Choosing the right tires for your mountain bike is crucial to riding your best out on the trails, but with so many options out there, choosing the right pair can seem overwhelming. But worry not! Bontrager has a tire offering that’s perfect for your riding style and the trail conditions in your area. Watch the video below, follow this simple guide, and you’ll be riding more confidently in no time!

Tread: Where do you ride?

The first step in finding the right set of tires is deciding how much tread you need. Tread determines how much traction a tire provides, but there are trade-offs to picking a meatier option. The key is finding the pattern that provides sufficient grip for your local trails while also considering rolling resistance and weight.

Bontrager offers 6 different mountain bike tread options, which follow a simple naming structure of 0-5. Lower numbers indicate lighter, fast-rolling treads best suited for hard-pack courses. As the number increases, the tire will have progressively larger knobs to hook up in loose terrain and provide more traction, but rolling resistance and weight both go up as a trade-off.


Bontrager’s lightest tread option with the lowest rolling resistance. This is a dedicated cross country race tread.


Ultra-fast rolling cross country tread ready to dominate the race course or crush the driest, dustiest trails.


Strikes a balance for versatility. Fast enough for dedicated cross country riders but with enough tread to take on more trails. Excels in loose over hardpack.


All-around option for any trail. If you plan on riding a variety of conditions and need a tire that can handle both dusty days and light mud, this is the tread for you.


Aggressive tread that provides incredible traction and cornering performance on loose, rocky trails whether they’re wet or dry.


Deep tread designed specifically for aggressive traction in wet, rugged trail conditions.

Tread? Check.

Once you’ve selected the tread that’s most appropriate for the trails you like to ride and the weather that shapes them, it’s time to consider how aggressively you’ll be pushing your tires.

Durability vs. weight: How do you ride?

Bontrager offers two lines of tires for cross country, trail, and enduro riders: XR and SE. While tread choice is primarily driven by the conditions you’ll be riding in, considering the way you ride will allow you to choose between Bontrager’s XR or SE lineup.

The main differences between XR and SE come down to durability and weight. SE tires are beefier, with added puncture protection as well as more robust sidewalls, but they are slightly heavier as a result. Here’s a breakdown of the strengths and limitations of each.

XR with Inner Strength Casing

XR tires are designed for cross country and general trail riding. This line covers the widest range of riding styles and terrain profiles, so if you’re looking for ultimate versatility, XR is the best option. XR Team Issue tires are Tubeless Ready, with an Inner Strength Casing that features woven nylon sidewall inserts mated to a single ply construction to maximize durability for most riders while still providing a supple, lightweight tire with great ride feel.

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SE with Core Strength Casing

SE tires feature Core Strength Casing, which offers additional puncture protection via a nylon sub-tread insert and more robust sidewall inserts. This makes SE a solid choice for aggressive riders who tend to ride rocky trails or appreicate the support of a more robust sidewall while cornering at speed. They are perfect for enduro racing and the aggressive rider looking for a tire that can stand up to ruggedest trail conditions.

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Width: Traction and compliance versus weight and precision

Now that you’ve selected the ideal tread and construction for the way you ride, the next consideration is width. Bontrager offers XR and SE mountain bike tires ranging from 2.0 - 3.0˝ wide, with a wide range of choices in between.

As with tread, the question comes down to traction versus weight. Wider tires grip better, and let you run lower tire pressures for a smoother ride over rough terrain, but they weigh a little more and can feel less precise in rough terrain. The best way to find the width that works best for you is to try a variety of options, but these profiles are a good place to start.


Cross country racing on rims up to 30mm inner width


General trail riding on rims up to 30mm inner width


All varieties of trail riding on midfat rims around 40mm rims

Wider tires, less pressure

Remember to adjust tire pressure as you adjust tire width. Personal preference plays a large role here, but wider tires tend to have more overall volume and perform better at slightly lower pressures.

Be confident in your decision

There are a lot of options out there, but by taking it one step at a time, starting with tread, then considering construction, and finishing at tire size, you will find the right tire for you. Luckily, you don’t need to worry much about making the wrong decision thanks to our Unconditional Bontrager Guarantee. You have 30 days to ride your new tires and decide if they’re right for you. If it turns out you made the wrong choice, simply exchange them for another pair! It’s that simple!

Our tires build strong kids

$1 from the sale of every Bontrager mountain bike tire supports the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. NICA is one of the fastest-growing high school sports in the country, and Trek is proud to support their efforts to provide opportunities for all American youth to build stong body, mind, and character through mountain biking.

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