Today, we’re talking tires — specifically we’re making a Continental MTB tire guide. We have three new tread patterns, including the Argotal, Kryptotal, and Xynotal — and no, those aren’t prescriptions you need from your doctor. We’ve been putting these through their paces over the last few months in a huge variety of terrain. We’ve covered everything from the desert to the alpine to bring you a thorough tire guide. So stick around to see which Continental tire is best for you.

Continental MTB Tire guide: Gravity Range Rundown

Alright we’re going to start the Continental MTB Tire guide with a bit of a rundown. All the tires we’re talking about today fall under the new Gravity Range. If you’ve been anywhere on the internet in the last year, it’s likely you’ve seen people ranting and raving about these — and they have a good reason to. These new gravity-focused tires are an addition to the older lineup. These are new designs and very different from any Conti tires I’ve ridden in the past. If the name itself wasn’t clear, there are no XC tires in this lineup. These are all pretty grippy and pretty knobby. 

In a tire world where convoluted lineups are common, it’s refreshing to see the new Gravity Range. It’s simple and easy to understand, making it more likely you’ll end up with the proper tire. There are four tread patterns, three casings, and three compounds with pretty unlimited combinations of all the above.

Continental MTB Tread Patterns

The first consideration you should make is the tread pattern. This is going to be determined by the terrain and conditions you ride. In order of ascending aggressiveness, the tread patterns are the Xynotal, Kryptotal, Argotal, and Hydrotal. I’ll give you the closest equivalents in other well-known brands, so you know the ballpark these tread patterns are in. These comparisons aren’t perfect, so don’t judge me.


The Xynotal (Maxxis Dissector/Schwalbe Hans Dampf) is designed for dry conditions and hard-pack trails. It has the least pronounced knobs in the Gravity Range. The center treads are ramped aggressively to help with rolling resistance. This tire has more surface area contact with the ground as well, making it ideal for hardpack terrain like the Southern Utah desert.


The Kryptotal (Maxxis Minion/Schwalbe Big Betty) comes in two slightly varying tread patterns for front and rear-specific use. The Kryptotal takes a jump up in tread size and spacing from the Xynotal, making it a better option for mixed terrain. It also performs better in wet conditions. The Kryptotal Re has a bit tighter packed tread and a lower profile. It’s designed around rolling resistance and braking traction. The Kyrptotal Fr has wider spaces between treads as well as a taller profile. It’s especially apparent on the side knobs as it offers better cornering traction.


The most aggressive tire in the dry lineup is the Argotal (Maxxis Assegai/Schwalbe Magic Mary). It has very pronounced and widely spaced treads. This helps it bite better in loose terrain as well as shed mud when conditions turn sloppy. It’s ideal for loose, steep, and loamy trails.


The last tread pattern is the Continental Hydrotal (Maxxis Shorty/Schwalbe Dirt Dan). I live in Utah, where it’s drier than a low-sodium Triscuit, so the Hydrotal doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to ride. It’s a wet conditions tire with huge treads and lots of open space for clearing mud. I did not ride or test this tire.

A quick note on tire sizes before we get to casings. All of the tires are offered in both 27.5 and 29 diameters. 2.4” width is available in all the tread patterns and casings, but if you want wider, you’ll only find 2.6” in the Krytotal Fr and Argotal with Trail and Enduro Casings. That’s ok because 2.4” is the correct tire width anyway.

Continental MTB Tire guide: Casings and Compounds

The next consideration to make is the type of riding you do. This will determine the tire casing as well as the compound. In the Gravity Range, there are three casing options, Downhill, Enduro, and Trail.

The Trail casing is the lightest and thinnest offering. It has a single-ply carcass with the least protection against pinch flats and cuts. It has three layers of material under the tread and only two in the sidewall. It’s designed for bikes in the 140-160mm range, including eMTBs.

The Enduro casing is one step burlier with more protection against flats. Like the Trail casing, it has three layers of material under the tread and two in the sidewall. It has an additional Apex layer near the bead to offer better pinch flat protection and sidewall support.

The Downhill casing is the heaviest and toughest of the three. It’s a to-ply tire with six layers of material under the tread and four in the sidewall. It also includes an Apex layer near the bead to help prevent damage. Be warned, these are difficult to install and may induce crying.

Apart from determining the casing you should ride, your riding style will also help guide the compound you choose. There are three compounds, Endurance, Soft, and Super Soft. Endurance is the hardest and longest-wearing compound while also offering the best rolling resistance characteristics. Super Soft is the grippiest compound but will wear the quickest and roll the slowest. Soft falls in the middle and strikes a nice balance.

One of my favorite things about the Gravity Range lineup is that all the tires, except the Hydrotal, are available in every casing. This gives you the flexibility to find the perfect setup and not be limited by what the manufacturer thinks you should ride. For example, on my Santa Cruz 5010, I ran a Xynotal/Kryptotal combo, but I wanted both in the Downhill casing as that bike lets you hit rocks faster than most other trail bikes. That could be a tricky combo to find with other tire makers.

Continental MTB Tire Review and Favorite Setup

After way too many tire swaps, broken levers, and sealant explosions, I’ve got some thoughts about these tires. I’ll be blunt here. The new Continental Gravity Range tires are the first tires I’ve ridden that don’t make me miss a Maxxis setup. And that’s saying something because no matter what other tires I rode, I always went back to the big yellow M. But after riding the Conti stuff, I like the rubber more, the casings more, and I find the tread patterns to be perfectly in line with the intended use. I’ll break down my impressions by tread pattern here.

Continental Xynotal

I rode the Xynotal as a rear tire on both the Santa Cruz 5010 and Giant Trance X. Both of those bikes fall in the trail category with 130 and 135mm of travel, respectively. While I feel like the Xynotal is slightly aggressive for the XC nature of the Trance X, it was perfect on the 5010. It suits a more aggressive trail bike than one that wants to pedal and climb all day. The Xynotal is my preferred rear tire for desert hard pack. It provides a lot of surface area for riding sandstone. The rolling resistance characteristics are good, but being a gravity tire, it is not going to be the top choice for a Lycra rider (XC).

Continental Kryptotal

I rode the Kryptotal FR and Re on the widest variety of bikes, including the Yeti SB140, Santa Cruz 5010, Yeti SB160, Santa Cruz Megatower, and Orbea Wild. I found it to be the most versatile setup in the lineup. It was slightly overkill on the 5010, but not by as much as I would have guessed. It was an excellent setup for the front and rear tires on the SB140. It matched the aggressive all-mountain riding style very well. I ran it as a rear tire on the bigger enduro bikes and thought it was perfect for that application. It hooks up well in the corners, brakes well, and never was a reason to ride slower or more timidly. It performed best in dry and damp conditions, with it not being amazing in the wet, especially on roots (but name a tire that is good in wet roots).

Continental Argotal

The Argotal ended up being my preferred front tire on long-travel bikes. It felt overkill on the 5010, but it was right at home on the SB160, Megatower, and Wild. I even ran it up front on the SB140 and felt it added a degree of capability to the bike. It hooks up very well in loose conditions and handles wet terrain fairly well. It does not roll quickly, and I wouldn’t want it as a rear tire.  

Quick notes on the different casings and compounds. Surprisingly I ended up preferring the Downhill casings in every application. I like how it feels in the corners with great sidewall support; it lets me run lower air pressures at around 26/27 PSI and offers great flat protection. I have yet to flat one. And watch this clip — I definitely should have flatted and or smushed a rim here. It allows me not to run a tire insert, basically offsetting the weight. And to my liking, the Downhill casing is slightly lighter and more pliable than a DH casing from Maxxis, making it a bit more versatile. Think of it as a Double Down plus.

My preferred tire setup ended up being the following:

Trail 120-140mm

Kryptotal Fr front (DH Super Soft) Xynotal rear (DH Soft)

All-Mountain 140-160mm

Kryptotal Fr front (DH Super Soft Kryptotal Re rear (DH Soft)

Enduro 160mm+

Argotal front (DH Super Soft Kryptotal Re rear (DH Super Soft)

So that’s going to wrap it up for the Continental MTB Tire guide. Overall, these are some of my favorite tires to date. The proof is that I’ve swapped out all of my tires on my personal bikes for varying combos of the Gravity range lineup. I’ve even suffered through installing multiple Downhill casing tires because I like them so much. Anyway, we’ll see you next time.

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