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  1. #1
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    Running a front tire wider than the rear -advantages / disadvantages?

    A friend and I were discussing the benefits of running a front tire one size wider than the rear, with benefits being that the slightly wider front would add to stability on the turns and yet minimize rolling weight in the rear. Any downsides or important considerations to the combination? Without having thought much about the topic, I tend to run equal width front /rear tires on my full suspension bike.
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  2. #2
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    I tend to run equal... but have been debating a 2.1 front and 2.0 rear. 2.1 front for slightly more bite in corners. maybe not the huge difference you were considering?

    also curious what others think.

  3. #3
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    Bigger in front = oversteer aka the rear will lose traction 1st,easily correctible mid turn!

  4. #4
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    BUT.. is 2.1 over 2.0 really much of a diff to be considered big enough? I know 2.0 and 2.1 can measure as 2.1 or 2.0 (that being, some 2.0 and 2.1 are not what they claim) - but wonder if a 2.1 in front and 2.0 on rear is really much of a diff.. then again, maybe it is just enough.

  5. #5
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    well, i havebeen running a wider front tire for as long as i can remember. 10 years maybe? I usually dont run the same tread pattern front and rear, nor do I usually even run the same brand of tire front and rear. I look for a front tire thats gonna give me maximum hook-up in corners and downhill braking. you do have to consider the soil conditions you'll be rolling. on the rear I want good rolling and climbing traction. cornering knobs are important on the rear but not as vital as on the front.
    the only negative of course is more rolling mass on the front wheel. to me though the benifit of a larger footprint on the front is well worth it. right now i'm running a 2.5 front/2.35rear kenda nevagal set up. i don't like the nevagal as a rear tire so i will change it out.
    so yeah, start out with one or two sizes bigger on the front and save your existing front tire to run on the back as needed best-o-luck!
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  6. #6
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    I beat on all my rides, so tire pressure is a big deal to me. I tend to pinch flat quite a bit, so running high pressure is pretty necessary. On my hardtail I run 35-40 PSI even with a 2.35 Nevegal in the rear. Also, I have a big issue with the tires rolling out from under the rims. Start sliding out around a turn, you can correct it. Have the tire roll out from under the rim, good luck.

    I just like to run big tires PERIOD. I pretty much run the biggest tire that will clear the frame and fork. Fortunately this often happens to be a slightly bigger number in front than rear.
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  7. #7
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    I too am considering tires that are not much different: 2.1 and 2.25. The weight difference is 60 grams, which is a little or a lot depending on who's listening. However, I thought to post my question anyway, since it's an interesting topic in principle.

    Thanks for all the replies so far. Keep 'em coming!
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  8. #8
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    no way I am running bigger than 2.1 since I will race them, I give up something for race needs...

    so for me, it would be 2.1 and 2.0.. no 2.25 + in my future.

    I might do Cobra 2.1 up front and Python 2.0 in rear.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pizano
    no way I am running bigger than 2.1 since I will race them, I give up something for race needs...

    so for me, it would be 2.1 and 2.0.. no 2.25 + in my future.

    I might do Cobra 2.1 up front and Python 2.0 in rear.
    The guy who got 2nd in the Houffalize World Cup two weekends back was riding 2.25s front and rear. The guy who got 3rd was riding a 2.4 front, and 2.2 rear.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke
    The guy who got 2nd in the Houffalize World Cup two weekends back was riding 2.25s front and rear. The guy who got 3rd was riding a 2.4 front, and 2.2 rear.
    what were they riding, do you know by chance?

    but, this does not prove that much really... same credentials have been had by guys riding 1.95, 2.0, 2.1....

    if anything, it even proves one point that 2 of the same size can win.. but we knew that, just like we knew 1.95 on up, all sizes really, have won races.

  11. #11
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    Pretty much the only advantage is weight. The same size tire in the rear will give more traction than its smaller counterpart, and resist flats more.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkley
    Pretty much the only advantage is weight. The same size tire in the rear will give more traction than its smaller counterpart, and resist flats more.
    not sure I follow... your insinuating that the same size in the rear as that in the front some how "gives more traction" then say a smaller in the rear than the front? but since we are talking about the rear always being smaller, when you say " The same size tire in the rear will give more traction than its smaller counterpart," but it's smaller counterpart does not exist since, as the rear, it is the smallest of the 2 already.

    plus, not sure how flat resistance plays into the discussion of 2 different sized tires - that does not even take into consideration tire type or TPI or casing?? pretty vague statement.

    huh?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by awai04
    A friend and I were discussing the benefits of running a front tire one size wider than the rear, with benefits being that the slightly wider front would add to stability on the turns and yet minimize rolling weight in the rear. Any downsides or important considerations to the combination? Without having thought much about the topic, I tend to run equal width front /rear tires on my full suspension bike.
    Many attributes of tires are a compromise: larger volume is good for stability and being able to run lower pressure, but weighs more. Thinner sidewalls can save weight, but are more fragile. Meaty treads are great for traction, but are heavier and roll slower.

    Any tire is a compromise on all of these counts. The question then is what compromise makes the most sense front and rear. For some people (like me), high volume is more important in the front than the rear, because stability is more important there, as is the ability to run lower pressure. Therefore, I will sacrifice more on weight to get high volume up front than I will for the rear.

    Yeah, big tires on both ends would be great if they did not weigh any more than small tires, but weight DOES matter, so you add it where it helps the most.

    For other people, the optimum trad-off is around the same tire volume for front and rear.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pizano
    not sure I follow... your insinuating that the same size in the rear as that in the front some how "gives more traction" then say a smaller in the rear than the front? but since we are talking about the rear always being smaller, when you say " The same size tire in the rear will give more traction than its smaller counterpart," but it's smaller counterpart does not exist since, as the rear, it is the smallest of the 2 already.

    plus, not sure how flat resistance plays into the discussion of 2 different sized tires - that does not even take into consideration tire type or TPI or casing?? pretty vague statement.

    huh?
    See my point below. The point is not that the tire be the same size as the front, just that the optimum tire size turns out to be similar for the back than the front. Many of us are giving reasons why volume in the front is important (which for many of us are bigger than the benefits of high volume in the rear), I think he is giving a reason why it is also important in the back to him, and in the end gives him similar tire sizes.

    All else being equal, larger volume tire are more resistant to pinch flats. You have more weight on the rear tire, and tend to hit things harder with it, so if you want to run equal pressures front and rear, you would need a higher volume tire in the rear.

    I may be putting words in his mouth, but I think since many of us are talking about a smaller tire in the rear, he is essentially talking about going bigger in the rear than we are when he says "equal tires front and rear".
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pizano
    not sure I follow... your insinuating that the same size in the rear as that in the front some how "gives more traction" then say a smaller in the rear than the front? but since we are talking about the rear always being smaller, when you say " The same size tire in the rear will give more traction than its smaller counterpart," but it's smaller counterpart does not exist since, as the rear, it is the smallest of the 2 already.

    plus, not sure how flat resistance plays into the discussion of 2 different sized tires - that does not even take into consideration tire type or TPI or casing?? pretty vague statement.

    huh?
    re-phrasing....

    Let's say you have a set of the same tires in a 2.2 and a 2.0 size. The only advantage to running a 2.2F/2.0R combo is saving rotational weight on the rear tire. Putting a 2.2 in the rear will give you more traction than using a 2.0. It will also have a larger volume, so fewer pinch flats, and the ability to run lower pressure if trail conditions so dictate.

    The argument for a larger tire up front has always been that you need more traction in the front (for steering/control), and less in the rear. In my experience, not really true. Rear traction is just as important, especially when climbing. It becomes monumentally more important if you're riding in muddy/slick conditions. As an upstate NY rider, I need rear wheel traction. You don't see many riders on Small Block 8s in my neck of the woods, because climbs are often steep, loose and muddy. Consequently, I never understood why people were willing to give up rear wheel traction for such little benefit (maybe 50-75g per tire?).

    For a brief while I ran a 2.25F/1.95R combo of IRC Mibros. I had a muddy race the next day so I swapped out my super worn rear tire (2.25) with a brand new 1.95 I had laying around. The 1.95 was probably a better choice based on knob height, but I had to run higher pressure because it was a low-volume tire. So it may have been a draw in the end.
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  16. #16
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    I have run staggered sizes front and rear in the past; and frankly, will likely do so again because I am just unhappy with my current (cheap) tires. I can't provide any scientific reasons for prefering a narrow rear and wide front tire, but my personal "on the bike" preference is a 1.95-2.0 rear and something in the 2.1-2.2 range in the front. I tend to look for a slightly faster rear tire and a front tire that has good side bite and braking.

    Off topic, but most BMX riders (especially those on a Pro XL or larger frame) will be running a 1.75 rear and as much as a 2.25 front tire. My race bike runs a 20x1.75 Intense Micro knobbie in the rear and a 20x2.125 IRC Siren in the front.

  17. #17
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    Some people are now running larger tires in the rear of their hard tails. They choose the larger tire with a less aggressive and lower rolling resistance than the front. The advantage is a plusher and faster ride over rough terrain. Larger volume tires are faster over rough terrain.

  18. #18
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    I felt a noticeable difference in bike geometry, changing from 2.4" front/2.25" rear to equal 2.2". It is not much but the steering got quicker.

  19. #19
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    Bigger front tires are great for bombing down gravelled fire roads...smaller ones will dig in and OTB you go.....

    Bigger front tires are great for getting down big rock gardens, they bounce better than little ones.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by gvs_nz
    Some people are now running larger tires in the rear of their hard tails. They choose the larger tire with a less aggressive and lower rolling resistance than the front. The advantage is a plusher and faster ride over rough terrain. Larger volume tires are faster over rough terrain.
    I never gave it much thought, but that makes a lot of sense! My hardtail only has clearance for about a 2.1" tire in the rear; but if others frames will accommodate larger tires I can see how running a larger tire with a tad less pressure could give you a bit more cushion out yonder. Low rolling resistance, cushioning effect and that ever-so-sexy fat tire look are all worth the extra 60-100g weight gain from the skinnier tires.

  21. #21
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    I always go with a bigger and slightly knobbier tire in the front than the rear.. Weight is more of a concern on the rear, in addition to rolling resistance. I'd MUCH rather have my rear slide than my front, the other way around usually ends up in a crash. Currently running a 2.25 racing ralph snakeskin front/2.1 crossmark rear. Has been the perfect combo for the past year or so.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tornadom
    I never gave it much thought, but that makes a lot of sense! My hardtail only has clearance for about a 2.1" tire in the rear; but if others frames will accommodate larger tires I can see how running a larger tire with a tad less pressure could give you a bit more cushion out yonder. Low rolling resistance, cushioning effect and that ever-so-sexy fat tire look are all worth the extra 60-100g weight gain from the skinnier tires.
    Yeh very common XC race config is a skinny Mountain King2.2 on the front and big volume Race King2.2 on the rear. Prior to that a Speed King2.3 on the rear. Also skinny Rocket Ron on the front and bigger volume Racing Ralph on the rear. Many other combos out there to get a bigger faster tire on the rear and a grippier tire on the front.

  23. #23
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    I just started riding Maxxis Ignitor UST 2.35 F and Maxxis Crossmark UST 2.1 R.

    I do like the setup so far. Last few rides have been damp hardpack with some muddy/slick corners. Only slide-outs have been due to the fact that the Crossmark is not a good mud tire. When conditions are optimal I think the setup will shine!

  24. #24
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    Been reading the posts and indeed, they are informative. Seems as though the points can be summarized below:

    Wider tire: increased traction, volume, stability

    Thinner tire: less rotational weight, and also less rolling resistence?
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by awai04
    Been reading the posts and indeed, they are informative. Seems as though the points can be summarized below:

    Wider tire: increased traction, volume, stability

    Thinner tire: less rotational weight, and also less rolling resistence?
    Not necessarily. recent studies have shown that higher volume tires may roll better than lower volume ones. The question becomes, does the lesser rolling resistance offset the greater rotational weight?

    I'll try to dig up the article...
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by awai04
    Been reading the posts and indeed, they are informative. Seems as though the points can be summarized below:

    Wider tire: increased traction, volume, stability

    Thinner tire: less rotational weight, and also less rolling resistence?
    Thinner tires do not have less rolling resistance. That is mostly a function on the tread pattern.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta
    Thinner tires do not have less rolling resistance. That is mostly a function on the tread pattern.
    It seems from most of the results it's a function of width,casing design, casing design at tread interface and tread design.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta
    Thinner tires do not have less rolling resistance. That is mostly a function on the tread pattern.
    Wrong, Thinner tyres do have less rolling resistance. Assuming both tyres have the same tread pattern, the thinner tyre has less surface area making less contact with the ground. So less resistance when rolling. (aka look how skinny road bike tyres are, for this purpose).

    Of course, a thinner tyre may not be an advantage to everyones specific riding requirements.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue_neon
    Wrong, Thinner tyres do have less rolling resistance. Assuming both tyres have the same tread pattern, the thinner tyre has less surface area making less contact with the ground. So less resistance when rolling. (aka look how skinny road bike tyres are, for this purpose).

    Of course, a thinner tyre may not be an advantage to everyones specific riding requirements.
    The science is now the shape of the point of contact of the tire rather than the size.

    Many tests have been done now and wider tires [ to a point are faster] Even on the road they have down tests with the same result and are using wider tires and lower pressure[ 25 mm and 70 to 100psi]. An example of a couple of results from drum rolling resistance tests . Conti speed king 2.3 has lower rolling resistance than 2.1. Racing ralph 2.25 has lower rolling resistance than 2.1. Compounding that other studies also show a larger tire is faster on off road terrain.

    As many have mentioned. There is a balance between rolling resistance and weight of going to a larger tire. The advantage of one over the other is so dependant on the specific terrain that individual testing can only come up with the best tire for the conditions. Although I am sure the best teams use the training software they have developed for ergo cranks to simulate which is the best tire for each course.
    Putting aside tire weight and acceleration of the wheel here's a link to total weight difference and climbing.
    http://analyticcycling.com/ForcesLessWeight_Page.html

    Some Rolling resistance links.
    http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/tech/...res/conti_tech

    http://www.rouesartisanales.over-blo...1503651-6.html

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/...ing-in-belgium

    http://www.bernhansen.com/Tester/Dek...20schwalbe.pdf
    Last edited by gvs_nz; 05-12-2010 at 12:12 AM.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue_neon
    Wrong, Thinner tyres do have less rolling resistance. Assuming both tyres have the same tread pattern, the thinner tyre has less surface area making less contact with the ground. So less resistance when rolling. (aka look how skinny road bike tyres are, for this purpose).

    Of course, a thinner tyre may not be an advantage to everyones specific riding requirements.
    Wider and narrower tires will have the same size contact patch if the same psi is used. The shape of the contact patch will be different but the size will be the same. If different psi is used in each tire the size and shape of the contact patch will be different. Lower psi means larger contact patch and visa versa regardless of the width of the tire. A narrower tire will typically have a longer but narrower contact patch while a wider tire will have a shorter but wider contact patch if both have the same psi. It's all a function of psi. This, of course, assumes the same bike and same rider for all tires (same weight). The shape of the contact patch can be/is affected by the stiffness of the sidewalls also, but to a lesser degree than psi. However, the size of the contact patch is not affected by the stiffness of the sidewall, that is purely a function of psi and rider+bike weight.

  31. #31
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    Interesting precise here on pg 16 and 17 on tires and different resistance met by tire. If you increase the size of MTB tire by 40% you only need half the tire pressure to get same rolling resistance. Not sure what makes up climbing resistance as it increases with speed? Last time I went to school gravity was constant?

    http://www.schwalbe.co.uk/shopdata/f...chInfo2-GB.pdf

  32. #32
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    a wider front tire floats better in mud and the thinner rear digs into it. Easier to spin the wheel through the mud and the mud that sticks to it doesn't weigh as much. Factors you have to consider to ride in New England.
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  33. #33
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    Bump! We're running wider tires up front in SoCal. Or, at least, my boyfriend, myself, and our immediate riding buddies. I was struggling with thick patches of sand high on a mountain some years ago and saw people just riding through it no problem-- that was when someone tipped me off that my tires were too narrow for our local terrain (and my bike-handling skills). Sure enough, wider tires, especially a wider front tire, makes a difference. We're not racers and don't pretend to be experts, just xc'ers for the fun & challenge. I don't know a thing about "rotational mass", etc. but this tire set-up works great over our varied terrain-- chunky rocks, patches of thick dry sand, and blah de blah. A little extra cush, too. I'm currently using Kenda Nevegals 2.35/2.1's on my BLT2, and Spesh Enduro Pro 2.30/Kenda Nevegals 2.1 on my Element. My boyfriend has a similar set-up however different tires/tread patterns. I can't do tubeless due to latex allergy, but flat out so infrequently I can't remember the last time.

    So... if you're back east running equal and plan to mtb vacation out west and wish to maximize your enjoyment, you might consider packing a nice, wide tire (and tube) for the front.
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  34. #34
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    I just went to a 2.1 cobra up front and 2.0 python in rear
    ~ Life is easier with a tube

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by sambs827
    I beat on all my rides, so tire pressure is a big deal to me. I tend to pinch flat quite a bit, so running high pressure is pretty necessary. On my hardtail I run 35-40 PSI even with a 2.35 Nevegal in the rear. Also, I have a big issue with the tires rolling out from under the rims. Start sliding out around a turn, you can correct it. Have the tire roll out from under the rim, good luck.

    I just like to run big tires PERIOD. I pretty much run the biggest tire that will clear the frame and fork. Fortunately this often happens to be a slightly bigger number in front than rear.
    Sounds like you would benefit greatly from some wider rims...
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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by meloh1
    Wider and narrower tires will have the same size contact patch if the same psi is used. .

    Interesting info, thanks.

    But then, theoretically, both tyres would have the same amount of traction (as the contact patch is the same). Rolling resistance would be relative to traction which is relative to contact patch (picture this with slick tyres). So tyre width would be irrelevant.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue_neon
    Interesting info, thanks.

    But then, theoretically, both tyres would have the same amount of traction (as the contact patch is the same). Rolling resistance would be relative to traction which is relative to contact patch (picture this with slick tyres). So tyre width would be irrelevant.
    all the other stuff meloh1 explained about the shape of the contact patch affects both the traction and rolling resistance
    Last edited by boomn; 05-20-2010 at 11:47 PM.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue_neon
    Interesting info, thanks.

    But then, theoretically, both tyres would have the same amount of traction (as the contact patch is the same). Rolling resistance would be relative to traction which is relative to contact patch (picture this with slick tyres). So tyre width would be irrelevant.
    The links I posted have explaniations.

  39. #39
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    There's other things that affect rolling resistance for mountain bike tires. The size, shape and placement of lugs, tread compound, sidewall flexibility, all affect rolling resistance. Traction is not just a straight line function for mountain bike tires. There are many vectors and the shape of the contact patch is important as well as the size.

  40. #40
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    on the loamy dry soil we have hear in Central OR I always run a wider tire up front. I don't have a problem with the rear end breaking loose but the front will sliip out and that isn't any good. I will usually run a 2.25 in front and a 2.1 or 2.0 in the rear ( i consider a 2.0 and 2.1 the same size)

  41. #41
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    During the winter here in Scotland i've seen myself run a 2.4 up front and run a Panaracer Fire Mud Pro 1.8 at the rear, to cut through all the crud. Back in the 80's when racing BMX we normally rode larger tyres up front and a smaller one at the rear, so no difference in MTN Biking really... it all depends on the riders abilities as well.

  42. #42
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    I like a close casing width (2.1 or so) with a knobbier front tire. Good example is the same size rralph rear with a nnic upfront.

    G
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  43. #43
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    I run a 2.2 on my 5" f/s rear and a 2.35 on the front for a harsh-ish XC desert environment because I go faster on such a bike. Just picked up a 2014 Trek Stache and planning on running a 2.1 in the rear and a 2.25 in the front. The stock Bontrager tires are anvil-heavy.
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    Riding a bike where the front tire has less cornering traction than the rear is horribly scary. You always want more bit on the front than the rear. Staggering size is a good way to make sure the front stays hooked up longer than the front. A higher volume, lower pressure front will also grip the line better which keeps you on track.

  45. #45
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    I had ground control specialized 2.0 front and rear, the bike felt okay, then i switched the front to a specialized captain 2.2, i felt the difference in traction and it absorbed more due to the rubber being softer. now i have a captain 2.2 on the front and a purgatory 2.3 on the rear. the bigger rear wheel makes a huge difference in balance and absorbing impact. i think its whatever feels good to you, no right nor wrong way to mix and match tire size.... 2.2 and 2.3 you can barely see the difference....

  46. #46
    Oh, I've GOT bike money
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    its alive, its AH-live, ITS ALIVE!!!!

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by JACKL View Post
    its alive, its AH-live, ITS ALIVE!!!!
    Zombie threads FTW!

  48. #48
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    always run bigger (or meatier) tyre up front ^^ 2.3-4 front, 2.2-3 rear...

    -----------------------------------------------------------
    'Yes! I'm an opinionated Mofo... Next question'.
    to err is human... to face plant is frickin hilarious!!

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by darklight.ds View Post
    I had ground control specialized 2.0 front and rear, the bike felt okay, then i switched the front to a specialized captain 2.2, i felt the difference in traction and it absorbed more due to the rubber being softer. now i have a captain 2.2 on the front and a purgatory 2.3 on the rear. the bigger rear wheel makes a huge difference in balance and absorbing impact. i think its whatever feels good to you, no right nor wrong way to mix and match tire size.... 2.2 and 2.3 you can barely see the difference....

    Kitten Killer
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    Lead by my Lefty............... right down the trail, no brakes.

  50. #50
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    It's the tread, not the width... I don't get the kitten stuff. but i see the posts are from 2010, I'm late.

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