The Best Mountain Bike Tire Combos

detail of dirty mountain bike tires maxxis shorty schwalbe big better maxxis assegai


Picking the right tires can be a daunting task, with countless combinations of tread patterns, sidewalls, and types of rubbers, it’s understandably difficult to parse through all of your options and end up at the optimal setup. Luckily, with today’s crop of tires, there aren’t many that will leave you disappointed, but in this article, we’ll help you pick the tires that are best suited for the terrain and conditions that you ride. Or if you’re going on a trip to ride somewhere else and want tires that won’t hold you back no matter what terrain you encounter, this is the guide for you.

Ok, let's dive in!

1) Maxxis Assegai/Maxxis Dissector

These two tires are Maxxis’ newest tread patterns, and were designed with the input from two of the fastest downhill racers of our generation - Greg Minaar and Troy Brosnan.

Greg Minaar designed the tread pattern of the Assegai to deliver predictable grip throughout all lean angles, so there isn’t that moment of slip when transitioning between the center and side knobs. You really won’t find a tire with more knobs packed on there than the Assegai, which is why we love it as an incredibly predictable front tire that won’t let your front end disappear out from under you as easily as other tires. And while the Assegai is great in all conditions, it really shines on dry dusty trails where traction is limited. The only downside of this tire is it’s rolling resistance, so pairing it with a fast rolling rear tire makes for a great combination.

mike ripping a dusty corner with a maxxis assegai and maxxis dissector

On the rear, the Dissector was designed with input from Troy Brosnan to be the perfect fast rolling rear tire, and coincidentally, it compliments the Assegai beautifully. With slightly shorter center knobs to cut down on drag, it won’t feel like you’re towing an anchor behind you like if you were running the Assegai in the front and the rear. Surrounding those short center knobs are some taller side knobs to help maintain cornering control in all scenarios. This tire is definitely designed specifically for dry conditions, and with those shorter and tightly packed center knobs they won’t do a great job of clearing mud or finding traction, and this tire will shine on the same dry, dusty, hardpacked trails that as the Assegai.

The Assegai front, Dissector rear combo will excel in all dry conditions where traction is limited but you still want to maintain some rolling efficiency. In areas like Southern California where it’s dry almost year round, this tire combination is super hard to beat because of it’s adaptability to all styles of trails as long as they’re not super muddy.

detail of maxxis assegai mountain bike tire
side profile of maxxis dissector mountain bike tire

2) Maxxis Minion DHF/Maxxis Minion DHR II

Before the Assegai came around, the DHF (Downhill Front) was the gold standard of front tires which all other tires were measured against. It is still one of our favorite front tires for a combination of high grip and fast rolling speed. With larger and blockier side knobs, I think the DHF corners slightly better when you lean it all the way over and really engage them, but getting over to the side knobs is slightly trickier than on the Assegai. Without the knobs between the center and side knobs found on the Assegai, you can get a slightly drifty feeling while leaning the tire over.

Consistently offering some of the most grip of any rear tire, the DHR II (Downhill Rear 2) is the grip king of rear tires. Whether it’s braking, cornering, accelerating, or anything else, this tire is seriously tough to break loose. The DHR II has the same blocky side knobs as the DHF but with larger squared off faces on the center knobs to help with braking traction. It doesn’t matter if it’s wet, dry, loamy, or hardpacked, the DHR II will give predictable traction until the moment it breaks free, and while it’s sliding, those tall side knobs are doing their best to cut into the dirt and get you back on track.

For as long as I’ve been riding bikes, the DHF/DHR II combo has been a thing of legends, and for good reason. The combo as old as time hascserious grip in all conditions from dry to wet. If your trails are steep and gnarly it’s hard to say you’ll be undergunned with these two pieces of rubber strapped to your rims.

3) Schwalbe Magic Mary/Schwalbe Big Betty

Don’t worry this isn’t a purely Maxxis affair, and Schwalbe’s Magic Mary has been one of our favorite front tires for all conditions, from dry to wet. With a similar knob layout to the Assegai, with center, side, and transition knobs galore, it’s no surprise that this is towards the top of our list. There is quite a bit of rolling resistance, but that’s the price to pay for all that grip! When it comes to wet conditions, the space between the knobs allows mud to shed off super efficiently and the knobs do a great job of digging into the mud, considering this tire isn’t a mud specialist. It can get a bit squirmy when it comes to hard packed corners because of the longer and narrower knobs, so if all of your trails look like machine built pump tracks, this might not be the best option for you!

detail of top tread schwalbe magic mary mountain bike tire

On the rear, the Big Betty has become one of our favorite rear tires here at The Lost Co, with loads of braking traction across the faces of those big center knobs. Compared to a MaxxGrip DHR II, the Soft Big Betty has slightly less rolling resistance when you’re just cruising down the trail, and that’s because the center knobs are slightly less aggressive.

tor riding mountain bikes with a schwalbe magic mary and big betty

I’ve found Schwalbe tires to wear a bit slower than comparable rubber compounds from other brands, especially when run in wet conditions. The Magic Mary/Big Betty combo performs fantastic in all conditions from wet to dry and we definitely recommend this combo to pretty much all riders.

4) Continental Kryptotal/Continental Kryptotal

The difficult to pronounce Kryptotal Front tire looks eerily similar to the ever popular Assegai, and I would be surprised to hear if there wasn’t any inspiration taken from the most popular tire on the market, but it has made for a fantastic tire. With slightly tighter spacing than the Assegai, this tire rolls slightly faster and is much happier in the dry than the wet. When it comes to getting over to the cornering knobs, the Kryptotal doesn’t have quite the same confidence as the Assegai, but more than the DHF, with pretty a consistent coverage of knobs between the center and side knobs.

Moving to the back of the bike, the Kryptotal Rear is also on the chopping block for a leaning heavily on the design of the DHR II, but just like with the front tire, it’s made for an excellent rear. With a slightly more squared off profile, it’s easy to lean the bike over to the side knobs and really engage the whole edge of the tire. Braking traction is also found in spades with those wide square center knobs that offer a nice wide surface to push against the ground with.

Continental has been making mountain bike tires forever, but their most recent offerings have been a marked improvement in performance over the previous generations. With the Kryptotal lineup of tires, Continental is now competing with the big boys and holding their own.

5) Maxxis Shorty/Maxxis Shorty

Unfortunately, not every ride is sunshine and dry dirt. For me, the Maxxis Shorty gets pulled off the shelf for those wet months, and is built to cut through the slop and find grip when there’s not much to be found. The Shorty is a great front tire when it starts getting sloppy, and when it gets deep out there, it’s not a bad idea to slap it on the rear too! It’s not going to have the most braking traction or most predictable cornering when it starts to dry up, but that’s because this tire is a mud specialist.

detail of maxxis shorty gen 2 mountain bike tire

The steeper the trail, the better the Shorty performs. With lots of rolling resistance from those tall knobs, you’re going to want gravity to do the work accelerating you. One thing that’s interesting about the Shorty, is that it can also be a strong performer in incredibly deep dust where the tire can have a hard time finding the bottom, and the long knobs and pierce through to the bottom.

Bonus Combo: Schwalbe Magic Mary/Schwalbe Magic Mary

Taking one of our favorite tires, the Mary, and slapping it on the rear provides slightly less braking traction than the Big Betty but, when it's a little more muddy, the taller knobs on the Magic Mary really cut through the muck to find some traction.

Plus, if you run the same size wheels front and rear, you can buy a new Magic Mary for the front and move the slightly worn down tire to the rear.

Which Tire Combo Is Best For You?

All of these tires come in plenty of casing and rubber combinations to suit your specific needs, but these five are our favorite tire combos for trail, enduro, and downhill riding. Our number one dry weather setup is the Assegai/Dissector combo, our favorite setup for mixed weather conditions is the Magic Mary/Big Betty combo, and our favorite combo for when the weather goes south is the Shorty front and rear!

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Got questions? Feel free to shoot us an email or give us a call!

(360) 306-8827



Tor Weiland



Bellingham, WA

Current Bikes: Transition Spire Custom Build

Bike Size: Medium

Favorite Trails: Oriental Express, Galbraith

About Me: Hailing from the sunny landscape of California, Tor headed north and landed here in the cloudy town of Bellingham, WA. His riding style is "PINNED" and he loves to scope out those seemingly impossible triples. He loves riding and also loves sharing his experiences with others. You can catch Tor in front of the camera or behind the keyboard, but best of luck catching him on the trail!