Q: Are there any advantages to running matched tires front and rear, or should I always run front- and rear-specific tires?
—Mike, who wants the most out of his tires
A: Yes. Okay, that sounds like a silly answer, but both approaches will work. First, there are very few tires marked “front” and “rear.” Many tires have a directional pattern, but even then, we have found that running them opposite of the recommended direction some- times works better than what the tire company feels is “correct.”
Running the same tire front and rear has advantages, because both wheels will react the same to the terrain you are riding over. That said, we also use an old trail rider’s tip and mix and match. You mount a slightly fatter tire with aggressive knobs on the front wheel and a narrower tire with less aggressive tread on the rear. The front sticks while the rear rolls really well.
The bottom line is you need to experiment. What works here (dry and hardpacked California) may not work where you ride. Check out what other riders are using in your area, and pick the brains of the guys at your local bike shop.