Why Do Enduro Bikes Have 18 Inch Wheels?

Enduro biking is a fun sport and normally involves riding on an off-road path that includes rough terrain like creeks, rocks and mountain climbing for long periods. A race can be as long as 7 hours, and you must be as comfortable during the ride as possible. This is where using an 18-inch wheel can make it as pleasant an experience as it can be.

Enduro bikes fitted with 18-inch wheels will have the luxury of a higher sidewall, and the following is some of the advantages of using this wheel:

  • Fewer pinch flats.
  • Less rim bending.
  • More traction due to lower air pressure.
  • Extra cushioning due to flexibility.
  • Easy mounting.
  • More deflection.

Enduro bikes’ 18-inch wheels are typically 100/100-18 and 120/100-18’s, indicating that the sidewall is 100% of the tread width—the taller your tire’s sidewall, the more flexibility it will offer. Flexibility equates to extra cushioning when having to navigate roots rocks and while braking and accelerating. The more your tire can flex, the smoother your ride will be.

Why Do Enduro Bikers Prefer 18 Inch Wheels?

If you are into Enduro biking, you will already know that it involves driving on an off-road path that spans difficult and varying types of terrain. It is also a much longer distance to drive than you would endure in trials or track riding.

Choosing the correct tire for your bike is of utmost importance in the long run, no pun intended. Let us find out why Enduro bikers prefer riding with 18-inch tires:

1. Less chance of a pinch flat:

Some of the most irritating things to happen when you are riding is experiencing a flat tire or pinch flat. This stops your momentum instantly and requires a tire change on the spot.

A puncture can occur when one of the following things happen:

  • A sharp object pierces the tube from the outside.
  • Sharp damaged pieces of rim pierce the tube from the inside.
  • Getting an impact puncture.

An impact puncture refers to what riders call a pinch flat. This ussually happens when you hit a hard object with your wheel, like rocks or roots. If the impact’s compression is hard enough, the tube can get pinched between the rim and the tire, causing a flat.

Due to the bigger sidewall of the 18-inch tire, pinch flats happen less than with other sized tires.

2. Less chance of your rim being bent:

Fitting an 18-inch tire will allow you to run with lower air pressures without damaging the rim (more sidewall to squish and protect the rim), reducing the chance that a slightly sharp rock will bend your rim.

3. More traction due to lower air pressure:

You will automatically gain more traction because you can run an 18-inch tire at lower air pressures (due to having more air volume in the tire). This added traction will help you when things get wet, muddy and rocky.

4. Extra cushioning due to flexibility:

According to many Enduro riders, the 18-inch wheel provides more cushioning when driving over obstacles, especially during braking and accelerating. The high sidewall offers more flexibility. The more that your tire can flex, the smoother the ride will be.

5. Easy to change the tire:

Most enduro and dirt bikers share the conclusion that changing an 18-inch tire is much easier than a bigger tire.

6. More deflection of stones:

When you lower your tire pressure to increase the traction and adding the higher sidewall to the equation, you will be deflecting stones way better. When driving in the woods, this added traction will also assist your handling when driving through patches of pine needles, allowing for better flotation on the sand.

What Are Some Of The Best 18-Inch Tyres To Fit?

We know that enduro bikers love to fit an 18-inch wheel on their bikes. There are many different options to choose from when it comes to enduro riding, and tires play a massive part in the experience.

Famous Enduro rider Kitt Stringer from Vancouver Island tested some tires in the very harsh Shawinigan Lake area.  What he found could be very helpful in choosing the right tire for your enduro bike. He put five different soft/gummy tires to the test (Scores out of 5, 1 being low and 5 being high).

Tires:Kenda IbexShinko 505 Hybrid CheaterGibson Tyre Tech 7.1Goldeneye GT 216 XMitas EF-07 (Double Green Stripe)
Side Wall Strength34323
Performance on Roots44444
Cornering Ability44344
Traction on Dirt43534
Easy Mounting34333
Performance on Wet Rocks43244
Performance in Mud43333
Self-Clearing of Dirt and Mud43343
Traction while Braking54444
Overall Tracking43344
Overall Score:4240373738

Kenda Ibex:

  • Kiff’s overall winner.
  • He had this to say about the tire, “If I had to spend money on a tire for everyday training and riding, I would pick this one’’.
  • Works consistently well in all-terrain.

Shinko 505 Hybrid Cheater:

  • Best value for money tire.
  • It had a good balance of overall performance and long wear.
  • Harder rubber did not work as well on the rocky sections.
  • Large lugs gave it a washy feel at high speeds.

Gibson Tyre Tech 7.1:

  • Good all-around tire.
  • Did not perform well on wet rocks.
  • When worn out, it did not perform well on rocks.
  • The wear was consistent and lasted long.
  • Good tire for faster races and best hook-up in the dirt.

Goldentyre GT 216 X:

  • The same tire that Kitt used during the race at Romaniacs.
  • Great performer when brand new.
  • Best traction of all tires when lugs have worn off, mainly due to the super-soft sidewalls.
  • The soft compound makes this tire work very well.

Mitas EF-07 (Double Green Stripe):

  • Very similar performance to the Goldentyre GT 216 X.
  • Excellent race tire.
  • Wears very quickly.

All of the tires were tested by Kiff for close to 10 hours of riding. Buying a gummy tire will definitely give you an advantage over a soft regular compound tire. You do however, pay for that advantage with the gummy tires wearing out faster.

Can You Run Tubeless Tires In Enduro Wheels?

Setting them up can take a while, but it is definitely worth it and doable. Most modern Enduro tires and rims are tubeless already.

Why Do Enduro Bikes Run With A Smaller Rear Wheel?

When riding a dirt/enduro bike, some drivers have different sizes for the front and the back, although they will have the same features. The smaller rear wheel will maximize the acceleration effort, while the bigger front wheel offers a more comfortable ride through rough terrain.

Do You Need A Rim Lock On A Dirt Bike?

When lowering your tire pressure for optimal performance in the dirt, it will slip off at some stage. Having a rim lock in place is good to have when you get a flat at high speed. The rim lock will keep the tire on the rim and make the bike more controllable when this occurs.

How Long Does Enduro Tires Last?

Even though tires don’t wear evenly, a good enduro tire should last you for about 3000-4000 miles, depending on you not living in an area with very high temperatures.


Fitting an 18-inch wheel to your enduro bike seems to be the popular choice. It definitely minimizes the chance of a pinch flat which all drivers despise. The higher sidewalls play a part in preventing this from happening. It will also allows the tire to be more flexible, making for a smoother cushioned ride when driving over obstacles.

The 18-inch tires normally have more air volume inside them, allowing them to ride with low tire pressures. This helps with traction through mud and also during cornering and braking. Riding with low tire pressure also reduces the risk of damaging your rims (more sidewall to squish and protect the rim).

The advantages of riding with an 18-inch rim are plenty; even the professionals prefer them.






Louis Pretorius

As an amateur off-road enthusiast, I have always been drawn to outdoor adventure. I have decided to share all of my learning experiences with you as I dig a little deeper into my new-found passion and wonderful world of off-roading. My mission is to create the Ultimate Off-roading space on the internet in the process. Stay safe and happy Off-Roading!

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