Of all the threads I see on BikeForums it seems like tires are the forgotten component. A quick glance of today's list shows threads on forks, frames, and drivetrain, and wheel discussions are popular, but there are few threads on those round black things. I like tires. I think they're more critical than most/all of that other stuff since they are afterall the only part of the bike that's supposed to be touching mother earth. Tires, at least according to the volume of discussion they receive here, are neglected.
Tire selection can be a fairly technical topic, and a fairly individual topic. The tire that's right for one rider, type of riding, or area of the country will not necessarily be right for another. There's no "right answer" that works for everything, so I think tire knowledge is more important in tire selection than say drivetrain knowledge is in selecting a rear deraileur.
What has me inspired about tires? I just replaced a 1.9" Serac XC front tire with a 2.3" Kenda Nevegal DTC that frankly I was a bit sceptical of. The Dual Tire Compound construction has sticky rubber on the sides of the tires and harder rubber in the center tread (apparently for better wear and rolling resistance). The tread pattern consists of a center paddle with a cut down the middle (I assume this cut closes when the tire is pressed in to the ground), and side knobs that roughly align to the center paddle. The effect is one of a tire who's tread can conform well to abrupt, sharp surfaces like rock and root edges.
I'm a huge convert to the Nevegal, what a great tire. (I think 2.3" is the wrong size for me and my riding and I'm going to go with a 2.1" next time 'round.) On my first ride it saved me from three crashes that I would have endured with the old Serac. (I was pushing particularly hard since I wanted to really test the new tire).
I'm currently running a 2.1" WTB Velociraptor at the rear. The paddles on the tire work very well in New Hampshire's rooty, rocky, loose soil. Judging by the tire tracks on the local singletrack WTB sells quite a few Veloci's in this area, and they're effective. I really like mine, but I'm going to replace it with my new favorite the Nevegal. My plan is to swap the 2.3" Nevegal to the rear and buy a new 2.1" Nevegal for the front.
What do I like about the Nevegal? It grips. The edge knobs dig in to the loose stuff and don't let go easily. The edges stick like a tick to the rocks and roots. You really can feel the difference between the soft side rubber and hard center rubber. On center it exceeds the grip of my old Serac but I suspect only equals the Velociraptor's big center paddle. But the Velociraptor doesn't have that side grip that this tire does. When "scuffing" against the side of rocks/roots, etc the Nevegal feels like it's willing to just grab on whereas the Serac and the Veloci both skip off. And, when you finally do reach the limits of the Nevegal it still manages to scramble up enough grip to at least keep you on the bike. It certainly saved me from some inept bike handling that would have had me sprawled across the singletrack or sliding in to the brush on the old tires.
I can't wait to get the 2.1" for the front and mount the 2.3" on the rear. I run at a pretty high pressure but I suspect these tires will really come alive when they're softer, and that fat 2.3" out back will give me the confidence to go softer without pinch flatting. The center paddles have a bit of a ramp on one side and for the rear I think they'll be better off mounted backwards rather than forwards. Anyone run this configuration (Nevegal mounted backwards on the rear, forwards on the front)?
How about other tire stories. Anyone else really love the big black round parts of their bikes?