According to testing by the Swiss XC race team.

Want the fastest rolling mountain bike tyres on the market? That’ll be Continental’s Race King then, which is now officially the speediest rubber money can buy.

That’s according to the Swiss national mtb squad, who conducted the very first verifiable scientific experiments, ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016.


The knowledge was deemed so sensitive that only now can the results be revealed. And although the test was far from comprehensive, it shows which of the nine tyres tested uses the smallest amount of energy when they flatten into that tiny but crucial contact patch between wheel and ground. It’s your energy the squashable tyres are absorbing, so the lower their rolling resistance, the more oomph is available for moving you forward.

Fast is King

Continental’s Race King consistently performed the best. Although the Hutchinson Black Mamba nicked it in one trial, all all five tests it proved fractionally slower than the Conti. Schwalbe’s Racing Ralph made it onto the lowest step of the podium, just edging out the Specialized Renegade. The middle rankers include the Maxxis Ikon and a couple of specialist Dugast models, with the Bontrager XR1 and the Ritchey Shield bringing up the rear.

To be fair, some of the figures were so close that it’s hard to put anything between them. In stark numbers, the Conti’s coefficient of rolling resistance average over five tests was shown to be 0.0205 and that of the Ritchey 0.0236. Yet the scientists say that choosing a tyre with the lowest rolling resistance will boost your speed on a XC course by up to 3.2 per cent. So, instead of taking 100 minutes to finish a race, you could expect to cross the finish line in under 97 minutes, depending on the gradients and your power output.

Of course, to compare tyres scientifically, the keen mountain biking scientists at the Federal Insititute of Sport had to standardise everything. They used a Colnago C29 Team Edition hardtail. All tubeless tyres were the manufacturers’ top of the range models, fitted to XR 1501 Spline One wheels and run with 100mm of Stan’s sealant. They followed advice from national level riders and always set the tyre pressure by multiplying the total weight of the bike, rider and accessories (in kilos) by 0.28psi. The flattish 500m test course was 40 per cent grass, 30 per cent mud and 30 per cent gravel.

What it means for trail riding…

Not a lot… yet. Part of the study was to figure out the reliability of this testing method, so you can expect more tyres to be assessed over the years. We’re eagerly awaiting the Maxxis High Roller II versus the Schwalbe Magic Mary, for instance, although we can probably guess the result.

Rolling resistance is only one factor to consider when choosing tyres, obviously. Grip and puncture resistance are significant qualities, and far more important for trial riding, we’d say. And unless you’re lucky enough to be sponsored and receive free tyres, durability will also play an important part in your decision.