In this article I’m going to cover the lightest 29 inch MTB tires.
I’m going to cover readily available tires which you can actually use. So no Maxxis Maxxlite here, which was a sub-300 grams tire oddity. I’m also covering tires with a width of 2 inches or more, or else you’ll be moving into gravel territory.
With those requirements it’s clear that the range of tires is dominated by ones used for cross country. “Light” in this category means a tire weighs less than 600 grams, so that’s the benchmark I’m using for this article.
Let’s head over to my list of the lightest 29 inch MTB tires.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Kenda Regolith Pro
The Kenda Regolith Pro is similar to Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic, and as such can be used in combination with the Booster Pro as a front tire.
It’s a very solid allround option, if you want to move your bike into the direction of becoming more sure footed on the trail.
Also coming in a 2.40 inch version it means you can have a low tire pressure, grippy combo to get you through the corners. And you have to worry less when the conditions become more wet and muddy.
Matt Miller | Managing editor – October 4, 2019
I didn’t suffer any punctures or tears of any kind with the Regolith, and the wear life looks great. The photos of the front tire in this article were taken after BCBR, with probably close to 300 miles of riding, if not more. I didn’t run the rear for as long, but the wear life seems similar.
Although the Regolith is billed as a quiver-killing tire that can handle multiple disciplines, I wouldn’t use it for everything. It feels like an aggressive trail tire, and one that can be run as a front in an aggressive-XC race, or as a rear in an enduro. It is however durable, capable, and a great all-around trail tire.
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.
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.
Specifications lightest 29 inch MTB tires
Kenda Regolith Pro
XC Race TLR
Continental Cross King ProTection
Continental Race King ProTection
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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