Pick the best mountain bike mud tyres and you’ll be able to ride, not slide, through the winter with ultimate control.
Here’s our rundown of the best mountain bike mud tyres to help you beat the gloop and keep on rolling until spring comes around. With the right rubber you can find grip while all around you slip!
Every winter, rather than slip and slide defensively through the gloop and muck, it pays real dividends to fit the best mountain bike tyres specifically designed for mud. They bring extra grip and promote greater confidence at every turn, allowing you to keep attacking the trails.
Best value mud tyre and great on an e-bike
Weight: 1,360g | Size tested: 29 x 2.4in | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: The excellent price, Works great on slimy roots and rocks as well as loose mud, Fine in drier conditions too, Tough and durable.
Reasons to avoid: One of the heaviest DH/Enduro mud tyres around, Slower rolling than some similar tyres.
Specialized’s Hillbilly was the original cut down mud spike inspired by DH champ Sam Hill’s mechanic, and brought to market over a decade ago. Overall grip is definitely on a par with the Maxxis Shorty II, and actually even marginally better in some scenarios, but the Hillbilly is slightly slower rolling and heavier in the equivalent DH casing version. The Shorty is slightly more versatile, rolling with more pace on harder trail centre-style surfaces, and it’s arguably more optimised to mixed conditions than the very open, slightly spikier, Spesh tread. So horses for courses then, meaning this Hillbilly totally deserves top marks too, particularly as it’s £30 cheaper than the Shorty.
Amazing in mixed conditions as well as mire
Weight: 1,090g | Size tested: 29 x 2.4in | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Much more versatile than previous generation, Fast rolling for a mud tyre, Clears mud fantastically well, Decent on hard pack too, Maxxis proven compounds and casings
Reasons to avoid: Very expensive, especially compared to the Specialized Hillbilly
The Gen 2 Shorty still offers tons of bite into soft soils, and holds on like hell in slimy off-camber turns, but, crucially, it’s more continuously connected with terrain when crossing hard obstacles like roots and rocks. It’s also faster rolling on hardpack surfaces like trail centres. Overall, the Shorty Gen 2 tyre is much improved with this tread redesign. It has gone from a tyre that divided opinion – however muddy and horrible the trails were – to a near perfect wet-weather option that’s versatile enough to mix it up on bone dry trails, without much more than a penalty in rolling resistance.
A fearsome bite in soft dirt through to slick mud
Weight: 1,280g | Size tested: 29 x 2.5in | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Great grip on soft terrain, be it mud or loam. More useful than the Verdict Wet across a range of riding conditions too
Reasons to avoid: Not the quickest rolling or lightest rubber on the block. Slightly vague on hardpack before the tall side lugs bite in
With towering 7.5mm edge incisors and 5mm centre blocks, this is about as meaty as you can in a mountain bike tyre. It’s the toothy sibling to the Verdict Dry, and both centre and edge knobs have been lengthened considerably for extra grip in everything from damp conditions to full-on quagmires. There is an even more aggro version of this tyre called – the WTB Verdict Wet – but we reckon the standard Verdict will suit more as a fit and forget winter tyre.
All-season shredder that’s as happy in winter as a porcine in poo
Weight: 928g | Size tested: 29 x 2.35in | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Super confident on steeps and on wet rocks and roots. Clears great. Run it all year round.
Reasons to avoid: Not the ultimate grip of a pure mud spike.
For aggressive riding in UK conditions, the Magic Mary is a great performer. The moto-style blocks clear crud well, cornering and braking is excellent and the tyre never over or under steers on severe cambers or dragging brakes down ruts. With simple, huge square blocks jutting out at all angles, the tread pattern looks a lot like a classic motocross tyre, and, sure enough, chuck it at some gloop and it’ll take everything in its stride — only a pure downhill spike has more bite.
Best gravity mud tyre
Weight: 1,490g | Size tested: 29 x 2.4in | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Tough. Insanely grippy.
Reasons to avoid: Heavy, draggy old tyre to lug around if there’s no uplift
Massivley heavy. Massively tough. Massively grippy. You may not want to pedal these around a trail centre or your usual Sunday loop. But if you want a tyre for uplift days – or race days – that never, ever lets you down and instills an insane level of confidence no matter how slippery and sketchy the terrain is – here’s the rubber for you. The slow rebound nature of the Magi-X compound rubber is almost like micro suspension. There’s a serious level of calmness and holding with the DH22. Sam Hill uses these tyres pretty much on everything regardless of how wet or dry the trail. A niche option but sure to develop a cult following as so many Michelin tyres do.
What to look for in mountain bike mud tyres:
Front tyre priority
Front-end security remains a priority in winter — a back-end slide is always much more manageable — and mixing and matching tyre brands, compounds and sizes at either end is the best way to balance rolling speed, weight and control. If you’re a proper tweaker, you can always trim knobs down for custom grip levels.
Rear winter tyres face a difficult balancing act, since weight and rolling friction are far more noticeable out back, and rear tyres are also much more prone to damage and punctures, so require extra casing thickness and protection.
Traction versus drag
Well-spaced, spiky blocks are the signature tread pattern of winter-friendly tyres, but the height and aggression of these knobs, and the weight and width of the tyre casing, are further factors that directly affect drag, overall bulk and a product’s optimal terrain and purpose.
Even with mud tyres you can have too much of a good thing, which is why you need to balance wet weather grip with acceptable rolling resistance.
Durometer is the quoted measure for rubber hardness, with higher numbers signifying a firmer compound, i.e. 60a is harder than 50a. This durometer measurement is only a guideline, as proprietary compounds and blends can also make huge differences to grip, rebound damping and rolling speed. In this respect, rubber is something of a ‘dark art’, with certain tyres often surprising on specific terrain and surfaces.
Mud tyres need significantly more support to keep big tread blocks stable, which adds weight. More fabric and rubber in the construction of grippier, wider tyres also adds weight, but bigger air volumes offer more comfort and isolation from the ground — especially useful on hardtails to smooth out the rougher ride.
Overall rotating weight becomes very noticeable when big tyres pick up clag, and therefore muddy tyres can make it hard to change direction at speed — although that isn’t always a bad thing in extreme conditions!
It’s harder to stick to precise lines to protect sidewalls from abrasions and sharp edges in slippery winter conditions. Therefore it’s worth thinking about running a heavier casing with better protection and durability — the caveat being that riding in the winter is slow-going, and a heavier carcass can decrease acceleration and rolling speed further.
More open tread patterns should hold onto less gloop and clear more readily once up to speed, but the downside is greater rolling resistance. Mud tyres get pronounced shoulder blocks for better cornering hold and off-camber bite. Rubber formulas and special coatings on the outer casing surface (beneath the blocks) are also designed to shed sticky mud more quickly.
Thinner tyres carve through deep, thick mud more effectively, but be realistic as to how much of your ride time is spent in proper gloop, as wider tyres are generally better everywhere else. A good compromise is a wider ‘grip’ tyre up front and a thinner ‘drive’ tyre out back, but beware that super-fat front rubber can ‘float’ a little in serious mud rather than ‘cutting’ in.
Different tyres require different pressures and, generally, the thicker the casing the lower the air pressure you can get away with.
Year-round, aim for the minimum air pressure that keeps the tyre casing from twisting too much under hard cornering forces and still prevents rim strikes under impacts. If you often run with more than 30psi, try reducing pressure and experimenting with softer tyres in winter.