Do Knobby Tires Last Longer?

What's the deal about knobby tires? Are they versatile enough to be used on paved roads and off-road? And most importantly, do they last longer than traditional tires? That's what we'll talk about today. We've consulted with the tire experts about the durability of knobby tires, and here's what they have to say.

Knobby tires will last longer when you use them for what they are intended for. They are designed and built for off-road and traversing loose and uneven terrain. That's where they perform best.

In this post, we will talk more about knobby tires, what they are good for, if you can use them on concrete roads or snow, and if they will slow you down. We'll also tell you if this kind of tire is street legal so you can use them on the highway without any restrictions. Let's get started!

Enduro motorcycle biker slide moving on dirt field. Do Knobby Tires Last Longer

Commuting On Knobby Tires

Some people prefer to use their bikes or motorbikes for daily use, which consists mostly of riding over smooth roads. However, some do not have the luxury of having different sets of tires for off-road and city use so they are left with no choice but to use their knobby tires all the time. 

Since tires are not inexpensive, riders are concerned about the longevity and durability of their off-road tires when used on the blacktop. Many are saying that doing so will wear out these tires much faster than expected. 

A basic understanding of how knobby tires work and where they should be used will help in making them last longer.

What Are Knobby Tires Good For?

wheel with winter tyre

Looking at the photo above gives you an idea of a knobby tire's strength. It is a tire with large bumps all around its circumference. These protrusions or knobs (thus the name) can come in any shape, color, and they follow a specific pattern.

This design is important in giving these tires more tread on the road, which in turn provides them with better resistance, more grip, and traction, especially on uneven surfaces including the following:


Knobby tires are good on loose materials such as gravel. Because of their enhanced traction, they can keep moving despite the bumpy road ahead. 

Dirt And Sand

This type of tire can manage to stay on top or provide float when going over loose surfaces like dirt and sand. They won't be bogged down and will continue to be mobile even though the texture of the road is all grainy and gritty.


You'll appreciate the performance of knobby tires on the mud. They can dig into the soft ground to have a better grip. The wide and even spaces in between the protrusions help in expelling mud and preventing it from accumulating on the gaps of the tread of the tire.

Knobby tires are good for your offroad adventures. They perform great on rough ground. You don't know what kind of terrain you'll need to pass by, but you're assured that your tires can take you through uneven terrain safely. 

motorcross bike with knobby tires and gas can on the seat

Are Knobby Tires Good In Snow?

Knobby tires are expected to perform well on mud and loose surfaces but apparently, they also perform pretty well in the snow. When you're going at a high speed, your tires will help you glide through it just like when you are skating.

But when you're going at a low speed, it gets better because you're able to dig into the surface to give you that extra grip that you need while on the snowy ground.

In effect, you're able to create a surface for you to ride on. However, ice is a different story. Your knobby tires won't be of any use as rubber cannot dig into the icy road to give you some traction. You'll just crash and fall and get yourself hurt in the process.

Motorcyclists attest to this on Reddit. They point out the danger of taking these tires on public roads during winter and remind everyone that it's always best to use snow tires and studs for your safety when you're driving during the snow.

Are Knobby Tires Good On Pavement?

You can use knobby tires on paved roads, but they won't be comfortable and you won't be able to maximize their performance level. They are meant to dig into the surface for better traction, and they will not be able to do that on the concrete ground. It even gets harder when the road is wet and slippery. 

Some cyclists also say that these tires wear faster when used on the pavement as they aren't meant for smooth roads. The knobs bend and get deformed along the way. This is a waste of good money if ever it happens to you.

But it would also depend on the kind of tire that you're getting. There are tires out there that are expected to do well both on even and uneven grounds. Through extensive research, manufacturers are able to come up with designs that'll help improve the tires' performance on different kinds of surfaces. Thanks to them, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Motocross rider with bike in dirt track using knobby tires

Are Knobby Tires Street Legal?

To be street legal, your tires must be approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). They must meet the requirements set by the state before they can be used on its roads without any restriction. This is to ensure the safety of the user and other people around him while he is using the vehicle with the tires on it. 

Street legal tires minimize the danger of having debris discharged toward other vehicles that are close to them as they might cause harm and accidents. Users must also be able to operate the tires safely and there should be proper information indicated on the tires so that buyers know their intended use and performance level. This is required for different vehicles such as motorcycles, trucks, and trailers.

When it comes to knobby tires being street legal, it would depend on what you buy. There are various knobbies in the market that have been approved by the DOT. You just have to check the details carefully which is also for your own good. 

Check the tire markings and if the tire and rim information match each other. Some other details that you should be looking for include endurance testing, tread-wear indicators, strength, and load ratings. Take a look at Kenda Trakmaster, Dunlop 606, and Michelin Anakee Adventure tires if you want good-quality DOT-approved knobby tires.

Click here to see this DOT-approved knobby tire on Amazon.

How Much Slower Are Knobby Tires?

Slick tires are designed to be slimmer and lighter since they are built for speed. Thus, you can traverse the smooth pavement faster. So, does it follow that the wider knobby tires are slower on the road?

A tire manufacturing company debunks the idea that wider tires are slower. Their study shows that tire performance isn't affected by width. Rather, the comfort that they give to riders actually gives them more power and makes them go faster.

Some cyclists at a Q&A website say that you will lose a significant amount of speed because of the discomfort brought about by driving over the added noise and vibrations when using knobby tires on pavement. These factors bring exhaustion to the riders using knobbies; that's why they go slower.

In the end, knobby tires are not necessarily slower than slick tires. As another motorbike expert claims, it's the casing construction of the tires that will determine their speed on the road.

While there are two types of tire construction—cross-ply and radial tire construction—tires with cross-ply construction have higher rolling resistance, making them slower on paved roads. Meanwhile, radial tires are more flexible and enable better contact with the ground that's why they can go faster.

Rather than the type of tires, we should look into how they are designed and built to determine how fast they'll take us on the road.

muddy Bike front wheel. Do Knobby Tires Last Longer

To Wrap Up

It is important to remember to use the right kind of tires for your situation. Your knobby tires have been built to endure the off-roads and rough terrains. They'll take you through the mud, gravel sand, dirt, and even the snow. This is where you can expect them to perform at their best and last longer. 

For some related reading, you can check out the following posts:

How Long Should KO2 Tires Last?

Do Tires Affect Acceleration, Speed, And Performance?

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