Over the years, we’ve ridden – flatted – more tires than we can count. In those decades we’ve seen advancements from heavy duty tubes, Mr. Tuffy Liners to tubeless tires and now a wide variety of sidewall technologies designed to offer a prescribed ride feel and performance for different disciplines of riders. While it’s all neat and fun to look at cutaways and graphics showing aramid layers and fancily named sidewall marketing bits, today we’ll be bashing into curbs with Schwalbe employee Sean Cochran, to see just how different each casing’s construction is when the rubber meets the road, or trail. So, if you’re looking for help on how to pick the best tire casing for you, or if you’ve ever wondered just how different each casing is when met with an abrupt edge, this experiment is one you won’t want to miss.

For this experiment we opted to work with Schwalbe to run the test on every one of their MTB tire casings. While you may be a die-hard Maxxis fan or love the new Continental offerings, fear-not because just about every mountain bike tire brand out there have a similar range of tire casings from XC to DH, and the results will likely be similar to what you’ll see here.


Each casing has a specific application and priority on the trail. From one end of the spectrum to the other you’ve got cost savings, weight, compliance to improved support, impact absorption all the way to flat out durability and protection against the biggest obstacles at the highest speeds. Most riders likely fit in the middle, but you’ll be happy to know that there are a lot of options in this range that will be great for you and your riding style.

Super Race |  Super Race – designed for XC pinner, racer types, it’s the lightest casing designed for speed and low weight. It’s designed to roll fast and conform incredibly well, but offers the least protection from big sharp impacts due to thinner, more compliant sidewalls. Two carcass layers in the center with Raceguard puncture protection layer, and three carcass layers on the sidewalls.

Super Ground | Meant for general riding with some bike path and light duty trail riding, offering an equal compromise of puncture protection and smooth rolling. Three carcass layers with a bead-to-bead Snake Skin puncture protection layer.

Super Trail | This is the next step and begins to address more demands for trail riders. It’s the first tire to offer an Apex at the bead, which is designed to help reduce pinch flats and damage when the tire compresses to the rim on larger impacts. It has a bit more support and will work for XC, trail and advanced riders on 120- 150mm bikes, so long as you’re not pushing super hard into rocky conditions.

Super Gravity | More of an enduro style tire, designed to offer great protection and support for aggressive riding but retaining some smooth rolling. Has four carcass layers with an Apex on the bead and sidewalls to deliver a stiffer feel with better impact resistance and flat protection, but still offer a supple feel under the tread. Blends the flat protection with a supple tire under the tread.

Super Downhill | The heaviest, thickest and most durable tire designed to be ridden hard and hold up to the harshest impacts. Six carcass layers under the tread to reduce chance of penetration from objects, as well as a double layer of Apex layer stretching further up the sidewall for most protection against flats. These tires have less lateral flexibility and feel on the trail due to the stiffness and added layers. Comfort, flex and feel will be reduced at the cost of increased flat protection for the highest speeds through rough terrain.


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