Front tire choice is nothing to sneeze at. Carcass rigidity and tread pattern combinations are often optimized for specific tasks, but what if you find yourself in a variety of terrains and are a bit more aware of your tire budget than the average person? Well, if you’re like us you look for something with a versatile tread pattern and then probably run your tires until they resemble a road-racing slick, that is if the multiple tire plugs hold up that long.
Kidding, kind of.
We have run the Metzler 6 Days Extreme Enduro tires on our bikes for years, and they were fine, and we mean that in the kindest way possible. The tread pattern and knobby size worked very well in the mixed conditions that we frequent, and the edge grip mid corner was exceptional.
The tire carcass is on more of the “medium” side of the hardness scale, which means that it is relatively flexible at the low (read under 6 psi) tire pressures that Jon runs, which seems to translate directly to the side knobs also flexing for mid-corner traction with less risk of premature chunkulation of said knobs. This is important because when the side knobs chunk out the bike tends to want to truffle shuffle off the trail, forcing you to stand the bike up a bit and adjust throttle in order to keep the intended radius. The downside of a medium carcass is that punctures due to sharp rocks or sticks are more of an inevitability than a possibility.
We run Tubliss on all our bikes, which saves a lot of swearing due to accidentally pinch-flatting the only spare tube you brought with you, but as we discovered it also may make tire choice a bit more important - see above about the multiple tire plugs.
We recently tried out some Pirelli Scorpion MX32 front tires due to the tread pattern being close to the Metzlers that we were familiar with and mostly enjoyed. The smaller block knobs with wider spacing allow for good straight-line braking, and the specialized shaping of the side blocks worked well giving us good grip mid corner. The Pirelli also had a much harder carcass, which in theory was going to reduce the amount of time spent on the side of the trail plugging the same hole as it grew.
Since we called out Jon and his 6 psi habits already, it is only fair that we compare Metzler to Pirelli as ridden by him.
As already hinted at, the Metzler’s side knobs were worn but not missing, but how about the Pirelli? The harder Pirelli carcass meant that the knobbies were also harder, and as such they tended to break off before they wore down. The harder carcass also absolutely hated Jon’s tire pressure choice and out of protest cracked the sidewall in multiple locations all the way down to the nylon bands. Kjeld, who runs a more reasonable 10psi up front, did not experience any cracking, but did lose side knobs in equal amounts. Kjeld also picked up a hole large enough to require a plug, patched it, and it has held for at least 6 months. Bonus point for the harder compound gripping the plug without failure.
The bottom line is that the Pirelli is also a fine tire in different ways than the Metzler, but neither one of us is attached enough to want to put a ring on either tire. We are open to suggestions as our hunt for the perfect front tire continues.
A harder carcass with softer knobs would be ideal for our needs, but that combination may not work anywhere else. Pure speculation, after all we make action camera chin mounts, not tires.
Check out the video we made here if you want to see how both tires looked after we put them through their paces.