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The top 8 best 26 inch tan-wall MTB tires

In this article Im going to give an overview of the best 26 inch tan-wall MTB tires.

As the industry moved away from 26 inch as the default for MTB tires into 27.5 and 29 inch, the selection of tan-wall tires dwindled as well.

Today there are hardly any options available if you want to outfit your retro MTB with a solid pair of tan-wall tires.

Note: from a technical perspective theres a different between tan-wall, gum-wall, and skin-wall. Skin-wall tires are tires with minimal rubber on the sides and visible treading, whereas tan-wall or gum-wall tires have painted sidewalls.

For this article Im using the word tan liberally, meaning I also use them for tires which are actually skin-wall versions.

I also will not include tires with a tire width below 2 inch. Although skinny MTB tires were the standard for nineties cross-country and trail riding, riding bigger tires is simply better in terms of grip and handling.

Maxxis DTH

Maxxis DTH
Maxxis DTH

The Maxxis DTH is probably the tire I see most often on retro MTB builds besides the Nobby Nic and Billy Bonkers. Its a semi-slick meant for BMX, dirt-jumping, and pump tracks.

Maxxis is known for providing a wide range of high-quality tires, and with the added benefit of providing both a standard black and tan version, it’s no wonder many older mountain bikes get outfitted with a pair of these.

Sizes range from 2.15 up to 2.3 inches, which will make for a great-looking setup with a very plush road feel.

Reasons To Buy

– Fast and reasonably light, with tan options available.
– Great for vintage MTB builds
– Excellent puncture protection

Reasons To Avoid

– None

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 diverse road conditions.

At a claimed 607 grams, 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 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.

Reasons To Buy

– Lightweight cross-country / light trail tire
– Can be used front and rear
– Pair with Ardent Race in the front for fast XC setup

Reasons To Avoid

– Less suitable for highly technical trails

Panaracer Smoke

Panaracer Smoke
Panaracer Smoke

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 its not uncommon to use them both front and back.

Reasons To Buy

– The ultimate vintage rear trail tire

Reasons To Avoid

– Not the grippiest
– Single 2.1 inch size

Panaracer Dart

Panaracer Dart
Panaracer Dart

This site covers a lot of information about restoring older bicycles. So it’s only natural that the Panaracer Dart also made the list. The Panaracer Dart is the companion to the Panaracer Smoke. The Dart is meant to be used as a front tire and is a reissue of a classic mountain bike tire from the nineties.

Both the Dart and Smoke come in a 2.1 inch width version, and being true to their vintage nature, are only meant for 26 inch wheels. 2.1 inch was considered downhill territory in the nineties, but nowadays, this tire weighting 620 grams is both the slimmest and lightest tire on this list.

It means I can no longer recommend this tire as a good downhill option, and maybe not even as one of the best trail tires. What I can do is recommend it as the best option for purist vintage mountain bike restorers. And it so happens I’ve put both the Dart and Smoke on a 1994 Cannondale Super V.

The Panaracer Dart is a true skinwall tire, which were all the rage in the eighties and nineties. It means that the sidewall are thinner, because of a lack of black rubber used for the center tread. It means skinwall tires are lighter and more supple than their non-skinwall counterparts, but also more prone to punctures. And skinwall tend to dry out when exposed to UV light.

The Dart has elongated knobbies that follow the rotation of the wheel. These knobbies are meant to dig deep into the soil, giving you that front-wheel grip necessary for trail riding. For such a slim tire they perform pretty good on the trail.

Reasons To Buy

– The ultimate vintage front trail tire

Reasons To Avoid

– Not the grippiest
– Single 2.1 inch size

Panaracer Gravel King

Panaracer Gravel King
Panaracer Gravel King

The best option for gravel afficionados is the Panaracer Gravel King. Im 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 thats what youre looking for, this absolute beauty of a tire should be your go-to choice.

I cant 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.

Reasons To Buy

– Superb allround gravel tire
– Very lightweight
– Japanese build quality

Reasons To Avoid

– None

Schwalbe Billy Bonkers

Schwalbe Billy Bonkers
Schwalbe Billy Bonkers

The Billy Bonkers is Schwalbes 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.

The Billy Bonkers replaces the Schwalbe Table Top, which was a heavier, wider, and slower tire.

And with a max PSI of 80 (thats 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.

Reasons To Buy

– Very lightweight tire
– Tan option available

Reasons To Avoid

– None

Schwalbe Fat Frank

Schwalbe Fat Frank
Schwalbe Fat Frank

The biggest appeal of the Schwalbe Fat Frank is that they come in a variety of great colors. Besides your standard black, you have, beige, creme and tan options for both tread and sidewall.

So if you’re looking to add some design flair to your ride you can get the Fat Frank with a brown tread pattern and creme sidewalls, or entirely creme.

The also come in a 2.35 inch width version besides the standard 2 inch. So if you can get over the weight of 975 grams per tire you’re in for both a colorful and plush ride.

Reasons To Buy

– Great for vintage MTB builds
– Multiple colors available

Reasons To Avoid

– Heavy wired tire

Schwalbe Nobby Nic

Schwalbe Nobby Nic
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 Continentals Cross King.

You can go up to a size 2.35 if you want to and its also the only tire that comes in a 26 tan version. So if youre 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. Its much more expensive but itll 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 its also heavy. Ive 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.

Reasons To Buy

– High quality fit-and-forget allround trail option
– Loads of sizing / compound combinations possible
– Front and rear tire

Reasons To Avoid

– None

Specifications 26 inch tan-wall MTB tires

NameSizeETRTOWeight (gr)Tread ColorSidewall ColorCompoundPuncture ProtectionTire BeadBuy at AmazonBuy at Ebay
Maxxis DTH26×2.1552/54-559620BlackTanDualEXO/Silkwormfoldablelinklink
Maxxis DTH26×2.3055/58-559773BlackTanDualEXO/Silkwormfoldablelinklink
Maxxis DTH26×2.3055/58-559859BlackTanDualEXO/Silkwormwiredlinklink
Maxxis DTH26×2.1552/54-559555BlackLight TanSingleSilkwormfoldablelinklink
Maxxis DTH26×2.3055/58-559650BlackLight TanSingleSilkwormfoldablelinklink
Maxxis Ikon26×2.2055-559676BlackTanDUALEXOtlrlinklink
Panaracer Dart26×2.1054-559620BlackTanfoldablelinklink
Panaracer Gravel King26×2.1054-559590BlackTanZero Slip GripAX-Alpha / ProTite Shield Plustlrlinklink
Panaracer Smoke26×2.1054-559620BlackTanfoldablelinklink
Schwalbe Billy Bonkers262.1054-559490BlackTanADDIXfoldablelinklink
Schwalbe Fat Frank26×2.0050-559815BrownCremeDualK-Guardwiredlinklink
Schwalbe Fat Frank26×2.0050-559815CremeCremeSBCK-Guardwiredlinklink
Schwalbe Fat Frank26×2.3560-559975BrownCremeSBCK-Guardwiredlinklink
Schwalbe Fat Frank26×2.3560-559975CremeCremeSBCK-Guardwiredlinklink
Schwalbe Nobby Nic26×2.3560-559810BlackTanADDIX SpeedGripSuper Ground, E-50tlrlinklink