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TGR Tested: Versus Tires

Can Versus Tires stand up to the giants of the industry? Max Ritter photo.

When it comes to mountain bike tires, a small number of brands have traditionally ruled that segment of the industry. For better or for worse, Maxxis and Schwalbe have been the big two when it comes to what you’ll find on a stock bike, or even what’s available at your local bike shop. Nothing wrong with that, as both make some of the best tires money can buy, but we’re always stoked when a new player joins the game. Enter Versus Tires, an upstart in the tire game whose product is truly promising. They currently offer only limited tire options, but they work extremely well and we’re stoked to see what else they have coming down the pipeline.

Born as the first rider owned and operated direct to consumer bike tire brand, Versus is the brainchild of Scott Hultgren, a designer and mountain biker with over two decades of experience in the action sports world. Long story short, Versus set out to create tires that could hold up to modern mountain biking at a fraction of the cost of their competitors. The brand currently offers only limited 29” options, but plans to release a 27.5” and 26” option very soon.

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As a mountain biker, I am very particular with tires, especially given the relentlessly rocky and loose trails here in the Tetons. Long story short, I value durability and flat protection above all else, with traction coming in at a close second. There’s nothing worse than hearing PFFTTT and having sealant spray all over my leg mid lap because of a slashed sidewall or torn knob on my rear tire. Currently, my go-to tires that tend to minimize those risks are Schwalbe’s Magic Mary, with Super Gravity casing and Addix Soft rubber. The Maxxis Minion DHF/DHRII with Double Down casing and Maxx Terra rubber are a close second. Notice something? Heavy casing and soft rubber. I also typically run an insert in the rear tire.

Versus Tires simplifies things a lot here. Instead of offering a dizzying amount of casing, tread, and rubber combos, they offer one tread pattern and two casings. It's called the All-Mountain tire with either a folding bead and trail casing or a heavy-duty “gravity” wire bead/DH casing. The tire profile and shape are the same between the two.

I tested the 29x2.4 Versus All-Mountain-Trail aboard the new Rocky Mountain Altitude. It’s an aggressive enduro race bike, so I was particularly curious to see how well these lighter casings held up to high-speed riding on burly trails in all manner of conditions.

The leading corner of the tire's side knobs features aggressive siping (those little notches) to allow the knobs to conform to uneven ground better. Max Ritter photo.

For those tire nerds out there, the tread profile looks to be kind of a hybrid between Maxxis’s DHF and DHRII, something we've come to see across the board with many manufacturers. With Versus, there's one noticeable difference. The side knobs have what Versus calls “accordion folds” - siping on the leading outside corner of the knob - making them slightly softer and therefore more grippy. Lean the tire over in a corner, and the side knobs will bend even further, holding onto rough, uneven surfaces better than most any other tire I’ve ridden. While the rubber compound used in the tires feels quite hard, especially since the tires don’t look remotely worn even after a few weeks of heavy riding, the knob shape gives these things more traction in good dirt than many competitor’s soft-compound tires. It's remarkable how far these can be leaned over in flat or uneven corners without slipping, or how well they hold a line on off-camber roots and rocks. I will say, they saw their limits of traction on the super loose over hardpack conditions so common in late summer in the Tetons and around the west. I attribute it to the harder compound and the narrower 2.4-inch width that doesn't seem to "float" on top of that kind of dirt like something softer and wider would.

Pretty standard looking tread pattern, but it sure works! Max Ritter photo.

In terms of durability and flat protection, I am impressed. Given that I did not exactly go on mellow trail rides on these, but instead spent the better part of the summer shuttling DH trails, ripping desert epics, and riding bike park laps aboard them, I will say that I did not have high expectations in terms of durability. But after those two month of riding, I only experienced a single slow leak flat that was easily repaired by shoving in a tire plug and re-inflating. It originally happened while airing into a rock garden on Teton Pass that has claimed more than one other tire of mine in the past. The plug came out while riding in Moab, but was easily repairable, and the tire still holds air like new. Speaking of that Moab trip, the crew of friends I rode with experienced 12 flats on the Whole Enchilada (talk about some sort of karmic F-you), but I managed to get out unscathed on the Versus tires.  

Compared to my favorite tires from Schwalbe and Maxxis mentioned above, I would bill the Versus All-Mountain tire as a strong competitor. They are grippy, they are light enough, and more than anything, you can get a set of real mountain bike tires for $120 shipped to your front door. That’s $20-30 cheaper than the other guys. Save that money for a shuttle ticket, some beers, or that next component upgrade you've been eyeing.

The Bottom Line

Versus All-Mountain Tires are not just impressive because they’re "good" for a cheap tire. They ride just as well and are as durable as most anything else that costs way more out there. For a rider that spends most of their time riding dry conditions, particularly in the desert or in pine forests across the Rocky Mountain West, these tires work incredibly well. Looking for an easy way to revitalize your ride? Pop a pair of these on your bike and you won’t regret it – you’ll even have a few bucks left over for post-ride beers.

From The Column: TGR Tested

About The Author

stash member Max Ritter

I manage digital content here at TGR, run our gear testing program, and am stoked to be living the dream in the Tetons.