Tyres are a very important part of e-mtb. This is because there’s no point in having power without grip.
The options are still relatively limited with e-mtb specific rubber but there’s plenty out there for standard mtb that works pretty good too. In the future it’s likely we’ll see tyres with more front as well as rear edge for braking and climbing and there’s no doubt there will be tougher rubber too just like you find in other two wheel sports.
The added weight of the e-mtb plus the speeds involved means there is increased wear and load on the tyre. Standard downhill rubber such as the Vert Star Magic Mary from Schwalbe offers strong side wall support and is a great performer when hitting downhill runs as it doesn’t buckle when loaded into corners or rock sections. It has good bite to the tread pattern too as do many similar downhill tyres from Bontrager, Maxxis, Continental and Specialized. Opt for the larger 2.5 sizing on such rubber if you can.
Big volume ‘plus’ tyres run on low pressure clearly have advantages on certain climbing surfaces but are less than ideal in offering sidewall support when hitting hard and loading into corners, we’ve found many simply don’t have the sidewall strength for this. They do however anchor up well when hitting the brakes and offer good cushioning which reduces fatigue.
The sensation out of the blocks on the ‘plus’ tyres is the feedback you get out of the large volume which certainly aids picking up and placing the bike, which is something that’s certainly a benefit with the heavier weight bikes.
We’ve run the 2.8 and 3.0 Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres plus the 3.0 Specialized Purgatory and as long as you’re not hammering into rock and root with too much force they are a good big ride option.
We’ve also found that in terms of compounds, more poor quality rubber is better than less when it comes to grip in most conditions. In other words 3.0 hard rubber woks way better than 2.35 in a similar compound. But don’t take that as general for tyres such as the Chupacabra on the Trek Powerfly are pretty much good for nothing in wet muddy conditions.
The grip offered by the big tyre, which when coupled with the extra bike weight drives the tyres into the dirt making a super predictable ride. But due to the higher speeds frequently found on emtb there does have to be some bite and tread.
Its early days however but overall we feel the big volume is where e-mtb is heading but it’s quite likely we’ll see 3.0 tyres with stronger sidewalls pretty soon, and also a harder compound rubber from a few brands.