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The top 5 best 26 inch bikepacking tires

In this article I’m going to give you my top picks for the best 26 inch bikepacking tires.

If the gravel bike craze has done one thing is to inspire people to take a good hard look at their old mountain bike. In a certain way gravel bikes have been around since the eighties. It’s just that they were called different.

Gravel bikes sit roughly between your average road bike and mountain bike, and are the perfect tool for bikepacking adventures.

And since vintage mountain bikes have the perfect geometry to be converted into a gravel bike, it makes sense to see if there are specific 26 inch bikepacking tires.

And if you ask me, there are. So without ado, here is my list of the best 26 inch bikepacking tires.

Maxxis Ikon

Maxxis Ikon
Maxxis Ikon

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 bikepacking where road conditions can be so diverse.

At a claimed 607 grams, this is a pretty light tire. The reliable EXO compound, also used for harsher enduro racing, 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 bikepacking ride to be particularly rough.

Maxxis Crossmark II

Maxxis Crossmark II
Maxxis Crossmark II

The Maxxis Crossmark II is pure cross country tire for dry conditions with the shallow center knobs and minimal side knobs.

It’s designed for speed on dry hardpack when going in a straight line, because it’s cornering ability isn’t up to par with other cross country tires in rougher conditions. That’s why it’s a solid option to put this tire on the rear wheel where grip matters less. So if you want the added protection of the EXO compound and you want to combine it with another Maxxis front tire, the Crossmark II be the best choice.

Maxxis Ardent Race

Maxxis Ardent Race
Maxxis Ardent Race

Maxxis makes a lot of great tires. For long-distance bikepacking you’re looking for a tire that has great durability, but also isn’t that heavy. The Maxxis Ardent Race has both Maxxis’ EXO casing protection and is tubeless ready, two solid features for bikepacking.

The triple compound provides a fast-rolling center for long straits. When the terrain get’s rougher the softer and grippier side knobs will give you traction, grip and overall ride confidence.

In dry conditions the traction will prove to be outstanding. In wet conditions not so much since 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.

The Ardent Race can be used both front and back. But if you want to, you can pair this tire with another great offering from Maxxis: the Maxxis Ikon. Put the Ikon in the back and you still have a very speedy setup from this brand with EXO casing protection.

Surly ExtraTerrestrial

Surly ExtraTerrestrial
Surly ExtraTerrestrial

Surly is well-known in the bikepacking community for making awesome frames. But they also make tires well-suited for long-distance touring. The Surly ExtraTerrestrial is probably their fastest offering.

The ExtraTerrestrial is heavier than the other tires listed here, but in return you get a more puncture-proof tire that’s still well equipped for any type of gravel and hardpack.

With an very wide 2.5 inch version this is a serious tire of off-road cycling, that performs equally in dry and wet conditions.

To prevent against flats and puncture the tire has nylon breaker reinforced sidewalls, and a kevlar center. This tire isn’t meant for racing day, but will prove to be an extremely reliable bikepacking companion.

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. 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.

Specifications 26 inch bikepacking tires

NameSizeETRTOWeight (gr)Tread ColorSidewall ColorBuy at AmazonBuy at Ebay
Maxxis Ardent Race26×2.2055-559686BlackBlacklinklink
Maxxis Crossmark II26×2.2557-559705BlackBlacklinklink
Maxxis Ikon26×2.2055-559607BlackBlacklinklink
Maxxis Ikon26×2.3560-559675BlackBlacklinklink
Surly ExtraTerrestrial26×2.564-559990BlackSlatelinklink
Surly ExtraTerrestrial26×4646×559690BlackSlatelinklink
Vittoria Mezcal26×2.1052×559620BlackAnthracitelinklink