Shopping for road or mountain bike tires? It may come as a surprise to you the sheer number of options there are. Tires come in a variety of compounds that aim to address different riding styles and needs. We’re here to help break it down for you and explain some of the most common aspects of tire compounds.
Harder rubbers offer more strength and durability, resulting in a longer lasting tire. Dry and rocky areas can benefit from a hard rubber compounds for added lifespan and durability. Hard tire compoinds include the Specialized T5 and Maxxis Single Compound. Tires that are designed to be extra grippy, have a softer rubber to provide maximum traction. Wet and loamy riding areas are often better suited with a grip your tire and don’t need the added durability due to the more forgiving surface. Soft compounds can be found on Specialized T9 and Maxxis Maxx Grip tires.
Single, Dual, & Triple Compounds
Most low end tires will use a single compound throughout the tire. This helps keep the cost low due to a much simpler manufacturing process. Higher end tires will use multiple compounds placed on different parts of the tire for added performance. For example, Maxxis has long offered a “3C” (i.e., triple compound) rubber option, which features a harder-rubber base to stiffen the knobs and reduce deflection, with a medium-stiff rubber over the center knobs, and a softer rubber over the side knobs for increased grip. The same goes for road bike tires, harder rubber will be placed along the center of the tire for faster rolling speeds with softer rubber on the sides for increased grip in the corners.
Rubber compounds also affect ride feel. Harder rubbers will feel more of the vibrations on the road or trail, while softer rubbers will create a more comfortable ride. For this reason many beach cruisers and townie bikes or use a softer rubber compound for added comfort and reduced vibration. Tire compounds also affect the speed of the bike. Hard rubber has less rolling resistance and will feel faster than softer compounds.