We felt confident pushing our bikes hard into corners as the predictable traction kept us focused on the line ahead. We didn’t find much slimy mud this summer, but imagine the somewhat shorter knob height may not be the best option for wetter conditions. Some riders noticed a little bit of squirm in berms when pressures approached 20-PSI, but for those who ran a bit more air, this was not an issue. At roughly 160-175lbs, our testers found the tires performed best between 24.5 and 28.5-PSI and have quickly become one of our favorites on the trail. If you’re looking for a fast rolling tire that offers impressive traction in drier conditions and has a respectable lifespan, the Hellkats should definitely be on your list.

Pros and Cons

Maxxis Ikon

Maxxis Ikon
Maxxis Ikon

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.

Expert Experience

Jeff Barber | Editor in Chief – January 23, 2014

I think a better description for the Ikon (and one that Maxxis even uses themselves) is “all-rounder.” The knobs are long enough and spaced far enough apart to give good bite in the straights and the corners. I’ve experienced excellent results in both wet and dry conditions, and find myself able to push the envelope a bit more in the turns on these tires compared to others I’ve tested.

Pros and Cons

Maxxis Minion DHF

Maxxis Minion DHF
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.

Expert Experience

Jeff Barber | Editor in Chief – August 24, 2023

I’ve found the Maxxis Minion DHF truly serves as an all conditions tire, from loose to firm and from wet to dry. Obviously the compound makes a difference when it comes to hard surface traction, as does tire pressure. The Minions do a good job clearing mud and clay, and cut through sandy washes better than most.

Thinking back over hundreds of rides on the Minions DHF tires, I can’t recall a single pinch flat despite running “just” EXO/TR casings. Honestly most riders should be able to get away with a lighter casing on the DHFs since it is a front tire after all. That’s not to say I haven’t had punctures due to sharp objects, though no more or less than other tires.

Pros and Cons

Maxxis Minion DHR II

Maxxis Minion DHR II
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.

Expert Experience

Jeremy Benson | Product reviewer – November 22, 2018

I’m a pretty big fan of this tire. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option for a rear tire for aggressive everyday trail riding. The combination of cornering confidence and pedaling and braking traction is hard to beat. There are faster rolling tires out there, but few that can dominate the trail like the DHR II. Mount this up as a rear tire with a Minion DHF up front and you’ve got our winning combination for aggressive trail riding.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Big Betty

Schwalbe Big Betty
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.

Expert Experience

Mike Kazimer | Technical reviewer – May 19, 2021

The Big Betty’s braking traction is its standout trait – as soon as the brakes are applied those center knobs get to work, biting ferociously into the ground. That tenacious grip is especially noticeable in loose conditions, whether that’s dry and dusty or wet and muddy, and it’s in those instances that I’d put the Big Betty ahead of the Maxxis DHR II as far as overall braking traction. The DHR II is obviously no slouch in the braking department, but it doesn’t dig in quite as hard as the Big Betty does.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Fat Frank

Schwalbe Fat Frank
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.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Magic Mary

Schwalbe Magic Mary
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.

Expert Experience

Tor Weiland | Contributor – November 03, 2022

The Magic Mary is a seriously universal tire because of how many configurations it comes in. It’s right at home on the front of a trail bike in the Super Trail casing, on an enduro bike in the Super Gravity casing, or on a downhill bike in the Super Downhill casing. As long as you’re happy to put up with the high rolling resistance that you should expect from a performance tire, there aren’t many people that I wouldn’t recommend this tire to. It’s versatile enough to perform excellently in the wet and the dry, and dependable enough to take to your next race.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Nobby Nic

Schwalbe Nobby Nic
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.

Expert Experience

Drew Rohde | Editor in Chief – December 1, 2020

The Nobby Nic Super Ground tires opened my eyes in many ways as to what a lighter weight trail tire is capable of and what sort of ride advantages a lighter casing trail offers. We also saw the limitations of the SpeedGrip tread compound on certain types of terrain and obstacles. If you ride harder pack terrain, want a fast rolling tire that has a solid tread pattern, can climb, corner and brake well, these are certainly worth considering. The downside to this long lasting compound is that they won’t offer the confidence and traction on wet roots, loose terrain or angled and steep rock faces.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Rocket Ron

Schwalbe Rocket Ron
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.

Expert Experience

Rachel Sokal | Technical writer – May 2, 2018

As well as a general improvement in durability, rolling resistance and grip, the new Addix compound from Schwalbe offers a much greater choice of characteristics to suit different riders and riding. The Speed compound is definitely that and gives the Rocket Ron vastly improved durability over the previous version. I did find front grip from the Speed a little lacking so would choose to run a grippier compound on the front and keep the faster rolling on the rear. While these tyres still aren’t cheap – sadly not many high end tyres are – the lower wear rate means that at least they won’t cost you as much in the long run to replace.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Super Moto-X

Schwalbe Super Moto-X
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.

Pros and Cons

Specifications wide 26 inch mountain bike tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
TPI
Continental Der Baron Apex
26×2.50
62-559
1245
Black
Black
BlackChili
Apex casing
tlr
Continental Der Kaiser Project Apex
26×2.40
60-559
1100
Black
Black
BlackChili
Apex casing
tlr
Maxxis Ikon
26×2.35
60-559
742
Black
Black
3C MaxxSpeed
EXO
tlr
120
Schwalbe Nobby Nic
26×2.35
60-559
810
Black
Bronze
ADDIX SpeedGrip
tlr

Sources

Jeremy Benson, Continental Der Baron Projekt ProTection APEX Review, Outdoorgearlab, November 2, 2020
Pat Donahue, Continental Der Kaiser Projekt ProTection Apex Review, Outdoorgearlab, November 2, 2020
Drew Rohde, Kenda Hellkat Pro Review, The Loam Wolf, September 15, 2017
Jeff Barber, Review: Maxxis Ikon: A Racing Tire With Bite, Singletracks, January 23, 2014
Jeff Barber, The Maxxis Minion DHF Tire is Still the One to Beat, Singletracks, August 24, 2023
Jeremy Benson, Maxxis Minion DHR II Review, Outdoorgearlab, November 22, 2018
Mike Kazimer, Review: Schwalbe’s Big Betty Tire is Dependable & Durable, Pinkbike, May 19, 2021
Tor Weiland, Schwalbe Magic Mary | Mountain Bike Tire Review, Thelostco, November 03, 2022
Drew Rohde, Schwalbe Nobby Nic Super Ground Review, The Loam Wolf, December 1, 2020
Rachel Sokal, Review: Schwalbe Rocket Ron Addix Speed. Fast XC tyres that last., Singletrack World, May 2, 2018
bio vanseijen

Johan van Seijen

Founder Restoration.bike

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. 

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