I’m the kind of weirdo who puts road tires on every mountain bike I buy. I never take my bikes off road. Having tried a lot of street tires for both 26″ and 29″ mountain bikes, I’ve whittled it down to my two favorites:
- The best road tires for a 29″ mountain bike are Maxxis Hookworms. These are the tires that I have on my 2023 Canyon Exceed CF5, and they’ve been nothing short of fantastic. I love how aggressive they look!
- The best road tires for a 26″ mountain bike are Kenda City Slicks. I’ve had a set of these on my 2009 Specialized Rockhopper Comp for over three years now, and in over 6000 miles of street riding they still look and perform like new.
The following is a closer look at both…
The best road tire for 29″ mountain bikes: the Maxxis Hookworm
I slapped a set of Maxis Hookworm 29″ road tires onto my 2023 Canyon Exceed CF5 even before taking it on its inaugural ride. I knew nothing about these tires before making a purchase. It was an impulse buy, spurred on by how freaking cool they looked. Long story short, it was one of the best impulse buys I’ve ever made.
- Extremely durable - this isn't a tire you're going to have to replace very often.
- Very low rolling resistance at high psi.
- Tubeless ready (although I prefer to use these with tubes).
- Very sticky on dry pavement!
A summary of my experience
- I’m not gonna lie: they are a little wider than I prefer for a mountain bike road tire. 2.5 inches of tire width is a lot for a bike relegated to road riding!
- That extra width has turned out to be a good thing – I feel more confident riding over curbs and loose gravel.
- Despite how wide they are, rolling resistance is very low at high psi.
- I love how thick they are (that’s what she said lol). I have the confidence to roll over any of terrain with these tires – they can take it all (again, something she would probably say).
- The yellow “Maxxis” sidewall lettering looks great on my red Canyon CF5.
- Although these tires are tubeless capable, I haven’t yet tried it. I’ve been running tubes without issues.
Pros and cons of the Maxxis Hookworm 29″ mountain bike tires
I’ve put approximately 1000 miles on the Maxxis Hookworms at the time of this writing. It’s been a mostly good experience so far, with only a few minor complaints.
- They are extremely sticky! Dry grip is fantastic.
- They are nearly silent at high psi.
- I haven’t had a pinch flat yet!
- These are the same tires that a lot of BMXers use, so that should tell you something about how durable they are.
- This is very subjective, but I consider these to be the best looking road tires for a mountain bike on the market. The tread pattern is pure art IMHO.
- These are very heavy tires! I died inside a little when I weighed my bike after installing these things. So much for being a weight weenie…
- The tread isn’t aggressive enough for trail use (unless the surface is very compact).
- My budget floor pump has a difficult time getting these tires above 30 psi.
The best road tire for 26″ mountain bikes: the Kenda City Slick
As far as I’m concerned, the Kenda City Slick road tires are the best for 26″ mountain bikes. I’ve put more than 6000 miles on these tires so far, and I couldn’t be happier with their durability and good looks.
- Highly durable and very long lasting
- Very low rolling resistance at high PSI
- Wire beads
- Directional grooves channel water to the outer tire edge
A summary of my experience
- Loaded up with air pressure, these tires are extremely fast and have very low rolling resistance.
- Lowering the air pressure a bit allows me to enjoy a comfortable ride on the potholed streets here in San Diego.
- Pinch-flatting is not an issue with the Kenda City Slicks. Even when I’m running low air pressure, I can still hop over curbs and descend stairs without the worry of pinching a tube between the tire and the rim. Again, in over 6000 miles of riding on these tires, I’ve never once had a pinch-flat.
- These tires are extremely wide, and the contact patch is huge (which inspires an incredible amount of confidence and stability at high speed).
- They are extremely durable. In over two years of aggressive street riding, I’ve still got 50% of the tread left on both the front and rear.
Pros and cons of the Kenda City Slick 26″ mountain bike tires
My experience with these tires has been excellent (though not perfect). At this time, I have no plans of replacing these tires with anything else for my 26″ Specialized Rockhopper. Here’s why:
- The bang for the buck is unmatched with any other 26″ mountain bike road tires that I’ve ever tried.
- These are extremely well-built tires. They are obnoxiously thick (in a good way), making punctures and pinch flats non-issues.
- They are extremely quiet! Nothing satisfies me more than a silent bike at high-speed, and road noise is nonexistent from these tires. It’s just like a high-end road bike experience!
- They hold air quite well. I normally have to top-off the air on my bike tires once every month or so, but I’ve been going three or four months without touching the air pump with these tires on my bike. They’re solid.
- Durability has been spectacular. So far, these tires have been the most durable that I have ever put on a bike in all my life. And that says a lot considering how old I am.
- They’re slightly dangerous in the rain. Due to the aggressive tread pattern, these tires are essentially slicks and will not perform well in the wet.
- They’re not exactly lightweight. However, you do need to sacrifice weight if you want durable road tires for a mountain bike (which these most certainly are).