Good street/dirt tires

Hey Lee. I’m currently running the Maxxis HolyRoller tires that came with my street hardtail, but I’d like the bike to be able to corner on dirt and in grass as well as on the pavement. What tires would you recommend? I’m looking for something lightweight, low tread and fast rolling, but still able to carve it up offroad, even if things get a bit slimy. I’ve been recommended things like Larsens, but I was just wondering what all the options are, and what your always genius recommendation would be.

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Hi Alex,

What a fun question (for a tire fetishist like me).


Find a tire that rolls fast and stays stable on pavement, yet gets good traction in dirt.

I’m gonna pull a few ideas out of my butt:

Type A: Lots of small knobs

Examples: Maxxis Larsen TT, Kenda Small Block 8, WTB Nano Raptor, Specialized Rockster
Pro: Lots of traction on hardpack, good rolling speed
Con: Little traction when it’s loose
Great for pavement and hard pack. I ran a Larsen on my P.1 for 18 months, and it was great.

Type B: Semislick with knurled center and big side knobs

Examples: Maxxis High Roller Semislick, Maxxis Oriflamme, Michelin DH 15
Pro: Very fast rolling, good loose cornering (as long as you lean far)
Con: Exposed side knobs sketchy on street, sketchy when not leaned far
This is a good “expert” option.

Type C: Small, close knobs in the middle; big, spaced knobs on the sides

Examples: WTB Mutano Raptor, Specialized Resolution Pro, the new Kenda Lopes El Moco looks good
Pro: Good rolling speed, pretty stable on pavement, pretty darn good in dirt
Con: It’s an overall compromise (but a good one)

My vote

I’m a huge fan of Type C. I’ve been running 2.24 WTB Mutano Raptors on my SX and P-bike for over two years. That includes lots of riding styles: pump track, dirt jump, street, skate park, dual slalom, mountain cross and trail. I also love the 2.4 Mutano, which is faster rolling and more of a hardpack tire.

WTB used to make these tires in dual compound, which was ideal. Those days are over, but the dual compound Specialized Resolution Pro is another good all-around choice.

There ya go. I hope that helps!

— Lee

6 replies
  1. Chris says:

    Alex, Larsens are my favourite tyre in the world. I have used them for years. I own six. I would recommend them to anyone… except you. They are everything you want but for one criteria: you say “slimy”? Larsens say “Goodbye!” They go predictably, but it is bye bye nonetheless. And it hurts me to say it. Gotta have the knobs for slimy corners. Listen to the genius.

    … but if the slime is rare? Gimme Larsens!

  2. Alex says:

    I’m not a bad cornerer (is that a word?), and I do tend to lean pretty hard and go pretty fast, so I’m thinking Type B might work out. The Intense Zero FRO has some intermediate knobs in between the edge and center, so in theory it should also be able to corner well enough without exagerating your lean. There are no braking knobs really, but braking is for chumps anyway. What do you think? Would they feel weird cornering on concrete or anything? Would they have enough grip to corner without leaning hard as well?

  3. Chris says:

    Alex, perhaps buy only one tire at a time and try it on the rear. You can then use whatever tyre you currently run and know as the benchmark. If you then seem to oversteer/slide out a bit more than usual, you’ve only wasted half as much money as buying two at a time. Not a perfect test, but if you instinctively know how your bike handles, your brain won’t account for the new tyre straight away. And if you’re braver than me, you’ll run it on the front! Braaaaap!!

    Page 13, Mastering Mountain Bike Skills: “Change only one thing at a time.” And yeah, I know that refers to suspension, but I think it applies here.

  4. Adam says:

    Made my own semi-slicks last year with old Kenda Nevegals and a pair of end cutter pliers. I just snipped all the center lugs down to 1/16″ and they worked pretty well. Last summer I tried using my Kenda Kwest tires on some singletrack at 100PSI, pretty scary at times but it made me better at climbing. Absolute crap for traction forces you to become one with the bike.
    Burrrrrrrrp!! Did I get that right?

  5. vapor says:

    Type B: Hutchinson Piranha…Lots of size, rubber, and casing options

    Type A/C: Hutchinson Python…I seriously have no idea why it is not more popular for the application you are looking for. Seriously the shizzle. It is the best on loose over hardpack and grass, does not squirm on pavement, rolls hella fast, works great on any loamy soil, the best in sand, just fine in loose wet mud, just fine in deep gravel and loose rocks, almost perfect for DJ. Lots of size,rubber and casing options. Thick mud will render it useless. Type B is almost necessary to get really aggro in loose corners.


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