Ken/Vittoria: For Vittoria, the Mezcal is our XC tire, which has much lower-profile knobs in the center so it can roll faster. The Morsa is for all-mountain and enduro riding, and it has much bigger knobs overall and more pronounced cornering knobs especially.
TGR: Generally, XC and fast-rolling tires have shorter knobs, are thinner, and are mounted on narrower rims. Vittoria and Maxxis have their tires grouped by discipline on their websites. So get in the ballpark quickly by browsing there.
3. CONSIDER DIFFERENT TREAD PATTERNS BASED ON THE TERRAIN YOU MOST OFTEN RIDE
TGR: Tread design is really magic; how the knobs are spaced, whether there are ‘transition’ knobs between center and edge knobs, and how they are shaped and ramped all impact how a tire rides and performs. Some companies offer multiple tire types and patterns for any single rider profile.
Ken/Vittoria: Hardpack surfaces do not require a deep tread. Mud absolutely requires a deep tread. But–pro tip!–you should also pay attention to how far apart the knobs are spaced. The trick is to have enough negative space between knobs for the sides of them to grab that root or rock. And that spacing can vary based on the terrain you’re trying to match.
Also, once your tire grabs onto trail features, you want the knob to react a certain way on roots and dirt, or hardpack and cornering speed. This can be about ‘sipes’ as well as rubber type.
You know how you hear basketball player’s shoes squeak during a game? That’s from the ‘sipes’, or grooves, in the tread. Sipes in basketball shoes allows the rubber to flex and grab onto the slick court surface. Tires are built with the same idea. The tops of all knobs have sipes cut in them to counter certain forces.
4. SIDEWALL PROTECTION: HOW MUCH DO YOU REALLY NEED?
Bobby/Maxxis: Do you ride a lot of rocks? Or not so much? The more protection you get, the more weight you carry. That’s kind of the choice.