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September 15, 2023

A collage of three photos from Paul's tire tread comparison

Hello all! I’m Paul, Teravail’s graphic designer. I’m originally from Madison, Wisconsin and currently living in Chicago. I've been an avid mountain biker since I was a kid, but I recently discovered the magic of mixing different front and rear tires to optimize my ride for my local terrain. If you haven't tried it, you should.

Paul's Trek mountain bike is propped up against a wooden trail sign at a mountain bike trail

The idea for this blog all started when I needed to replace the Bontrager XR3s on my Trek Fuel EX 29er. I was planning to get a matching set of Teravail tires and asked Zane Bushey, Teravail's tire product manager, for suggestions. He advised I go with a mixed setup. He thought a Honcho in the front and Ehline in the rear would be great for the Midwest. Then he got into the details:

"Having more traction up front improves cornering confidence. Your front tire performs at angles that your rear tire doesn't. Everyone loses traction of both front and rear tires when riding dirt, so it's generally nice to have a predictable "drift zone" with the confidence that your tire will hook up again, how and when you expect it to. It's easier to control and initiate a slight rear tire drift with the Ehline's nice, drifty transition zone while the uniformly spaced, softer rubber lugs of the Honcho keep you pointed in the right direction and rolling fast. The Ehline also has a fast-rolling, ramped, central lug pattern that’s efficient as a rear tire. Rear tires generally wear out a bit faster, so the Ehline’s Fast compound is well-suited for that job. The 2.6" Honcho leverages our softer Grip compound to maximize traction in the front."

Spoken like a true product manager. I was convinced.

Paul is shown from the front riding his mountain bike on a mossy trail in the woods
A dirt trail in the woods has a tight curve

Setting up the Honcho and Ehline was a breeze — there's nothing more satisfying than having a tubeless-ready tire seat onto your rims, first try. Next was figuring out where to ride this new setup. I had a family trip planned for Birchwood, Wisconsin and figured, “Why not ride some trails I’ve never ridden before to really put these tires to the test?" So, a week later, I loaded up the car and hit the road.

“Everyone loses traction of both front and rear tires when riding dirt, so it’s generally nice to have a predictable “drift zone” with the confidence that your tire will hook up again, how and when you expect it to”

Birchwood is a hidden gem of a town. Located in northwest Wisconsin, this area has breathtaking natural beauty, dense forests, serene lakes, and a network of gravel and singletrack trails that are perfect for riders of all skill levels. It's different terrain than I'm used to around Chicago, and that's what made this adventure exciting.

A closeup view of the mountain bike's rear tire knobby tread
Paul is shown from behind riding on a narrow wooded dirt trail
Paul's view from the handlebars which includes his bike computer and the dirt trail ahead

Paul is shown from the front riding along the narrow dirt trail on his mountain bike

There were a couple of trails close to where we were staying, and the one that caught my attention was Pipestone Quarry trail system. Not only is it a trail system built and maintained by CORBA, but it had a lot of comments about rocks and technical sections. What better terrain to test my new setup?

There’s always something about mountain biking that just feels right. It’s the connection you feel to your bike, the quiet of the wilderness around you; it’s picking that perfect line through a section of the trail where the flow and speed match perfectly and all the noise around you fades away. That’s the kind of experience I had at Pipestone. The entrance to the trails were a bit rooted and damp but once I got into the “Spring Loop” section, everything clicked. This tire combination was amazing! I normally run 2.4′ tires on my Trek, but the Honcho/Ehline combo was 2.6′/2.5′. The wider tires meant that Spring Loop's rocky and sandy sections provided no issues. The tires just floated over everything and still delivered amazing traction. There were a couple of rooty ascents where I thought I might have to put my foot down, but the Ehline in the back kept me planted and moving forward.

A closeup of the sidewall and tread of Paul's Honcho front tire
Paul is shown from a distance riding his mountain bike around a curve in the trail

With Spring Loop complete, I switched over to Rock N’ Roll. This was my favorite section at Pipestone. Not only did it have nice dirt jumps, but it also boasted wood features and fast/flowy bermed corners. This was what I was looking for: going fast and hucking my bike off jumps. I might not get the most air, but man do I love it. Once again, the tires were phenomenal. I was able pick up speed, and the Honcho up front did a great job guiding me over and through the trail as it wound around the back side of Pipestone. This setup even navigated a few slick, muddy corners with ease — I never felt like the bike was about to slip out from under me.

“The tires just floated over everything and still delivered amazing traction.”

After a couple more laps on Rock N’ Roll, I finished my ride on Quarry and 45 RPM. These sections included fun, technical rock gardens. I had a couple slips here and there, but both tires kept traction as I finished those sections and approached the trailhead. With the ride complete, I was very happy with my new setup. Who knew riding two different tires on trails I’ve never ridden before can be so fun?

Paul gets some air while riding his mountain bike on the dirt trail

This experience taught me that it's worth trying something new, even when it’s as routine as swapping your tires. It also reminded me that mountain biking is full of exciting possibilities waiting to be explored one trail at a time. So, the next time you're thinking about new tires, don't hesitate to mix it up — you might just discover a whole new dimension to your riding experience. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Zane.