The Best Slick Tires For Mountain Bikes

Mountain bike slick tires

What is a Slick Tire or a Racing Slick?

If you have ever watched a motorsport race such as F1 or MotoGP, you must have noticed that on sunny, bright days, the drivers have their cars or motorbikes equipped with extremely smoother tires than the ones used normally. It’s almost like these tires are “slick”, thus their name.

Slick tires are free of any tread patterns and are almost (or completely) smooth. These tires provide good traction as surface area contact with the road is the highest with these tires. Due to more grip, the driver of the vehicle can have more speed around the corners as well. 

Why Are Slick Tires Illegal?

Although slick tires provide great traction and in turn great speed and control in dry road conditions, However when the conditions become wet, slick tires are prone to aquaplane and slide because water acts as a lubricating film. You could thus easily lose control of your bike even if the road is just slightly wet.

The use of fully slick tires has not been approved by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT). This is due to how dangerous these tires are in wet conditions. But, various tire companies have gone around this by making slick tires with minimal treads as required by the USDOT.

lick tires are however approved to be used during professional races such as the Tour De France, MotoGP, etc.

Why Are Slick Tires Used?

Seasoned cyclists love to use slick tires during races. Such tires with their “bald-ish” design help to minimize rolling friction to a good extent. It helps in increasing the average speed of the rider and also reduces the effort required to keep the speed of the bicycle at a constant speed.

Besides bicycling, slick tires are also heavily used in competitive motorsports like F1 racing. Here, the drivers equip their cars with fully slicked tires as they get good traction on the track for great speeds and reduced turning time.

But as mentioned earlier, slick tires are not at all safe during wet conditions, and thus you should refrain from using them in such conditions. 

What kind of tires can you put on a mountain bike?

Mountain bikes are extremely versatile bikes. From just freestyling, to using them from cross country or some downhill riding, these bikes could be used for all of them. However, most of their versatile magic lies in their tires.

The best tire for your mountain bike depends on the kind of performance you want to extract from them. You could choose between tires that come in different weights to those with different tread depths

Here, we have listed the different parameters you can choose from for your mountain bike.

Weight and width

Lighter and skinnier tires are usually used for cross country riding while beefier tires are used for downhill riding. 

For cross-country riding, the ideal tire width ranges from 1.8″ to 2.2″ 

Trail and all-mountain bikes will have tires in the 2.25″ to 2.4″ width range.

For downhill, the tires are usually 2.5” wide.


The diameter of a tire is very important. Tires usually come in 3 variations of diameters: 26”, 27.5”, and 29”

The 26” tires are considered to be on the smaller side and allow for faster acceleration. However, they have a higher rolling resistance and you will have a bumpy ride if you are riding on rough terrain.

The 29” tires are heavier but help provide a comfortable ride on terrains with rocks and other obstacles. 27.5” tires are considered the middle ground and are usually preferred. 


Treads are by far what distinguish the tires the most. Some tires have no treads and have a “bald” look, while others have different types of treads and tread patterns. Treads have knobs of different sizes and shapes which have different functions. 

For trail, and downhill you shall look for bigger knobs that can bike into the trail for more traction on loose dirt and mud.

Tires with larger knobs provide good stud penetration and bite on soft terrain while combining stability on hard terrain but also have high rolling resistance. 

Smaller and shorter knobs are better for hard-packed surfaces because they provide adequate grip and also provide good traction which helps the rider achieve greater speeds. 

Can you use Slick tires for mountain bikes?

The answer is yes! Smooth tires have more friction and traction and thus provide better speeds. A lot of people who have switched to slick tires from other tires have reported seeing an increase of 15-18% in terms of speed. Here are some FAQs people have regarding using slick tires for mountain bikes.

Do slicks provide more grip? 

Yes, they do! But only during dry conditions. The area of contact with the road is more when using slick tires thus giving more traction. Slick tires thus provide better grip.  

Are slick tires slippery?

Slick tires are slippery, but only when the road is damp or wet. Smooth tires develop very little traction in wet conditions since friction is reduced by the watery surface that acts as a lubricant

However, due to the narrow width of bicycle tires compared to motorcycles or car tires, treaded tires are not much better than slick tires. Both types of tires when used on bicycles have been tested to have the same stoppage time as well. Thus, it is relatively safe to use slick tires on bicycles even during wet conditions. 

The Best Slick Tires For Mountain Bikes

As it is already implied how slick tires are extremely beneficial for mountain bikes, you should definitely consider getting them. However, with so many options, how will you decide which one would be the best for you and your bike? Well, here you’ll find plenty of options to go through and decide on the one best for your needs. 

1. WTB Thickslick 


Weight: 786 grams 

Threads Per Inch: 30

Wheel Size: 29”

Tire Width: 2.1” 

The WTB ThickSlick Comp 29″ Tire can withstand some of the toughest conditions. It has a slick tread design that provides good traction and makes rides easier on concrete surfaces.

Price: USD 34.99 

The tire also has two layers of rubber which double its lifespan. The tire is also thick which gives it good protection against puncturing. Thus the tire can easily be used on uneven surfaces without fearing punctures and damage to the tire. 

2. Michelin Country Rock 


Weight: 600 grams 

Threads Per Inch: 33

Wheel Size: 27.5”

Tire Width: 1.7” 

Price: USD 24.99

The Michelin tire is a semi-slick tire that is versatile and puncture-resistant. It has smaller and tightly packed knobs that provide a very low rolling resistance and good traction like that of a slick tire but also perform way better on sand than other slick tires. It is a lightweight tire thus it provides a great aerodynamic advantage as well. 

3. Continental Gatorskin 


Weight:320 grams 

Threads Per Inch: 180

Wheel Size: 26’”

Tire Width: 1.1” 

Price: USD 39.99

The Continental Gatorskin 26” tire is for the riders who prefer tires of smaller frames on their mountain bikes. It is a lightweight tire with minimal treads, thus almost a perfect slick tire, and comes with all the benefits of a slick tire.

Not only this, the tire is also one of the most puncture-proof tires because of Puncture-resistant Kevlar®. It also has Duraskin bead to bead sidewall protection and an extremely high thread count which helps prevent punctures.

4. Schwable Super Moto 29”


Weight: 985 grams 

Threads Per Inch: 67

Wheel Size: 29’”

Tire Width: 2.0” 

Price: USD 50.00

The Schwable SuperMoto 29” is a good choice for a bicycle rider who is looking for a comfortable ride. The tire has a low rolling resistance and is one of the best grips in the market, even at higher speeds because it is made of the ADDIX rubber compound.

However, this tire has a “heavy” drawback. The tire weighs 985 grams and is almost as heavy as some bikes. This can be a huge problem for some riders. Thus, do try it out before you make a purchase. 

5. Maxxis Re-Fuse 650b/27.5″ MaxShield Gravel Tire


Weight: 650 grams 

Threads Per Inch: 60

Wheel Size: 27.5’”

Tire Width: 2.0” 

Price: USD 60.00

The Maxxis Re-Fuse has a diamond knurled slick design which is designed to roll fast while providing a versatile grip. It has MaxxShield bead-to-bead puncture protection therefore you do not need to worry about punctures. It is made up of dual-compound rubber thus the tire is highly durable. 

6. Maxxis Hookworm 27.5 Inch Tire


Weight: 1220 grams 

Threads Per Inch: 60

Wheel Size: 27.5’”

Tire Width: 2.5” 

Price: USD 45.00

The Maxxis Hookworm also titled the “Original Urban Assault Tire” can roll pretty fast, but also offers adequate traction on tight corners and while absorbing shocks. The tire has an impressively low rolling resistance and has some really good puncture protection.

However, the tire can be quite heavy for some riders. It weighs a whopping 1220 grams and could weigh you down, quite literally. 

7. Michelin Pilot Pump 


Weight: 675  grams 

Threads Per Inch: 55

Wheel Size: 26’”

Tire Width: 2.30” 

Price: USD 65.95

The pilot pump’s slick sculpture allows you to optimize the grip and is easily maneuverable. The tire with its minimal treads (almost negligible!) allows the rider to achieve faster speeds easily because the slick tire has friction and more traction as the contact surface area is maximized. It also has a 55 TPI casing making it light with its aramid bead core. 

8. Schwalbe Big Apple 29 Inch Performance Line Tire


Weight: 740  grams 

Threads Per Inch: 67

Wheel Size: 29”

Tire Width: 2.0”  

Price: USD 48

The Schwalbe Big Apple 29 Inch has a water channeling tread and a RaceGuard puncture protection belt to minimize punctures. It is claimed to be extremely wear-resistant. 

However, due to its larger size, the tire is only suitable for larger mountain bikes.

9. 700C x 44 Snoqualmie Pass TC Tire(Endurance casing) 


Weight: 425 grams 

Wheel Size: 29”

Tire Width: 1.6”

Price: USD 96.00

The tire has a slick tread in a denser, stronger weave than a normal tire. It also has a protective belt under sidewalls and treads to provide protection against punctures. The tire is ideal for rough gravel and tough conditions. 

The drawback is that the tire is not available easily.

10. Schwalbe Marathon Supreme


Weight: 640 grams 

Threads Per Inch: 67

Wheel Size: 29”

Tire Width: 2.0

Price: USD 80.00

The Marathon Supreme is a highly durable tire from Schwable. The RoadStar triple rubber compound provides excellent grip and long tread life to the tire. The Water channels help with the wet weather handling. The tire has reflective stripes on the sidewall and the folding bead further lightens the load.

These are some of the best slick tires available in the market for mountain bikes., While some do have their cons, that is more than made up for by the positives. 

Choose the one which suits you from the list above and ride away!

Anand Srinivasan
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