Search
Close this search box.
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, when you buy through our links, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

The top 13 best 29 inch cross country mountain bike tires

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

It’s probably my favorite 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

Maxxis Ardent
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.

Expert Experience

Jeremy Benson | Product reviewer – September 18, 2019

Depending on where and how you ride, the Ardent could be the ideal tire for you. If your trails are buff, your dirt is always good, and you aren’t attacking the gnarliest terrain super aggressively, then I think you should give the Ardent a look. If your trail riding is more XC than enduro, or maybe you’re even entering a local XC race, this fast-rolling, lightweight, and versatile tire is a great option to consider.

Pros and Cons

Maxxis Ardent Race

Maxxis Ardent Race
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.

Expert Experience

David Rome | Contributor – November 19, 2013

At 696g (26 x 2.2), the Ardent Race is no loop circuit race day tyre, but its weight is extremely competitive for a trail worthy tyre. It’s perfect for use front and rear on a summer trail bike, or the front tyre of a cross-country speedster to give greater cornering control, or as a rear tyre on a burlier enduro race bike.

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 Pace

Maxxis Pace
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 surfaces other 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 full-blown mountain bike tire, with it being tubeless compatible and having Maxxis EXO puncture resistance in a relatively lightweight package of 650 grams.

Expert Experience

Rachel Sokal | Technical writer – May 9, 2017

For XC race-orientated tyres, both the Pace and Race TT have been solid and predictable performers. And with the EXO reinforcement, they’ve remained stable at lower pressures and so far (touch wood…) haven’t delivered me any sliced sidewalls. The tread and sidewalls are also showing little sign of wear despite some high mileage and ham-fisted use over the test period, which is a nice change from some of the more delicate race tyres on the market.

Pros and Cons

Maxxis Rekon

Maxxis Rekon
Maxxis Rekon

The Maxxis Rekon is a lightweight trail tire, which is great for XC 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 highlights 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 all-round trail tire, the same goes for the Rekon for XC and light trail riding.

Expert Experience

Contributor | Product tester – September 26, 2022

With the new EXO+ casing so much tougher than previously (and for no significant weight penalty), the operating range of the Rekon becomes much wider. I’ve even had these tyres on a 25kg electric bike recently and they managed to remain puncture-free during testing, which wouldn’t have been likely on older EXO+ models.

Alongside the durability and plenty of pure speed, one of the best Rekon attributes (especially in the fatter 2.6in size that makes a lot of sense on the back of a hardtail mountain bike) is comfort and isolation from vibration and body-buzzing trail chatter. It does a better job than most rivals of dulling feedback.

Pros and Cons

Maxxis Rekon Race

Maxxis Rekon Race
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.

Expert Experience

Gerow | Product reviewer – December 10, 2020

Another element of note from that ride and successive trail romps is that the EXO casings are an ideal match for an XC tire like the Maxxis Rekon Race. While I wouldn’t mount this casing on any gravity bike, no matter what the tread, it’s the perfect thickness and support for a tire with these intentions. With the low braking grip on these tires most riders won’t ride steep and gnarly trails fast enough to need a thicker casing, and the thinner sidewalls give the tire a nice and natural rebound sensation without flopping over in fast corners.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Wicked Will

Schwalbe Wicked Will
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.

Expert Experience

Jeff Barber | Editor in Chief – April 7, 2023

Thanks to its light weight and fast-rolling design, the Wicked Will feels great on hardpack and even pavement. It’s a front tire I’d place near the top of my list for mixed surface riding like bikepacking and for riding hot laps on my local flow trail.

Over rocks and roots the Addix Speedgrip rarely slips. The compound strikes a nice balance for sturdiness and grip without wearing down too fast. Based on the number of miles I’ve put in on these they seem to be holding up quite well and should easily be good for another few hundred miles.

Pros and Cons

Continental Cross King ProTection

Continental Cross King ProTection
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.

Expert Experience

David Arthur | Contributor – November 5, 2020

The low weight combined with the shallow tread design ensures this is a supremely rapid tyre right off the bat. Its tread pattern and rubber compound mean it works well when mounted on the front or rear, with reassuring levels of traction even when tackling technical trails.

Pros and Cons

Continental Race King ProTection

Continental Race King ProTection
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.

Expert Experience

James | Site owner – May 30, 2023

The Race King ProTection is absolutely blisteringly fast! Doing some airstrip rides alongside my friend on his fixie with road tires really showed that even ‘large’ tires can be fast now! Heck, the amount of roadies I’ve passed while coasting downhill is downright satisfying. Seriously, it felt like a whole new bike in the speed department – at least concerning regular daily riding conditions (pavement, gravel, tarmac, cobble, etc).

Pros and Cons

Kenda Booster Pro

Kenda Booster Pro
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 lose its 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.

Expert Experience

Joe Mackey | Contributor – August 2, 2021

The Boosters are one of the faster tires I’ve used on a gravel bike. While these are some of the best all-around gravel tires I’ve ridden, they did show some feathering on the knobs pretty early on. A large part of this is due to the softer compound, which I would take over less traction any day. All that to say, if you’re shopping for the highest mileage tire possible, this probably won’t be the best option. Overall the Booster Pro is a solid all-rounder with confident traction and support that I would run on just about any style of gravel.

Pros and Cons

Vittoria Mezcal

Vittoria Mezcal
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. Vittoria Mezcal uses their proprietary graphene enhanced 4C compound. It prevents the knobs from squirming on the 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.

Expert Experience

Aaron Borhill | Freelance tester – July 04, 2022

As a long-time user of the Vittoria Mezcal and having raced on them in myriad countries, the way they perform never ceases to amaze me. Of course, I wouldn’t use them in wet conditions but they’re not the worst performers in the mud either. If you’re looking for a reliable tire that prioritizes speed, look no further than the Vittoria Mezcal. It’s a brilliant tire for cross-country and marathon riding.

Pros and Cons

WTB Nano

WTB Nano
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 on 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 condition tire. It’ll cake up very fast in muddy conditions.

Expert Experience

Wiehan | Site Owner – March 12, 2020

Other than the drawback of slower performance in wet conditions I really can’t find that much wrong with the WTB 40mm Nano tires. They have been a joy to ride and truly provide a peace of mind that comes with knowing that no matter what unexpected road surface awaits along your route, you will be able to handle it with these tires.

Whether it be hardpack gravel roads, loose gravel or single-track trails, the Nanos will provide the perfect balance of speed and handling to make for an enjoyable ride.

Pros and Cons

WTB Nineline

WTB Nineline
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 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.

Pros and Cons

Specifications 29 inch cross country mountain bike tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
TPI
Continental Cross King ProTection
29×2.30
58-622
755
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection casing
tlr
Continental Cross King ProTection
29×2.20
55-622
630
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection casing
tlr
Continental Race King ProTection
29×2.20
55-622
595
Black
Black
BlackChili
ProTection casing
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
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
120
Maxxis Ikon
29×2.20
57-662
685
Black
Light Tan
3C MaxxSpeed
EXO
tlr
60
Maxxis Ikon
29×2.20
57-662
735
Black
Black
3C MaxxSpeed
EXO
tlr
60
Maxxis Ikon
29×2.35
60-622
830
Black
Black
3C MaxxSpeed
EXO
tlr
120
Maxxis Ikon
29×2.60
66-622
854
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
60
Maxxis Pace
29×2.10
53-622
650
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
60
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
60
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.25
57-622
691
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
120
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.35
60-622
805
Black
Tan
Dual
EXO
tlr
60
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.35
60-622
762
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
120
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.40
61-622
803
Black
Tan
Dual
EXO
tlr
60
Maxxis Rekon Race
29×2.40
61-622
759
Black
Black
Dual
EXO
tlr
120
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

Sources

Jeremy Benson, Maxxis Ardent EXO Review, Outdoorgearlab, September 18, 2019
Jeff Barber, Review: Maxxis Ikon: A Racing Tire With Bite, Singletracks, January 23, 2014
Rachel Sokal, Review: Maxxis Pace & Race TT Tyres, Singletrack World, May 9, 2017
Contributor, Maxxis Rekon 3C Maxx Terra EXO+ review, Bikeradar, September 26, 2022
David Arthur, Continental Race King BlackChili Protection tyre review, Bikeradar, November 5, 2020
James, Race King ProTection – Best MTB bikepacking tire, Canadianomad, May 30, 2023
Joe Mackey, Kenda Booster Pro Gravel Tire Review, Gravelstroke, August 2, 2021
Wiehan, WTB Nano 700x40C Gravel Tire Review, Mountain Road, March 12, 2020
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. 

You might also like

29 inch hybrid bike tires
29 inch tires

The top 10 best 29 inch hybrid bike tires

In this article I’m going to cover what I believe would constitute a proper list of the best 29 inch hybrid bike tires.

Traditionally (I mean ’90s) a hybrid tire either meant a bigger volume road bik

Read More »