In this article I’m going to discuss my top picks for the very best XC tires currently available.
With so many tires available you can get quickly overwhelmed with all the different tread patterns, compounds, technology, and even different options for front and rear wheels.
On this list you’ll find the best tires that combine weight, grip, and puncture protection. Choosing tires is always a tradeoff between something. Weight, rolling resistance or speed, grip and cornering confidence, durability, feel, braking power and traction. It’s like a video game where you get skills points you have to assign to your character: you can max one bar, put it means you can’t max another. With good tires there are more skill points to assign so to speak.
True XC tires are much lighter than your average trail or enduro tires. They also have a shallower tread pattern with smaller knobbies densely spaced. Such a tread pattern ensures a smooth even ride, at the cost of digging less deep into the road and sacrificing some grip.
One way to maintain a good amount of grip is with a wider tire. But a wider tire adds weight, and increases rolling resistance. Added weight is not necessarily a bad thing because it also means it rolls more easy across rougher terrain because of increased momentum. But you could go for a grippier, wider tire up front and a less wide tire in the back if you occassionally veer into the direction of trail riding.
Now with that all ouf of the way, let’s take a look at the contenders for best 650b XC tires.
Hailed as an allround cross country tire the Maxxis Ikon has the classic tiny-knob-all-over-the place look. It’s allround nature makes it a great option for diverse road conditions.
At a claimed 590 grams for the 2.2 than version, this is a pretty light tire. The reliable EXO compound, also used for harsher enduro racing, means youll enjoy this tire for many miles.
As with any tire with this type of tread, itll perform well in dry conditions. The 650b 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.
Maxxis Ardent Race
The Maxxis Ardent Race is a solid option to mount as both front and rear 650b XC tires.
With a reasonable weight of 714 for the 2.2 inch version it means its still quite a bit heavier than the Schwalbe Rocket Ron or Continental Cross King RaceSport.
But paired with the Maxxis Ikon in the back you still have a very speedy setup from this brand with EXO casing protection.
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 youll need to resort to a different tire if you want to ride year round without swapping tires.
Maxxis Crossmark II
The Maxxis Crossmark II is pure XC tire for dry conditions with the shallow center knobs and minimal side knobs.
Its designed for speed on dry hardpack when going in a straight line, because its cornering ability isnt up to par with other XC tires.
This makes it compete with the Continental Race King RaceSport and the Schwalbe Racing Ralph. Considering the weight of those two 735 gr. for a 2.20 inch version is a tad bit on the heavy side for an XC race tire.
So only if you want the added protection of the EXO compound and you want to combine it with another Maxxis front tire, would the Crossmark II be the best choice. Otherwise either the Continental or Schwalbe will outshine this one.
Continental Cross King Racesport
The Continental Cross King RaceSport is a lightweight XC tire. Continental makes some of the lightest cross country tires in the world, and the 2.2 inch version weighs just over half a kilo at 520 grams.
With this tire youre able to get more grip in both dry and wet conditions and veering of the path into the woods is an option with more prominent side knobs.
With the Cross King in the front and the Race King in the back it means your main focus is speed while adding some extra traction for the front tire. Its by far the lightest 650b XC tire combination available, with a 2.2 setup staying well under 1 kilogram.
Continental Race King Racesport
The Continental Race King RaceSport is an extremely light tire at 490 grams. In the weight department it means it outshines every tire from every other brand here by far.
Its also the best 650b 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.
All that speed comes at a price, because traction is at the low end of the spectrum. If youre doing any sort of hard trail riding and you still want to take advantage of this tire, consider combining it with the Continental Cross King RaceSport. Especially in wet conditions.
This tire performs best in dry conditions because of its shallow tread pattern.
Continental Speed King Racesport II
I don’t know how many lists this tire is on, but I can assure you it’s many. And for good reasons.
The Continental Speed King Racesport II might have one of the longest names for a tire I have ever seen, but is sure ticks a lot of boxes. And it’s no wonder my own mountain bike sports a set.
There’s just no tire that comes even close to this tire in the weight department. The 2.2 inch width version tips the scales at a mere 430 grams, and that’s less than half of some of the other contenders on this list.
Besides that low weight, it has an aggressive tread pattern to take you ofroad, and will simply look damn awesome on your build.
Kenda Regolith Pro
The Kenda Regolith Pro is similar to Schwalbes 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 surefooted on the trail.
Also coming in a 2.60 and 2.80 inch wide versions it means you can run very 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.
Schwalbe Racing Ralph
The Schwalbe Racing Ralph is the go-to option to combine with Schwalbes Nobby Nic. As stated on the website, the Racing Ralph was designed for the rear.
This means the Super Ground Speedgrip version is a fast-rolling tire with a tread pattern support good acceleration and braking power.
Although its meant for a combo setup with a grippier tire in the front, you could use it as a dual setup when you prefer riding mostly in dry conditions and the occasional trail. Also when you do a lot of climbing.
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.
For a surefooted combination of 650b XC tires, why try anything else than the Racing Ray / Racing Ralph combo? You probably shouldnt.
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 600 gr. for a 2.25 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.
Its worthy to note that the Schwalbe Rocket Ron performs really well in the rolling resistance department, as do all Schwalbe tires. So its both light and fast.
Specifications best 650b XC tires
|Name||Size||ETRTO||Weight (gr)||Tread Color||Sidewall Color||Buy at Amazon|
|Continental Cross King Racesport||27.5×2.30||58-584||635||Black||Black||link|
|Continental Cross King Racesport||27.5×2.20||55-584||520||Black||Black||link|
|Continental Race King Racesport||27.5×2.20||55-584||490||Black||Black||link|
|Continental Speed King Racesport II||27.5×2.20||55-584||430||Black||Black||link|
|Kenda Regolith Pro||27.5×2.60||66-584||849||Black||Black||link|
|Kenda Regolith Pro||27.5×2.80||70-584||829||Black||Black||link|
|Maxxis Ardent Race||27.5×2.20||56-584||714||Black||Black||link|
|Maxxis Ardent Race||27.5×2.35||60-584||730||Black||Black||link|
|Maxxis Ardent Race||27.5×2.60||66-584||878||Black||Black||link|
|Maxxis Crossmark II||27.5×2.25||57-584||735||Black||Black||link|
|Maxxis Ikon||27.5×2.20||56-584||590||Black||Light Tan||link|
|Schwalbe Racing Ralph||27.5×2.25||57-584||605||Black||Black||link|
|Schwalbe Racing Ralph||27.5×2.25||57-584||680||Black||Black||link|
|Schwalbe Racing Ray||27.5×2.25||57-584||605||Black||Black||link|
|Schwalbe Racing Ray||27.5×2.25||57-584||680||Black||Black||link|
|Schwalbe Rocket Ron||27.5×2.10||54-584||560||Black||Black||link|
|Schwalbe Rocket Ron||27.5×2.25||57-584||600||Black||Black||link|
|Schwalbe Rocket Ron||27.5×2.25||57-584||600||Black||Black||link|