Quality mountain bike tires are essential for anyone that takes their bike into the back country. Aside from gravity, the tires are the only thing keeping you and your bike firmly set on terra firma, and as such they area vital component of any style of riding. The exact style of tire to purchase is largely dependant on your riding style and your budget.
Mountain bike tires are typically sold in one of two varieties; those that require a tube and those that do not. Generally speaking, those who use their bikes for commuting or just casual riding can use the standard tire/tube configuration without any problems. In fact, even those that do a lot of trail riding can use the traditional configuration. However, for those that tend to ride very aggressively, especially when off-road, tubeless tires are typically recommended. This is because tubeless tires tend to have much thicker sidewalls, and when run at lower air pressures do not have problems with pinch flats, or flats in general. This results in a much higher performance capability than to the tire/tube configurations.
There are some disadvantages to using tubeless mountain bike tires. The biggest problem occurs when it comes to fixing a flat. Tubeless tires require a sealant between tire and the rim in order to maintain air pressure. And because they typically have thicker sidewalls, they sometimes require specialized tools to remove them. The obvious problem occurs when you’re out in the back country and you get a flat and don’t have the tools or sealant to fix the tire. Fortunately, tire manufacturers are not oblivious to this problem and as such most tubeless tires can be run with a tube if needed. This means that if you do get a flat and have the foresight to carry an extra tube, you simply pop in the tube, pump it up and you’re off conquering the wilderness once more.
It is also important to ensure that your rims are compatible with tubeless mountain bike tires. A rim that is not compatible will not offer a proper seal and the tire will inevitably blow either while pumping it up, or worse, while out on the trail. This kind of thing can also happen if you choose a tire that is too lightweight. A lightweight tire, while reducing the overall weight of your bike, will also have a much thinner sidewall which can make them more susceptible to punctures and tears.
Lastly, it is important to choose mountain bike tires that have tread design that is suitable to your style of riding. A commuter bike does not require a complex, aggressive tread design, and in fact an aggressive tread design can cause problems when used on paved surfaces. Conversely, using a street tire for trail riding will not provide you with the needed traction. Many riders will purchase several different tires and will switch them out depending on where they plan to ride that day. The easiest way to do this is to also purchase extra wheels so that switching the tires is as simple as putting on a new wheel.