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The top 8 best 29 inch XC tires

In this article I’m going to share with you my top picks for the best 29 inch XC tires.

My favorite MTB discipline has got a number of great and extremely lightweight options, which will make you fly down the trail.

XC tires favor speed and low rolling-resistance above grip and traction, so if you do a mix of fire roads and rougher downhill trails you’re better off looking for a more allround tire than these.

All of these tires can be easily set up tubeless. Even with these tires you can mix and match, and some tires are specifically meant to be mounted as a front or as a rear tire. And some tire pairs have a proven track record of being a very solid cross-country setup.

That’s about what I have to say for now. Let’s head over the list of the best 29 inch XC tires.

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

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 Crossmark II

Maxxis Crossmark II
Maxxis Crossmark II

The Maxxis Crossmark II is fast-rolling, dry condition, XC or gravel tire with the shallow center knobs and minimal side knobs.

It’s designed for speed on dry hardpack when going in a straight line, with the most minimal tread pattern you can find within this mountain bike category.

The hard-wearing 60 TPI dual casing and EXO reinforced sidewalls make it an excellent companion for long gravel and/or touring rides as well. Especially if you want to have the flexibility to veer off the beaten path yet still ride with confidence.

Expert Experience

David Arthur | Contributor – November 20, 2020

Even though the Crossmark II is fairly quick rolling, it’s still not as rapid as a Bontrager XR2 or Schwalbe Racing Ralph.

The 771g weight is also on the high side for an XC race tyre, but if you’re trail riding and want a fast rolling rear option with the security of the EXO casing, the Crossmark II might well suit you. It also proved easy to set up tubeless on my DT Swiss XR1501 control wheels.

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

Schwalbe Racing Ralph

Schwalbe Racing Ralph
Schwalbe Racing Ralph

Schwalbe’s lineup consists of a number of highly specialized cross-country tires. The Schwalbe Racing Ralph being one of them.

As stated on the website, the Racing Ralph was designed for the rear. That’s because it has the shallowest center tread pattern, making it perfect for riding as fast as possible in dry conditions.

Although it’s meant for a combo setup with a grippier tire in the front, you could actually use it as a dual setup when bikepacking or gravel riding instead of pure XC racing.

If you want to ride as fast as possible, and maintain that speed when cornering, I suggest pairing it with a grippier front tire. You can opt for the Racing Ray, Rocket Ron, or Nobby Nic. With the Racing Ray offering the least amount of grip and the Nobby Nic the most. The Rocket Ron sits in between the three.

Expert Experience

Jeff Barber | Editor in Chief – April 28, 2023

What really convinced me this is a very fast roller is how it translates into increased momentum on the descents. I noticed myself cruising past heavier riders who usually have the freewheel advantage over me on the downs, and I could coast farther than usual on familiar sections, delaying the need to spin the pedals again. I don’t know if it’s the tread pattern, or the tire carcass, or the compound — or all three — that make this a fast rolling tire, however I am confident that it is well above average in that department.

Pros and Cons

Schwalbe Racing Ray

Schwalbe Racing Ray
Schwalbe Racing Ray

Where the Schwalbe Racing Ralph was designed as a rear tire, the Schwalbe Racing Ray is meant for the front. It also means that one of the most obvious choices for a Schwalbe cross country setup would be the combination of the two.

And it seems that the combination works for a lot of people better than ever. with great braking power and traction in the back and great traction and grip in the front, even for wet conditions.

Expert Experience

David Arthur | Contributor – October 23, 2020

The forward-pointing arrow-shaped and closely packed centre blocks ensure the Racing Ray is an extremely rapid tyre. It feels blistering quick compared to tyres with blockier tread patterns and when paired with a powerful driving rear tyre is a good setup for ultimate speed on a variety of courses.

It works well in most conditions with the Addix Speed compound delivering ample traction in the wet and dry, and a good predictably on slippery roots and rocks.

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

Specifications 29 inch XC tires

Name
Size
ETRTO
Weight (gr)
Tread color
Sidewall color
Compound
Puncture protection
Tire bead
TPI
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 Ardent Race
29×2.20
56-622
767
Black
Black
3C MaxxSpeed
EXO
tlr
120
Maxxis Crossmark II
29×2.25
57-622
780
Black
Black
Dual
tlr
60
Continental Cross King Racesport
29×2.30
58-622
670
Black
Black
BlackChili
RaceSport casing
tlr
3/180
Schwalbe Racing Ralph
29×2.10
54-622
630
Black
Black
ADDIX Speed
tlr
Schwalbe Racing Ralph
29×2.25
57-622
655
Black
Black
ADDIX Speed
tlr
Schwalbe Racing Ralph
29×2.35
60-622
730
Black
Black
ADDIX Speed
tlr
Schwalbe Racing Ray
29×2.10
54-622
630
Black
Black
ADDIX SpeedGrip
Super Ground
tlr
Schwalbe Rocket Ron
29×2.25
57-622
630
Black
Black
ADDIX Speed
tlr
Schwalbe Rocket Ron
29×2.25
57-622
645
Black
Black
ADDIX SpeedGrip
tlr

Sources

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
David Arthur, Maxxis Crossmark II EXO TR tyre review, Bikeradar, November 20, 2020
Jeff Barber, Review: Maxxis Ikon: A Racing Tire With Bite, Singletracks, January 23, 2014
Jeff Barber, Schwalbe Racing Ralph Tire Review, Singletracks, April 28, 2023
David Arthur, Schwalbe Racing Ray Addix Speed tyre review, Bikeradar, October 23, 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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