If you like riding drop bar bikes off-road—and chances are you do if you’re reading this—you’re now blessed with a large volume of high-volume tire options.
Some of us are grateful for all of the options, even if making a choice is a bit overwhelming. It seemed like just yesterday that I would make a point to visit bike shops on road trips in the hopes that in some back room they had a forgotten supply of tires wider-than-35mm knobbies. If I was lucky, I would find an old Panaracer Smoke, Ritchey Mount Cross or Tioga Bloodhound tire.
While finding bigger tires for monster cross adventures was a challenge 10 or 20 years ago, owning a bike with enough clearance for them was equally challenging, even with narrow 13mm (internal) rims.
Not everyone was as fortunate to have a custom-made Hot Tubes rig like Mark McCormack (seen fourth from the right here) at the 1995 Leicester Nationals for his silver-medal ride behind Jan Wiejak. Sure, his handlebars may not have met Jon Severson's definition of Monster Cross, but the big tires and frame he used in the blizzard sure did.
Today, we are blessed to have a wide array of wide-tire-clearance drop bar bikes of many labels and an equal number of big tire options that are wider than USA Cycling and the UCI’s tire width restrictions. They're sold under different category labels by many different brands, and we've seen examples including diverse, capable bikes from Bombtrack, Raleigh, and a plethora of handmade options seen at Paul Component Engineering Camp, Rocky Mountain, Ritchey, Kona, Ibis (stay tuned) and even the plus-sized Wilier.
If you own a bike with such big tire clearance, today, everywhere you look there’s a new gravel tire hoping to dress up your wheels. But what if your ride plans are aimed more at trails and adventures? Today, in our follow-up to our top pavé tire round-up from 2017, we go to the opposite end of the spectrum and look at some top tires for your monster crossing.
Our list today includes eight of our favorites, all tubeless options, but we go on to mention a few discontinued favorites that are still available, as well as give a nod to a few non-tubeless choices.
Of course, we have not tested every tire out there, and there are still some, such as the Specialized Terra 38mm and new 40mm IRC options that are still in our queue.
Today’s monster list includes:
- Ritchey Megabite (formerly Mount Cross)
- WTB Resolute
- Soma Cazadero and Bruce Gordon Rock n Road
- Vittoria Terreno Mix and Wet
- Panaracer Fire Cross
- Maxxis Ravager
Use the slider to see measured specs and what we like about each tire. For more on why we list bead-to-bead width, see our Wednesday Wonderings on the topic.
Vittoria Terreno Mix/Wet 40mm
Vittoria’s new Terreno line of tires offers three treads for three specific uses. The Dry tire is a good option for gravel, while we’re now coming to like mixing and matching the other two tires for trail use, with a Wet up front and a Mix in the rear for most trail conditions.
The taller, smaller knobs of the Wet provide grip and steering in wet or loose conditions, and shed organic material so you’re not sliding off the trail.
The short, larger knobs of the Mix are stiffer and more durable under the rear wheel, where most of your weight sits. The big blocks bite under your weight. The tread has plenty of hints of the classic Grifo tread, but its oversized, tubeless casing shouts Monster Cross.
List Width: 40mm
Bead-to-Bead Width: 108mm
More Info: vittoria.com
For more on all three Terreno treads, see our first look at the 40mm models.