As the days are getting shorter, winter is just around the bend; the summer dust has settled, and soon your local trails will be covered in thick gloopy goodness. With that, your fast-rolling summer rubber won't do you much good, providing about as much grip as a banana peel.
It's time to break out the compressor and some fresh sealant to get your bike winter-ready with some mud tyres. In slippery muck, mud-specific tyres can claw in around corners and help you stay upright.
BEST MTB MUD TYRES: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. Tread pattern
To have any traction in the mud, you're going to need a tyre with tall spiky tread; look for widely spaced knobbies which will help the tyre clear muck. Unfortunately, with the aggressive tread required to dig in, these tyres will not be fast rolling.
2. Profile and width
A tyre with a wide footprint will float on top of the gunk, while a thinner tyre will allow you to carve through it. A square profile will help you dig in on off-camber and low-traction corners, while a round tyre will be more predictable when it does let go, and will allow you to carry more speed through flat corners.
Remember that your rims will also play a role in the width and shape of your tyre, with broader rims squaring off the profile.
The rubber compound of a tyre is a bit of a dark art with most brands very secretive when it comes to their proprietary formulas, and some are distinctly better than others.
Softer compounds will offer better traction on hard surfaces and absorb more vibration, but usually, wear out faster and may even cause additional drag.
When it comes to muddy corners you're more likely than not going to be drifting through most of it, and sliding into rocks and sharp edges in the process. With this in mind, you're going to be better off running a more substantial and puncture-resistant casing. The trade-off will be a slightly heavier and slower rolling tyre, but the alternative is changing a muddy flat.
THE BEST MUD TYRES YOU YOU CAN BUY FOR MOUNTAIN BIKING
Michelin Wild Mud Advanced
Tenacious mud shoes
Width: 2in | Wheel Size: 26in, 27.5in, 29in | Price: £44 / $95 / AU$52
Weighing in at over a kilo per tyre, the Wild Mud Advance is anything but feathery on the ups, but the aggressive widely spaced twisted knob tread blocks provide unwavering grip on wet descents.
The Wild Mud has blocks on top of blocks, and the base knobs are topped by a second set of offset blocks, said to twist and straighten under load, hitting the eject button on mud when they snap back — they are also easily clipped should the full 8mm be more traction than you need.
The replacement for the Wild Mud Enduro, the Wild Mud Advanced is made from the brand's ultra-soft Gum-X rubber compound which allows the tyre to hold on in the deepest, sloppiest conditions. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the Wild Mud Advance are slow rolling on everything except the steepest trails.
Continental Mud King
Mud tyre that will still roll on hardpack or tarmac
Width: 1.8in ProTection 2.3in Apex | Wheel Size: 26in, 27.5in, 29in | Price: £48 / $65 / AU$70
Developed in collaboration with Atherton racing, the narrow round profile of the Mud King features widely spaced angular knobs for traction in deep mud and over roots and rocks, and the shoulder blocks are siped to help them claw through corners.
Made from the brand's BlackChili compound, the Mud King is a surprisingly fast-rolling tyre and comes in both an Apex and ProTection casing, both with the same tread pattern. The Apex version is the downhill casing, with a soft elastomer rubber sandwiched between the casing piles to help stave of impacts — it also weighs twice as much as the enduro/trail version.
The ProTection version only comes in a 1.8in width, while the Apex version is available in 2.3in.
Schwalbe Dirty Dan Super Gravity
The most fun you can have on two wheels, but comes at a cost
Width: 2.35in | Wheel Size: 27.5in | Price: £48 / $98 / AU$98
Who can forget when Danny Hart road a set of Dirty Dan's to the 2011 Downhill World Championship in super sloppy and wet conditions — and how stoked Robert Warner and Nigel Page were to watch him do it.
The SuperGravity version is slightly less substantial than the full DH casing, but they still feature the same tread pattern and the soft slow-motion rebound Addix Ultrasoft compound rubber hangs on tight; which is great for muddy corners, not so great for fire road climbs.
The towering blocks in the centre strip and angular shoulder knobs are widely spaced to keep mud at bay.
Maxxis Shorty 3c MaxTerra
Low profile spikes with oodles of grip
Width: 2.3in, 2.4in, 2.5in | Wheel Size: 26in, 27.5in, 29in | Price: £50 / $84 / AU$90
Initially designed for DH riders, the Shorty comes in a lighter-duty version for those who aren't riding lift-assist or shuttle runs. The open block tread pattern sees knobs that are slightly less aggressive than some of the tyres in this round-up, the blocks won't fold and squirm as much on dry trails, and it can be used comfortably in a wider range of conditions.
Even with the shorter knobs, it's no slouch in the mud, with the square knobs and staggered shoulder tread hooking up on slimy corners. The open pattern prevents the tyres from packing with mud, and the alternating siped centre tread does well to hang onto wet rocks and roots.
As a folding tyre, the Shorty is only available in the 3C MaxTerra compound which sees a hard rubber used as the base for the knobbies, which is topped by a soft compound on the shoulders and medium harness up the centre strip. All of this adds up to max grip without sacrificing too much rolling resistance.
Specialized Hillbilly Grid 2Bliss
Locks into corners like a Hillbilly to a jar moonshine
Width: 2.3in, 2.6in | Wheel Size: 27.5in, 29in | Price: £42 / $60 / AU$60
Featuring a moto-inspired tread pattern, the Hillbilly has a squared-off profile, and the small blocks do well to punch through the surface for traction. The Hillbilly is made from Specialized's Gripton compound which improves high and low-frequency damping and eats up small bumps and rough sections alike.
The Grid casing offers plenty of protection from sharp sidewall slashing rocks, and the tyre maintains purchase on slippery roots and rocks. When the trail does dry out, the tall knobs squirm under pressure, particularly on tarmac transfer sections.
At £42 / $60 / AU$60 it's reasonably priced and offers the same or better slop performance as tyres that are double the cost.
For when the trails are particularly soupy
Width: 2.25in | Wheel Size: 26in, 27.5in | Price: £50 / $ 75 / AU$TBC
Hutchinson's DZO is pegged for when the conditions are truly torrential, with massive spikes offering velcro-like traction when the dirt is in a colloidal suspension — mud.
The casing is supple taking care of the square edges despite its modest air volume and allows the aggressive tread to track the ground. With super-soft shoulder blocks and harder centre tread, the pattern provides support on either side of the wide shoulders while the base tread is totally smooth to limit the amount of mud that can grab on.
It should come as no surprise that the fang-like knobbies squirm on hardpack, but all things considered, the tall tread makes for surprisingly low rolling resistance.
e*thirteen All-Terrain Enduro
Lean and rip
Width: 2.4in | Wheel Size: 27.5in, 29in | Price: £68 / $70 / AU$110
e*thirteen's All-Terrain Enduro is an off-camber cornering machine, with massive and side spikes that sink deep into the murky abyss. The centre tread isn't nearly as aggressive, which makes for a box-like profile, and the open spacing prevents mud from building up.
The All-Terrain Enduro tyre comes in three compounds, with the Race version settling in the middle of the trail with high-tack low-rebound side knobs and a harder-wearing faster-rolling centre strip.
With a claimed 2.3in width, and a square profile, they feel quite broad and don't cut through deep mud like a knife - you'll have more traction than you know what to do with.
Schwalbe Magic Mary Addix
One of the most popular winter MTB tyres for a reason
Width: 2.35in | Wheel Size: 26in, 27.5in, 29in | Price: £59 / $23 / AU$120
There is such a thing as overkill when it comes to mud tyres, and not everybody needs 8mm spikes, and that's where a tyre like the Magic Mary comes into its own.
With moto-style blocks over the casing, the tread doesn't hang onto grime, and the simple but sizeable knobs keep you on track through the muck. The side and centre blocks are siped so that rocks and roots don't feel like riding on wet ice.
It's not a mud-specific tyre, but it performs well on sloppy trails and it's not just limited to trail soup, serving well as a high-traction allrounder.