Are 2.3 inch tyres the new normal and are we already headed to 2.4in? Joel Meintjes confirms bigger is better.
Remember the fat bike craze? Some of those tyres were almost the size of a car tyre!
Fat bikes are still around – and they are great fun for riding over loose and sandy terrain. For bicycle manufacturers, the popularity of those fat bikes demonstrated the public’s immense interest in running wider wheels or tyres on their mountain bikes.
With a few design modifications, bike companies easily added provision for wider tyres on their standard and racing mountain bikes.
MTB manufacturers first introduced the idea of a 650b+ bike, basically a 75.5in-wheel
bike, running any tyre wider than 2.5in. However, that didn’t gain traction due to the
adverse weight implications.
More recently, riders and manufacturers have adopted a hybrid width that bridges the gap between narrower MTB tyres and over-the-top fat-bike tyres. This is where 2.3in tyres are dominating.
Riders are now able to take advantage of a wider wheel, without downgrading weight or handling. In fact, brands like Specialized are now even including them in some of their
more budget friendly bikes – straight off the shelf.
The advantages that 2.3in tyres have over standard 2.2 are that they’re slightly better balanced on descents, and through loose sections you obtain more traction – especially downhill. Wider tyres also tend to perform better over longer distances and on stage
races. In fact Nino Schurter prefers 2.4in tyres for stage races such as the Cape Epic.
Of course, wider tyres are heavier. But as manufacturers create improved rubber
compounds, many are managing to offset the weight gains – meaning you can
run wider tyres at less of a weight expense.
Your choice of tyre width should be influenced by your style of riding, or by the terrain
you’re covering. For example, Downhill or Enduro riders often run 2.8in, or even 3in
tyres. XCO racers tend towards 2.2in.
It’s no secret that thinner tyres roll faster. On sections where you have to pedal a lot, you may expend more energy running a wider tyre.
The sidewall of a wider tyre can also often feel like it wants to falter on tight corners. So it may be more prone to tyre pinches.
Is the future 2.4in?
Growing almost in parallel popularity to 2.3in tyres are wider 2.4in.
These are obviously even more stable through loose sections, and on downhills. However, they are marginally slower on climbs.
The key here is proportion. Your tyre size must be in proportion to your bike, handling and weight in order for you to achieve the best performance. For now, I believe 2.3in tyres fit better proportionally with the mountain bike frames currently being brought to market – and enable a happy medium between stability on descents and speed on ascents. Perhaps in a few months we will see bike frames adapt better proportionality for 2.4in tyres.
For more, see Mountain Bike mag (Summer 2020)