Buying Guide

The best MTB Tire Knob Shapes

Different mountain bike tires have knobs in different shapes, giving you a certain kind of experience. Understand tread patterns and the variety of knob designs so that you can find what works best for your riding style. This guide will cover 5 types of tire knobs, 3 kinds of tread zones, spacing, siping, cuts and groove depth – along with more other helpful information about mountain bike tire systems.

Types of MTB Tire Knobs and Sizes

Mountain bike tires are layered using various materials, such as synthetic fibers.  These layers will alternate between one another when being applied to produce a strong casing for the tire.

Below are three types of MTB tires you may want to know about if you’re looking for a replacement.

5 Types of MTB Tire Knob Shapes

  • Square-shaped knobs
  • Ramped knobs
  • Tapered knobs
  • Micro knobs
  • Darts and chevrons

1.Square-shaped MTB Tire Knobs

Square-shaped MTB Tire Knobs

These knobs are of a square design, which provides more traction than rounder-shaped ones.

However, it also means there will be more drag since these types of tires provide more traction. More drag means slower speeds for you so make sure you’re prepared for this trade-off before installing these kinds of tires onto your vehicle.

Square-shaped knob grips are ideal for those looking to ride on dirt trails or even gravel. They are reliable when it comes to rolling over rocks too.

2. Tapered MTB Tire Tread Pattern (for Wet, Muddy Conditions)

Tapered MTB Tire Tread Pattern (for Wet, Muddy Conditions)

Tapered knobs grow smaller towards the top. That is, they are tapered as distance from the base increases.

These kinds of tires clean themselves as they roll along – so this type of tread pattern is what you want when biking through soft, wet, muddy surfaces.

Tires with this knob design typically have a low number of knobs and there is ample space between them. This tread pattern provides excellent traction on muddy surfaces, too – especially for crawling through tough terrains without slipping.

3. Ramped MTB Tire Tread Design (Great Braking & Rolling Efficiency)

Ramped MTB Tire Tread Design

Ramped tires are made to have an inclined surface so they can reduce rolling resistance, offer greater braking power, and provide stability. This is done by shortening the front angle of one knob while making the back side of the same knob stand at a much taller angle than normal.

With this tread design, you’ll experience great traction. Once the brake levers are pulled, the knobs will immediately cut into terrain to keep you secure and safe. The pattern’s placement on the edge of heavy acceleration forces and powerful braking forces make it work perfectly for those types of maneuvers.

4. Micro MTB Tire Knobs (for Gravel, XC, and Cyclocross)

Micro MTB Tire Knobs (for Gravel, XC, and Cyclocross

They stand shorter and have less surface area, which means they don’t provide as much traction but they’re also lighter weight.

The inherent design of this tire makes it much lighter than other tires on the market, which is an attribute desired by most cyclists. But the benefit doesn’t stop there – with less weight comes increased rolling efficiency too! Furthermore, this type of knob experiences more uniform flex in relation to its casing.

However, it seems that nowadays most MTB tires will start to deform when being ridden at a high speed. This means rolling resistance increases, which leads to having to exert more force than usual for the same amount of ground covered.

If you mostly bike on unpaved trails, or do cyclocross or cross-country mountain biking, choose tires with these types of knobs. However, there is one downside to small knobs: they don’t provide as much traction while going across a dirt trail that has just been disturbed.

5. Darts and Chevrons (Improve Front-wheel Turning Efficiency)

Darts and Chevrons

Mountain bike knobs are characterized by chevrons and darts that indicate they are pointy or angled to provide riders with a larger, horizontal forward edge. This allows them to ride quicker downhill without having to brake all the time.

However, better brake surfaces are not the only benefit of using darts and chevrons. Horizontal edges provide additional grip that allows a vehicle to turn quicker while still remaining stable. This also means they perform well when used on the front tires – which turns out to be their specialty.

Does the Knob Spacing Pattern Matter?

Wider space between the treads of these tires prevents mud and dirt from caking onto them, leading to better traction during descents on rocky terrain.

Narrower/Less spacing = less rolling resistance, good for cross-country tires

Yes, spacing matters- but so does tread design. MTB tires’ knobs have a noticeable effect on ride quality- but it doesn’t stop there!  As important as the shape and angle of these rubber features are, there’s still more to consider when it comes to comfort level- specifically, how much space is there between each knob.

A tighter tread design with less space between the knobs makes for a smoother forward roll due to its lower rolling resistance. This is the type of tread pattern spacing you want on a cross-country wheel set.

In contrast, there are tires with smaller knobs set farther apart which can provide a firmer connection to the ground for better traction. In addition, these sparser knobs also make it easier for mud and dirt to fall out of between them so that nothing gets stuck in-between and clogs up the treads.

3 Types of Bike Tread Zones

Types of Bike Tread Zones

Bike tire makers do not place knobs evenly all over the rubber. Furthermore, individual grips are not equal in size from one wheel to another.

  • Center tread zone
  • Transition tread zone
  • Side tread zone

Center Tread Zone

The tread zone in the middle of an MTB tire is its workhorse. This area has more contact with the ground than any other part of it, so it carries much of your weight and pressure.

You ride almost exclusively on the center zone, so the amount of friction you experience is greatly affected by it. When riding in an almost straight line with hardly any turns – this is typically what you work within. This zone also impacts your wheels’ ability to turn and come to a stop; so be careful when taking corners at high speeds!

It is possible for some manufacturers to reduce rolling drag by placing smaller knobs on the center zone close together. However, they cannot do this without sacrificing grip and braking power which makes it difficult for them to work well if you are cycling primarily over hard-packed terrain.

What kind of tire do you need if your trails consist mainly of loose dirt? A large knob with wide space between the center zones will work well.

Transition Tread Zone

Situated on either side of the central area, the transition zones are for riders taking breaks from moderately turning rides.

The number of knobs in the transition zone is usually increased by tire manufacturers if they want more grip in that area. However, if there are too many knobs present in this area, it will cause greater rolling friction.

Side Tread Zone

When riding through hilly trails full of twists and curves, you will most likely need to lean your bike even more than usual. And this is where the side knobs come in handy when leaning at a sharp angle.

Typically, the side tread zone knobs are bigger than those on either the central zone or transition zones. Having larger knobs allows you to negotiate really tight corners with as much traction as possible.

However, the side tread zone knobs of your tires will always see much less use than those in either of the other two zones. This is because they’re shaped for maximum traction, but at the cost of reduced grip. There’s also a bigger difference when it comes to roll efficiency there. However, you only need to make brief use of this part – unlike if it were needed constantly – so this isn’t really an issue for us.

How Long Do Bike Tires Last?

However, good quality bike tires will usually go for about 2,500 miles before needing replacement whereas cheaper options can go for much less than that – depending on the type of trail being ridden.

Siping, Cuts, Grooves, and Studs

Other than treads, bike tire designers have many other methods for designing tires which would behave differently during use. These include sipes, cuts, grooves and studs; which give them nuances in terms of how they feel when rolling.

What are some uses for sipes? Siping or slits refer to thin sawtoothed cuts made into tire lug treads, typically to improve traction on slippery surfaces. To reap the benefits of siping your tires, make sure you ride frequently on wet surfaces like slick asphalt roads.

These saw-teeth grooves will open up as the wheel flexes, and when that happens water trapped in between the wheel and the ground is ejected. Not only does siping make it easier for knobs to deform into shapes that allow it ride better during hard turns but also provides an excellent grip of dirt roads.

You can also sip your MTB tires if necessary, but people who do it often report small improvements in terms of traction.

Grooves are like the wider version of sipes but without the small sawtooth or zigzag edge. Some people use the terms grooving and siping interchangeably, yet it can be defined differently depending on what type of groove you want. Grooving gives tire lugs an extra set of edges for increased traction. When a tire has cuts and groove lines it also means better turning, braking power and does less struggling when accelerating with time

Do you see the tiny holes in the tire lugs, up there? Metal studs can be sunk into these holes to increase a wheel’s ability to roll over icy, snowy surfaces. Many fat bikes have studded tire lugs for that very reason.

The Compound Matters, Too

Designers spend hours coming up with formulas for tires. Each compound has its own unique traits; some are more rigid while others are softer and spongier. Lug design is also taken into account when choosing a type of tire, because they need to match the stiffness of the rubber compound used in order to perform as intended. It’s important to know what you’re looking for before buying a new set; so just make sure to ask about any potential quirks beforehand!

What’s a Pinch Flat?

A pinch flat, otherwise known as a snakebite, is caused when a bike tire rams into either a big rock or small root at high speed. This impact compresses both the outer rim of the tire and inner tube while concentrating on one point of contact; this contact leaves behind what looks like two small puncture wounds – just like those left by snakes when they bite down.

This type of tire is one of the primary reasons why most off-riders these days prefer tubeless setups to those who use traditional tubes inside tires. With a tubeless setup, there are no tubes going through your tires; instead, they lock onto special rims and sealant fills up any small leaks that may occur.

What’s a Puncture Flat?

Puncture flats are an all too common occurrence for people riding mountain bikes with tubes. Tubeless tires can reduce the frequency of these types of incidents due to their design that effectively eliminates air pockets.

Wrapping It Up
When choosing an MTB tire, there are five different types of tread design. For each type, this tread design can provide excellent traction in certain terrains. Make sure to purchase a tire with a pattern corresponding to the terrain you will use it most often on.

There are many factors that go into mountain bike tires. Lugs, compounds, and even other treatments such as sipes, grooves, cuts, or studs all play a crucial role in their performance on the trails. Mountain biking can be challenging but there’s nothing quite like it.

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