2018 XC Tires Reviews and News


Vittoria Gato review


The Vittoria Gato is a cross-country tire designed to offer grip and confidence in a wide variety of riding conditions.

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Maxxis Ikon review


While not the fastest in this XC tire shootout, the Maxxis Ikon is arguably the best overall tire among the group. Find out why in the Mtbr review.

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  • rob says:

    From my experience, this has to be the hardest tire to mount tubeless out of the box on a narrow rim without a compressor. It did not work with a booster pump.

  • Dave says:

    Interesting. Did you mount this tire on both front and rear? I’ve been riding the Minion DHF on the front and Ardent Race on the rear. How would this tire compare? Thanks!

  • robert brown says:

    Never had an issue sealing an Ikon, Racing Ralph on the other hand is a complete pain

  • Teleken says:

    I’m with Rob a 120 TPI Ikon was a PITA too floppy to pop into the rim (24mm). Even mounted one side with a tube first. I sold it & went back to a Ground Control. MAXXIS should make more offerings in the Ignitor like a 29 x 2.35.

  • JDG says:

    May I ask why you guys didn’t reviewed the Maxxis Aspen? I think the Aspen and Ikon are very close.

  • Todd says:

    The 29X2,35 version is amazing for a HT and as a F&R combo to speed up a trail bike! They are a challenge to get seated tubeless though! I have had very few durability issues with the tire and have been riding and racing on it for years! I have not tried the Aspen but have heard it is not as durable and not as good in the desert conditions we have here in Western Colorado. Thank for the review/shoot-out!

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Vee Crown Gem review


Solid all-around tire with attractive price and impressive puncture resistance, that also rolls fast and grips better than expected.

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  • Timberline says:

    Hopefully Vee Tires has fully addressed the known issue of the Crown Gem ripping cornering knobs off through the casing. This was a common issue with this tire in the past, but Vee says it’s been addressed. I tried a Crown Gem some time ago with the torn knob issue and Vee customer service bent over backward to be helpful in replacing my tire.

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Hutchinson Toro review


Among their versatile tires, the Hutchinson Toro has evenly spaced knobs that deliver neutral handling. Center knobs are shorter for mud clearing, while side knobs are taller for enhanced cornering grip.

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Vittoria Mezcal review


Fast, dry conditions XC racer with low profile, densely spaced knob configuration and a defined center ridge tread for low rolling resistance.

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  • Teleken says:

    The XC tire reviews have been informative & confirm what most already knew- published tire weights are incorrect and the marketing peeps lied again. Tire weights are like snow reports “8” of new snow” = dust on crust.

  • Maciej Pike-Biegunski says:

    Did you try a Dynaplug or Innovations Bacon Strip? Bet either would’ve sealed the tire in a jiff if you hadn’t.

    I run double casing rear tires and pretty burly fronts but still always carry a tire plug with me-it’s saved several rides (and tires) for me or the people I’ve been riding with.

  • David says:

    What tire pressure did you run for all these tire tests? Please share that information as well.
    If you ran all the tires at the same pressure then that would not be a fair comparison.
    I would expect to run lower pressure on all the tires that came in at 2.2x than those that only came in at 2.1x. This improves puncture protection, climbing and overall handling. Things you appeared to ding the Mezcal on, but without even sharing the tire pressures used. When I switched to Mezcals I had to lower the pressure on them due to the larger volume and likely due to the graphene. I am able to hammer any condition on them here in SoCal. I am running 20 in front and 23 rear . I am 170 fully kitted.

  • RobertW says:

    5% off claimed weight and 1.3% off claimed width is pretty much bang on. Put it on a 25mm rim and it would be spot on width.

  • Irishpitbull says:

    Schwalbe( Ron & Ralph) and Maxxis (Ikon) are always at or below claimed weight on my park scale.

  • Ryan S says:

    “Easy to mount and take off” …never heard anyone say this about Mezcals, lol…quite the opposite in fact. Same with “corning grip” being on the “Pro” side of the list …say what? I ride 29×2.25 Mezcals when I can get them on/off, but only on gravel. Those tires suck on the trails, particularly cornering and stopping. They are tough though, I’ll give them that.

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Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix review


As its name clearly implies, this is an XC racing tire. The tread pattern is familiar in this class of rubber – more tightly spaced center knobs to increase speed, but taller, more widely spaced side lugs for extra bite.

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  • Midgemagnet says:

    “Only two of seven XC tires Mtbr tested for this shootout exceeded manufacturer’s claimed width.”

    Bear in mind that tyre width is a function of inflation pressure and rim width, neither of which are specified in the article. Also tyres will stretch out as they break in with use so they’re at their narrowest when brand new.

    I mostly run Conti tyres on my bikes, but last year thought I’d try a Rocket Ron Snakeskin Addix Speed as a front tyre for Winter Bike. Overall I’m very impressed with it, and the Addix compound is a big improvement over the old Pacestar. One thing I did notice though was that the hardest Addix Speed compound is significantly softer (and by extension grippier and less durable) than Conti’s BlackChili compound, which is fine by me as a softer, grippier compound on the front works very well, and if it wears a bit faster then that’s just the price you pay for better grip with any tyre.

    I bought one of the original Racing Ralphs, many years ago. Back then it had a low profile, rounded tread pattern and rubber so soft I could hear it sucking at the little air pockets when riding over smooth asphalt. It was very fast and insanely grippy, but I tore it to shreds in ten hours of riding. That put me off race-spec Schwalbes until the new Addix compound came along. IMHO they’ve got their compounds just about right now, and it’s nice to have a range of rubber and carcass specs to choose from. If the hardest Speed compound is still relatively soft then I’d love to try out the Ultra Soft compound one day, just for fun.

    • Jason Sumner says:

      Up top it reads, “When mounted on a Stan’s ZTR Crest S1 aluminum wheels, which have a 23mm internal rim width, actual tire width measured by the Park Tools DC-1 Digital Caliper was 2.11 (versus the advertised 2.25).” Also make sure to take a look at the First Look post for this shootout. It has some of the answers you are looking for. Thanks for reading — Jason

      • Midgemagnet says:

        ^ My apologies Jason – I read your article twice looking for a rim width spec and still completely missed it. My bad.

        I did some width-versus-pressure tests on some Conti tyres I’ve got fitted to various bikes and put the results up on the mtbr forum. For the same rim width and tyre pressures there was a big difference between a well-worn 2017 Race King ProTection and a brand new never-before-inflated 2018 Race King ProTection, with the latter being much narrower. That was 2 months (and about 50 hours of riding) ago, and last week out of curiosity I re-measured the 2018 tyre: it has stretched to about the same width as the old, worn 2017 model. Original results can be found at

        forums.mtbr.com/wheels-tires/2018-race-king-cross-king-widths-1077666.html#post13664500

        I’ll update the graphs with the new measurements at some point – it’ll be interesting to see just how much tyres can flump up once they’ve been broken in.

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Kenda Saber Pro review


With its minimalist tread profile and 120 tpi casing, the Kenda Saber Pro is a dedicated XC race tire that is designed for fast, dry singletrack.

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Specialized Fast Trak review


Using finite element analysis, the Specialized Fast Trak tire’s consistent shoulder block layout improves cornering traction.

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  • Pynchonite says:

    Riding the stock Fast Traks that came on my Epic and every time I think about changing out the 2.1″ in the back to something wider, the tire’s grip and comfort surprise me and I decide not to.

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Cross-country mountain bike tire shootout first look


Defining the modern cross-country tire is not easy. They must be fast and light, but also durable and grippy. It’s a lot to ask. See how these seven options measure up.

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  • David says:

    I give the schwalbes 2 rides before they rip a knob and go in the bin.

    • Rob says:

      2? That’s optimistic

    • JC says:

      I’ve raced a full season (13 races) on Schwalbe Rock Razor mounted rear and Nobby Nic mounted up front on i9 hubs laced to Stans Arch Mk3… getting rowdy with a Yeti BigTop HT. Just last week I raced the USA MTB National Championships in Snowshoe, WV and placed 9th in single speed on that very combo… The Snakeskin protection with Addix Speedgrip and Orange Seal inside never failed me once.

      • professed says:

        This is good to hear, perhaps Schwalbe’s new compounds are indeed more durable as its definitely not my experience with them. In respect of weighing each tyre in the shop that’s also my experience with Schwalbe. One tyre might be exceptional, last forever and set up perfectly while the next blows beads, looses knobs etc. I think they have a real quality control issue with their Indonesian factory that they still have not sorted out.

  • adaycj says:

    I’m interested in the reviews too. In the meantime can we donate towards a gift to Schwalbe? They need a new gram scale again. Hutchinson looks like they could use a new ruler too.

  • Dan says:

    mezcal FTW

  • dony says:

    Holy crow 29″ tires weighting a little more and in some cases less than my 26ers.
    No thanks !

    • Mike says:

      Riding hard XC on Rocket Rons 29×2,25 SS – 605-609g each and never failed me even once, whether on roots/rocks, hardpack or mud/sand.

  • bobsyouruncle says:

    looking forward to seeing results on this one.. thanks for the effort mtbr…

  • aa says:

    can you add the maxxis aspen? been curious about this one because it looks so sketchy

  • Midgemagnet says:

    And the winner is… Continental Race King ProTection! Or it would be if it was actually listed. For comparison, the RK ProTection is a bit like a Racing Ralph Addix Speed but with lower rolling resistance and slightly harder, tougher rubber.

    It would be interesting to see what the various widths are after the tyres have been ridden for a bit – it takes a bit more than sitting at 40psi for half an hour before they’re fully stretched out.

    • Jason says:

      I’ve given up on the Continental Race King. Too much sealant seepage on the sidewalls and I’ve had multiple casings wear through where the tire bead makes contact with the side wall.

      • Midgemagnet says:

        ProTection or RaceSport flavour carcass? The latter isn’t specified for tubeless.

        I’ve heard complaints from others in the States about the bead interface wearing out, but this doesn’t seem to be an issue here in Europe. Maybe this is something to do with regional tyre pressure preferences as it seems US riders tend to run them much softer – not something you can get away with for long on a lightweight race tyre.

        • professed says:

          Adding my experience with the Race Kings and yes, definitely has very low rolling resistance – similar to a Racing Ralf – possibly even lower. Speed King are truly and amazingly fast if you dont need any grip ! Using the protection casing seepage in my experience is not an issue but the tyres can be a bastard to set up tubeless. I too have had beads fail on a mountain king and race king so don’t use Continental any more. Just use the speed king on the gravel bike – perfect tyre for that application !

  • eb1888@yahoo.com says:

    30mm inner rims and Bontrager Frank Stacy designed XR2 Team 2.2 or 2.35 are more rounded and higher volume for more cushion, bigger footprint and good traction at lower pressure. Not so retro as these on 23mm rims.

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