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The top 13 best 29 inch cross country mountain bike tires for 2023

I”m going to show you a list of the best 29 inch cross country mountain bike tires.

It’s probably my favourite mountain bike discipline, although that’s pretty easy where I’m from, because there are hardly any mountains to speak of. So cross country is probably the only mountain bike discipline you can do here anyway.

Cross country mountain bike tires typically fall into the range of tires with a width between 2.2 to 2.5 inch, depending on its availability, and amount of grip you want.

I run a wider, allround trail tire for the front where grip matters more. Recently the term “down-country” started to surface to cover aggressive cross-country riding. And tire manufacturers have started to offer tires that sit in the middle of low-weight XC racers and grippy, but heavier all-round trail tires.

Furthermore they offer a lower-weight, medium-strength casing, with hard to medium compound variations. A cross-country casing could be less than half the weight of an enduro or downhill one.

The thread pattern varies between fast to very fast, depending on your preferences of speed versus grip. Knobbies are generally smaller, and might be almost interconnected for the center tread pattern, with larger ones sitting at the edge of the tire for more cornering grip.

Here’s my list of the best 29 inch cross country mountain bike tires.

Maxxis Ardent

If you want more grip than the Ardent Race might offer, you’ll be looking for the Maxxis Ardent. It’s a crossover tire sitting somewhere in between a trail and a cross country one.

When you resize the knobs on the Ardent Race and make them bigger, you’ll trade in a bit of speed for more grip. And that’s what they did with the Maxxis Ardent.

And trading in speed has to be taken with a grain of salt, for this is still a very fast tire, which excels on dry, hardpack trails.

Maxxis Ardent Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
More grip than the Ardent Race. Makes for a grippy combination with the Maxis Ikon.
Reasons to avoid
None

Maxxis Ardent Race

The Maxxis Ardent Race is a great option to mount as a very grippy dual XC setup, an aggressive XC front tire, or a lightweight, fast-rolling trail tire.

The triple compound provides a fast-rolling center with softer and grippier side knobs for added traction and cornering confidence.

In dry conditions the traction will prove to be outstanding. In wet conditions the small close-knit knobs can get packed with mud. So you’ll need to resort to a different tire if you want to ride year round without swapping tires.

Maxxis Ardent Race Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
A highly versatile grippy XC, or aggressive, lightweight trail tire.
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

Maxxis Pace

The Maxxis Pace is a cross country tire with the most minimal tread pattern in Maxxis’ XC lineup.

It’s an excellent tire if you want to keep the MTB nature of your bike, being able to ride comfortably and confidently on other surfaces than flat tarmac. The tire has excellent rolling-resistance characteristics which makes it perfectly suitable for urban riding, while the minimalistic knobbies still provide enough bite for hardpack and gravel riding in dry conditions.

And with a 2.1 inch width the tires don’t feel out of place on your 29er. Furthermore it displays other features of a fullblown mountain bike tire, with it being tubeless compatible and having Maxxis EXO puncture resistance in a relatively lightweight package of 650 grams.

Maxxis Pace Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Semi-slick XC-oriented tire, use front or rear
Reasons to avoid
Not the grippiest

Maxxis Rekon

The Maxxis Rekon is a lightweight trail tire, which is great for XC and and trail riding in loose and hardpack conditions.

It’s basically the lighter version of the very popular DHF and DHR II tires, which are more trail, enduro, and downhill oriented. Tightly packed knobbies give it a low rolling-resistance and there’s an immense assortment of sizes and compounds to choose from.

From small widths and hard compounds for pure XC racing to softer, grippier compounds in a wider tire for more trail-oriented duty. There’s a lot to choose from, which hightlights the Rekon’s versatility. It’s also the go-to speedy option for a plus size tire setup, with a 2.8 inch width in both the 27.5 and 29 inch tire size.

Just as the Maxxis DHF and DHR II can be called one of the best fit-and-forget allround trail tire, the same goes for the Rekon for XC and light trail riding.

Maxxis Rekon Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Fantastic grippy, aggressive XC and light trail tire, with loads of sizes and compounds to choose from.
Reasons to avoid
None

Maxxis Rekon Race

The Maxxis Rekon Race is a perfect allround option to use as a 29 inch gravel tire.

Multiple widths are available from 2.25 up to 2.40 inches. In general the entire premium lineup of Maxxis are great tires, and I particularly like the Rekon Race.

The reason is that the tire provides lots of grip for true gravel riding in dry conditions. And if there’s one thing I love to do is moving through a forest at lightning speed.

Maxxis often makes heavier tires than the counterparts of either Continental or Schwalbe, but their EXO casing has proven over the years to be extremely reliable. And speed is great, but reliability is more important if you ask me.

And in the end weight isn’t the only factor that makes up a high-quality tire. And I firmly believe the 120 TPI versions are fantastic tires for your gravel setup.

Maxxis Rekon Race Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Great allround option, very durable
Reasons to avoid
None

Schwalbe Wicked Will

The Schwalbe Wicked Will is one of the latest additions to the German tire manufacturer’s lineup. Its role is to be a sort of jack-of-all-trades mountain bike tire, which was the same with its older brother, the Nobby Nic.

To be able to fulfill this role, there are indeed many sizes, and casings to choose from. But you’ll be out of luck if you thought this tire will come in the classic 26 inch size, for also Schwalbe is following the industry trend of ditching 26 inch tire sizes from their premium lineup.

What I can appreciate is the fact that Schwalbe actually included a true skinwall version they call “transparent”. That means that looking at the tread pattern you can opt for a very grippy XC tire, or a more standard allround trail tire.

To further support the fact of its allround nature you have the ability to choose from 4 different casings, depending on your preferred type of trail. From the lightest Super Race, to the Super Ground, and most durable (and heaviest) Super Trail.

I think the Nobby Nic is the most-used trail tire where I’m from, but I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot of Wicked Wills as time moves one, because this tire is just as good and deserves the moniker fit-and-forget just as easy.

Schwalbe Wicked Will Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Fantastic allrounder, with many options to choose from to suit riding styles from aggressive XC to trail riding.
Reasons to avoid
None

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

Kenda Booster Pro

The Kenda Booster Pro is the only 26 inch XC tire on this list that comes in a 2.4 inch width.

It’s unfortunate I don’t have the weight and rolling resistance numbers for that version of the tire.

The knobs are extremely densely packed with 6 in a row, so you know the tire is meant for speed and will loose it’s grip very fast in wet conditions.

It looks very similar to the Continental Race King RaceSport with its arrowhead like tread pattern, making it ideal for cross country and dirt jumping.

Kenda Booster Pro Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Durable and lightweight XC and dirt jumping tire
Reasons to avoid
None

Vittoria Mezcal

Another cross-country crossover well-suited for bikepacking is the Vittoria Mezcal. The single 2.1 inch width version available for 26 inch tires, has a very low-profile tread pattern to improve rolling-resistance.

The 620 grams for a single tire is very light. And it’s this tire that has been on several cross-country championship bikes. So as far as speed is concerned, it’s extremely fast.

But for bikepacking you’ll need much more than speed. You want longevity and durability. The Vittoria Mezcal uses their proprietary graphene enhanced 4C compound. It prevents the knobs from squirming on hardpack, which in turn increases speed and durability.

The Mezcal is most at home on hardpack, but does perform well on other surface types. But like all of the other tires mentioned here, you will run into issues when encountering mud. The knobs are simply bunched too much together.

The Vittoria Mezcal makes for a fast and durable dual setup.

Vittoria Mezcal Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Lightweight XC tire, can also be used for bikepacking and gravel, fast
Reasons to avoid
Sacrifices a bit of grip for speed, not good mud

WTB Nano

There’s a fine line between a burly gravel tire and a lightweight cross country racer. The WTB Nano is an example of a tire that actually blurs that line to the point where it’s offered for both disciplines.

WTB is one the players offering the best gravel tires in the market, which means that these tires benefit from their knowledge just as well. A tread pattern that supports very fast-rolling, while still maintaining above-average traction and grip. Obviously it’ll never surpass a trail tire in that respect, but they weren’t meant to.

The WTB Nano’s characteristics that support speed, are also its weaknesses. Small knobbies in a lightweight casing are meant for going fast, not meant for longevity. And this is a dry conditions tire. It’ll cake up very fast in muddy condtions.

WTB Nano Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
If you want to turn your 29 inch mountain bike into a fast gravel racer.
Reasons to avoid
Don't buy for it's longevity or grip

WTB Nineline

The WTB Nineline is a classic skinny cross-country mountain bike tire.

That means that it performs exceptionally well on dry hardpack conditions, where you benefit the most from its lightweight casing, and fast-rolling tread pattern.

As soon as you’ll encounter rougher terrain with pretty loose topsoil, and especially wet, and muddy conditions, you’ll have to look somewhere else for both grip and traction.

WTB Nineline Value
Brand link
Reasons to buy
Fast, classic, skinny XC racer
Reasons to avoid
Looses grip in loose, and muddy conditions

Specifications 29 inch cross country mountain bike tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
Buy at Amazon
Continental Cross King ProTection
29×2.30
58-622
755
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
tlr
Continental Cross King ProTection
29×2.20
55-622
630
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
tlr
Continental Race King ProTection
29×2.20
55-622
595
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection
foldable
Kenda Booster Pro
29×2.60
66-622
681
Black
Black
Single
TR
tlr
Maxxis Ardent
29×2.25
56-622
800
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Ardent
29×2.40
61-622
925
Black
Tan
Dual
EXO
tlr
link
Maxxis Ardent
29×2.40
61-622
964
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Ardent Race
29×2.20
56-622
767
Black
Black
3C MaxxSpeed
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Ikon
29×2.20
57-662
685
Black
Light Tan
3C MaxxSpeed
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Ikon
29×2.20
57-662
735
Black
Black
3C MaxxSpeed
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Ikon
29×2.35
60-622
830
Black
Black
3C MaxxSpeed
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Ikon
29×2.60
66-622
854
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
link
Maxxis Pace
29×2.10
53-622
650
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Rekon
29×2.40
61-622
891
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
foldable
Maxxis Rekon
29×2.60
66-622
1019
Black
Black
3C MaxxTerra
EXO+
foldable
Maxxis Rekon
29×2.60
66-622
942
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
foldable
Maxxis Rekon
29×2.80
71-622
1089
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
foldable
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.25
57-622
691
Black
Tan
Dual
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.25
57-622
691
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.35
60-622
805
Black
Tan
Dual
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.35
60-622
762
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.40
61-622
803
Black
Tan
Dual
EXO
tlr
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.40
61-622
759
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
Schwalbe Wicked Will
29×2.40
62-622
920
Black
Black
ADDIX SpeedGrip
Super Trail
TLE
Schwalbe Wicked Will
29×2.40
62-622
820
Black
Transparent
ADDIX SpeedGrip
Super Race
TLE
Schwalbe Wicked Will
29×2.40
62-622
845
Black
Bronze
ADDIX SpeedGrip
Super Ground
TLE
Schwalbe Wicked Will
29×2.40
62-622
760
Black
Black
ADDIX
Performance
foldable
Schwalbe Wicked Will
29×2.60
65-622
810
Black
Black
ADDIX
Performance
foldable
Vittoria Mezcal
29×2.10
54-622
640
Black
Tan
4C Graphene
XC Race TLR
tlr
Vittoria Mezcal
29×2.25
57-622
690
Black
Tan
4C Graphene
XC Race TLR
tlr
Vittoria Mezcal
29×2.10
54-622
680
Black
Anthracite
4C Graphene
XC Race TLR
tlr
WTB Nano
29×2.10
52-622
685
Black
Black
Dual DNA
Light/Fast Rolling
tlr
WTB Nineline
29×2.25
54-622
755
Black
Black
Dual DNA
Light/Fast Rolling
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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