In this article I’m going to give you my top picks for the best 26 inch gumwall mountain bike tires.
Gumwall tires have made a huge comeback the last couple of years. With the growth of gravel bikes came a variety of designs sporting colored sidewalls, reminiscent of vintage road bikes. And with it came a demand that saw gumwall tires move into the mountain bike arena as well.
True gumwall or skinwall tires are lighter than standard tires, because they forgo added sidewall protection for a reduction in weight and an increase in suppleness. These tires did not use the black compound for the center tread on the side, hence the difference in color.
That being said, tire brands have of course jumped the gumwall bandwagon because there’s is money to made, and created a supply for an increasing demand for these tires. That means that sometimes tires that look like true gumwalls are simply tires with the black compound given a nice tan color. This means you adhere to the aesthetic aspect while maintaining the increase in sidewall protection.
The tires on this list that have painted sidewalls are the Schwalbe Nobby Nic and Billy Bonkers. All of the other tires are true tanwalls. So without further ado, here’s my list of 26 inch gumwall mountain bike tires.
The Maxxis DTH is probably the tire I see most often on retro MTB builds besides the Nobby Nic and Billy Bonkers. It’s a semi-slick meant for BMX, dirt-jumping, and pump tracks.
If you want you can get it in a wide 2.3 inch version, which will make for a plush city cruiser. Don’t use these tires on the trail though because the lack of grip will be dangerous.
Panaracer Gravel King
The best option for gravel afficionados is the Panaracer Gravel King. I’m a fan of the Panaracer brand ever since I first used these tires on my Koga Miyata Adventure.
In all honesty, looking at the tread pattern, they are the only tires that are true to their name and 100% meant for pure gravel riding. So if that’s what you’re looking for, this absolute beauty of a tire should be your go-to choice.
I can’t find the 26 inch version of this tire on their website, but I know for sure they exist in a 26 x 2.1 inch version.
These ones are truly meant for hardpack and gravel only, providing practically zero grip in rougher conditions.
The Panaracer Dart is the companion to the Panaracer Smoke. Where the Smoke can be used both front and back, that would be a less wise option for the Dart.
The Panaracer Dart has elongated knobbies that follow the rotation of the wheel. These knobbies are meant to dig deep into the soil, giving you that grip necessary for trail riding.
The Panaracer Smoke is a classic reissue of a very popular tire with the same name from the early nineties.
The tire comes in both a black and light tan wall option, with the latter being much more popular for obvious reasons.
The Panaracer Smoke is meant to be ridden with the Panaracer Dart. With the Smoke going on the rear wheel and the Dart on the front. This classic combination will serve you best if you go cross-country and light trail riding.
The Panaracer Smoke has the classic tread pattern of a rear tire, with horizontal knobbies for increased braking and traction. But it’s not uncommon to use them both front and back.
Schwalbe Billy Bonkers
The Billy Bonkers is Schwalbe’s answer to the popularity of the Maxxis DTH for pumptrack and slopestyle. They also come in an extremely light 490 grams 26 inch version, making it the perfect tire for fast city flying, gravel and cross country riding.
And with a max PSI of 80 (that’s 5.5 bar), you can turn them into a proper set of fat road tires as well. Just make sure you get the Performance versions, which are the lighter ones.
I’m not to happy about the name though. Billy Bonkers sounds kind of goofy and it is emblazoned on the side of the tire in bold lettering, but Schwalbe has a penchant for quirky naming. The Billy Bonkers replaces the Schwalbe Table Top, which was a heavier, wider, and slower tire.
Schwalbe Nobby Nic
The Schwalbe Nobby Nic is more of an allround tire than a cross country one. And one look at the tread pattern reveals why.
It has considerable more pronounced knobs that are much higher. The side knobs are twice the size of Continental’s Cross King.
You can go up to a size 2.35 if you want to and it’s also the only tire that comes in a 26 inch tan version. So if you’re looking for a solid allround setup, meant for every conceivable condition, dry and wet, hardpack and forest trail, and you want to ride a tan version, this is the tire for you.
Be sure to buy the Super Ground Speedgrip version (with the blue line in the tread) to take advantage of the increased rolling resistance. It’s much more expensive but it’ll improve rolling resistance, durability, damping ability and grip.
With 755 gr. for the 2.25 version and 810 gr. for the 2.35 one, it might be a grippy tire with good forward momentum, but it’s also heavy. I’ve seen package deals with the Schwalbe Racing Ralph, which means this tire is a good front option, with the lighter Racing Ralph in the back.
Rene Herse Humptulips Ridge
I only recently discovered the Rene Herse Humptulips Ridge (Extralight casing) tires. Made by a smaller brand, the devotion of the company’s owner Jan Heine to really make the best tire struck a chord with me.
The Humptulips Ridge is the second entry from Rene Herse on this list, which means that, together with Continental, they dominate the tire space with respect to ultra-light gravel and cross-country tires.
They make the Humptulips Ridge in 3 different cases. I chose the lightest one because in general I’m interested in speed over durability.
The reason why Rene Herse makes these beautiful tan 26 inch tires is that they have ample expertise in making gravel tires. And gravel is a discipline where it’s normal to modify an older-style mountain bike, which runs 26 inch wheels.
The combination of the availability of a tan version, in a 2.3 inch width, that’s still incredibly light at only 490 grams, and accompanied by Jan Heine’s expert view on big round tires that roll just as fast as road bike tires made me choose this option for my Koga Miyata Skyrunner Carbolite.
At 184 euros or almost 220 USD per pair it’s also by far the most expensive set of tires I’ve bought in my entire life.
Rene Herse Rat Trap Pass
After buying the Rene Herse Humptulips for my Koga Miyata Skyrunner it was only natural to add their slick offering to this list as well.
This company with French roots is well known for its bike packing and gravel tires and the Rene Herse Rat Trap Pass is a very round and wide 2.3 inch tire with a focus on comfort and speed.
The tire is extremely light with the lightest extralight version tipping the scales at only 418 grams. That probably means they’re are even relatively lighter than the Continental Speed King Racesport.
Unlike that tire the Rat Trap Pass is a true slick tire with zero knobbies to be found.
If you’re looking for one of the best tires for gravel riding and bike packing on asphalt and hard pack, this is definitely a great option. Especially if you’re looking for some vintage skinwall flair to spruce up a retro build.
But be prepared to dig deep into your wallet because these tires are by far the most expensive on this list ranging from 78 to 92 USD depending on the chosen casing.
Simworks Super Yummy
The SimWorks Super Yummy is a 26 inch gravel tire to spruce up your old MTB frame and turn it into a gravel bike obviously.
Since this tire is also made by Panaracer I can’t help but compare it to Panaracer’s own gravel offering: the Gravel King.
But comparing the tread pattern I would argue that these Super Yummy’s move more into the the direction of a very light cross country tire with all the small knobbies. But what’s in a name?
Simworks The Hommage
The Simworks The Hommage a 26 inch tire, it has a 1.95 inch tire width, it has tan walls, a smooth center line and side knobbies, and it also comes in mint green. It’s the the ultimate throwback to early nineties MTB tires. Of course it belongs on this list.
It’s tires like these that makes me want to put on a purple tracksuit and ride along some good Eurodance tunes.
And the tires are made in collaboration with Panaracer so expect the same premium quality and suppleness. A love letter for old-skool MTB aficionados in its purest form.
Specifications 26 inch gumwall mountain bike tires
|Name||Size||ETRTO||Weight (gr)||Tread Color||Sidewall Color||Buy at Amazon||Buy at Ebay|
|Panaracer Gravel King||26×2.10||54-559||590||Black||Tan||link||link|
|Schwalbe Billy Bonkers||26×2.10||54-559||490||Black||Tan||link||link|
|Schwalbe Nobby Nic||26×2.35||60-559||810||Black||Tan||link||link|
|Rene Herse Humptulips Ridge||26×2.30||60-559||490||Black||Tan||link||link|
|Rene Herse Humptulips Ridge||26×2.30||60-559||525||Black||Tan||link||link|
|Rene Herse Rat Trap Pass||26×2.30||60-559||418||Black||Tan||link||link|